I have always considered A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to be the holy trinity of Christmas specials. (While I later developed an appreciation for the other Rankin-Bass animated shows, I am steadfast in my belief that Frosty the Snowman is absolute shit.) Over the years my affinity for these specials, and Rudolph in particular, has been challenged by my knowledge of sociology. This doesn’t stop me from watching it each year, but the sort of joy I receive from it now comes as much from mocking it as it does from nostalgia (and quite a bit more than the joy I receive from believing it is any sort of good storytelling). Here, then, are some semi-sociological thoughts (and questions) I had while re-watching Rudolph on TV the other night:
- For having a very distinctive appearance himself, Santa sure isn’t very accepting of differences in appearance.
- Based on the four food groups that Buddy discusses in Elf (Candy, Candy Canes, Candy Corns, and Syrup), they really do need a dentist at the North Pole.
- Other than Rudolph and Hermie, Clarice and Yukon Cornelius are about the only non-assholes in the entire movie.
- Why doesn’t Yukon Cornelius’s tongue ever get stuck to his pick axe?
- Which is worse for a kid, the threat of being eaten by an abominable snow monster, or whatever might happen on an iceberg with a strange man?
- My favorite gender stereotyped line, spoken by Donner when Rudolph’s mother (a.k.a. “Mrs. Donner”) and Clarice want to help him find Rudolph: “No, this is man’s work!” They show their respect for his wishes by waiting a few minutes before setting out on their own.
- On the Island of Misfit Toys, what is wrong with the girl and the scooter? Some have speculated that the girl has emotional issues. She does smile a lot and cry a lot. Maybe she is manic depressive. Some are apparently misfits on the outside, some are misfits on the inside.
- Given the talking toys, do Rudolph and Toy Story exist in the same universe?
- When everybody thinks that Yukon Cornelius has died, this only reinforces the belief in gender stereotypes. As Sam the snowman says, “Well, they are all very sad about the loss of their friend, but they realize that the best thing to do is to get the women back to Christmas Town.”
- Has anybody watching Rudolph ever actually been sad about the supposed death of Yukon Cornelius? I doubt it. Regardless, he is believed to be dead for less than a minute of screen time, so the sadness wouldn’t last long.
- Santa gains a lot of weight very quickly. That can’t be healthy.
- To all of the kids who have wondered how Santa gets down their chimneys, the answer is that HE DOESN’T! The toys are delivered via umbrella and then eat the cookies themselves. (Do toys eat?) The ends of the umbrellas must also double as lock-picks for houses without chimneys.
- Where I grew up, Rudolph went down in history like Columbus, not George Washington, Abe Lincoln, or whatever historical figure people put into the song where you lived.
What can we take away from all of this? Rudolph lives in a world of bigoted, sexist assholes. They hate him until they need him to help them out. In this way, Santa is like the captain of the football team who bullies the smart kids in school until he needs help with his math homework. I wonder how Rudolph was treated when they didn’t need his help to get through a terrible storm…