It’s always interesting to return to something you loved as a little kid and see it with fresh eyes as an adult. Tonight, Ashley and I watched the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stop-motion special that they show every year around this time, the one with Burl Ives as Sam, the snowman narrator. I always remembered it as being a pro-tolerance fable. What I hadn’t really noticed until this time was how pronounced the bigotry of most of the characters is.
The idea is that Rudolph is treated unfairly because of his nose, which sets him apart from the other reindeer, and he eventually overcomes their intolerance by proving his usefulness to Santa. A good message. A perpetually timely message. But in order to get that message over to the notoriously dense 6-12 demographic at whom the show is aimed, pretty much every character other than Rudolph and his fellow misfits is a barefaced bigot. Even Santa, jolly old elf, symbol of Christmas, idol to millions of children the world over, reacts to Rudolph’s red nose with the sort of overplayed disgust we’d expect from Archie Bunker if he caught Gloria in bed with Lionel.
It all works out in the end, naturally, as Rudolph and his friend, Hermie the gay elf (sure, he wants to be a “dentist” . . .) are accepted for who they truly are and allowed to make their own contributions to the North Pole community. Telling, though, ain’t it, that it took a blizzard and the near cancellation of Christmas before Santa realized that maybe taking advantage of the red-nosed reindeer’s deformity was a better way to go than taking every opportunity to mock and exclude him?
But hey, all’s well that ends well. They even picked up the misfit toys at the end, though I have no idea who the fuck would want that cowboy riding the ostrich. Some hard-up aborigine kid, I guess.