Despite the fact that Christmas occurs on the same day each year, somehow it has managed to sneak up on me again. It seems only yesterday I was purchasing new backpacks for my daughters and attending open house. Now, we are two weeks from Christmas break, there are lights all over the place, and I’m out of money.
The one thing I do love during this time of year is the fact that the holiday specials I grew up watching are on television still. I just love that my children can see the shows I used to watch when I was their age. And despite their not having the technology that shows today have, they somehow manage to grab the attention of my children.
But here’s the thing. There’s something just a bit off with one of my favorites. It comes very close to promoting bullying and in fact, if that show would have been created today, there probably would have been an social media outcry because it would have been considered insensitive or politically incorrect.
Of course, the television special I am referring to is Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Allow me to explain:
At the beginning of the show, Donner and his wife give birth to a young fawn. While they are surprised to find he has a glowing, red nose, they are thrilled with their young son. Along comes Santa, the lover of all children. The man who brings presents to all the good boys and girls all over the world.
And what does he do when he sees Rudolph? He tell Donner in no uncertain terms that Rudolph will never pull his sleigh if this “Red-nosed” trait continues into adulthood.
Exactly. Santa Claus is chastising a parent for giving birth to a child that is “different!” He is saying that because Rudolph is different from the other reindeer, he has no future. After all, when you’re a reindeer, your future is to pull Santa’s sleigh.
To make matters worse, because of what Santa has just said, Rudolph’s father shoves a bunch of dirt on his nose to hide this “abnormality.” The father of the reindeer who is different actually buys into the warped opinion of who is, in essence, his boss, when he tells him there is something wrong with his son.
But wait. It gets so much better.
Rudolph gets older and one day goes out to play with all the other reindeer. While playing, the cover of Rudolph’s nose comes off, revealing his “non-conformity.” It is then that all the other reindeer make fun of him. And then, as if it weren’t bad enough, Coach comet, another of Santa’s reindeer, actually encourages this behavior by poking fun at Rudolph and telling him he can no longer play with the other reindeer!
There is a little hope for poor Rudolph, however, A young fawn by the name of Clarice, doesn’t seem to be the slightest bit bothered by Rudolph’s nose. She likes him just the way he is. Her father, on the other hand, is appalled that his daughter is still friendly with the reindeer with the weird deformity and forbids her to see him.
Now I know, the moral of the story is that Rudolph swoops in to save the day and all the characters in the special are “misfits” in one way or another. But what is so so shocking to me is the premise of the story – alienating, poking fun, and excluding someone because they are different. It is that simple concept that goes against everything I hold dear. And personally, I find it surreal that this story has been a fixture in our holiday season for so long.
What is perhaps even more strange to me is that I’ve watched this story more than fifty times and the last time I watched it was the first time these thoughts occurred to me. What does this say about me? Am I insensitive to the plight of people who are different? Have I become so accustomed to what I perceive as “normal” that I am no longer aware of exclusionary activities?
I certainly hope not.
I will choose to believe that seeing this special as I have only recently means that I still have a sense of what is right and what is wrong. I will choose to believe that in a situation where one who is different and being picked on because of it, I will stand up for them.
And yes, I will still watch Rudolph. Because after all, there is something very rewarding about a youngster who is horribly picked on in his youth coming back to save the day. All those who picked on him are now at his mercy; dependent on him, if you will.
The only thing that would make this better would be if Rudolph, while leading the sleigh, yelled something a bit salty like, “How do you like me now, bitches?”