Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

In Defense of Rudolph

posted by jtotey

Hermey and Rudolph – a couple of misfits.

The Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special is a beloved by many. The Rankin Bass original is so popular; more people watched the clunky special than the Dancing with the Stars finale when it aired on November 26 of this year. The 50-year-old show earned a 3.0 rating among adults 18-49 compared to Dancing’s 2.5.The number would even be higher if it didn’t air so early. Traditionally, CBS runs the special closer to Christmas and fans were pretty upset about that change.

“Who’s the head executive IDIOT at CBS that decided to play Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on network television tonight… BEFORE Thanksgiving?” asks one viewer on the comment section of CBS’s website. “Whoever it was needs a pink slip and a front row seat in the unemployment line.”

Whether it was this type of feedback or it was already planned long ago, the special was re-aired on December 13th. Still, with so many fans, it may come as a surprise that old Rudy has his share of haters as well.

Many people have voiced their displeasure of this timeless tale. They hate the fact that nobody let Rudolph in on the reindeer games or appreciated him until he proved he could do something with that light bulb of his. This is good and this is one dark tale, but these people are missing the point. Here’s why: A story needs to have a conflict in order for it to me entertaining. Who would want to watch “Rudolph, the Socially Accepted Reindeer?” Bor-ring. So, to all you haters out there, here are my reasons why Rudolph is worth watching:

Rudolph is one of the best anti-bullying stories around. This is something many children are familiar with but tend to forget about when they grow up. Whether your child is the bully or the bullied, all can relate to this story.

Like children who don’t wear the latest fashion in clothes, Rudolph wasn’t like the other reindeer. While they all had nice black ones, he was only one with a different color. To make matter worse, it also lit up. Not dissimilar to being the only “black” kid in a “white” neighborhood.

Rudolph was also treated like a child who had some strange handicap. Instead of befriending him and learning from each other’s differences, the other reindeer decided to make fun of him instead. Years ago, people with disabilities or in this case, perceived disabilities, were treated as if they were not able to contribute to society. We now know that many people with disabilities can work if we are patient enough to find out what they are good at. Ironically, Rudolph’s “condition” didn’t keep him from performing well, but he was never given the chance. More than likely, Donner, Rudolph’s dad, blamed himself for his child’s “rebellious” behavior.

Rudolph’s red nose scared everyone around him, including his parents. He was shunned like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. It’s not a lot different in the human world. People are afraid of what they don’t understand. Instead of asking questions, the woodland creatures just pretended that Rudolph didn’t exist. (Can’t you just hear the mother’s saying to their children, “Don’t stare?”) Rudolph’s only friend, Clarice, thought nothing of his rosy appendage and fell in love with him. This was to the dismay of her father who forbid her from socializing with “his kind” as if reindeer with red noses thought and did things differently than those with black noses.

Of course, Rudolph isn’t as alone as he thinks he is. Hermey is an elf that is “supposed” to enjoy making toys because he’s an elf. He’d rather be a dentist. He’s like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. Many years ago, left-handed children were forced to write with their right hand because that was the “correct” way to write. Because writing with their right hands didn’t come naturally to them, many felt like something was wrong with them.

In addition, Hermey faces the same dilemma many of us do as adults. All men are “supposed” to like football, fishing and cars. Women are “supposed” to like scrapbooking and dress-making. What happens when the men are more interested in the arts and women would like to change their own oil? They can either conform to what society tells them or take a stand to live the life that they want for themselves. Hermey decides that he is “independent.”

As life does, Rudolph and Hermey find each other and consider themselves to be a pair of misfits that nobody in Christmas Town could love or understand. They decide to run away together and wind up on the Island of Misfit Toys. These toys are considered misfits because they are not perfect. Some of the toys’ errors are obvious like the train with square wheels, but others like the doll, don’t have any obvious signs of being a misfit. Perhaps they told themselves that they were not “good enough” to be loved “as is” and see themselves as unlovable. Boy, who knew that the North Pole was so dysfunctional? Ever wonder how many foster kids feel the same way?

About two thirds of the way through the special, Rudolph grows up and realizes that one can’t run away from one’s troubles and he returns home, only to be mocked again by the other reindeer, only now he’s stronger and just ignores them. After some other adventures, Rudolph and Hermey are reunited with their family and friends and are warmly greeted by those who earlier pushed them away. This is a point that many tend to forget. The special clearly states that the others realized that they were too hard on the “misfits” and even Santa realizes that he was wrong and says “Rudolph, I promise, as soon as this storm lets up, I’ll find homes for all of those misfit toys.” (A toy can never be happy unless they are loved by a child). Even Donner apologizes to Rudolph for the way that he acted toward him. Hermey’s supervisor tells him that he can open up a dentist office that week after Christmas. It is not until the next day that Santa announces that Christmas would be cancelled due to the snowy weather. And that is when he notices that Rudolph could actually be “extra” useful. Not just good enough to join in with the other reindeer, but actually lead the pack. Rudolph was already found to be valuable BEFORE Santa came up with the idea of using the nose of the four-legged beast.

So, yes, Rudolph’s family and neighbors were cruel to him and pre-judged him but they learned the error of their ways and repented. Rudolph was the underdog who rose to be on top. It’s a great lesson for all of us to re-learn each year.

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