So, while stuffing my face full of juicy bird, stuffing, potatoes, and wine, yesterday, I watched Rudolph. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen it, and I have to admit, I was rather geeked out by the prospect of reliving years of my youth through the infernal squeaky squawk of Rudolph’s red-light special. Without question, this was always my favorite of Christmas specials, and I always counted down the days until we could pop the television on, and enjoy Burl Ives, and his majestic storytelling voice.
I suppose, before I go on, I should point out that I still love the show. I should also point out that I’m hardly the first to find the humor in it. I mean, I used to watch the Muppets as a kid, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how adult the humor was. With Rudolph, it isn’t adult-related humor that I’m referring to; rather it’s the bigoted, elitist, racial profiling man with the beard to which I refer.
Seriously. Watch it, if you haven’t in a while. He’s such a curmudgeon, that I finally understand the casting of Ed Asner as the bearded fascist in Elf. He’s a perpetually unhappy wanna-be fat guy, who makes no effort to hide his preference to the selected eight reindeer who guide his sleigh. Furthermore, he encourages other reindeer to attempt to reach the lofty heights of these eight, with no real intention of ever replacing those already there. Short of a death amongst the elite eight–which I don’t discount the possibility of the grumpy old fart orchestrating if one were to disagree with his methods or the like–the remaining reindeer are relegated to the mere hope that they somehow live up to Santa’s stadards, and bypass the random nature of the lottery in favor of pre-selection into some kind of Officer’s program for the Elf Holocaust.
And, oh the horror, the elves! They slave away every day, all year, making toys and dolls, and every sort of gift that will brighten the smile of a child, with no real thanks, no real credit. The red-suited snow-devil gets all the credit for the work they do. While they bust chops, he’s sitting at a table trying to fatten up, or rolling his eyes and slumping in his throne–yes, there is a throne!–while these poor elves try to serenade him with Christmas cheer. OF WHICH HE SEEMS TO HAVE NONE!
But, let’s consider further the bigotry of the Master of HoHo’s, and how it related to our poor, inoffensive little Rudolph. He’s born with a deformity. A red nose. Sure, it makes a God-awful annoying noise every time it lights up, so maybe some volume control is in order. but so what? But every reindeer shuns Rudolph, surely in anticipation of the ultimate proclamation of doom from Grumpy McGoo. After all, who wants to on the side of a, ‘misfit’, when some distance might save you from becoming collateral damage? And, sure enough, what does Santa do? Yup. He shuns him. He’s beside himself with disbelief over the freakish nature of this deformed child. Had Rudolph not responded by ultimately running away, this Fuhrer of Favoritism probably would have made a yule log of him.
So, Rudolph runs away with another misfit: Hermie, the gay elf who wishes he was a dentist.
And then they sing songs, and stuff:
When Rudolph does finally return–which he does after being shunned yet again by a flying lion who is somehow King of an Island of Misfit Toys that doesn’t believe in inclusion apparently–he does so to discover that his parents, and his doe-eyed girlfriend Clarice–all together now, “Hello, Clarice.”–have been gone for months looking for him. MONTHS! He finds this out because that Santa guy tells him. Is Santa broken up over it? Does it disturb him that reindeer have been gone for months and have not returned? Surprisingly it does. He’s quite disturbed that Donner might not make it back in time to guide his sleigh. Um, what? Hey fuzzy face, did you ever think of, oh I don’t know, going to look for them? And, really? It only bothers you that you might have to find a replacement? Ugh.
But it gets worse. Because–get this–while Rudolph heads out, on his own no less, to find his parents and Clarice–which he does in, like, less than a day, damn you Santa–the storm of all storms hits. Apparently, it’s so snowy that Santa worries he won’t be able to fly his sleigh to the children of the world. I’m guessing the storm was centered right over Santa’s Castle–which is what Mr. Ives calls it–because later on, the Island of Misfit Toys has clear skies, despite the fact that Charlie in the Box is talking about the storm like it’s covered the globe. So, what brilliant plan does Santa concoct? That’s right, he cancels Christmas. Not, “let’s wait for the storm to blow over,” or “I don’t know, maybe we can do this tomorrow?” or a defiant, “We’ll find a way!” No. He just quits. He’s a quitter. He’s an ego-maniacal, gluttonous, oppressive dictator of a quitter.
He announces this to the elves, of which there seem to only be twelve or so, and in a moment of absolute frustration at Rudolph’s bright nose, happens upon the revelation that, with Rudolph leading the way, Christmas might actually happen anyway.
I have to believe that the reindeer and elves created the song in Rudolph’s name, and quickly scuttled it South in order to ensure that Santa didn’t receive the credit for this great save of Christmas. Surely, if they hadn’t there would have been a song–that Santa forced the elves to sing daily–about how Christmas would not have happened were it not the sheer brilliance of this red-suited genius, whose bravery and determination ensured that spoiled children around the world got exactly what they wanted.
So, yeah. Think about that the next time you sing that song. If not for yourself, or children, then for all the elves and reindeer who continue to live under the Stalinist regime in the North Pole.
Make sure to watch Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, on Tuesday November 30th, on CBS!