Later, all of the younger reindeer are taking flying lessons, when surprise! It turns out that Rudolph is the best among them. When he lands, he is so joyful and proud that he playfully locks horns with his friend. Then, to his horror, his nose cover falls off. The kids begin making fun of him -- being children raised in an atmosphere of hate and intolerance and all. At this point in a normal movie, we might expect whatever adult authority figure is around to step in and give Rudolph a speech about believing in himself. Hey, sure enough, here comes the flying coach to take a look at all the ruckus. Upon seeing Rudolph, this is what he says:
He straight up screams in horror at Rudolph's horrible deformity, then ushers the other children away from him as quickly as possible. He then informs Rudolph that he is now forbidden from ever interacting with his former friends -- or indeed, any member of his species -- ever again.
At this point you might be thinking "so what? They're setting the coach up as the bad guy. Rudolph will show him up later." And you'd be wrong again. Every single adult reacts the same way, even Santa Claus:
See that? That's Santa Claus, the personification of Christmas, screaming at Rudolph's father, in front of everyone, telling him he should be ashamed of himself for birthing such an abomination.
If you're thinking this all sounds a lot like the setup for a metaphor condemning racism and segregation, well, you could be forgiven for that. The movie spends all this time exploring the complete revulsion, fear and hatred of the different, but it completely forgets to condemn it. Even though Rudolph eventually finds a place in society, none of the characters torturing him learn a damn thing. So the ultimate lesson on display here isn't "we're all the same, underneath, and some special people will understand that," as much as it is "everyone on Earth, up to and including your own parents, your teachers, and the personification of charity himself, just can't stand your fugly ass, so you should probably just die.
Jesus, is there some pre-existing superstition in Reindeer society that a red nose is the mark of the devil? Nope, it's not just Rudolph being condemned for his differences. In the same movie, we see the story of one elf who doesn't buy into the twisted elven Caste system. He doesn't want to build toys; he wants to be free. And his family, friends, co-workers and other elves despise him for it. So what does he want to do that's so despicable? Midget wrestling? Porn star? Nope: His dream is to be a dentist. This is what thinking for yourself earns you up at the North Pole.
"You sit back and reflect on how much we all hate you!"
"Jesus Christ, why won't you just kill yourself? What is it gonna take?!"
And then comes the ending, and we all know what happens: Complete vindication. Rudolph's nose lights Santa's sleigh, everybody comes to accept him, he saves Christmas, and all is right. But pay attention to how it happens: They don't come to Rudolph, hat in hand, and realize that if only they'd accepted him earlier, they would never have been in this situation. They come to him reluctantly, like they're doing him a favor by being there, and only because they need a freak to help pull Santa's slave palanquin through the fog. Nobody's sorry for they treated him, or repentant for their harsh words, or even particularly respectful when they come to Rudolph:
"Someone get this mutant out of my face. I'm trying to make an announcement."
That's the happy ending: They finally found a use for him. There's your lesson, kids: Don't be born a freak, and if you are, try to make yourself useful anyway; maybe it will stop the beatings, or at least lessen their severity (probably not, though).
For more terrible lessons you didn't know you learned as a kid, check out 8 Important Lessons Learned from '80s Cartoons.