Since no disposable coffee cups have prompted any holiday outrage this year, that pent-up aggression has seemingly found a new battleground: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. The classic 1964 stop-motion Christmas special has come under increased media scrutiny. For instance, there was a video posted by The Huffington Post, which assembled a handful of Tweets from people who have just now realized that Santa Claus is kind of a prejudiced asshole in the beloved story.
This naturally being the most important issue of 2018, it prompted many on the right to publicly rebuke the somewhat tongue-in-cheek video, including a Tweet from the president's son (who we guess needed a distraction from his massive legal problems) and an entire segment on Fox News decrying the left for seeing racism and misogyny in a harmless Christmas fable that certainly contains no social commentary that would, say, contradict their entire worldview.
Of course, these aren't new observations. People have been analyzing the subtext of Rudolph for years. It's not difficult to interpret the story of a reindeer bullied because of his appearance and an elf who isn't accepted by his conservative society as a lesson on the perils of discrimination. And it's not just these two. We find out there's an entire community of "misfit" toys. With society having turned its back on them, these exiled toys live under the rule of some kind of, um, winged lion demigod?
But it's downright impossible not to see a broader commentary, given the context in which Rudolph was made. The summer of 1964 saw the U.S. government pass the Civil Rights Act, ending segregation and banning "employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin." According to the book Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer: An American Hero, "Rudolph displayed the same generational disruptions that defined the counterculture during that era." It adds that "part of the appeal was the show's willingness to mirror changes in the American family" -- meaning these themes weren't incidental, but were why the special was so damn successful. Producer Arthur Rankin Jr. points out that the reason the show has resonated for so long is that the issues of bullying and rejection are universal among children: "I think all kids are looking for guidance. I think all kids feel slightly inferior."
So both sides of this argument are misguided. Yes, Rudolph does contain scenes wherein the denizens of the North Pole act like bigoted D-bags, but that doesn't make it problematic. And to deny that any of these elements are present in Rudolph is straight up missing the entire point. It'd be like reading A Christmas Carol as a fun little story about spooky ghosts, or watching It's A Wonderful Life and thinking that the moral is "Don't hire your useless relatives."
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