Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Let's face it. Rudolph has been the victim of a whole whack of crazy controversy lately, along with various other Christmas traditions. 'Rudolph' is too mean-spirited and even sexist, 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' is a song about being taken advantage of, and there's even been a bunch of crap going on right now about Santa "needing" to be gender-fluid (which isn't exactly as blown out of proportion as all that, thank God) - basically, the overall Christmas spirit has been shot right in the face this year, and everyone's got a problem with something. I have my own opinions on things, but for now, I'd like to throw in my two cents about the 'Rudolph' controversy.
This is a special that I've held close to my heart since I was a little kid. There were a few specials that aired on TV that were must-sees every year, and this was one of the big ones. People even forget there are two more Rankin/Bass specials like this; 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' and 'The Little Drummer Boy', which no one ever seems to talk about these days. This pretty much translates to 'Rudolph' being the stand-out special among the three. So, what the hell is so wrong with it? Let's get into it.
The basic plot is the song just being drawn out into a story. Rudolph, with his red nose, and an Elf named Hermey who wants to be a dentist, become runaways when their respective friends and family are assholes about them being so different. In their travels, they run into a prospector named Yukon Cornelius, and the three have a little adventure involving an Island of Misfit Toys, an Abonimable Snowman, and growing up via 'Lion King' style montage. It all just leads to Rudolph returning home, learning the lesson of not being able to run from your problems. I mean, spoiler alert I guess, but I have to make that my first defense. The other takeaway is that Santa sees Rudolph as just a reindeer with a birth defect, until he realizes that he can use him. Either is valid, but the point I'd like to make is that no one seems to be able to find the positives in this Christmas special anymore.
Many of these "controversies", if you will, are all things that are fair debate. As a matter of fact, I agree with some of it. The primary example is that Santa, Donner (Rudolph's Dad) and even Comet, are gigantic assholes. But here's the thing, apart from maybe Santa (just because he's Santa) I never had any REAL complaints about this because, dammit, that's what this special is about! Rudolph runs away because of all the ridicule, grows up, and returns with the idea in his head that he cant's run from his problems. But that's just the beginning of the positive takeaways I get from this special.
Let's talk about Clarice; the love interest doe who barely shows up throughout, but always has something good to do or say. The prime examples include her telling Rudolph that she likes him because he's different, and her and Donner's wife setting out on their own despite Donner's comment. He says "this is man's work" so they're like "oh, okay, we'll just go on our own to find Rudolph then", thus taking matters into their own hands. Clarice also has the song "There's Always Tomorrow", which was encouraging to those of us who had a lot of bad days as children. The idea of "tomorrow is another day" mostly came from her, for me.
And then what about Rudolph, himself, setting out on his own so as not to endanger his friends? I suppose this could be seen as either selfish or selfless, but in my head, it's just him trying to do the right thing. Herbie also gives us the idea of following your dreams despite how ridiculous people around you might find it. I'd even say Yukon is a good example of someone who is unapologetically himself.
So, at the end of the day, most of the negatives this special has recently conjured up, do have some sort of a balance to them. The problem is that people aren't looking at things right. I'll be the first to admit that there are some things I can agree with people on (Santa's still a total jerk in this), but it's blown out of proportion now. For me, that was always just a funny realization. I never, in any way thought negatively about the special itself for any reason whatsoever. For me, the positives one can take away from this actually manage to outweigh the negatives. So, think of it what you will, but this is a Christmas tradition that has lasted since the 60s. I'd say, if you do find yourself with these protesters, give it another shot after reading what I have to say. Hopefully you can find new things to like about it.
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