1964's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Everyone in This Film Is a Jerk
1964's Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is a fifty-year-old classic I've loved since I was very small, but even when I was a child, I remember thinking Santa Claus was a jerk.
Now as an adult, I decided to watch the film again for old time's sake, and I'm saddened to realize that it wasn't just Santa. Everyone was a jerk in this film. With a few exceptions here and there, the cast is just all around assholery.
When Rudolph is first born, his parents freak at the sight of his nose. Before they can adjust to the shock of having a baby with a light bulb for a nose, Santa comes in and flippantly announces that a freak like Rudolph can never join his sleigh team.
It's never specifically stated why -- mostly because there is no practical reason. Rudolph's nose isn't some kind of liability. Santa isn't traveling incognito. In fact, he brazenly slides his fat ass down random people's chimneys and eats their cookies. He's not hiding.
Maybe if Santa had said something about Rudolph confusing traffic or causing pileups at intersections, his reasons might have made sense. But from what we can see of the film, he doesn't want Rudolph on his sleigh team specifically because he's different.
This is discrimination, Santa. Your little factory would get shutdown for that bull these days.
Naturally, this was fifty years ago, before the invention of Twitter, when people could get away with being bigots. So Santa sings a merry song about what a loser Rudolph is before waddling out.
Later, the elves bust their butts to honor Santa with a nice song. What is Santa's response? He sits there bored and yawning, then gives the elves a half-assed compliment before hurrying out the backdoor.
He is also kinda mean to Mrs. Claus, who spends all her time slaving away over a hot stove (dammit!), trying to fatten him up for the holidays so he can be warm while he's working. He sits on a literal throne and is pampered and spoiled by her, but all he can do is handwave her efforts, in-between bitching and complaining about his great life.
I think the rest of us would kill for a job we only had to do once a year, while sitting around eating cookies the other 364 days.
Why is Santa so mean???
Rudolph's father, Donner, is ashamed of his son's . . . "nonconformity" and is desperate to see Rudolph get on Santa's sleigh team. . . but why? Aren't the reindeer magical and immortal or something? Why does Santa need new ones?
To make the nonsense make sense, I'd go so far as to assume that the reindeer actually do die and are replaced by their children. So when Donner died, Rudolph would take his place as the new "Donner."
Yeah. Puttin' too much thought into this.
Donner hides his son's nose with some black gunk from the ground, but it isn't enough. When Rudolph's nose is revealed during flying lessons, the other children make fun of him and call him names. His own friend, Fireball, flees from him in horror -- horror! (I guess it makes sense, though. For all Fireball knows, Rudolph's nose can shoot lasers.)
Comet, who is acting as gym teacher, announces like a true prick that they won't be letting Rudolph join in their games. I guess I didn't find this shocking as a child because most of my teachers were actually mean like this.
Unsurprisingly, Rudolph is humiliated and runs away. Clarice, a girl he met at school, is the only one who's nice to him. She finds him in the forest and sings to him what is probably my favorite song in the film,
There's always tomorrow
for dreams to come true.
Believe in your dreams,
come what may.
There's always tomorrow
with so much to do,
and so little time in a day.
We all pretend
the rainbow has an end,
and you'll be there, my friend,
Later, we meet Hermey, an elf who doesn't fit in because he doesn't like making toys. The head elf is really, really mean to him (why is the head elf always so mean?). First, he humiliates Hermey by getting all the other elves to laugh at him. Then later, when Hermey makes some feeble attempt to fit in, he's screamed at about what a freak he is.
Damn. The bosses in the North Pole suck. These people need some kind of union.
Hermey gets fed up and runs away, and this is how he meets Rudolph. The two of them sing my second favorite song in the film ("We're a couple of misfits!") before deciding to run away together.
They eventually come to The Island of Misfit Toys, where the toys aren't really misfits. The Jack-in-the-Box, for instance, is named "Charlie." Okay . . . why not just change his f****** name? It's not like "Charlie" is printed on his forehead. He could just start calling himself "Jack" or maybe, I dunno, stop talking. Simple math, folks.
Also, the dolly is a misfit because she has low self-esteem? And the elephant is there because of polka-dots . . .? A cowboy riding an ostrich? Wha . . .?
Let me grab some aspirin.
Looking back now, I feel sorry for all the times my mother had to listen to this mess while I gleefully watched the film as a child.
Because Santa insists on being an ass, some random magical lion named King Moonracer runs the island and cares for the toys. He doesn't seem to have anything else to do. Of course, Moonracer is a jerk too because he turns Rudolph away -- a child! -- and expects him to go live homeless in the snow with an elf dentist and an incompetent prospector.
I guess we're lucky King Moonracer didn't just eat Rudolph.
The island itself is more evidence of Santa being a narcissist. We soon learn that the toys are only stuck on the island because Santa ignores them. Jolly Man gives them the cold shoulder every year, a silent way of making them feel like trash.
Honestly . . . Santa is worse than that popular chick in highschool.
Because everyone else in the film is a jerk, Rudolph lives like a homeless guy out in the snow, nose red and everything, and grows up in isolation.
Eventually, he returns to Christmas Town (or whatever) and there's a storm so bad, Santa's team can't see to fly. Rudolph's nose starts glowing -- as if the universe was loudly coughing and going, "Helloooo! I sent him to you for a reason!!!" -- and how does Santa respond? By complaining about Rudolph's nose.
But Santa realizes mid-complaint that Rudolph can actually be useful to him. So he asks nicely if Rudolph will save Christmas, and because Rudolph is a selfless, good-natured person, he agrees to.
So the moral of the story?
It's okay for people to discriminate against you over biological factors you can't help. But don't worry. You can earn people's love and acceptance on the condition that you prove useful to them.
The characters were mean bullies, but this is still a beloved classic full of fun songs and is very worth owning.
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© 2018 Ash Gray