Rudolph the Bastard Reindeer

2009-12-27 21:52:43 by jdixon

I'm probably not treading into undiscovered territory, but having re-watched a number of my favorite Christmas specials as an adult, I couldn't help but notice the influences of an earlier, simpler, uglier life in America. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had an especially hellish upbringing in the shadow of Claus and his elven slave-drivers, according to the storytellers at Rankin/Bass Productions, Inc.

Overtones of discrimination and the Old South start from the very beginning. The comforting tone of Burl Ives as the friendly, banjo-toting, Good 'ol boy snowman-narrator help to lighten the apocalyptic mood of newsreel footage foreshadowing the storm that inevitably vindicates Rudolph's hapless existence.

Rudolph is a child of misfortune, cursed with a traffic beacon for a nose. His mother pities him and his father is repulsed by him. Complicating matters, his father is the famous Donner, a proud member of Santa's flying reindeer squadron. Growing up in his shadow would be difficult for any normal fawn. With his deficiency, Rudolph clearly has impossible obstacles to overcome. As if to bury any faint hopes the child might harbor, Santa makes it clear from the onset that Rudolph had better grow out of it for any chance at a normal life. The father is so embarrassed by his offspring that he forces his son to wear a false nose in public.

Not to be outdone by his buddy Donner, Comet demonstrates that prejudice is just as prevalent in the classroom as it is in the home. Upon discovering Rudolph's dirty little secret, he humiliates the student in front of all the reindeer boys and girls. This is the straw that broke the reindeer's back, forcing Rudolph into exile.

The air of intolerance permeates much of the North Pole. Hermey, an effeminate elf who sees himself as a misfit, dreams of a career in dentistry away from the judging eyes of his toy-making peers and elf management. Realizing that he'll never be accepted for his alternative lifestyle, the youngster climbs out the nearest window and searches for acceptance in lands beyond. He eventually pairs up with Rudolph and a brutish Yukon with a taste for peppermint candy.

Of course, every Christmas story has to wrap up with a nice little bow, and this one is no different. A historic blizzard threatens to cancel Santa's delivery service to all the good little white boys and girls. Kringle realizes that the only way to succeed is with the assistance of the banished Rudolph. With all the prudence of a desperate man, he comes to his senses and accepts Rudolph into his sleigh team. Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!

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