Now, there are a few things you really should know about me, especially this time of year. First of all, I freaking love the holiday season. We have two trees up, with lights around the room that we use instead of lamps. I wear Christmas hats and headbands every day at work, decorated the store with tinsel and garland today, and even have Christmas sweaters and hats for the oddly squirmy Bowser Kitten. The second thing you need to know is that I make epically awesome Christmas playlists. It’s an awesome mix of the classics (Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, Ertha Kitt), childhood faves (Raffi, Muppets, New Kids on the Block, Hanson, Rockapella), the awesomely rockin’ and random (Twisted Sister, Korn, Run D.M.C, Trans-Siberian Orchestra), and artists you wouldn’t normally associate with Christmas (Weezer, The Killers, Fall Out Boy, Stephen Colbert). The last and probably most important thing to know about me is also probably the most shocking, especially considering how much I love all things Christmasy and Winter Wonderland-y.
I hate the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer because reindeer are assholes. Don’t believe me? Just ask Big Rude Jake.
I’m sure you all know the tale. I mean, we’ve been singing it every year since 1949 and watching the damn Christmas special since 1964. For those of you in the back who somehow have avoided this story for the entirety of your lifetime, here’s the gist of it:
Rudolph is a reindeer. He’s smart and sweet and kind and caring, but he has a glowing red nose which makes him a misfit. There’s another reindeer named Fireball who has bright yellow hair, but no one bothers him because it turns out he’s a damn bully. Apparently, everyone in this damn “special” is a damn bully though. Rudolph’s father, Donner, starts mocking him only moments after his birth. Freakin Santa Claus comes to see him right after that. At first, he’s uber impressed with how smart the little guy is, but then breaks out into a song about how every single reindeer wants to pull Santa’s sled, and there’s no way Rudolph ever will with his abnormality. Rudolph’s parents try desperately to hide his nose, making little nose caps out of rubber and dirt. Donner actually tells his own child, right after the lad complains about how uncomfortable one such cover is, that “there are more important things than comfort, like self-respect”. But how the hell is Rudolph ever going to respect himself if everyone around him is mocking him for being a freak of nature?
Of course, the rest of Christmas Town isn’t much better. The elves have their own “pick on the outcast” competition going where they all gang up on the one guy who isn’t very good at his job. Hermy knows he’s not good at making toys, and he has an alternative career picked out. He’s probably the most logical one in the whole damn town! Does anyone respect that? Of course not! They sit around berating him for not being like them, making fun of his love of dentistry, and mocking his lack of toy-making abilities. And of course, Santa is no help. When the elves try out their Christmas song for him, he just makes comments about how Hermy’s section was flat, because Hermy wasn’t there to sing with them. The red-suited wonder just brings down a whole world of crap on Hermy’s head.
Back to Rudolph though. So Donner and “Mrs. Donner”, because apparently in Christmas Town you give up your full identity once you’re married and become just the Mrs., send Rudolph off to the reindeer games. Of course, they try to cover up his nose because they’re ashamed of him for not being like all the others. Somehow Rudolph makes friends with another misfit, the fuzzy-headed Fireball. The two bond briefly, becoming friends. Thanks to finally having someone around who doesn’t just mock him relentlessly, Rudolph seems to build up a little confidence. He’s able to chat up a lovely young gal named Clarice (she still has a name, so you know she’s single) and flies like a damn eagle when it’s his turn to attempt take-off practice. Even that jolly red bastard Claus is impressed watching him fly!
Until that is, his nose cover comes off. His one and only friend in the world, Fireball, wastes no time pointing out the glowing red nose to everyone around him and leads in the jeers of “rainbow snot” and “furnace nose” with all the other reindeer. Even the damn adults join in, pledging to not let their children anywhere near the glowing freak. Hell, Santa joins in! He flat out shuns Rudolph, pretty much saying it’s a pity he’s a freak because he’s the best flier they have. The only one to stick by him is Clarice, who is promptly whisked away by her father who refuses to let his daughter have anything to do with someone not 100% like him.
So, all of this bullying causes both Rudolph and Hermy to run away from home. Luckily, they do this at the exact same time so they wind up running into each other. Bonding over the fact that they’re both misfits who everyone seems to hate with a burning hatred of a thousand supernova-ing suns, the two finally find real friendship in each other. They somewhat form their own small society consisting of just the two of them and a bizarre tinsel hunter named Yukon who uses poodles to pull his dog sled. The small group is able to survive on their own, and even make their way to an island inhabited entirely by misfit toys. You would think this would be the perfect ending to their story: misfits finding their place among those who accept and love them for their unique personalities.
Instead, King Moonrasier gives them yet another variation of the usual B.S. ever bullied child has ever gotten in their life: if you just tried a little bit harder, then maybe you could fit in and people would like you! He lets them spend one single night on the island, and has the gall to ask the trio to keep them in mind when they someday return to Christmas Town. Lucky for those toys they were all genuine and sweet beings who bonded with the trio because that King was just like the rest of the inhabitants of Christmas Town: he was only looking out for himself, and how he looked in the eyes of others. If he let these random misfits of his own kind in amongst the toys, then he would have equals there among him. Obviously, the trio had to go.
So, the trio is asked to leave the only place they’re not seen as outcasts. Rudolph thinks he’ll be a danger to the others, because his “beak blinks like a blinking beacon” as his father always told him, and there’s a giant snow monster out there who seems to want to eat them. He figures the others will be better off without him, and he sets off on his own. Of course, his traveling companions go off in search of him. While all of this is happening Clarice and “Mrs. Donner” set off in search of Rudolph too because this small group of characters are the only decent beings in the whole damn special. They all wind up in the lair of the snow monster, who is ready to eat all of the reindeer. Yukon uses his skills with rocks and a pickaxe to help Hermy use his dentistry skills to save their friends. Of course, this means we have to think that Yukon and his pups are dead for a small time, only until everyone is deemed “useful”.
You see, this is the time in the special where everyone returns home and it’s decided that they’re “worthy” of being there. Hermy’s boss decides that maybe all these people and creature with teeth really do need a dentist around, and sets up an appointment. Yukon triumphantly returns, snow monster in tow, and shows that the now-toothless monster can put a star on top of a damn tree once a year. See, even the scary monster thing is useful! It takes a blinding blizzard and the near cancellation of Christmas for Rudolph to become useful, though.
You see, every single being who once mocked and ridiculed Rudolph suddenly comes to the realization that having a light at the head of your sleigh may be useful when flying in the dark in the middle of winter. Apparently, it had never snowed on Christmas Eve before the birth of Rudolph, so this was never an issue. Santa asks Rudolph not only to fly with him that night but to lead the damn sleigh. Now remember, Rudolph just got back mere hours earlier from a months-long journey through frozen hell, was attacked and knocked unconscious by a snow monster, thought he lost one of his best and only friends in the world, found out that friend wasn’t dead and had actually trained the snow monster, and was now back in the town that had made his short life a living hell up until this point. And here is Santa asking him to guide his sleigh. Forget about the mocking, the torment, the shunning by damn near every single being in the land. Forget that, up until 30 seconds ago you were just some freak they were ready to tolerate so that Santa could go pick up some free (albeit misfit) toys from an island and get a damn dentist in the town already. Forget the mocking that happened from the moment he opened his damn eyes for the very first time on this earth. Forget everything, and guide the damn sleigh so that Santa can continue to be a beloved holiday figure.
And the stupid bastard does it.
Maybe Rudolph has a master plan that he enacted that day. Maybe he was more concerned with getting a home for the misfit toys than with his own childhood torment. Maybe he decided to end the reign of King Moonraker by having Santa take every single inhabitant of his island aboard his sled to be given a new home on Christmas Eve, leaving the King a lonely and hollow shell of a former being. Or maybe, just maybe, all those years of torment just made Rudolph that much more determined to make something of himself that everyone else could see and be proud of; to become something “normal” in the eyes of his father, fulfilling the wish every reindeer father has for their son (since apparently daughters can never fly with Santa).
Or maybe Rudolph has a bizarre form of Stockholm Syndrome, making him want to appease his childhood captors, the inhabitants of Christmas Town.
As Big Rude Jake said, you can take what you want from this story. I mean, we won’t let our nation’s kids hear a naughty word or see a naked boob on TV because it will cause them to be scarred for life, ruining any prospects of becoming a normal and functioning adult. Yet, we let them continually, year after year, sing this song and watch this special, celebrating the torment of innocent creatures for the sheer delight of the status quo. We basically drive it into the heads of our young that bullying someone because they are the slightest bit different is perfectly fine once a year. I mean, if reindeer can be stuck-up bigotted sons of bitches, then why can’t we?
I agree with Jake that this story should have continued. It should have shown the days after Christmas, with Rudolph sitting at the sleazy dive bar on the wrong side of Christmas Town, full of disgraced former elves and that weird doll Sally who some say suffered from depression. He should be sitting there, a glass of half-rate scotch on the bar between his hooves, a look of pain and disappointment on his face, pondering the happens of the last few days. I mean, he was physically and mentally exhausted before being propositioned by Santa to be a part of his team and wasn’t of sound mind to rationally agree to any terms. And now here he sits, knowing that his fate is to be mocked behind his back at the water cooler while all the other reindeer are gathering for their post-Christmas rituals. He ponders every little thing the other reindeer said to him to his face as a child and youth and wonders what they’re saying about him behind his back when their boss isn’t around to remind them that he’s useful. Will he ever be worthy of anything without Santa’s approval? Is his entire existence just to spend one night a year in service to others, and then back to the laughing and mockery for another 350+ days? He ponders these things over and over, wondering what will ever become of his life, his relationship with Clarice (whose father once forbade their blossoming friendship based on his nose, but now welcomes him with open arms when Santa is around), his very existence in this Christmas-centered town. He stares into the amber liquid in his glass, fighting back tears as he raises the glass up to his lips and mutters
“…..what’s the use of getting sober when you’re gonna get drunk again…”
Yes, this may be a bleak imagining of Christmas, but it’s true. The treatment of Rudolph was just appalling, and his sudden acceptance without time to rationalize his place in the world could leave him in a perpetual state of emotional limbo. No, this view doesn’t ruin Christmas for me. I’m probably the most festive person you would ever meet. If I were any more full of the Christmas spirit, I would piss eggnog and crap out candy canes. My festiveness does not get in the way of realizing one of the major truths in this world though:
Reindeer Are Assholes.