21 May 2022

Reconsidering "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"


The television special in 1964 was off my radar as I headed off to college that year, but an article by Caitlyn Flanagan in The Atlantic whets my interest:
There’s a lot in Rudolph that people don’t seem to remember. At one point, the Abominable Snowmonster tries to murder Rudolph in front of his parents by smashing a giant stalactite on his head. As our gentle hero lies facedown, concussed and unresponsive, his own girlfriend—the beautiful, long-lashed Clarice—wonders aloud why the snowman won’t put the little reindeer out of his misery: “Why doesn’t he get it over with?” This was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, not The Third Man. Meanwhile, back at Santa’s workshop—a phrase that should connote only the jolliest of associations—a dark tale is unfolding. Santa, it turns out, presides over a nonunion shop where underproducing elves are deprived of breaks and humiliated; they dream not of Christmas, but of escape. Poorly constructed toys are thrown onto a bare and frozen island, where they cry and wander. How long have they been there? A year? A thousand years? One of the toys, A Dolly for Sue, looks perfectly fine—why has she been stuck with the misfits? Rankin finally admitted the nature of Dolly’s flaw in 2005, when he revealed that she suffered from “psychiatric problems.” The Island of Misfit Toys, it turns out, is but another atoll in the gulag archipelago.
Interesting.  She didn't even include that one of the elves did a full-mouth extraction on the snowmonster.  I've placed a request with my library for the DVD to find out what I've been missing for the past six decades.

11 comments:

  1. It’s on Youtube in 1080p quality. Probably not worth more than a sparse sampling rather than a sit-down viewing but YMMV.

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    1. I just wanted to get it to make some screencaps (the snowmonster bashing Rudolph's head, etc) to illustrate this post - not for an evening's relaxation with a bourbon and coke. For that purpose the YouTube version may do quite well. Thanks.

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  2. Make sure you see the original, unedited version with the extra misogyny and cruelty!

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  3. an ominus posterMay 22, 2022 at 11:56 AM

    There are also some issues with Charlie Brown's Christmas (depression, bullying, cruelty, possible undiagnosed learning disabilities, name calling, and more).

    And The Great Pumpkin? OMG! You do not want to go there.

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  4. Rudolph was afaic an accurate portrayal of America then and now.

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  5. I wish the author of this Atlantic piece had been exposed to Bruno Bettelheim’s work. The notion that all children's media must be sanitized and made "safe" is misguided and oppressive. I mean, let's ban the Wizard of Oz too!

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  6. I'm with Crowboy. The idea that fairy tales need to be safe is lunacy. Wait till you hear what the wolf did with grandmother, and what Little Red Riding Hood and the Hunter did to the wolf! That's a protected animal. To jail with them!

    I also want to refer back to that article that you recently cited about kids needing to fantasize to learn. Cruel fairy tales, with good and bad ending are a part of that.

    The world is not fair. Children need to learn to recognize that, and they need to learn how to deal with that.

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  7. Depiction of evil, is not an endorsement of the evil. In this case, I had always interpreted the Island of Misfit Toys part of the story as a 1960s reaction to the conformity of the 1950s, and a suggestion that there is a place for everyone. So am I misinterpreting the message of that particular sub-plot? Or are people just upset that evil is *depicted* regardless of how the conflict is resolved in the story?

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    1. There's something interesting and dangerous developing on the left. What we might call "emotional safety culture." The trigger warnings on NPR? Campus safe spaces? The soft banning of books deemed misogynistic, homophobic or racist? To include swaths of the literary canon. Exclusion of unsafe speakers on campuses. What's going on here? Isn't this critique of "Rudolf" an extension of the same thinking, but clothed in a defense of children?

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    2. I think what you’re actually seeing is an attempt to spread empathy, understanding, and inclusion. You really want to look to the “Right” for those when are trying to create safe spaces for them and their children, away from thoughts and opinions they don’t agree with.

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