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Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Mutant

December 4th, 2008

Last night, Christmas perennial Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer aired on CBS. Now, this show is dear to Mrs. Thielavision and myself–we’ve currently got a large diorama of Rudolph characters lining the top of our entertainment center–but we have to admit that these days it inspires many nagging questions, the most critical of which is this:

Why is everyone such a dick?

Oh sure, you expect all of the other reindeer to be intolerant. (See “Reindeer Games, Denied.”) But the elves–at least the ones who are uninterested in dentistry–are similarly opposed to nonconformity. And then there’s Santa. Jolly old Saint Nick. Who visits children of all creeds and colors, but is taken aback by the sight of a baby reindeer with a glowing nose.

Donner: Now, I’m sure it’ll stop as soon as he grows up, Santa.

Santa: Well, let’s hope so if he wants to make the sleigh team some day.

Workplace discrimination? From Santa? Does he withhold toys from developmentally disabled children? How does he feel about conjoined twins?

(Someone has thoughtfully put together a compilation of Santa’s most prickish moments.)

Of course, in the end Santa comes around, but only after he realizes that he needs the little freak. And even then, if he’d had the foresight to install a sleigh-mounted spotlight, poor Rudolph would likely be moping around the North Pole to this very day.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still love Rudolph. The songs are great, and there’s imagination to spare. Where it really wins me over are the freaky details used to flesh out what is, after all, otherwise a very simple story. Not only is there Hermey, the Elf Who Wants to Be a Dentist, but there’s also the whole Island of Misfit Toys mythology. You see, there’s a lion with wings named King Moonracer who flies around the world collecting poorly manufactured toys to live a shunned, lonely existence on his own private island. Oooo-kay.

Now, leaving aside the oft-debated question of the exact defect of the outwardly normal Misfit Doll (said, by one official source, to be “psychological” in nature), there’s another bit of oddity regarding the outcast toys. The reason they’re on the island in the first place is that they were unloved and abandoned by children, yet at the end of the show Santa delivers them from his sleigh at Christmas.

I can hear the grateful kids now:

Hey, this sucks! This train’s got square wheels!

Mom! Tell Billy to stop squirting jelly at me!

What’s this? A cowboy? Riding an ostrich? Where’s my fucking bike?!?

Who wants to play with a Charlie-in-the-Box?

And so:

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