Thursday, December 24, 2015


I make sure I watch my favorite TV show in the whole wide world at least once a year. Being as it's "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer", it makes sense to view it now rather than in July. But that doesn't mean it's off my mind in summer. Of course not. I'm not kidding about that Favorite-Show-In-The-Whole-Wide-World designation. (For the record, the runners up are "The Brady Bunch" episode where "something suddenly came up" after Marcia takes a football to the nose, the "Newhart" finale, the "Friends" show where Joey explains what is a "moo point" and the "Seinfeld"—oh, there are so many worthy candidates!—where Elaine hates on "The English Patient".)

I’ve extolled the virtues of my FSITWWW previously and it’s one of my most-read blog posts. (Interestingly, no one has ever left a comment. Perhaps I’ve disturbed my readers.) I’ve decided to add another post after one of the guys I’m dating made some disparaging comments about the show.

What?! Did I just write “one of the guys I’m dating”? As in more than one living and breathing man? Yes. The total is two. And there is a third date in the works with each of them. This would be the time for me to run out and buy a lottery ticket, too.

And a second What?! I’m still dating a guy who spoke negatively of my FSITWWW? Yes. Even with another man on deck, I know how rare encore dates are for me. Clearly, I’m cutting him a great deal of slack.

To be honest, his comments were on point. He is, after all,--oh, what’s the sophisticated term?—a smartypants. Ph.D and all that.

And let’s go on one more tangent, shall we? No, I did not bring up my FSITWWW. Not directly. We were simply sitting in the movie theatre, waiting for the onslaught of advertising to cease before seeing the achingly wonderful “Carol”, when I asked, “Do you have a favorite Christmas movie or TV show?”

“Interesting question,” he said while pensively scratching his chin as smartypants are prone to doing. “Well, not ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and not ‘Miracle on 34th Street’. Those Claymation TV shows are interesting…”

Ooh, I tried not to squirm in my seat.

“…Like Rudolph—”


“—although it’s so American.”

Saying something is so American is an easy way for a Canadian to toss out a putdown. As in Having a gun in every drawer of your house is so American or Treating the Kardashians as royalty is so American. (Never mind that we’re the country that gave the world Alan Thicke, Pamela Anderson and Justin Bieber. Sorry, sorry and Sorry. I have to admit the Biebs has some catchy tunes out now.)

But smartypants explained himself. “It’s the way the characters talk.” Uh,…okay. I just nodded. His Ph.D is in linguistics, after all. “And it’s all so heterosexist.”

I could not let that go with a nod. I piped up, “Sure Santa is. His chosen reindeer have to be of a certain caliber. And the adult bucks, Donner and Comet, are both intolerant of Rudolph. Furthermore, Donner refuses Mrs. Donner’s offer to help search for the runaway Rudolph with a curt, ‘No. This is man’s work.’”

If I’d had my wits about me, I would have paraphrased instead of offering the exact quote. There is such a thing as Too Much Information on a second date. And then I went on to explain how Santa and the adult male reindeer are subordinate characters, foils even, along with those you-can’t-join-in-any-reindeer-games young ’uns.

“Rudolph” is about the acceptance and triumph of the odd ducks. It’s that classic theme about being special just the way you are. Rudolph. Hermey. Yukon Cornelius. The Jack-in-the-box named Charlie. Even the woefully misunderstood and nightmare-inducing Abominable Snow Monster. (Well, he caused me many a bad sleep.)

The one character that confuses me is Burl Ives’ Sam the Snowman, a solitary figure, a dapper gent—a mature bachelor!—with a well-groomed mustache and goatee and a snazzy plaid vest that sports a chain from which dangles a stylish pocket watch. I had him pegged for gay, but maybe he’s still more closeted than the younger generation of misfits. Sam isn’t very sympathetic of Hermey the Elf and his aspirations of being a dentist. Hermey is ridiculed by the other elves and quits. Sam dismissively says, “Ah, well, such is the life of an elf.”

Donner may be the worst. From the beginning, he is insistent that his son Rudolph will be a normal reindeer, immediately deciding to hide the illicit red nose. Even Sam the Snowman refers to the Donners hiding “Rudolph’s, um…nonconformity.” If Donner is intolerant, Santa isn’t much better. Truth is, Santa comes off badly in the production. The elves seem to irritate him with their singing. When Rudolph outshines the other young bucks, flying through the air, Rudolph’s talent becomes irrelevant when his red nose is exposed. This glaring difference is unacceptable. Santa’s intolerance is clear when he admonishes Rudolph’s father: “Donner, you should be ashamed of yourself. What a pity. He had a nice takeoff, too.”

And, after my command viewing this year, the heterosexism is more evident. (I was always more drawn to all the misfits.) Why, it’s Comet, the adult buck, who takes the lead in excluding Rudolph! “From now on, gang,” he tells the young bucks, “we won’t let Rudolph join in any reindeer games.” And then there’s Sam’s flippant response as narrator after it seems that Yukon (and his dogs which never even get a mention) died going over a cliff: “Well, they are all very sad at the loss of their friend, but they realize that the best thing to do is to get the women back to Christmas Town.” Ugh. Yes, my smartypants date has reason for reticence over “Rudolph”.

1964. The show is a reflection of its time. (I love that it premiered the year I was born!) It’s not that Donner, Comet and Santa are admirable. They represent straight men from fifty-one years ago. Considering the times, it’s even more glorious that Rudolph, Hermey and Yukon stand out. They are special, even as regarded as misfits. These are the characters that outshine the all-too-conventional others. Their “nonconformities” are what help to save Christmas. And again, in an era before all that “It gets better”, gay marriage and magazine covers with Ellen and Caitlyn, these stop-motion misfits helped me through many of my darkest days, whenever they came in the year.

Favorite show, indeed!

No comments: