Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Rudolph is Just Not the Same Anymore

I have to say that when I was a little girl I used to watch all the Rankin/Bass Christmas productions... "Frosty the Snowman," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and especially the stop-motion classic "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Well, as a grown-up I watched the 'special' last night, and it wasn't as charming or as fun as I remember. Here's just a snippet:Here are my issues:

1. The parents are jerks.
What kind of parent doesn't love their child for who they are? "Don't worry, I'm sure he'll grow out of it" Daddy Deer Donnor says. What happened to unconditional love? Support? Understanding? Does this not exist in Christmas Town?

2. Santa is an ass.

This is my main issue. What kind of "saint" insults a poor baby reindeer? As a response to the above comment by Donner, Santa answers, "I hope so..." and "Too bad, he sure did have promise." There's even a scene later when the elves prepare a special song for Santa ("We Are Santa's Elves"), and Santa's like "That was fine," and then takes off. Mrs. Claus has to apologize for his behavior to the elves. Later the elves are singing the same song as they work, and Santa tells Mrs. Claus he finds the song annoying, rubbing his temple as if he has a headache. What a grouch. Lastly, Mr. Omniscient "I know when you're sleeping and when you're awake" has no idea about the whole island of Misfit Toys. I know he's old, but is he senile too? This is not the Santa Claus I know and love.

3. The Elves work in a sweatshop.
The Head Elf is like a slave-driver. Herman wants to take a break, but Head Elf says, "Not you! You have to keep working!" What kind of toy-making holiday atmosphere is this?? Herman the Elf wants to be a dentist. Fine. Why not let him fix the dolls' teeth, like he suggested? And they never had a dentist in all of Christmas Town before, with all those candy canes and marshmallows around? You'd think they'd be clamoring for some dental work.

4. Donner is a chauvinistic pinhead.
Rudolph runs away (after being shunned from all those reindeer games) and his parents are worried. Mom wants to go out looking for him, and Donner responds curtly "No, this is man's work," and leaves without her. Was it man's work to insult your child and send him packing, too??

5. Some of the Misfit Toys are not really misfits.
A bear that rides a bike is not a misfit, nor is a polka-dotted elephant. I think I had a spotted rabbit when I was growing up, and I treated it just fine. And what kid wouldn't want a squirt gun that shoots grape jelly? And why doesn't the Charlie in the Box just change his name if that's his only 'defect'? Also, they never even say why the doll (who cries by the campfire) is a misfit. She looks fine to me. (According to Wikipedia, Arthur Rankin, in an interview, revealed that the Misfit Dolly's problem was psychological, caused when she was abandoned by her owner and suffered depression from being unloved. A neurotic dolly? Is that all you got??)

Lastly, there is a 'Bird Fish': a toy bird who swims instead of flies. But then in the final credit sequence, he is tossed out of Santa's sleigh without a parachute or umbrella being handed to the other toys!

Callous! Outrageous!

When watching as a child in the 80's, you tend to look over a lot, apparently. Or you're just so wrapped up in the cute furry animals to notice. But watching it recently and putting that nostalgia aside, I didn't like it. Instead, I found it really annoying.


pixie said...

I showed this movie to my kids for the first time two years ago and was appalled at some of the messages it was sending. Rudolph's parents only love him once he's proved useful, Santa and his Head Elf are slave drivers, and kids only love toys that are deemed "perfect." All of these messages are false and, actually, quite hurtful in today's context.

My kids could not get over the fact that Santa was so mean to everybody. I said something to them how some people just get stressed during the holidays.

We haven't watched it since.

pixie said...

P.S. The elves remind me of a Seinfeld, where Jerry was accused of being an "anti-dentite," a person who was prejudiced against dentists. And HE was joking!