A few days ago, when I noticed the 1964 stop-motion animation television special “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” was on, I was thrilled. At four-years-old, Preschooler was finally old enough to really “get” the whole Santa experience, and I knew she’d love this movie. So with an eager heart, I turned on the TV, and got ready to create some Normon-Rockwell-esque Christmas memories with my oldest child. And as I predicted, Rudolph worked his charm. Preschooler sat there the whole hour, mouth hanging open, totally engaged in the story of the misfit reindeer.
For all the wrong reasons.
It turns out Rudolph isn’t as sunshiny as I remember.
Not five minutes into the movie, when Rudolph is born, we find out Rudolph’s father, Donner, is kind of a dick. When Rudolph’s nose shines, his mother (Mrs. Donner Reindeer), says “Well, we’ll just have to overlook this,” Rudolph’s dad vocally opposes such a suggestion, and insists Rudolph wear a false nose. So, when Rudolph complains the prosthetic is uncomfortable, his dad claims “You’ll wear it and you’ll like it!” Now THAT’S parenting!
As the movie rolls along, I can accept all the other reindeer are jerks towards Rudolph, if only because the carol commands the other reindeer not allow Rudolph to join in any reindeer games. So it comes as no surprise when Rudolph runs away from home.
Donner and Mrs. Donner are understandably distraught when they find out Rudolph’s gone. Mrs. Donner wants to strike out in search of her lost boy, but Donner stops her stating, “No! This is MAN’S work!” and he sets off alone.
Despite this, and In a rare moment of female empowerment, Mrs. Donner and Rudolph’s little girlfriend Clarice leave the cave to search for Rudolph. The next we hear from them? They’re being attacked by the Abominable Snowman. OF COURSE THEY ARE.
So, Rudolph, Donner, and Rudolph’s new misfit friends rescue them thanks to the wanna-be dentist elf, who pulls out all the Abominable Snowman’s teeth with a large pair of pliers. This led to some interesting discussions about how the dentist is your friend, and not some sort of nightmarish tooth-pulling fiend.
Finally, with the Abominable Snowman incapacitated, the gang can head home, but not without one more disparaging quip from Donner. “Come on,” he says. “Let’s get the WOMEN home.”
The movie’s most redeeming feature, in my opinion? The island of misfit toys is ruled by a giant flying gryphon. SCORE. Totally forgot about that one. And, most likely, any hints of misogyny totally flew over Preschooler’s head, just as, for 30 odd years or so, they flew over my head as well.
Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas, indeed.