1964 stop motion classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer received critical commentary on Twitter over its “messed up” lessons aimed at children following the animated special’s annual airing on CBS Tuesday.
The iconic Rankin/Bass Productions special follows famed glowy-nosed reindeer Rudolph (Billie Mae Richards), an outsider discouraged from participating in reindeer games, who ventures to an island of misfit toys with fellow oddballs Yukon Cornelius (Larry D. Mann) and wannabe dentist elf Hermey (Paul Soles).
When Santa Claus (Stan Francis) is forced to cancel Christmas gift-giving because of a harsh blizzard and low visibility, Rudolph’s unique distinguishing feature saves the day when he guides Santa’s sleigh and helps deliver the misfit toys to children around the globe.
While trending on Twitter, the latest Rudolph airing brought commentary criticizing the special for its plot point bullying and mixed messages — namely Rudolph being accepted only when his “abnormality” proves useful.
“I’ve never liked it. The coach is a bully, Santa is a bully, and all the other ‘kids,’” commented one Twitter user. “Then the only reason they accepted [Rudolph] is because he could do something for them. Crazy message.” Wrote another, “The moral of the story I’ve learned since watching it as a kid: People are d— until they need something from you.”
Not all criticism was scathing, as some users tweeted with tongue firmly in cheek:
“I think all kids are looking for guidance. I think all kids feel slightly inferior… kids have problems, whatever they may be. And to see other characters that have problems, they can associate with them,” Rankin Jr. said in a 2010 interview with Emmy TV Legends.
“And when the characters are relieved of their problems by their own actions — like Rudolph became the lead because he was very needed and he fulfilled a big role — Hermey became a dentist because he conquered Bumble.
“And kids love to see someone of their own stride, their own age or their own inferiority, achieve things. That makes them feel good. I think that’s probably the reason these films last so long, because in all our films, that happens. The bad guy becomes the good guy at the end, he’s reformed, and the underdog fulfills his quest.”
Watching the traditional American cinematic allegory about a set of dysmorphic, gender-queer heroes fighting against convention to carve their place within a hetero-centric, patriarchal, totalitarian state. Gripping. #RudolphTheRedNosedReindeer pic.twitter.com/e84g6Mbma0
— Colleen Brennan-Barry (@ColB) November 28, 2018