If you don’t already know this song you really haven’t paid attention all these years. So you may be wondering how this becomes article worthy, much less for the song-as-narrative analysis of this article series. Well, there are at least two cases of people who do not understand the point of this song, and since it’s one of my favorites I have to speak up in its defense. I never thought I’d have to do that.
For tradition’s sake, how about we take a look at the song itself.
OK, story’s known by one and all. However, some years ago I started hearing an alternate version with another verse tacked on. The odds of my finding it among all the versions out there are rather astronomical so you’ll have to take my word for it. However, the added verse starts after the reindeer start singing our hero’s praises, as Rudolph turns to them and says basically “oh, sure, now when I can help you you’re all nice to me”, to which the other reindeer apologize and say “we’ll try to be nicer to you in the future”, with no evidence that Rudolph accept their apology and forgives them. Somebody’s looking for revenge on someone by adding this verse if you ask me–a very un-Christmas response.
I hate this cover. I really do. Look, I spent years as the victim of psychological bullying while teachers and administrators all but looked the other way, seeming to only notice my outburst in response. Nowadays not only is all of that bitterness out of my system (praise the Lord) but I actually attended my class reunion last month. One of my former tormentors apologized years ago and we get along just fine now. In fact, I rather enjoyed catching up with people and while some sympathy was expressed we more or less just caught up and had a good time.
At no point did I demand apologizes or anything like that. In fact, had I heard this alternate cover while I was still a bitter shut-in, I would STILL have hated this new verse. It’s not Christmas. Maybe I just consider it a given that Rudolph forgave them as the other reindeer finally saw he had value. In the Rankin/Bass version he hated his nose as well, but when it proved to be vital to Santa’s mission (dare I even say a gift from God) and even helped rescue his friends, he earned the acceptance he always sought. Why should he turn around now and be a jerk about it? They learned their lesson. That should be enough. This is the reindeer equivalent of the story of the ugly duckling, who turned out to be a young swan. Why soil it with an angry Rudolph rather than a forgiving one? It’s Christmas, for elf’s sake!
Speaking of the Rankin/Bass version, just as I was formulating this article, my associate Hube at the political blog The Colossus of Rhodey posted an interview from Fox News with a writer who has taken his only cynical approach to the story.Vodpod videos no longer available.
Can I ask why they used a stand-up comedian for the “conservative” view? Is he a regular commentator like Dennis Miller? Then I could understand it, but I would rather have seen Michael Medved or someone who discusses media. Heck, I would have been a better choice and I certainly would defend this song and the special. Also, he was the one who made it a political issue.
Stein makes a good point that the story isn’t about promoting bullying, but overcoming adversity and adversity does exist in the real world. (Giuliani does make a good point that Santa seemed out of character. That’s always bugged me.) Again the story is about overcoming adversity. Giuliani wants to know why Rudolph has to do something extraordinary to overcome a disability. WHAT DISABILITY? Are we watching the same thing? The glowing nose ISN’T a disability. At most it’s a deformity. However, it really isn’t that; it’s more like a mutant power. Rudolph belongs on the…a better written version of the X-Men. The show is about Rudolph learning that what makes him different is actually what makes him special, that it’s actually an asset. It like being short has its advantages or being double jointed. It’s not like being mentally impaired or stuck in a wheelchair. That isn’t the message here, which would be a different kind of lesson about acceptance.
And that bit about promoting bullying? What? The bullies, and even Santa and Comet’s reactions (plus his father, Donner) are treated as WRONG by the story. It shows how Rudolph reacts, which in the Rankin/Bass version includes running away and making friends with other “misfits”. The special is about showing that “misfits” have something to offer, like the toys (who have actual deformities) that can still be loved. Santa fixes them up because they’re toys, not people (perhaps it’s like repairing a cleft lip, but some of those toys didn’t seem half bad). Then you have the elf who would rather be a dentist than a toy maker. The message here is the same as Yukon Cornelius, to go out and live your dream, despite being told your a fool for doing so. It does not EVER say that bullying is cool. It makes the very point Giuliani wants to make.
I’m with Hube on this one: get a life, professor.