“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” might be the deepest of all the Christmas Classics. It definitely is among the most animated ones. There can be no doubt. Maybe you think it’s sappy, or outdated, or just part of the stupid song. Not so. There is more, here, than meets the eye. There is substance beneath the veneer of stop-animation and the lyricism of Burl Ives. There is a truly valuable and timeless lesson therein.
Rudolph is a treatise on acceptance. It is a very basic story about the fact that what makes us different, what often makes us hated, mistreated, ignored, or berated … those are the things worth having. Those are the things that define us. It’s not the 99.9% of genetic makeup that we share with monkeys that makes us special, is it? It’s that 0.1% … that last little bit. Rudolph couldn’t help his nose being red any more than Hermey could help loving teeth. Those toys … those misfit toys … they were MADE that way. All of the characters in this story find redemption, ironically, because of the very parts of their being that made them hated. This special teaches a fundamental character trait. It shows that one should value others, not judge them. It tells us to love one another, and not to mistreat our fellow beings.
Rudolph was driven away in shame, Hermey was belittled into quitting his job, and the toys were abandoned and ostracized for not conforming to what some idiot kids thought a “toy” was supposed to be. Well screw those kids, I’ll take a misfit toy over a regular one any day of the week. I want the nesting doll that ends in a mouse. I want a bird that swims. I want a water gun than shoots jelly. I want a polka dot elephant. I want a cowboy riding an ostrich. I want a sinking boat and a plane that can’t fly. I want a train with square wheels on its caboose. I want a damn Charlie in the Box! I want an elvish dentist and a radiant reindeer. I want uniqueness. I want different. Conformity is boring. No one remembers any of the other elves’ names or any of the other reindeer kids, either. If I didn’t watch the special every year, I wouldn’t even remember that they gave some of them names at all. They are uninteresting, unimportant, and banal. But the weirdos stick with you. The oddballs came through in the end, when no one else could.
Hermey de-toothed the bumble and made it tame. The toys were found by Santa and given to (presumably) less judgmental, more grateful children. And Rudolph …well, without him, there wouldn’t have been any presents at all that year. Despite all of their so-called flaws, these hated and undervalued people came right back to help those who persecuted them in the first place. If that isn’t a Christian ideal consistent with the very essence of this purportedly holy day, then I don’t know what is. I can’t think of a single other animated classic that has anything nearly as moving at its core, save perhaps “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer could be played at any time of year for people of any age and it would still ring true, however. That is somewhat unique among the holiday classics.
So, this year and all years hence, I ask you all to lift a glass of eggnog to the greatest, simplest, and purest of all Christmas messages! It is a toast to Rudolph, Hermey, and to all the Misfit Toys out there. It is a toast to our selves. It is a toast to redemption and a toast to acceptance. If you can’t do at least that much this holiday season, then you’re no friend of mine.
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and a Joyous Whatever Else You Celebrate!