Rankin Bass’ Rudolph

I just watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, one of my favorite Christmas shows, for what’s probably the 40th annual time. I wanted to do something festive because I’ll be working Christmas day.

But being in a cynical mood, I’m noticing this year that this is actually a pretty cruel flick. It starts off with Rudolph’s father, Donner, criticizing him for something over which he has no control. And then Santa, who is the obvious leader and ought to know better, does the same thing. Then Donner tries to turn Rudolph into something he’s not by hiding his nose, and his wife goes along with it.

And then we meet Hermey, an elf who wants to be a dentist, while he’s being ridiculed by his boss, who not only belittles him for being different, but encourages all the other elves to join in. He even punishes him and threatens to fire him. It’s ironic, because Hermey is the only male elf that doesn’t have a nose like a light bulb. His boss tells him he’ll never fit in.

Then Rudolph’s team stands around calling him names, Santa berates his coach, Comet, even though Rudolph was the best flyer, and Comet, again the leading adult, encourages everyone not to let Rudolph join in any reindeer games. Clarice, Rudolph’s love interest, seems to be the only open minded one in the whole show. (Unless you count the rabbits, raccoons and birds who sing along with her). Clarice’s dad acts like a jerk, too.

No wonder they felt like misfits. We know that children’s contemporaries can be cruel, but even the adults are horrible. I would have run away, too. Thank goodness they found each other. The narrator said they didn’t know what they were in for, but if you ask me, home seems like it was infinitely worse than the cruel world outside, in spite of the Abominable Snowmonster and the crazy Yukon Cornelius.

And the Island of Misfit Toys is depressing as hell. There are all these perfectly delightful toys, and none of them want to be where they are. And I never could figure out what was supposed to be wrong with the doll.

In spite of all his horrible treatment, Rudolph does the noble thing. He sets off on his own so as not to endanger his friends. Heaven knows where he found that nobility. He certainly wasn’t shown any examples of it.

I always thought that the most distressing part was when Yukon fell over the cliff after Hermey removed Abominable’s teeth, because his dogs take the plunge with him. I mean, what did they do to deserve that? Animal cruelty at its worst.

Even after everyone apologizes to Rudolph, it seems that the only reason everyone is now accepted is that they have utility value. Hermey will be the North Pole’s Dentist, Abominable will be the tree decorator, and Rudolph is now Santa’s spotlight.

If I were to make a sequel to this story, I’d say that Rudolph and Hermey hit their teens and rebel like nobody’s business. They’re surrounded by basically rude and inhospitable “people” whom I don’t think can really tamp down their vicious streaks based on just one glowing Christmas run. This story may seem as if it had a happily ever after ending, but not to my jaundiced eye.

Ah, the messages we send to our children. Don’t even get me started on the Brothers Grimm. Bah humbug.

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A Parade from the Inside Out

One of my coworkers moonlights as a Duckboat Tour operator here in Seattle. I’ve yet to have the opportunity to take one of these tours, but it’s way up there on my to-do list. Just riding in a vehicle that leaves the street then plunges into the water, then later drives back out again, would be worth the price of admission.

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So when he posted on his Facebook page that he’d be driving a duck in Seattle’s annual Macy’s Holiday Parade the day after Thanksgiving and that he needed passengers, I was jumping up and down. “Me! Me!”

The only real down side, aside from the fact that it was bitter cold and raining out, was that we had to meet at the “nest”, where they keep the ducks, no later than 6:50 in the morning. But still, I was excited. I had seen plenty of parades in my lifetime, but I’d never actually been in one.

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I have to say it’s a different experience entirely. After we drove to the staging area and jockeyed for our position amongst a great deal of confusion, there was even more waiting than the spectators experience. The parade wasn’t to begin until 9:00. But the time passed quickly because it was extremely surreal. Clowns and penguins and snowmen were wandering in the rain, some without their costume heads on, looking dazed and confused. Polar bears conferred on the sidewalk. Balloon floats alternately sagged and perked up and bumped into each other. I honestly couldn’t imagine how this chaos would turn into a parade, but somehow it did.

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On the duck we were given a choice of Santa hats or antlers to wear. I went for the antlers. You can never have too many antlers. They were playing some of the funniest ever Christmas music full blast, and we started singing along and rocking out. Santa stopped by to say hello on his way to his place of honor in the back, and high school marching bands started streaming past, looking wet, miserable, determined and excited by turns.

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 And then we were off. And suddenly everything made sense and went off like clockwork. It was really amazing. And I’ve got to hand it to Seattleites. The streets were packed in spite of the freezing rain, and it kind of made you feel proud. It also made me feel even more obligated to give them a good show, so I waved and smiled at every little kid I saw as we boogied on down the road. I even spotted two really nice women I had met at Thanksgiving the night before, and that was really fun. “Look at me! I’m in a parade!”

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And the energy that was directed back at us was amazing. People were so happy and excited to see us! For the first time in my life I got a little taste of what it must feel like to be famous, and it is without a doubt addictive as hell. I didn’t want it to end. More please. What a rush! I was grinning in spite of myself. And I was thrilled to see a reflection of us in a department store window.

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And then abruptly it was over. Balloon floats deflated, characters pulled off their heads, and band members scattered to the four winds. And naturally we were caught in a float jam of epic proportions.

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But eventually we made it back to the nest 4 hours after we had left, still high on adrenaline and rather pleased with ourselves. I will never view a parade the same way again. Each one is a miracle of coordination and teamwork and patience. This was a delightful experience that I’ll always remember. What a fabulous way to kick off the holidays!