The other morning I was watching a Christmas special based on the song “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”. You might think there’s no such thing, but as for my and my kids, after sitting through about 20 minutes of incomprehensible dreck – something to do with some kid’s evil cousin wanting to take over the family store, with Grandma getting run over by said reindeer serving as a minor plot point – well, we believe it’s one of the worse Christmas shows we’ve ever seen.
See? Not kidding.
We’ve gone fairly light with the TV holiday fare this year; so far, the kids have watched The Grinch (OG Chuck Jones version, not that ghastly Jim Carrey wankfest), the new Muppet Christmas Special (I’ve looked in vain for the two great Muppet Christmas shows, A Muppet Family Christmas and the John Denver and The Muppets Christmas special, but I’ve yet to find them on broadcast TV), and Shrek The Halls.
And, of course, we watched Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. My failure as a parent is complete.
On the surface, Rudolph is harmless enough. Reindeer born with hideous birth defect/X-Men mutant power, reindeer is ostracized by Society, reindeer forms inevitable friendship with other social reject. That’s all well and good. These things happen in real life, and although my children are perfect in every way, it’s nice to show them that others are born different, and that we should be kind to such people, or something. No, the problem I have with the show is the big denouement. Let’s recap everything leading up to Rudolph becoming an Uncle Tom for the Christmas/Industrial Complex:
- Rudolph is born with a shiny red nose. His father Donder is mortified, concerned that his red-nosed son will jeopardize his position as Santa’s lead reindeer. Donder immediately tries to hide Rudolph’s nose, instilling a deep sense of shame in the young buck that he’ll carry with him throughout his life.
- Rudolph is assimilated by Reindeer Society. During a round of Reindeer Games, Rudolph’s fake nose falls off. Comet, another adult male reindeer, reacts by ostracizing Rudolph, telling all of the other reindeer that Rudolph won’t be allowed to play any more Reindeer Games. Meanwhile, Hermie the Elf confesses to his boss that he wants to be a dentist. Turns out the boss is a raving anti-Dentite, and Hermie is relieved of his toy-making duties. It’s like a Philip Roth Christmas Story.
- The two run away, have adventures, meet Yukon Cornelius a bunch of misfit toys (really? King Moonracer the Flying Lion is a misfit? HE’S A FLYING LION), and defeat the Bumble.
And here’s where it all goes South. Rudolph makes it back to the North Pole, everyone’s all “ooooh, sorry we were such dicks to you and that you and your parents and your girlfriend almost died because of us” and Santa’s all “yeah, our bad, hey, can you do me a solid and take the hardest job on the sleigh team?” and instead of saying “screw you guys, the elf, the Bumble, the drunken prospector, the Misfit Toys, and I came here to kick some ass and chew some bubble gum…and we’re all out of bubble gum”, Rudolph allows himself to be exploited. THE CAPTAINS OF THE CHRISTMAS INDUSTRY EMERGE TRIUMPHANT – Santa get cheap hi-tech labor that bows to his will, and a supply of low-quality merchandise obtained at zero cost. What the hell kind of Ayn Randian lesson is that for a kid?
It’s all very dark, and when the kids are older, I’ll explain it to them. In the meantime, I’ll stick with my favorite, A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s easy enough to explain – when they ask about Linus’ big speech, I’ll just tell them that some people think Christmas is all about Jesus.