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Entertainment writer: ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ is full of ‘gay subtext’
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Entertainment writer: ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ is full of ‘gay subtext’

Could it be that "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," the 1964 stop-motion Christmas special repeatedly broadcasting during the holidays, is actually a "parable of gay acceptance?"

That's exactly what Brian Moylan, a writer for Vulture, believes. And last week, he laid it all out in a column titled, "The Gay Subtext of 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.'"

"I mean, just look at it," he wrote. "Rudolph is totally, absolutely, 100 percent, Neil-Patrick-Harris-French-kissing-Ricky-Martin gay. Anyone who even knows what Queer Theory is can tell you that the subtext of the narrative seems to be a pre-Stonewall contemplation of the power of coming out and embracing sexual minorities into society at large."

Moylan sets up his argument like this:

The film starts in the North Pole, where traditional gender roles are quickly reinforced. Mrs. Claus does all the cooking and nags her husband about not eating enough. The elves, identical in shape and apparel, are at work on Santa’s toys, the boys wearing blue and the girls wearing pink. Rudolph is born to Donner, who immediately hates his son’s red nose and thinks that something so different will keep him from leading a heterosexual life where he pulls Santa’s sleigh and marries a nice doe someday.

So in an effort to find acceptance, the Vulture writer submitted, Rudolph "heads off into the wilderness to live alone." But it is there he meets a colorful little elf named Hermey, who Moylan describes like this:

The only elf with any hair, and it’s a flamboyant blond wave. He also has especially red lips, a feminine-shaped face, and eyelashes any doll in Santa’s workshop would be jealous of. He speaks with a Paul Lynde cadence, as if his ascot is tied on a little too tight. He’s also signaled as different by his professional aspirations: He wants to be a dentist rather than a toy maker.


Unlike Rudolph, Hermey refuses to live in the closet, so he leaves Santa’s workshop and heads to the wilderness himself to open up his own dental practice.

In the woods, Moylan wrote, Hermey and Rudolph encounter the "lumbersexual" Yukon Cornelius, "an older, hirsute gay man who embraces an over-the-top masculinity, despite being gay."

Together, the rag tag group of three venture off to the Island of Misfit Toys, "where all people of difference are accepted and can flourish." Clearly, the island is a land of "otherness," because of the bedroom Rudolph, Hermey and Cornelius sleep in, Moylan insisted:

They sleep in a pink room with pink sheets and blankets, coded traditionally female. This is the gay community that all of these men find after leaving the closet behind. This is the family of their own making that they devise because their own biological families have rejected them.

Moylan went on to write that, shortly after arriving on the island, Rudolph took off because he was "still afraid that his very obvious red nose will bring the wrath of the Abominable Snow Monster, a fanged embodiment of violent homophobia."

According to the Vulture writer, the subtext of the movie shows "Rudolph is promiscuous and engaging in the sort of short-term relationships that gay men were expected to have at the time." Nevertheless, the red-nosed reindeer, Moylan surmised, is unable to fully accept his sexuality because it is, after all, the 1960s.

"This being the early ’60s, the film’s subtext also needs to lie fully below the surface — Rudolph can’t be entirely gay," he wrote. "Once he proves he is macho enough for the sleigh, he is given a suitable reward: a woman to marry and breed with under the auspices of matrimony."

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