"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was called out by the Huffington Post last year as "seriously problematic" for displays of bullying, racism, and homophobia — not to mention verbal abuse, sexism, bigotry, lack of acceptance, and even exploitation of workers.
But this year the iconic Christmas movie is apparently just fine — at least to Jennifer Finney Boylan, a transgender opinion writer for the New York Times.
Boylan's latest piece, in fact, declares "Rudolph" the "queerest holiday special ever" and notes that it's "as LGBTQ friendly to me as any episode of 'Queer Eye' or 'Steven Universe' or 'The L Word.'"
More from Boylan's piece:
There's plenty of queer code in Christmastown. After Rudolph's red nose shines in his father Donner's cave, for instance, causing Donner a curiously profound mortification, the old man comes up with a fake nose for his boy to wear. You know: so as not to offend The Straights. [...]
Prospector Yukon Cornelius's sexuality doesn't enter into the plot, of course. But in a scene that was deleted from the 1964 original, we learn that even though he claimed to be searching for silver or gold, in fact, Yukon C. was looking for a peppermint mine. No further questions, your honor.
And then, there's Hermey the Elf. Beautiful and blond where all the other elves resemble bulbous-nosed Vulcans, all he wants is to be able to be himself (a dentist, in fact), instead of being forced to toil in Santa's soul-crushing toy factory. "What's eatin' ya, boy?" his boss asks. "Oh, nothing," Hermey explains, "I just don't like to make toys."
His boss roars with disapproval, and the other elves cluck and go tsk-tsk. "Not happy in my work, I guess," he says. Oh, Hermey. Tell me about it.
Sometimes I dream of seeing an elderly, grown-up Hermey making one of those "It Gets Better" videos, sending a message back to a younger generation of closeted elves that with luck, things can turn out all right, if only you can gain agency over your own life.
Conservatives apparently have a big problem with all of that
"I'm sure that conservatives who love this old holiday chestnut will be infuriated by this suggestion," Boylan writes. "But if you watch the show without understanding that its central conflict is the way people who are different are constantly shunned and humiliated — well, I don't know what show you're watching."
Oh, but the writer wasn't through with those who lean right.
"Conservatives seem to miss the point of a lot of things having to do with Christmas, actually," Boylan adds. "Is it really possible that anyone can watch (or read) Charles Dickens's 'A Christmas Carol' without understanding its fundamental critique of capitalism? (Say this in your best Laura Ingraham voice: 'Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?') What do they suppose is meant in Good King Wenceslas' by the line, 'Ye who now shall bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing'?"
How did readers react?
Some readers agreed with Boylan's assessment:
- "Thank you for your opinion piece. Our family watched 'Rudolph' last weekend with our transitioning 9-year-old. The subtext you described nearly screamed its existence out to me. The kids looked at me and said, 'Mom, you're crying? It's going to be OK.' Although they may not have gotten it, I sure did."
- "Like Ms. Boylan I wonder, how do conservatives watch 'A Christmas Carol,' 'The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,' or 'A Wonderful Life' and miss the meaning or think it must be about someone else. Do they cheer on the pre-visitation Scrooge and throw their shoes at the TV when he realizes how getting rich hurting others isn't the point of life? Do they embrace the thieving Grinch but dismiss the Grinch with a heart that does more than pump blood? Do they root for George Bailey to fail every year? How they can they celebrate the birth of baby Jesus knowing what he is to become: the greatest force for love, kindness, treating others with compassion and respect, and that wealth and selfishness are not the pathways to God or [heaven]. It is [hard] to imagine any one more liberal than Jesus and what he taught. He was such a threat tot he conservative establishment they had him killed. How do they miss all this and somehow justify their actions as being 'Christian'?"
But others did not see eye-to-eye with the author:
- "Leave to a college professor to, incredulously, read politics and sexual identity into this utterly harmless children's Christmas classic. I've read this piece several times over now and am still struggling to understand whether she is serious or satirical. But if serious, she needs to understand that it was, and remains, nothing more than a simple story about being different. Not LGBTQ, not MAGA, just that and nothing more. To read more into than that is ludicrous. It's that simple."
- "As a nerdy, overweight, unathletic straight white kid, Rudolph speaks directly to my experience in trying to fit and avoid being 'other.' Rudolph is popular not because it is for one group, but because it's universal."
- "Being mistreated for being 'other' is a pretty foundational feature of human existence. It's okay to see your own experience reflected in it, but don't appropriate and make it all about you."
- "I long for the days when a cigar was just a cigar."
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer youtu.be
(H/T: BizPac Review)