My kids and I huddled together on the couch while one of my favorite Christmas specials, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” played on the television. Watching Rudolph is as time-honored Christmas tradition in my house as putting up a tree. I can’t imagine a Christmas without watching Rudolph, Hermey, and Yukon Cornelius and all their crazy Christmas shenanigans. I’ve been taking part in viewing the special long before I could skip commercials. While watching the movie this year I had a realization, Santa Claus and the Reindeer are a bunch of jerks.
Psychology Today states toxic masculinity has no clear definition, but “refers to harmful and destructive behaviors associated with certain aspects of traditional masculinity.” Medical News Today describes Toxic Masculinity as “negative aspects of exaggerated masculine traits.” I think we can all agree the lens of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” showcases the North Pole as a haven for violators of unbridled toxic masculinity.
Right at the get-go, Rudolph’s nose becomes an issue of disappointment for his father, Donner. Instead of celebrating his son, he puffs up his chest and rubs a little dirt on Rudy’s nose. Because of a lifetime of imposed indoctrination and fear of what others will think, Donner relays the ways of old onto his son. Sadly, Rudolph’s entrance into the world is guided by a father whose perception of the world is shrouded in what is “manly.”
And then there’s Santa, that good old jolly shmuck. Not only did St. Nick show off his shock at baby Rudolph’s appearance, he also states the little reindeer will never pull his sleigh. And then, to make the whole birth experience worse, he sings a little song.
We then see Rudolph being ostracized by the other reindeer by not letting poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games. He’s out jumping around when the mud falls off his nose. Because his reindeer friends are being raised by like-minded bucks as his dad, laughter and ridicule surround Rudolph, causing him to run away.
And let’s not get into Hermey the Elf… Actually, let’s go ahead. It appears not only reindeer have difficulty moving beyond Neanderthalistic behavior, but Santa’s Workshop is also rampant with toxic masculinity. Hermey just wanted to fix teeth, but was being forced into a lifestyle that was not congruent with who he is. Hermey also decides he can’t be accepted at home and runs away, where he meets Rudolph and they commiserate in being outcasts. Thankfully, their personas non grata vacation ventures to the Island of Misfit Toys, where they encounter other pariahs who long for acceptance.
Just when everyone thought there was no hope left for humanity, a Christmas miracle occurs when ultra-tough guy Yukon Cornelius arrives reeking of machismo with a side of cultural awareness. He accepts the duo as equals and brings them along on his quest for more riches. By the way, did you know that Yukon was actually looking for peppermint? That’s why he was licking the pick. Crazy!
There’s hope for evolving reindeer. Rudolph’s dad comes to the error of his ways and accepts his son for who he is. The acceptance sends Donner’s party of Rudolph’s fans in search of the beloved reindeer, but ultimately are taken prisoner by the Abominable Snowmonster. Because of Yukon’s sacrifice, the monster and Yukon go tumbling off a cliff.
Rudolph and the gang return to the North Pole, where Santa is getting skinny-shamed by his wife. Once again, Santa shows his true colors when Rudolph’s blinding nose angers Kris Kringle while giving a speech on how Christmas will be canceled because of the snowstorm. As the light in the room causes the light to go off in Father Christmas’ thick skull, he comes up with a plan. This leads to Rudolph saving Christmas by guiding the sleigh. If only Rudolph and Hermey wouldn’t have needed to go on their heroic Odyssey for everyone else to be comfortable.
If we can get one thing out of the change that occurs in the North Pole, is that despite how you’re raised, you can change how you are going to raise. Sure, Donner was being a dolt for his treatment of Rudolph and hurt his son, but at least he accepted the errors of his ways and changed. We shouldn’t need to be like Donner and the rest of Santa’s Winter Wonderland by only changing when situations cause us to change and be more accepting of others and love one another right off the bat, despite our differences. Because peace on earth and goodwill to men and stuff.