Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Man's Work

Upon viewing Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer as a married thirty-year-old lady, one notices stuff that one did not notice the first twenty-nine times around. Rudoph and Pac-Man were my first true loves (dissect and shudder over that as you will) but, having moved on to 1) human beings 2) who actually exist, I am now able to watch Rudolph as a fully actualized person might.

I said might.

The Rudolph Realizations

1) Donner: Not A Reindeer I'd Necessarily Hang Out With, But I Sort Of Get Him Now

I'm surprised CBS still shows this thing unedited, given its outstanding contribution to gender equality issues. Which makes it, somehow, wonderfully refreshing. Every time Donner says "No! This is man's work!" as he stomps out of the cave, I shake my head over the fact that he still has a job when he comes back. You try that today, you'll have a picket line the size of China by noon and every blogger in America tip-tapping furiously away: "I must admit I was shocked today when Drudge reported Mr. Donner's comments. Here's the link. This is unacceptable, and I..."

But I can see, psychologically, where he's coming from. Given the fact that Santa Claus completely emasculated him about ten minutes prior by being all, "Donner! You should be ashamed of yourself! Your sperm produced a mutant! YOU AND YOUR SPERM SUCK, ALL OF YOU!" in front of everybody, he needed to reclaim his reindeer sack, his very manhood. Therefore, he lashes out at the Missus in a self-defensive patriarchal manner. You see, folks, all negative behavior stems from pain, and so I ask you, on behalf of Donner-- don't hate. Appreciate.

2) The People of Christmas Town Were Really Kind of Emotionally Stunted

It is no wonder that Donner has trouble expressing himself in a more constructive manner; poor communication has been modeled for him his entire life. He and his wife are so shut-down they just kind of stand around cowering while the Abominable Snow Monster prepares to eat their son. People, I once saw Jim The Small Child Nephew go careening down a driveway in the direction of street traffic at approximately 400 MPH in a wagon, and I, quite the least athletically talented person I have ever met, hurled aside a wine cart and covered about ten yards in .00000000001 seconds to catch him before he hit the curb. And that's just aunt instinct. You're telling me proper parents wouldn't be butting the living crap out of that thing?

We've been over Donner's issues; what concerns me here is his wife, whom, you'll notice, does not have a name of her own. She exists merely as "Mrs. Donner," as an extension of her husband. Her non-personage (non-deerage, if you will) expresses itself in her perceived inability to help her child.

That, or she's just a raging *&^#%.

Finally, consider the following narration from Sam the Snowman:

"Well, they are all very sad at the loss of their friend, but they realize that the best thing to do is to get the women back to Christmas Town. So, they make it back."

There--sexism, an improperly completed grieving process, and a raw violation of the show-don't-tell rule of storytelling, all in two sentences. If they can't talk to us, how can we expect them to talk to each other?

3) Clarice Is a Big Ol' Slut

Really, now. She just met Rudolph, and then she lets him walk her home, and before they've taken two steps? Full body contact. Then, at the end of the film, while everybody else is working, she's standing around under the mistletoe like the little harlot she is. This is not seemly, Clarice.

And I really don't think she cares all that much about Rudolph anyway. The Abominable Snow Monster is looming over him, and what does she say? Not "NOOOOO!" Not "Fry me up instead!" You know what she says? "Why doesn't he just get it over with?"

Most supportive, and also helpful. Shut up, Clarice. You and your bow, you shut it. This particular Christmas special has been decried as sexist, but when we have ho-bags the likes of Clarice sashaying about, it's no wonder. She's filling exactly the role the men surrounding her expect her to, and her ten-foot eyelashes must be saved by Yukon Cornelius and a non-licensed dentist.

4) On The Other Hand, The Female Elves Were Really Quite Liberated

Don't let the pink hats fool y'all. They sang with them male elves, and, I am told on very good authority, also played instruments, which indicates a healthy development in the arts. At the end of the story, they are shown carrying and pushing presents to the sleigh, just like their male counterparts.

They also wear very sensible shoes.

5) This Movie Is Kind of Deep, Actually

Setting aside the massive dysfunctional issues present at the North Pole, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer offers up life lessons not normally found in a seasonal film. We learn, for example, that life sucks. We are reminded that we cannot run away from rejection and the failure to find self-fulfillment. Instead, what we need to do is have angry outbursts that almost get us and everyone around us killed, and then, once our former detractors discover a use for us, then we will be accepted.

As a chronic misfit myself, this is what first resonated with me in Rudolph. Do not be swayed by the Christmas decoration-eating squirrels; there is subtlety in this film. Watch, for instance, the pond Rudolph and Hermey ford during "We're a Couple of Misfits"; at the very end, a goldfish pops his head above the surface and gives 'em the fishe... never mind, I shall not allow myself to go there. The point is, during this simple song about misfits, we're slyly shown, quite literally, a fish out of water.

(Actually, that's not so much a truly deep thing as much as I'm really, really proud of myself for noticing that. After a mere 30 viewings.)

6) Those Are Some Pretty Pissed-Off Elves Santa's Got Working For Him

In the scene in which Hermey admits he doesn't like to make toys (very self-actualized, Hermey was) all the other elves have these beetled eyebrows, even before he makes his Shocking! Confession!. None of them look happy, and methinks their shame on yous doth protest a bit too much.

I can feel that. There is zero room for self-expression in Christmas Town if you're an elf; you will wear this pointy hat, and you will like it. And those who might change the system from within simply shrug their shoulders at their plight; when we return from that scene, Sam is all, "Oh, well. Such is the life of an elf." Whatever. You get to have the wild plaid vest and the very expressive umbrella, so step off, Snow#@*. You're The Man every bit as much as Claus here.

Much has been made of Santa's incredible sense of entitlement in this film, and as we can see, the North Pole is very much a top-down operation, with counterproductive attitudes flowing right from the boot of St. Nick. I suggest a corporate retreat, or, at the very least, Hawaiian Shirt Day at the Pole.

7) Dolls With Mental Health Issues Are People Too

On the Island of Misfit Toys, every inhabitant features some sort of fearsome deformity, including a bear who not only has peacock feathers, but a bicycle. That's some serious LSD toymaking, right there.

You've wondered about the dolly, right? What was wrong with the doll in the red checkered dress? The one who can even can even say "How do you do?" Perhaps that was the problem. Perhaps she had some sort of STD. She and Clarice could go barhopping, flashing their non-pantied selves at the paparazzi.

But I checked, and you know what the problem is? She was depressed.

I would not kid about something as serious as chronically depressed doll. From Rick Goldschmidt's The Enchanted World of Rankin-Bass:

"Arthur Rankin says that Dolly's problem is more psychological... Dolly is perhaps there because she feels she is unloved (as King Moonracer explains about misfits) and perhaps the little girl who once played with her is now grown up and Dolly now sits in a box, unwanted, waiting to be loved by another little girl again."

This is huge. This was enormous, for 1964. Even Toy Story, in all its incarnations, doesn't feature a mentally unbalanced toy. For a special often derided for its heavy focus on rejection, behold! Prozac Nation is represented.

8) Yukon Cornelius: Red-Stater

Yukon is on his way to obtain, quote, "cornmeal and hamhocks and gunpowder and guitar strings." Fatty foods, capitalism, willing to bust up ANWR in exchange for a form of transportation, access to firearms, and country music: Yukon would not much care for federal health insurance, I'm thinking.

9) The Character Who Seems To Require The Least Amount of Changing and Learning Actually Changes and Learns the Most

That would be our hero, and that's some pretty bold film making.

Rudolph was the only one who showed any character development whatsoever. Him, and the Abominable Snow Monster-- and the former only did any changing because he couldn't find anyone to hire his hairy self.

Upon reviewing the tape, Rudolph was, in his youth, really a whiny little *&^%#. He was the Luke Skywalker of reindeer. ("What do we do now?" "It's my nose! It's ruined us!" Dude-- maintain.) As he sailed away from us on his ice floe, he was a naive and innocent little buck, with no idea what a dentist was and blissfully in the dark about Yukon's eeeevil mine plotting; his only concept of silver and gold is their function as "tinsel." Rudolph has some thinking to do.

When we see Rudolph again, fully antlered, he's done that thinking. He stands up for himself now, and even though he's clearly the victim here with all sorts of filable lawsuits, he attempts to protect those who have hurt him, and, as we all know, pulls Santa's judgmental *&# right out of the fire.

Okay. I'm done inhaling writing now.

and they told me I'd never use that English degree at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com


Aub-Margret said...

Those are some pretty awesome observations there. RE: Pissed off elves, you should take a listen to BNL's Elf's Lament. It makes me giggle every time.

(cousin alicia for crumley.org)

Cruising for Diamonds said...

And you know what else? All the female elves all look the same as do all the male elves except for Hermey & the head elf. What's up with that? I totally forgot it was on & then I flicked past it and, you're right; it doesn't hold the same appeal as it did when I was younger although you have to admit, it was pretty amazing "animation" for the 60's.

Red Pill Junkie said...

There is zero room for self-expression in Christmas Town if you're an elf; you will wear this pointy hat, and you will like it.

I'm so intrigued of why western consumerism embraced so passionately the immage of Santa Claus, when as Bill Watterson clearly pointed out with his "Calvin & Hobbes" strip, St. Nick is nothing but a commie bastard!

Me? I'm more fan of Jack Skelton, the Pumpkin King. At least in Halloween Town people embrace their differences and individuality ;-)

'Til 2012 said...

I'm still kinda miffed I can't lay hands on my _Rudolph_ OST.

I noticed some things on this viewing, too. Which surprised me since I've seen this about 800times. I LOVED this show as a kid...except for the island of Misfit Toys part, which always made me really sad. I was like eight, and my sister and I made a tape off the TV broadcast. This was like 1984, so it was a cassette, taping right next to the TV, so you had to hold it up... Anyway, the show is so well acted, and the songs are so solid, I think this is the best made-for-TV musical ever. Seriously. Which is why I think it is still so well loved, which is kinda surprising because Santa's a Jerk in this show.

But, this year I did catch some new stuff.

1) The Donner bit makes so much sense after reading your post. Thanks. One thing I did notice this time thru: Sam (Burl Ives) gets all the "woman's work" and "womanfolk" lines. I think it's easier to handle coming from Burl for whatever reason. Maybe because he's all old and grandfatherly?

3) I've been going back and forth on my reaction to Clarice for years. Until now she's either the perfect GF or kinda a potential creepy stalker. But I finally see the reason for this: her father. Clarice's problem is that she had some daddy issues. Her father's worse than Donner with his, "No doe of mine is going to be with a *red nosed reindeer*." I bet he was loads of fun around the cave. Dad's a jerk, Santa's a jerk, Rudolph is probably the first Male she knew that was even remotely likable. And he most assuredly dug her, which meant to her he had good taste if nothing else. Plus her dad couldn't stand him, and what would make a girl dig a guy more than cheesing off her dad. Plus, chicks dig the nose. =) It should come as no shock the first chance she gets she runs off to go on a _Thelma & Louise_ roadtrip with Mrs. Donner (who had no intention of just waiting around) and gets in enough trouble that they get caught by the abominable.

I would also say that the "Why doesn't he just get it over with?" is more about eating all of them than just eating Rudolph. Between her and the Dolly, there *were* a lot of defeatist chicks in this show.

4. The show *is* pretty educational. Bumbles bounce, and even though gold is pretty, you can't eat it, and its value, like the dollar is not intrinsic, but derives from what others will give for it. Among other things...

8. Yukon Rules! He does not need health insurance. He just wrestles his illnesses until they say uncle. Kinda like a proto-Chuck Norris.

Gotta go, Dinner time.

Much Perry Como love,


Anonymous said...

See, this is why I love you, Flip.

Tony Rossi said...

I noticed something disturbing too if I saw it correctly. During the credits when the misfit toys are being dropped into chimneys and given umbrellas allowing them to coast down slowly, I think the owl who couldn't fly was simply dropped sans umbrella. Is it possible Santa's elf made a mistake and the poor bird plummeted to his death? Can someone check the tape to see if I saw this correctly?

Anonymous said...

Oh, this has been a matter of outrage for years, T. That is indeed the bird that cannot fly, but swims.

jennifer said...

MB - this is my most cherished of your writings so far.
thanks for making a good morning for me even better.-aazmom

Mike Marchand said...

I'm more of a Charlie Brown and Grinch guy more than a Rudolph guy, but I still like the show, and this analysis.

Claudia said...

Not that it's a really big deal, but:


Sarah said...

I read "serious LSD toymaking" as "serious Latter Day Saints toymaking."
Maybe the depression is why I felt I identified with Dolly so much as a child. That, or because she's a girl.

Also, re Claudia on http://www.donder.com/: Oh, my God, that woman has been maintaining that page for twelve years.

Brent Bowen said...

MB, this was by far my favorite piece of your writing of all time. Hands down.

Anonymous said...

As usual darling, this is BRILLIANT!

Previous Tastings