We're all just inmates on the Island of Misfit Toys
You know Dasher and Dancer
And Prancer and Vixen
Comet and Cupid
And Donner and Blitzen
But do you recall
The most bullied reindeer of all?
You would have to be as oblivious as the Whos in Whoville not to have heard about the current kerfuffle surrounding the story of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer — specifically, how what began as (what else these days?) a few comments on social media has become a brushfire that says a great deal ... none of it good ... about America in 2018.
Let’s hit the highlights: Rudolph was the subject of bullying because of his red nose. In the celebrated TV special, he’s ostracized by not only the reindeer coach but Santa Claus himself. The father of his would-be girlfriend, Clarice, is a bigot for roasting the old chestnut about how no daughter of his will date a red-nosed reindeer.
Rudolph’s father is a sexist pig (so to speak) for not letting his wife join the search party when their son goes missing. The Island of Misfit Toys has been compared to an insane asylum and/or an isolated dumping spot for the physically or emotionally damaged.
The Abominable Snowman is an endangered species being hunted into extinction. Meanwhile, Hermey the elf, is given the evil eye by his comrades because he’d rather be a dentist than work in servitude to The Man.
Y’know ... this is why we can’t have nice things.
Then again, Rudolph has had a questionable history from the start. The story was rejected initially by its publisher — the Montgomery Ward retailer — because a red nose was thought to be a symbol of chronic alcoholism ... and the idea of Santa Claus’s sleigh being led by a drunken driver so soon after the end of Prohibition could have customers shying away from the Wish Book.
The current round of various and sundry theories first popped up on Twitter, from where they were collated into a story for The Huffington Post website. The HuffPo story became fodder for a certain bow-tied, bloviating buffoon on a cable news network, which incited enough of the expected chest-puffing moral outrage to the point where it was picked up by The Washington Post and syndicated through its wire service.
It was a slow news day on Sunday, so the Rudolph story was chosen by a slow news editor (raises hand) and placed on the front of ye olde Mail Tribune — which, of course, spawned a few dozen responses when a link was placed on our Facebook page.
All of us deserve coal in our stockings for helping perpetuate this “news story” beyond the point of common sense.
I blame social media, particularly its inability to convey sarcasm or satire effectively. If the initial Rudolph tweets were a skit on the “Weekend Update” portion of “Saturday Night Live,” for instance, it would have been taken as a joke ... and all of this nonsense and murmur could have been avoided.
That’s one explanation, of course, that tongue-in-cheek social media posts were taken too seriously by those who heard about it.
The half-empty glass of eggnog, however, would be that the Rudolph ruckus is the result of those who ignored the eventual outcome of the story (and, no, the misfit toy bird who can’t fly is not killed when an elf tosses it from the sleigh ... it has a parachute) and decided that an animated reindeer is a threat to a society that has little problem with its children slaughtering people in video games.
In that case, well, why stop with Rudolph?
The child who “saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus” is bound to be all messed up unless the parents explain the truth — after which they’ll have to explain why Daddy was cosplaying only for Mommy’s benefit ... because the kids are supposed to be asleep.
Dementia was played with laughs and sentimentality in “Miracle on 34th Street” as a man who believes himself to be Santa is tried in court, instead of given the medications and psychological counseling he needs.
Charlie Brown, already the subject of a lifetime of failure and bullying, is mocked over his choice of a Christmas tree; while the equally depressed George Bailey is nearly driven to suicide in the obviously ironically titled “It’s A Wonderful Life” before being saved by a hallucination.
Ralphie thinks a gun would be a great gift in “A Christmas Story,” while Kevin is not only abandoned in “Home Alone,” he sets about wrecking his house while acting out his apparently limitless violent tendencies.
The Grinch? A thief who abuses animals in order cross the border to commit grand larceny. Scrooge? A capitalist whose outlook on life is changed after a night of demonic possession. Santa Claus? An alien overseer who’s “making a list” of acceptable human behavior before “coming to town” to deliver rewards or retribution.
These, obviously, are just the stories of the holiday made famous through popular culture. The true meaning of Christmas is delivered by that thumb-sucking, blanket-carrying pumpkin worshiper Linus Van Pelt — who reminds the “Peanuts” gang what Christmas is actually about ...
... a homeless Jewish couple turned away by polite society and forced to live among animals as they deliver a baby of uncertain parentage.
Mail Tribune columnist Robert Galvin, firstname.lastname@example.org, has been known to hum “We Are Santa’s Elves” as deadline approaches.