Defending Rudolph

There has been some Internet chatter this holiday season arguing that the Christmas TV classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is "problematic."

You hear this criticism of Rudolph a lot, and I think it's high time to put this criticism to rest.

The knock against Rudolph generally goes like this. Santa and all the others only accept Rudolph because he is useful to them, because his red nose can help cut through the fog. This, it is argued, undermines the message of tolerance that the story is trying to convey. Difference should be accepted no matter what, not just when it is useful to us.

Now, if that was the message in Rudolph I'd agree that the critics have a good point.

But that is not the message of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Perhaps the most popular blog post I've ever written is Everything I Learned About Christmas I Learned from TV, where I take a tour through three Christmas classics: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. So I know this material really well.

So here's the truth about Rudolph.

Santa, Rudolph's family, and the entire Christmastown community reconcile and come to accept Rudolph before Santa's realization that Rudolph's nose could help cut through the fog.

Santa doesn't accept Rudolph because he finds a use for him. Santa's discovery happens after the acceptance, as a happy accident of their reconciliation.

All that to say, the critics are simply wrong about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

I know, because Everything I Learned About Christmas I Learned from TV.

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