Monday, December 22, 2008

Rudolph the Brown Nosed Reindeer

Then all the reindeer loved him ...

I heard "Rudolph" playing over the mall speakers as we sat in the food court having a bite of lunch. While the song really doesn't bear thinking deeply about, I couldn't help but remember how much I envied Rudolph as a child and then realize how much I kind of dislike him as an adult. Well, not him exactly but what he and the song represent.

So here we have this reindeer with a very shiny nose. All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names. They never let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games. OK, I totally get all this. Those with differences are barely tolerated in a society that worships sameness. Where there is tolerance it is often grudging and meanly given. I don't have a real positive view of the community ... I think it's full of bigots and mean people. The human equivilant of Rudolph ... would be treated with the same scorn and rejection, I'm sure of it.

I know you all think I'm being too harsh, but there it is. Up until here in the song, I'm OK. It's a song about bullies bullying someone different. It happens. Often. Acknowledging it is kind of cool, talking about it is even better. Reindeer with red noses get the poopy end of the social stick.

But then, because of one foggy Christmas eve, Santa came to say, "Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight". Yeah, now Rudolph is like one of those cool kids with mutant powers who attend that 'special school' for future X men and women. Rudolph's difference SERVES A PURPOSE ... and Santa, like the teacher who hears kids being called 'retard' but can't be bothered to get off their ass and do something about it ... figures - hey I can USE this difference. It can get me out of a tight spot.

So Rudolph becomes beloved.

Well that's where it ends for me. Shit. Damn. Why couldn't Rudolph just be valued because he's Rudolph, red nose and all? Why couldn't Rudolph just be seen as an equal even though different? Why did Rudolph have to 'save the planet' just to get a friend or two?

Come on, if there's a kid in a wheelchair out there called Rudolph ... you can bet that he is wishing that somehow magically his nose would turn red and then ... all of the other kids would love him. But it won't and they won't.

Our cause is about the creation of a world of welcome for difference ... where everyone plays reindeer games.

10 comments:

Heather said...

Thanks for this post...again, at the risk of being a bit of a brown nose reindeer, I just love how you see 'stuff' in these everyday concepts and activities and use that to challenge us, teach us and often inspire us.
You've written...

"Our cause is about the creation of a world of welcome for difference ... where everyone plays reindeer games"

Amen, Amen...

rickismom said...

However, for its time (1944, 1964)it was pretty progressive. (Same for Dumbo, same problem)

Tamara said...

Kind of like having to earn the right to be in the "regular" classroom.

That song always bothered me - thanks for your perspective.

Anonymous said...

There are many childrens rhymes and songs that have disturbing messages - i've always loathed the song of the ugly duckling who is mocked and excluded untill she turns into a beautiful swan and is then magicaly acceptable and valued, only when she has changed from perceived ugliness to perceived beauty - deeply unpleasant message for children.

rickismom said...

Yes, I also noticed that about the ugly duckling.......

Amy said...

Friggin' Rudolph.

Friggin' "community."

This is the stuff that makes me want to crawl back under the covers and stay there.

Can you tell I'm struggling with a slight case of winter despair?

AccessWarrior said...

Isn't the ugly duckling about learning to have confidence in yourself.

He thought he was ugly because he was told he was, he was different and teased because of it. But he wasn't necessarily "accepted" because he was beautiful rather he gained confidence in himself because he understood his roots, he was set free from the perception of worthlessness he had been taught to believe about himself because he became aware of who he was.

The Ugly Duckling is about people learning to like themselves just the way they are. It isn't as shallow as being accepted because you are beautiful - that is what we need to ensure we teach (and learn).

I know there is lots of discrimination still out there - and slowly we can change that.

And yes, Rudolph was underestimated in his abilities and worth by all and sundry, they underestimated him but they did (eventually) learn from him.

I have a teachers aide at the school where my son will start who I know has questioned his aide if she sure she wants to be full time with him as "she won't get anything back from him" - she hasn't yet seen my son's "red nose" but given time she will - it will be the first time he makes eye contact with her... real eye contact... or the first time his face lights up with joy at her voice, or the first time he says 'go' when she wants him to say 'go'. My son's milestones will be different, but no less important or exciting once they learn how to identify them and embrace them.

The world is still changing - albeit a little too slowly when it comes to bullying and discrimination, but until then, resilience is what I hope to instill in my child. I think both stories can teach about resilience and fairness (by highlighting the absence of fairness).

I do hope Rudolph got to return to the north pole to a job that made him feel valued, maybe one where he was using his red nose, maybe not - as long as he was making choices for himself. Sure he could have told Santa to "F%#@$ Off" and 'screw Christmas' but who am I to judge if that was his preferred option? Maybe, just for a day he 'liked the glory', his 15 mins of fame.

That doesn't mean how he was treated was right, but what a great teaching tool for bullying... as always Dave, thanks for the insight.

cheap viagra said...

The Ugly duckling song is quite disturbing, my kid does not like it at all, he is almost scare of the song.

viagra online said...

I do hope Rudolph got to return to the north pole to a job that made him feel valued, maybe one where he was using his red nose, maybe not....

Anonymous said...

What about 'I saw Tommy kissing Santa Claus'?
'Frosty the coke-man'? (he's a jolly happy soul!)