The other day I sat down with my children who are 5 and 7 to continue the holiday tradition of watching the 1964 “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” My wife, who is from Peru, had never seen this film, and having the chance to watch it without the veil of nostalgia, I realized that there are actually some pretty psycho messages conveyed in the classic film. First of all, Santa is a jerk who uses Rudolph only when the young buck’s “deformity” happens to align with his needs. Also, the whole theme of how some people in society are “misfits who don’t have a place” isn’t ever resolved to send the message “people who call individuals ‘misfits’ are bullies who should make some restitution for their evil behavior.”
But probably the most problematic moment of the film happens in the closing credits. As you might remember, the film ends with Santa’s sleigh making a quick stop at the Island of Misfit toys to pick up the toys, presumably to distribute them to the children of the world. Upon arrival, the miserable toys (who we meet huddling around a campfire) jump into Santa’s sleigh which takes off into the night.
As the credits roll, we see an elf pull the misfit toys out of the bag to distribute them to the children of the world. In an earlier sequence of the film, we came to know these toys and why they are misfits. The cowboy rides an ostrich. The jack-in-the-box is named Charlie instead of Jack, etc.
The elf hands each of these toys a mystical umbrella so they can gently float down to their new owner (although we never see any of these toys happily playing with any children…so maybe Santa is just conveniently disposing of the misfits in the ocean–which would be more in line with the character he’d established throughout the film). When the elf gets to the bird, he looks at the birds wings, then looks at the umbrella, and then decides to throw the bird off the sleigh without the umbrella.
I thought nothing of this, but as the scene played out, my 7 year old gasped.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“He didn’t give an umbrella to the bird,” my daughter replied.
“That’s OK,” said my wife, “he’s a bird, he can fly.”
“No,” my daughter replied, “don’t you remember from before? That bird is a misfit because he can’t fly…he can only swim…”
So there you go, at least one of the misfit toys was tossed from Santa’s sleigh to plummet to his death.
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