"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" - or - How I die a Little Every Time

Bullying has always been around and there will always be people who thrive on the hurt they cause to others.
- Trisha Paytas

Mention "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" to some people and they instantly think of the Rankin/Bass stop motion television special. I confess that I do, too, and much to my own ire. I genuinely dislike the story-

Boo! Hiss!

Shut up.

I genuinely dislike the story as it's presented. I understand the need for simplicity and a limited run time, but I take issue with how disjointed it is, and the wrong messages it sends. Let's break it down, bit by bit, and see where it leads us.

I'm pulling the plot synopsis from Wiki because I'm lazy. You can watch a remastered version on YouTube, if you'd like a refresher. It's free.

Donner, Santa's lead reindeer, and his wife have a new fawn named Rudolph. They are surprised to find out he was born with a glowing red nose. Donner attempts to first cover Rudolph's nose with mud, and later uses a fake nose, so Rudolph will fit in with the other reindeer. 

 That's...not how... ugh.

Yes, they were surprised. His mother states, "Well we'll simply have to overlook it", to which Donner replies, "How can you overlook that? His beak blinks like a blinking beacon!"

Way to go, Donner. Talk shit about your son moments after the fawn hits the ground. Fucking asshole.

Santa arrives before Donner can stuff his hoof further down his gullet. It doesn't take long before Rudolph's nose begins to glow. He's intelligent and happy, so that's a good thing.

No, it's not. Santa exclaims, "Great bouncing icebergs!"

Donner hurries to save face, "Now I'm sure it'll stop as soon as he grows up, Santa."

And Santa, the kindest person alive, replies with, "Well let's hope so, if he wants to make the sleigh team someday."

Song cue. I admit, it's catchy. And it gets Rudolph to take his first steps. The fawn is so damn happy! 

Donner pops that joyful bubble the moment Santa leaves. "No, Santa's right. He'll never make the sleigh team. Wait a minute! I've got it! We'll hide Rudolph's nose!"


A year passes, and I don't doubt Rudolph was subjected to further conditioning during that time. The narrator states, "Well, for the first year, the Donors did a pretty fair job of hiding Rudolph's - uh - non-conformity. Donner taught Rudolph all the ins and outs of being a reindeer."

And then we're subjected to Hermey's story - which is not in the wiki synopsis! As a bullied kid, I did understand Rudolph's frustration and pain. He, like me, had to endure shit because of a physical attribute that could not be changed. In sharp contrast, we have a snotty elf that is "not happy in my work, I guess. I just don't like to make toys."

So don't make toys dumbass. Walk away from it to find your passion and build upon your dreams. You have that choice. It's not like you have a deformity that won't go away.

The following spring, Rudolph goes out for the reindeer games, where the new fawns learn to fly and are scouted by Santa for future sleigh duty. Rudolph meets a doe named Clarice, who tells him he is cute, making Rudolph fly. While he celebrates with the other bucks, Rudolph's fake nose pops off, causing the other reindeer to mock him and Coach Comet to expel him.

Uh, what? I can understand his peers behaving like assholes. Even Fireball, the friendly buck with the non-conforming shock of blonde hair, gets in on the taunts. It becomes a round of verbal attacks on Rudolph because of his nose. Where are the adults? 

"You should be ashamed of yourself!" Santa tells Donner as the large buck hangs his head in shame. "What a Pity. He had a nice takeoff, too."

What the fuck?! I thought Santa was rebuking Donner for trying to hide the nose. But he wasn't. He stood there, the most important person in the entire place, and made it clear that the little buck and his nose have no place on his team.

Coach Comet is just as deplorable. "All right, all right. Back to practice." My hopes lifted. He was going to be the adult in the room, and let Rudolph continue practice despite that nose. 

"Oh no, not you," Comet shows Rudolph his horns. "You better go home with your folks."


Comet continues, "From now on, we won't let Rudolph join in any reindeer games."

I get it. They're trying to stay true to the song's lyrics. But to have an adult behave this way? It sends a message to bullied kids.

Rudolph meets and joins Hermey, a misfit elf who left Santa's workshop because he wants to be a dentist, and Yukon Cornelius, a prospector who has spent his life searching for silver and gold. After escaping the Abominable Snow Monster, all three land on the Island of Misfit Toys. It is a place where unloved or unwanted toys reside with their ruler, a winged lion named King Moonracer, who brings the toys to the island until he can find homes and children who will love them. The king allows them to stay one night on the island and asks them to ask Santa to find homes for them. Rudolph leaves on his own, worried that his nose will endanger his friends.

Wiki skipped over Clarice. She followed Rudolph after he ran away in shame. 

"Aren't you gonna laugh at my nose, too?" he asks her.

"I think it's a handsome nose. Much better than that silly false one you were wearing."

"It's terrible. It's different from everybody else's!" he insists.

"But that's what makes it so grand! Why, any doe would consider herself lucky to be with you."

The song that follows is absolutely beautiful. Animals come out of the woodwork as Clarice sings. They join in, happy to keep both fawns company. By the song's end, Clarice and Rudolph have their faces pressed together. The love between them is palpable.

They begin to walk away but are stopped by the doe's angry father. "There's one thing I want to make very plain: no doe of mine is going to be seen with a red-nosed reindeer." Hmm. Gossip runs fast in Christmas Town.

Rudolph finds himself alone again. Now he meets up with Hermey. The synopsis follows the plot pretty well after this point. Abominable Snow Monster, Island of Misfit Toys, Yukon Cornelius, yadda yadda.

I love Yukon Cornelius and his dogs. I would have loved it if they ditched the damn dentist aspirations and focused on the prospector's story instead.

Time passes and Rudolph, now a young stag, returns home to find that his parents and Clarice have been searching for him. He then travels to the Abominable's cave, where they are being held captive...

That glosses over another vital moment in the story. Rudolph returns home and is mocked by his deer peers. He presses onward only to find an empty home/cave.

"They've gone, Rudolph." Santa stands at the cave's opening. "They've been gone for months, out looking for you."

"Clarice?" Rudolph asks.

"She's gone too, and I'm very worried." Nice to see Santa thinking of something other than himself.

"Christmas Eve is only two days off and, without your father, I'll never be able to get my sleigh off the ground." Goddamit!

Let me get this straight. Donner, his mate, and a young doe have been gone for months and nobody has formed a search party? We are dead and this is Hell!

I hate Santa. Or is it better to call him Un-Santa. Yes, we'll run with that. So Un-Santa has done nothing to find them and now it's suddenly important that Donner return because Christmas is only two days away. Fuck the rest of the missing deer, right? 

Rudolph sets out to find them. The narrator guides us along. "Well, he was just about to leave when suddenly it hit - the Storm of Storms, and only two days before Christmas Eve. Now Rudolph knew that he had to find his folks right away, and he knew where he had to look... the cave of the Abominable Snow Monster."

We pick up with the synopsis again.

 Rudolph attempts to rescue Clarice until the monster knocks him down with a stalactite. Hermey and Yukon eventually show up with a plan to help out Rudolph. Hermey lures the monster out of the cave by imitating the sound of a pig and pulls out the Abominable's teeth after Yukon knocks him out. Yukon drives the toothless monster back over a cliff and falls with it.

Yup. You read that right. They lured the beast out of his cave, knocked him out, and then yanked all his teeth. There wasn't any good reason to do it. The deer could have bolted past the unconscious monster. Nope. We had to get a "dental" thing in there for Hermey's plot.

Rudolph, Hermey, Clarice, and the Donners return home where everyone apologizes to them.


"They realize that the best thing to do is to get the women back to Christmas Town. So they make it back and, when everybody hears their story, they start to realize maybe they were a little hard on the Misfits. Maybe Misfits have a place, too."

Yukon returns with a tamed Abominable, now trained to trim a Christmas tree, explaining that the monster's bouncing ability saved both of their lives. Christmas Eve comes and while everybody is celebrating, Santa announces that a big snowstorm is approaching, forcing him to cancel Christmas. Blinded by Rudolph's bright nose, he changes his mind and asks Rudolph to lead the sleigh. Rudolph accepts, and their first stop is the Island of Misfit Toys, where Santa delivers the toys to children. The End!

I'm left flabbergasted. So a misfit that can't fit in will fit in if he does something with the very thing that made him a misfit? 

Shit keeps piling in. And now we have Abominable forced into being a misfit because he no longer has teeth? Good Lord.

The rushed ending, with all the extraneous plots, does nothing to address the issues that started us on this quest? It's just, "Well, you're back. Sorry I was a dick."

By the way, Santa is The Chief Dick. He's a dick to his fawns, he's a dick to elves trying to sing for him, he's a dick to his deer, he's a dick to Mrs Claus. Ugh. He's a dick to the viewers that sat through all 51 minutes of this bullshit.

There's hope on the horizon. Rankin/Bass produced a new Santa mythos five years after this garbage. What a difference between the two!

1965 Un-Santa

1970 Santa

 That's all, folks. My disjointed opinion of a disjointed story has come to an end. Perhaps I'll tear apart another Rankin/Bass abomination next year: Frosty the Snowman. Happy birthday!


Let's scrub the memory of this horrid Rankin/Bass rendition from our minds. I present to you the nightmare fueled tomfoolery of the Flashgitz's Rudolph series.

 What has been seen can not be unseen

It wouldn't be as precious without the sequels, right? I'm not fond of Rudolph Finally Gets to Smash, but this year's Rudolph Kills Santa is awesome.

Crave even more nightmare fuel and warped humor? Go! Revel in Tom & Don's YouTube wickedness!

You're welcome.


[REPRINT FROM 12/22/22]