". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rudolph and Bullying

Recently a new children's book came out entitled No More Bullies at the North Pole. You can read more about it here. It is a politically correct revision of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer story (as it was told in the old television special) that is currently receiving a lot of well-deserved ridicule. If you do a web search for "Rudolph" and "bullying" you will find all kinds of stories on the topic, both pro and con.

I do not think that children's stories are appropriate vehicles for the advancing of political agendas, and the things that I have read about this updated Rudolph make me roll my eyes in exasperation. At the same time, I seem to have a different take on this story than many of my online friends. I have always been bothered by the unkindness and bullying that are a part of the old Rudolph television story, going all the way back to when I watched the program as a child. I remember being horrified at Rudolph's treatment at the hands (hooves?) not only of the other young reindeer but also of the reindeer flying instructor, of Santa, and even of his own father, Donner. After Rudolph is born and his nose first lights up, Donner expresses deep shame and embarrassment at his new offspring and quickly fashions a covering of mud that makes it hard for Rudolph to talk and breathe. When Santa visits and sees the nose, he chastises Donner for having such an offspring and applauds Donner's efforts to keep the nose a secret. And when Rudolph goes to school, the teacher is the one who leads the other young reindeer in ostracizing Rudolph. The grownups in Rudolph's life, who ought to be helping and supporting and protecting and defending him, set the example for how others should mistreat him. Even Santa!

In the articles I have read on this story it is usually pointed out that Rudolph overcomes his bullying and that is what makes it ultimately a positive story. But the fact is that none of those responsible for mistreating him have any second thoughts about their behavior until it becomes clear that Rudolph might be useful to them. Then they change. I'm not sure if that counts as true remorse.
Don't get me wrong. I am not suggesting that people should not let their children watch Rudolph or that they should go out and buy the new, politically correct version. Maybe I am oversensitive because I was severely bullied as a child. But I think the old Rudolph includes a level of bullying behavior that is rather shocking for a children's story. Not just the other "children" but Rudolph's teacher, father, and even Santa (who is always the one who is supposed to make everything right in secular Christmas stories) are terribly cruel to him. No wonder the poor little dude ran away.

UPDATE: More discussion of this topic (including further opining by Yours Truly) here.

1 comment:

yildizname said...
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