Christmas Movie Roundup: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer


If you’re like me, one of the things you appreciate the most about the holiday season is incessantly watching Christmas movies. From the moment the dishes are cleared on Thanksgiving night through Christmas Eve, it’s All Christmas Everything up in here, as far as I’m concerned. From the old school, stop-motion classics such as “Jack Frost” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” to more modern favorites like “Elf” and “Polar Express,” – and let’s not forget about the incredibly sappy but so, so great Hallmark Christmas specials! – holiday movies absolutely make the season merry and bright.

But upon further review, some of these films have the most questionable of underlying messages. Take the live-action remake of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, for example. Kyle Kensing brilliantly eviscerated it for presenting a story of excess and self-indulgence that completely butchered the original story. In the spirit of taking a deep dive into American Christmas classics, let’s take a look at four more that make you go, “hold up – what?” this holiday season.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – A Story About Discrimination: On the surface, this beloved stop-motion animated film is about a little reindeer who saves Christmas because of his nose that lights up the room. But watch the movie again, and you’ll notice that the overall story is low-key insidious.

From the jump, Rudolph’s parents are not only shocked, but are also ashamed of his red nose. Donner and Mrs. Donner discuss the matter with Santa, who assures them that Rudolph cannot make the sleigh team with that kind of nose. Donner then decides it’s in Rudolph’s best interest to hide his nose, forcing him to cover it up with mud.

So, let’s stop here for a second. We’re less then 10 minutes into the film and Rudolph’s parents are already encouraging him to hide who he is, and Santa is like, “Nah, fam,” about the young reindeer being a part of his crew. Just because his nose is red!

This is textbook and blatant discrimination. Also, what kind of parents side with other adults over their own kid?!

Not a good look, Donner and Mrs. Donner.

Later, as Rudolph grows up, things only get worse. He continues to wear his nose disguise so he can train with the other reindeer. It’s all gucci at first, but one day, after receiving a compliment from a doe named Clarice, Rudolph gets way too hyped and the nose mask pops off, exposing his beaming snout.  

The bucks were immediately fearful of Rudolph after seeing his true nose, and immediately shunned him. As we know from the song, those jerks had the nerve to not let him join in any reindeer games anymore.

And all the adults around just allowed this to happen!

Rudolph eventually runs away from home, Christmastown, with Hermey – an elf who ran away from Santa’s workshop – and the two make their way to the Island of Misfit Toys. After staying there until adulthood, Rudolph returns home to learn that his parents and Clarice had been looking for him the whole time.

Honestly, it’s a huge shock Mr. and Mrs. Donner were even looking for him since they were embarrassed by him in the first place.

So, this is where things get interesting. Rodolph sets out to find his parents, who have been kidnapped by the Abominable Snowman. After a series of hilarious, kid-friendly hijinks, Rudolph, Hermey the Elf and Clarice free Rudolph’s parents and return home, where the other reindeer apologize to Rudolph for being so terrible.

Later, Santa formally welcomes them back to Christmastown.

Meanwhile, it’s Christmas Eve and a storm is a-comin’, and Santa worries that they will have to cancel Christmas if it doesn’t let up. Enter Rudolph and his nose so bright from stage left, who offers to lead Santa’s sleigh through the storm.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Rudolph’s shiny muzzle saves the day, allowing Santa to deliver gifts to all the good boys and girls. And as the song notes, “then all the reindeer loved him,” as a result of his good works.

Seriously, how did anyone decide this was a movie for kids?! Everyone in the community is completely horrible to Rudolph until they learn he’s useful to them, at which point, they suddenly are the biggest Rudolph fans on earth. What the hell kind of moral is that to impress upon children?

I get it, there’s also a message of perseverance and overcoming challenges through Rudolph’s character, but the larger story is about how everyone legit hated him until they realized they could benefit from his abnormality. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what we want to teach kids? That they should only be nice to different people if they can somehow benefit from that person’s difference?

I got questions for all parties involved in the creation of this timeless holiday classic.