12/17/2018
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By Jefferson Weaver

There are times when, like Miguel Cervantes’ famous and misunderstood character, I find myself incensed by man’s inhumanity toward man, the sheer idiotic desire to make misery out of mirth. Unlike Ol’ Mike’s hero, I have no plans to mount a broken-down horse, grab a battered, rusty sword and go fight windmills whilst defending the honor of a random tavern wench, but I can very well understand the good Don’s frustration.

What has this to do with the Christmas season, you might ask?

Oddly enough, everything.

I grew up watching the “Claymation” Christmas classics – Santa Claus is coming to Town, the Little Drummer Boy, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and all the rest. I am not ashamed to admit we still watch them in our household.

Back in the dark ages of black and white television sets, rabbit ears and maybe three or four channels, those specials came on once a year, and it just wasn’t Christmas if you missed them. My parents usually joined me when the shows came on. Sometimes we even had hot chocolate, eggnog, or some other kind of Christmas treat.

At school the next day, we young’uns could quote lines from the programs, and have deep philosophical discussions about what we might do in similar circumstances. A very wise teacher once castigated our class after we teased a fellow student to tears, and pointed out that Rudolph, while also different, saved the day.

Once upon a time, kid’s programs were kid’s programs. We were entertained, we sang the sons over and over, and we learned. There were no sociopolitical undertones, no hidden messages, no attempts to brainwash children into becoming neo-Nazis or worse, acolytes of some generic new world order.

Historical anachronisms aside, the Drummer Boy was — and is — a beautiful tale about the birth of Christ. What with our society’s never-ending headlong rush to political correctness, a Christmas message that doesn’t focus on the secular aspects is simply not acceptable, so Drummer Boy (and Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey) were cast into the shadows of networks with lower market shares. I was rather pleased to see both Rankin-Bass classics on the schedule for one of the “big” cable channels in the coming days.

I have to wonder how long it will be before the adventures of a misfit reindeer are also banished and only shown with apologies.

It seems the standard bearer for all things leftist, a digital newspaper published by one of the most unpleasant persons ever to be bleeped on national television, is attacking Rudolph. Whether said “news service” planted some social media comments and then harvested the crop is debatable, but they have reportedly done so in the past. The Huff crowd survived that scandal and several more, and have set their sights on finding more ways to make all Americans unhappy as they are.

Enter a poor little misfit reindeer and his equally misfit friends.

Rudolph, according to the HuffPost, is racist, homophobic, sexist, encourages bullying, and encourages sadism. I had no idea there were such twisted subtexts in a classic children’s program, whose producers said in a 1960s magazine interview that they were trying to get away from the subliminal Madison Avenue hyper-commercialism that dominated the time (as it does ours).

Some of the criticism focuses on Herbie the elf, who doesn’t want to be a toymaker, but instead wants to be a dentist. Alleged grownups whose parents didn’t hug or spank them enough are suggesting Herbie is a serial killing sadist who uses teeth from his victims to make toys. What kind of sick, twisted person thinks of such things?

Then there’s the search for Rudolph, after he runs away. Feminists are howling and throwing their pink hats because Donner (Rudolph’s dad) says finding Rudolph is “man’s work.” Of course, Rudolph’s mom and girlfriend set out to rescue him anyway (and it’s a good thing they did).

Never mind Donner being an abusive father because he talks tough to Rudolph and tries to make him wear a fake nose.

Yet another critic complained that the Island of Misfit Toys was cruel. Why hadn’t Santa Claus done something about the oddballs years before, if he was so good? I have some reservations about that myself, but Rudolph was written before social media and cell phones. I would argue that Santa just plain didn’t know about the island kingdom, and that he was a hero for righting someone else’s wrong.

And by the way – Santa Claus? My goodness. Some of the comments about Santa Claus make one think the Krampus is preferable. (Look up the Krampus, if you don’t know the story).

I think one reason I have always liked Rudolph was because as a little kid, I could actually relate. I didn’t go to the same school as a lot of the children my age, so our social interactions were sometimes strained. I didn’t have a lot of friends, because I was bigger than most, and quite honestly, overweight. I wasn’t a really good ballplayer, although I tried. I had big ears. I didn’t like a lot of the same things kids my age were supposed to like, since I spent more time around adults. In short, only a red nose would have made me more weird.

For a while, I followed the path set down by a parody of Rudolph, namely, making up my own stinkin’ reindeer games, and relishing the day when those who shunned me would be put in their places. Instead I just learned how to interact without becoming a member of the sometimes cruel crowd of social compliance – and I made friends because of said semi-rebellion.

Rudolph taught me to persevere, to focus on a few true friends, and that we don’t always win. Rudolph taught me to treat others as I wish to be treated, and that it ain’t always smart to be part of the crowd. Rudolph also shows us that even those who seem least in society can sometimes be the hero.

Where have we heard those themes before? A right smart long time ago – all the way back to 1612, or 1605 if you speak the archaic Spanish in which Cervantes first wrote the adventures of “The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha,” better known as Don Quixote.

I don’t think very many people, not even the saddest of snowflakes intent on ruining everyone’s Christmas, will pay much attention to the Huff People. But it still bugs the stuffing out of me, to the point that I want to at least figuratively saddle up Old Red, find a willing sidekick to ride Mabelline the Donkey, and strap on a rusty sword.

Mess with the icons of my childhood too much, and I am willing to make Krampus look like a rank amateur.

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