Rudolph The Insensitive Reindeer

The Christmas classic Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer was broadcast on TV recently.  It’s the timeless story of a misfit reindeer with the brilliant nose who ultimately saves Christmas during the Storm of the Century — and a misfit elf who wants to be a dentist rather than making toys.  First broadcast in the ’60s, Rudolph and its songs has been enjoyed by multiple generations of American kids.

94f266d0-ba5f-4498-9511-1268549977a0Until this year, I guess.  In the modern politically correct era where people are a lot more sensitive than they’ve ever been before, Rudolph doesn’t fare quite so well.  After all, the other reindeer are mean to poor little Rudolph at the Reindeer Games after Rudolph’s false nose falls off, and neither Coach Comet nor Rudolph’s own parents really stick up for Rudolph’s right to be different.  Poor Hermey the elf is facing a long life on the toy assembly line where he will be forced to hear the irritating chorus from We Are Santa’s Elves (Filling Santa’s Shelves) over and over again.  Hermey’s got no chance to follow his dental dreams.  Yukon Cornelius is not only a blustering blowhard, he’s a prospector who wants to tear up the landscape in search of gold when he’s not stalking and tormenting the Abominable Snowman.  And the poor Bumble, at heart a gentle soul beneath his terrifying exterior, ends up tortured by having all of his teeth pulled by people who won’t let him be himself.

And Santa, too, doesn’t exactly make a great impression, does he?  He’s certainly not very sensitive to Rudolph’s needs, or all that interested in celebrating Rudolph’s diversity.  At first he’s a bullying, self-absorbed boss, cracking the whip on the slavishly working elves and the reindeer to make sure that he can pull off another Christmas.  Even after Mrs. Claus succeeds in fattening him up and making him look a bit more jolly, he sees the light from Rudolph’s nose and embraces Rudolph’s shiny difference only when the Storm of the Century leaves him no choice.

Of course, all of these plot lines have been part of Rudolph since the beginning — we just haven’t seen the story in this light until now.  And yet, somehow, the kids who grew up watching Rudolph every holiday season ended up being reasonably well-adjusted people who aren’t out there yanking out the teeth of every passing Bumble just for the fun of it.  In fact, you might say that the story of Rudolph and Hermey and the challenges they had to overcome made those viewers just a little bit more receptive to the idea that people can be different — and that’s okay.  Would that message have the same impact if Rudolph and Hermey had been treated like champions from the outset?

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In Praise Of Rudolph

In the pantheon of annual must-see Christmas TV events, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is right up there with A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  (At the other end of the spectrum, of course, is the supremely annoying Frosty The Snowman.)

Of course, Rudolph combined great characters, like Yukon Cornelius and Hermey, the elf who desperately wanted to be a dentist, with great settings, like the Island of Misfit Toys, and great songs, like Holly Jolly Christmas.  But the crucial and underappreciated significance of Rudolph is that it provided many teachable moments for growing boys.  For example, it featured a female character who wore a pink bow — which obviously was how you knew instantly that she was a girl reindeer in the first place.  This was vitally important information for the young boy eager to grow into adulthood.

Of course, Rudolph did a lot more.  It not only put a lot of flesh on the bones of the song, by doing crucial things like explaining what the heck were the reindeer games, it also prepared young boys who were watching for the gentle attention of whistle-blowing coaches and taught them how to react in the unlikely event that a girl ever said you were cute — as shown in the classic scene shown above.

Sure, sure . . . I know that some people argue that the real message of Rudolph is that people should just accept themselves for who they are and not try to hide their glaring red nose with some soot.  They’re wrong, of course.  The young boys who watched Rudolph knew that what it really told you was that if you felt sorry for yourself because you were different, disobeyed your parents, and ran away from home, you were likely to meet a flying lion and an intrepid gold prospector, fight and defeat the Abominable Snowman, and return home in the nick of time to get the girl and save the day.

It’s a great holiday message.

Rishi Sushi

IMG_2078We continued our tour of new downtown Columbus eateries today with a visit to Rishi Sushi for lunch.  It’s on Third Street between Long and Gay, less than a block from our building — and it’s a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

The restaurant has a pretty extensive menu with lots of interesting appetizers and entrees.  There’s sushi, of course, and from the sushi specials the waiter mentioned today it sounds like they seek out some unusual options.  Sushi doesn’t suit me for a midday meal, so I about Rishi Sushi’s lunch ramens.  The waiter recommended “There’s Always Tomorrow,” the beef noodle option, and I decided to follow his lead.

However, I must digress, briefly, at this point.  When I asked if the waiter had to sing the song whenever someone ordered the dish, he looked puzzled and said:  “What song?”  My lunch companion, the Running Man, was similarly baffled.  Even after I gave them clues about Christmas TV shows, they still were unable to identify the song.  What, doesn’t anybody watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer anymore, and remember the haunting and deeply moving tune that Rudolph’s claymation reindeer girlfriend, Clarice, sang to make him feel better after he was excluded from the reindeer games?  Sheesh!

Although the waiter’s song knowledge was suspect, he was right on the money with the beef noodle bowl.  Packed with sliced steak, kimchi, spinach, bean sprouts, a hard-boiled egg, scallions, and nori, swimming in a rich broth bursting with flavor, and featuring grated wasabi to give it a nice little kick, There’s Always Tomorrow was fantastic and undoubtedly would have made Rudolph fly even farther.  It was so satisfying that I want to go back and try every one of the ramen options, because I suspect that they are almost as good.

One thing to keep in mind about the ramen options, however — they’re aren’t exactly necktie friendly.  The bowl is served with a huge, ladle-sized wooden spoon and chopsticks, and you really need to use both to eat the dish properly.  The chopsticks allow you to lift and consume the noodles, spinach, bean sprouts, and beef slices; the spoon lets you slurp up the extremely tasty broth and egg.  Even for the most dexterous diner, there’s still a splatter factor because the noodles can slip off the chopsticks and plop back into the pool of broth.  It was sheer, dumb luck that kept me from coating my tie today, so next time I visit I’m going to wear something more suitable for the cuisine.  Yes, I’m willing to change my workday wardrobe because the food at Rishi Sushi is just that good.