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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The Santa Claus Killer

North of border, a grisly story of mass murder is unfolding.  In Toronto, police and shaken residents are dealing with an apparent serial killer who roamed in their midst, an apparently pleasant gardener, landscaper, and flower arranger by day and a violent, allegedly homicidal sadist by night.

15267796_10154189330693528_3900810531768579684_n-e1516319633635The accused, Bruce McArthur, has been charged with the murders of five men.  Police are investigating properties where McArthur evidently buried the dismembered remains of his victims in the planters, lawns, and gardens he tended for unsuspecting clients — a story line that is similar to the plot of Stephen King’s short story The Lawnmower Man.  Police believe that McArthur roamed the gay district in Toronto, looking for submissive men who would help him act out violent sexual fantasies — fantasies that apparently sometimes ended in grisly death.  There is growing concern, too, that the investigation will uncover many more victims.

And by the way, McArthur also once served as the Santa Claus at a Toronto-area mall.  I wonder if the parents who learn of that creepy fact will ever put their kids on the lap of a mall Santa again?

As seems to so often be the case, his neighbors and his clients describe McArthur as a jovial, helpful person who liked to bake and design flower arrangements.  They didn’t suspect his apparent double life or dark side.  It really makes you wonder how many murderous people are out there in the world, acting out their disturbed impulses — and also makes you feel lucky that you haven’t encountered them at the wrong time on a darkened street.

 

On Santa’s Lap, Anywhere

On Saturday I went to the nearest Ace Hardware store, on Parsons Avenue, to buy some light bulbs for the kitchen.  As I was checking out with the cashier, I looked over and noticed to my surprise that the store had a Santa sitting over to one side, in a pretty good approximation of the North Pole, waiting patiently for some squalling child to sit on his lap and tell him what was on their Christmas list.  Santa politely said hello, and I wished him Merry Christmas.

00020405I’m not sure that people normally associate an Ace Hardware store with the possibility of a visit with Santa, but I think this is significant news to report to the families in the Columbus area who have young children.  Folks, it looks like you can go to the Ace on a Saturday and get right in to see the Big Fella!  This is important information, because taking the kids to see Santa is an annual tradition in many families, and frequently is planned with the precision of a military operation.  Where to go and when — so as to avoid waiting in line for hours with some squirming, fidgety kid who is eventually going to have to go to the bathroom — is a key part of the planning exercise.

Maybe I’m wrong in my recollection, but I don’t think the location of the Santa visit would have bothered me one bit.  Whether in a gaily decorated old-line department store or in the area next to the hardware store aisle where they sell hatchets, I just wanted to make sure that Santa knew what I wanted most — and it wasn’t world peace.  So long as you accepted that the guy you were talking to was one of Santa’s agents, ready to convey your intense desire for a Rock ’em, Sock ’em robot game to the Jolly Old Elf himself, the location of the visit with the ersatz Santa was irrelevant.

As parents, of course, the key thing about the visit is to get the adorable picture of your kid sitting on Santa’s lap.  And when you think about it, you don’t really care where the picture is taken, either.  Consider the above dim, horribly underexposed photo of Richard and his cousin Joe, dressed in their holiday finest, sitting slack-jawed on the lap of some unknown guy in an area with a Christmas tree, white cotton snow, and, improbably, penguins.  (Improbably, because everyone knows that Santa’s workshop is at the North Pole, whereas penguins are native to the South Pole.)  Do we now have any recollection of where this picture was taken?  Nope!

For all I can remember, it might have been the Ace Hardware store.

The Christmas Deceptions Begin

  
Kish and I stopped in a FedEx office this morning.  We apparently just missed Santa, or one of his elves, who had been there Xeroxing “elf on a shelf” messages.  This message acknowledges the assignment of the elf Maxy to one family, where he will keep an eye on behavior and report back to Santa himself.

Merry Christmas, indeed!  As any former kid knows, the post-Thanksgiving period in when you really need to toe the line, else you end up on the dreaded “naughty” list.  And Maxy will be there, watching.

Do We Really Have To Politicize Santa?

I don’t remember believing in Santa Claus — but according to my mother, I did.  I do remember my younger sisters believing, and playing along with the Santa game.  It was fun, and it made Christmas a more special, magical time.  When Richard and Russell were little, and they believed in St. Nick, it was a time of great, innocent joy.

So why does Greenpeace need to produce a video of Santa warning children that Christmas might not come because global warming is endangering the North Pole.  I know this is just political claptrap, prepared to attract attention and, presumably, donations, but it really crosses a line.  Santa shouldn’t be political. Regardless of your position on whether human activities have produced global warming, can’t we leave little children and their beautiful fantasies about life and magical people like Santa Clause alone?

The Santa Claus Cutting Board

Yesterday we received an unexpected gift — a large, acrylic Santa Claus cutting board.  It features a fine depiction of the right jolly old elf, with fur-trimmed robe and hat, red nose, flowing white beard, and a full pack of toys for good little girls and boys.

IMG_5533Any gift is thoughtful and appreciated, of course, and we certainly can use a sturdy new cutting board.  Still, there is something about a Santa Claus cutting board that is a bit . . . unsettling.  Who would want to bring a sharp knife down on St. Nick’s plump face as they slice a lemon or scar him permanently with a well-placed stroke across the belly?  Why should Kris Kringle have to endure the hacking and stabbing and chopping?

Of course, this kind of cutting board may have a strong subconscious appeal to people who’ve had enough of Christmas sales and Christmas traffic and their fiftieth exposure to Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.  Frankly, they’ve had it up to here with Christmas already and just need to relieve a little bit of holiday tension by bringing a meat cleaver down on St. Nick’s neck.  Or perhaps it is intended for people who didn’t get the Robbie the Robot toy they asked for three years in a row, were made to feel like they were a bad boy, and secretly have always wanted to take it out on Santa by smashing a tomato in his fat, judgmental, coal-giving face.  “Hey, Santa — what gives you the right to decide who’s naughty or nice?”  Whack!

We’ll know if there’s something to this theory if we start to see Santa Claus-themed toilet plungers and Father Christmas targets at the local gun range.