It is a classic Christmas movie based on a Christmas song which was based on a Christmas poem: Rudolf the Red nosed reindeer has been playing on television sets since 1964. Some 54 years after the movie debut, #RudolfTheRedNosedReindeer has become a popular hashtag on Twitter, not because it is a charming classic, but rather because people are looking at the movie from a new lens and finding its content problematic.
What’s wrong with Rudolf?
One of the primary issues identified is that bullying in the first part of the movie is rampant. Rudolf’s own father tries to hide his uniqueness. When the other young reindeer make fun of Rudolf, the coach encourages them to shun him. Even Santa suggests that Rudolf should be excluded, much like the ‘misfit toys’ who are sent away to an exile because they don’t ‘fit’ within the expectations of the Christmas Eve delivery. Likewise, Hermey the Elf is berated and ostracised because he does not ‘fit’ with the expectations of elves. As a result, Rudolf and Hermey find solace together as outsiders in the Christmas story.
In the last two decades, a lot of energy and resources have gone into educating students on the realities of bullying. In fact, we now have an anti-bullying day and a variety of charities devoted to anti-bullying including Bullying Canada. School boards use various programs that emphasise how to recognise and address bullying amongst their peers. One could argue that the criticism of this movie highlights the success of these programs, demonstrating the extent to which a new generation recognises the ways in which behaviours demean and undermine the self-worth of those who are bullied.
For some, however, criticising a beloved Christmas classic feels like political correctness gone awry. It would seem challenging people to see the story as more than a playful Christmas tale takes the fun out of it. As one Twitter user explained:
Many more causes in the world worth defending. Banning Rudolph and baby it’s cold is tantamount to musical book burning. Shame on you CBC and shame on those with a victim mentality who believe everything in the world is out oppress them or hurt them #RudolphTheRedNosedReindeer
— brownieshouse (@brownieshouse2) December 9, 2018
Opportunity for Conversation
What would happen if, instead of polarising the conversation, we could see it as an opportunity to further explore themes? Teaching media literacy in schools educates students to recognise those spaces in which the media we consume can and should be critiqued. A student who can recognise bullying in Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, might also be able to recognise the difference between “fake news” and the truth. In what ways might this Twitter trend thus become an opportunity to explore how we can continue to critique the media we consume, so that we can be better informed as we participate in the wider world?
What do you think?
Has ‘political correctness’ ruined a Christmas classic or can the critiques become a springboard from which we can explore deeper themes through which we can better critique media in general? We would love to hear from you!
Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today. Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/