As a minority, I always found something unsettling about the story of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Even as a child, there was something off about the “moral” of that story.
I attended Catholic school between the third and the fifth grade and with the exception of two Asian students, I was the only POC in our entire class. Let’s just say at 8 years old I received a brutal crash course in racism and we’re going to leave it at that.
Each year we would watch the animated classic of Rudolph. There was always something disturbing about the story, until last year when I came to the epiphany that the tale is a metaphor for minority plight.
You see Rudolph represents the Other (insert minority of your choice). An individual who was born different from those in power. And rather than being respected as a peer, he was ridiculed, denigrated and kicked off the North Pole.
Where Santa was and why he didn’t check the bigots is beyond me.
I could also use this opportunity to point out that my affinity for Rudolph’s BFF Hermie should’ve been my first clue that I drove stick (perfect hair, different, a misfit, elf, oral fixation, cute blond, just saying), but that’s another discussion for another time.
We all know the story about the foggy Christmas Eve, Santa asked Rudolph to lead his sleigh and save Christmas with his bright red nose, Rudolph does so and he finally wins “love” from the other reindeers who accept him for the same thing he was discriminated against in the first place.
Two things come to mind for me.
1. Personally I would’ve told Santa which part of my red-nosed anatomy he and the others could kiss. And with all of the hatred and humiliation he endured, he would’ve been well within his rights to do so. I’ve discussed this before with others and in response I was told “he would need to get over it,” “stop being so sensitive.” Not unlike what was told to me and other blacks during the Prop 8 Fallout when the LGBTs were ready to continue throwing away valuable resources towards making gay marriage the END-ALL-BE-ALL issue and expecting blacks and other POC queers to fetch & step for them.
2. I think that’s part of the problem. Bigots and the privileged majority have gotten accustomed to marginalized people “rising above” and getting over it. We’re not supposed to be upset when we’re discriminated against. We’re supposed to just take it. We’re not supposed to speak up or speak out because that’s wrong. Maybe Christmas should be canceled and kids are disappointed. At least that way people will learn that there are consequences to bigotry.
The other thing that comes to mind for me is I can’t help but wonder did the other reindeers accept Rudolph because they realized they were wrong or because they realized he could be of use to them? Because if that isn’t the minority metaphor, I don’t know what is.
You see when you’re the other, you get treated as a pariah until you prove yourself as an asset worthy of some modicum of respectability. You’re an icky colored unless you’re exceptional in sports, can dance and rap and sing, or your culture is features martial arts, anime and ninjas. You’re a dirty perverted homo unless you willing to offer fashion tips. Or if you’re willing to be the gay pet/fashion accessory to your cis heterosexual white female friend. Or unless you’re willing to allow your identity/culture/sex life to be appropriated and pimped out to fuel the fetish of some crappy fanfic slash writing fangirl.
From Rudolph’s plight we learned that when you’re the Other, you’re treated as inferior only until you prove yourselves as actually being superior and an invaluable asset, then and only then, if you’re lucky will you get treated as an equal……maybe.
Funny the things we learn from cartoons.