I hate Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
Well, not actually Rudolph.
I hate the animated holiday classic that's on TV, and probably the song too.
It's not the cheesy songs or the animation. It's the lesson behind the story. I know, I know, it's just a kids movie, a little Christmas fun... but I think we might be subconsciously teaching kids a lesson that is harmful: you're only liked when you're useful.
Think about it: Rudolph is considered a misfit because he's different. He is utterly rejected by nearly everyone (Santa, included, which is about the rottenest thing you could tell a kid whose struggling with being "different"). Not just teased, mind you. Totally rejected and cast out from the community -- which is what happens to people who are different. They have no place in the community, and must seek it elsewhere. So Rudolph and Hermie headoff to the Isle of Misfit Toys -- presided over by the salvation figure -- King Moonracer. (I wonder about the lion symbology in relation to Jesus -- or Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe... King Moonracer offers a place of salvation -- but only for some, and even then, they are still stuck desperate to be loved. Even though they have found community, they still are not fulfilled, because they believe there is more for them. So they want Santa to deliver them to other children. Meanwhile, Rudolph wanders back to the North Pole, intime for Christmas Eve and Santa to be fogged in. Santa gets the brilliant idea to have Rudolph's nose act as a lantern to guide the way.
"And then how the reindeer loved him" -- then, and only then, after Rudolph proved himself useful to the community, was he loved. Drives me crazy, because we accept this as the way things should be -- if you're an outcast, you'd better prove yourself useful, or you don't have a place... and you won't be loved. I know these aren't conscious thoughts that most kids are going to have coming away from watching Rudolph, but it's an interesting metanarrative for our society, and one that I think we need to change. We don't need to do away with Rudolph, but we do need to pay more attention to the subtle messages all television programs are giving our kids -- especially one like Rudolph that stays in the kids psyche through adulthood.
I know, it's just a television program. But we say that all the time, about all sorts of things, and then kids get shot by other kids who have been rejected. We need to pay attention to the messages we are sending our children -- the ones we don't talk about... the ones that are the most rooted in their brains.