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Growing up Rudolph, from Childhood to Gay Man

By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

Last week the Huffington Post reported how liberal snowflakes had blown up a blizzard on social media after the annual broadcast of the holiday classic, “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”  They even went so far as to edit together a video highlighting its political incorrectness. Commenters decried the 54-year-old family show for its racism, sexism, xenophobia, patriarchy, homophobia, exploitation,and fostering bullying.  It got so big,the story was picked up by “The Boston Globe.”

If all you see after watch an animated musical about imaginary characters is an array of complex socio-political problems, then in all sincerity, who hurt you?

The red-nose outrage even lit up that CHRISTmas crowd over at FOXNews, not because Santa was over shadowing “the reason for the season.”  They were angry at the left for ruining the joy of Christmas.  Joy of Christmas?  Have they checked their own Christmas fable lately?  They always forget the part about Jesus’ birth causing the slaughter of all male babies under the age of two in Bethlehem. 

Now there’s a Christmas scene you don’t see splattered across Hallmark greeting cards.

But I’m still trying to wrap my head around how “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” has caused such a ridiculous uproar.  To me Rudolph has been both an inspiring hero and a gay icon.  Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without him.

When I was a little kid, I looked a lot like Hermey, the elf and my personal life resembled Rudolph’s almost exactly.  I had a mother who tried to protect me from an emotionally abusive father who was clearly ashamed of and embarrassed by me.  I was ostracized by other kids because I was different and didn’t fit in no matter how hard I tried.  I was that misfit, nonconformist, outcast reindeer and elf I saw on television every December.

But that one hour was the most wonderful Christmas gift. I saw I wasn’t alone; that there were kind people like Yukon Cornelius who I just hadn’t met yet; it taught me empathy and compassion for other marginalized misfits;but most of all, the guy who didn’t fit in now, could someday be the hero.  Deep down it gave me hope that things were going to work out for this little misfit.

Things may not have worked out as well with my parents as they did with the luminescently accessorized reindeer’s, but he and fabulous Hermey, DDS helped me to be the proud gay man I am today.  I’ll always remember those years laying on the floor in front of the TV watch watching Rudolph save Christmas, only now I watch thinking, “This is the gayest thing from 1960’s television next to Paul Lynde!”

Rankin/Bass gave children of all ages who are gay a heart, a timeless Christmas special that speaks to them on a whole other way.  In their animated world, we see ourselves trying to fit into our own world but also the archetypes we know from our lives and Community. 

We identify with over protective mothers, domineering fathers, bullying coaches, and kids who laugh at us.  Moreover, we recognize our icons: Yukon Cornelius, an unconditionally accepting “Daddy Bear;” King Moonracer, a sage elder; the Misfit Toys, our “found” family; the Bumble, kinda scary but turns out, she’s really good at fixing things; Clarice, the beard (she and Rudolph don’t end up together, just sayin…), even Santa, married with no kids but a world full of surrogates who adore him.

And… it’s a musical!

Again, over the weekend social media erupted in a flurry of criticism during the “Rudolph” rebroadcast. All I could do was feel sorry for the snowflakes with nothing better to do than be angry at a Christmas special. They say, “you see what you look for,” maybe that’s why I own every classic Christmas special on DVD.  With so much to be angry about in the world today, it’s nice to look through a child’s eyes at Peace on Earth and Goodwill towards Mankind again. 

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