A racial critique:
Is Rankin/Bass’ 1964 classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer a racist film? Of course it is. This little holiday classic is embedded in a post-colonial, racialized cultural framework that reinforces an ethnocentric normativity. In the movie, Santa Claus is your typical overbearing self-centered white male. What does this tell us? Well, he’s racist for starters. This is where post-colonial studies can assist us in deconstructing this holiday film for what it really is. It tells us how to think about white males, especially white males in positions of power and influence. Jolly old Kris Kringle not only controls Christmas, but the world is in fact dependent upon him for Christmas. The representation of the Eurocentric colonial consciousness is clearly evident in Santa Claus – he is a dominant white male who uses slave labour, i.e., elves and reindeers … ‘the other’ … to deliver Christmas presents. That’s the first despicable thing about this holiday special. It isn’t meant to cheer us up for the holidays but is merely one movie in a long list of others meant to desensitize one’s conscience to the racial norms of a colonialist, capitalist, hegemonic society. Sure, a first viewing might give the lazy observer the impression that Rudolph is really the underdog who overcomes discriminatory social attitudes by xenophobic reindeers, but the true underlying intentions are as clear as a bell hooks essay. Rudolph, as the ‘other’, represents a racialized minority cast out by his fellow reindeers because he is different. He is not only excluded for being different, but the racialized environment only serves to reinforce that difference and the normative racism that determines this anti democratic and ethnocentric behaviour among the reindeers. Rudolph is never truly accepted for who he is, but is thrown to the misfits like an unwanted member of society until Santa and the reindeers discover he is useful for something – namely, moving slave-labour produced Christmas goods to the disparate children throughout the colonized world. It is not indifference that leads to Rudolph’s acceptance, but his utility, thus the racialized difference and the sense of racialized otherness remains and is in fact embedded, reproduced and strengthened. If you’re a concerned citizen, stay away from this movie, you might get offended.
– Stephen Chartrand
An economic and capitalist critique:
I don’t believe it’s too extreme to say that Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is a human atrocity captured on film. It’s dangerous and represents capitalist values as well as the importance of the economy above all else.
Let’s face it, the film is even framed by economy. The first character you encounter is a bourgeoisie snowman telling you all about “silver and gold”. Where do the Clauses live? A castle of course, in this highfalutin, economically homogenous society.
Gluttony and rapid consumerism is also in full swing within this “beloved” Christmas special. From Mrs. Claus force-feeding Santa to make him portly enough to fit his socially ordained role and perceptions, to the brainwashed elves whose “hard work is play”. These elves are degraded, not only to forceful labour (assumedly without payment) but to lowly singing for their slave master, Santa as well.
Is it possible that the abominable snow monster of the North is the only one that does not fit within the economic model of the society? He reportedly “hates everything that has to do with Christmas,” but in this bastardized, idyllic, consumerist version of the holiday, is that not a noble opposition? He is portrayed inferior for his beliefs of course; Yukon Cornelius even states that they have “superior intelligence”. After all, no ideology is complete without some perpetuation and justification.
Sure, the snow monster tries to eat Rudolph, but that’s for survival. Check back next week for my vegan criticism of the film, but for now, he is simply giving into his Darwinistic place on the food chain. This isn’t consumer excess and frivolity that he wants, like that of the residents of Christmas Town; it’s just his basic right of survival.
For this deviation from the normalized economic epicentre of Christmas, the snow monster is villainized and ultimately neutered. By (Hermey the elf,) taking out the snow monster’s teeth, effectively ensures that the monster will be unable to further resist the economic system, let alone overcome starvation.
Sickeningly, at the end of the film, the snow monster is brainwashed or “reformed” by Cornelius, and he eventually “wants a job”. Therefore, to be accepted, you must conform to the economic tyranny — working for none other than the monopolizing venture capitalist, Santa Claus.
It’s 2014; we need a communist version of Rudolph, one in which all the characters happily work in a government-owned factory.
– Steve Nadon
A feminist critique:
Don’t even get me started on the obvious misogynistic views prevalent throughout the entire film. Aside from the fact that Mrs. Claus is portrayed as being nothing more than a nagging housewife who simply cooks and bakes all day for her husband (Santa), female stereotypes and gender roles are vividly portrayed, which ultimately leads to the degradation of females as a whole.
During the scene where the young bucks are preparing for sleigh tryouts, the female fawns are watching onward as the young men show-off their skills and cunning. A friend that Rudolph meets, Fireball, suggests that Rudolph should talk to one of the young attractive does, Clarice. I don’t even need to explain how absolutely ‘bucking’ sexist this scene is, but I will because these roles and ideals are so ingrained in our culture that you probably didn’t even notice the obvious societal expectations that are coded within this Christmas special. The bucks see the young does as nothing more than objects to be wooed. They assume that the young females would be at all interested in their advances. This is an all too familiar trait that still prevails in today’s bar and nightclub culture.
Furthermore, while Clarice and the other young females are depicted as foolishly giggling at and oggling the young bucks during their sleigh tryouts, the clear gimmick, which was so obviously a convention implemented by the beauty industry, has made the young females into what young women should aspire to look like. I mean, what deer has such long, luscious eye lashes like that? And that bow on Clarice’s head? These are all examples of idealistic and unfair beauty standards that women are expected to meet, which further perpetuates these negative and sexist views.
If we are to make any progress in this world in terms of social change, then it’s evident that Rudolph should no longer be aired as a result of its obvious lack of respect towards the female gender.
– Celia Carr