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Rudolph: The Nightmare Before The Nightmare Before Christmas

Topics: Popular Media | 4 CommentsBy admin | December 7, 2009

Is Hermey The Dentist Gay? Is Yukon Cornelius a bear? Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is more than a Christmas story, it’s a macabre exploration of congenital deformities, parental shame, ethnic and class-based employment issues, and loneliness.

If you’re old enough, the annual broadcast television airing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer might reside in a special place in your memory, that dark and macabre place also occupied by The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life, or the creepy skating scene music and Linus’ condescending biblical monologue in A Charlie Brown Christmas. If you grew up in that particular era, you felt emotionally barren somehow if you missed these broadcasts, and your psyche was perhaps mildly damaged for life if you didn’t. Which is why I love watching them as an adult. With hindsight, they’re all somehow more unsettling than a Hitchcock film. Especially Rudolph. Viewed as an adult, you can see how Tim Burton must have been influenced by this stuff, it’s creepy like BeetleJuice or The Nightmare Before Christmas without even trying to be. The Rankin Bass production seems clever and cheerful on the surface, but when you actually deconstruct it a little, it’s a surreal and disturbing tale of a child with a congenital deformity whose parents cower in shame, a child who can only find solace by running away from it all with a possibly gay, misfit elf that’s struggling with ethnic and class-based employment issues. I’m not exagerrating; it’s right there in the story. The shame about Rudolph’s nose is obvious, but the other parts are a little more subtle. Hermey the elf just wants to be a dentist, but no. His oppressive boss informs him in no uncertain terms that his race is incapable of bettering themselves, by screaming “Now listen you, you’re an elf, and elves make toys. Now get to work!” And is Hermey the Dentist gay? Well, speech patterns aside, there IS the scene where Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius, and Hermey sleep together under a pink blanket. For all we know, maybe Yukon is a bear. And we’ll just skip the whole bestiality angle. Then there’s the Island of Misfit Toys. Way before the tortured and misshapen toys in Toy Story, we had the deeper psychological torture of toys trapped in their own little Guantanamo, lorded over by a C.S. Lewisian lion. They had to get some kind of Christianity in there, you know; everything else in this supposed Christmas story is centered on animism, elfin magic, and nordic folklore. All in all, the Rudolph story’s journey from a Montgomery Ward ad campaign in the 30′s to its billion-plus viewership over time is quite remarkable. I’ll probably watch it one more time before the holidays are over. Have any stories of holiday movies that have scarred your psyche for life? Feel free to share.

Is the lion king on the Island of Misfit Toys a sneaked-in, CS Lewis-inspired Christian symbol?




















I dunno. Yukon Rudolph and Hermey look pret-ty darn cozy:

Hermey gestures as if to say “It can never be, Rudolph”:

Read Comments

  1. Posted by Edweird on 12.07.09 10:29 am

    Best thing I’ve read this morning. Dead on!

  2. Posted by » Did You Check The Elf-Help Section? - Dissociated Press on 12.18.09 3:14 am

    [...] and Papa Elf’s outline of the career options for an elf caught my attention, since I had recently referenced the racial oppression that Santa’s elves have to endure. Papa Elf only mentioned Keebler [...]

  3. Posted by rechill on 12.03.11 9:15 am

    You are a mental case. Truly disturbed.

  4. Posted by admin on 12.03.11 9:45 am

    Coming from someone who appears to be a novelty products creator, I’ll take that as a compliment! Happy Holidays!