by Amber Sparks
Christmas Town. What a dreadful, dismal, backwater dump.
Have you been?
And what I mean is, have you been since you were small and rather naïve? Have you been since you learned about land theft and civil rights and social justice and the terrible things that men do to one another? Have you wandered the stop-motion streets, scandalized by the gossipy, close-minded, small-town feel of the place? Have you chatted with the inhabitants, only to realize how delighted, how thrilled everyone really is with the proscribed social order - or perhaps, yes, how utterly fucking brainwashed? It’s Stepford Wives for reindeer, kids.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take a tour through the dramatis personae.
Does not deserve happiness. Don’t @ me. It’s not that poor Rudolph isn’t a victim, persecuted for his red nose. It’s not that he doesn’t show brief moments of backbone, fighting for Clarice’s life in the Abominable Snow Monster’s cave. It’s more this: Rudolph, existentially, is not made for happiness. Born an outcast, forced to pretend to be something he’s not, accepted only conditionally, contingent on his usefulness (and what if his nose ceases to glow?), Rudolph’s only chance at happiness was to escape his hometown for good, and make for the bright lights of London, Paris, L.A. Somewhere diverse, somewhere lively, somewhere reindeer aren’t born into servitude. But no. Rudolph stayed on in Christmas Town, and probably voted for Trump. Life is suffering, said Nietzsche, and Rudolph’s life story will no doubt bear this out in the end.
Dasher is the classic asshole sports dad, expecting his son to be a man from birth, accusing him of deformity and weakness, demanding he make the team or else. The only reason he doesn’t call just outright call Rudolph a fairy is because this is a television special for children. Yeah, he supposedly feels bad later and goes after Rudolph later to rescue him, but just wait. I can already hear him criticizing Rudy’s performance on the sleigh team, getting sloppy drunk on five-dollar pitchers and yelling at his son at the team’s spaghetti dinner. What a dick.
Has almost no lines and no name, but she does at least defy Dasher to go look for Rudolph with Clarice. But she also went along with all the public humiliation and hiding of Rudolph’s nose, so she deserves, at best, a painless divorce and a life out of the spotlight. Or at least a restraining order.
Does, in fact, deserve happiness, and most assuredly will not find it with poor old Rudolph. She loved Rudolph because of, not in spite of, his difference, wasn’t afraid to be seen with him, and defied everybody to go off and find him. Too bad she’ll live a life of quiet desperation in conformist Christmas Town. Maybe she’ll find herself after the children are grown, head off to America, and join a hippie commune in the desert. Or whatever the reindeer equivalent of the desert is. The steppe? The tundra? Is Tundra Kush a thing?
Yes, I know there’s a whole interpretation where maybe Hermey is gay and dentist = gay, but this is a literal reading of Rudolph, okay? And in this literal reading, Hermey is a lazy ass. His boss keeps telling him he can quit. They don’t have any dentists in town. It seems like a no-brainer for him to set up his own shop. And yet. All he does is laze around, dreaming of dentistry, sabotaging the elves’ work and performance, while blaming his boss for stifling his dreams. At one point he says he’s going to quit (sings it, actually) and you’re like YAY, but then in the next scene he’s back at work. Also he’s complicit in the torture and slow murder of the Abominable Snow Man, which more on that in a minute. I do hope Hermey can achieve happiness as a dentist. But I wouldn't say he deserves it.
The Other Elves*
I have some concerns about these elves. I’m pretty sure, after watching the movie about 30,000 times with my toddler, that they aren’t actual slaves. They seem to have time off, regular shifts, and to be able to quit (see Hermey.) Still. Are they wage slaves? Are they migrant workers? Indentured servants? Are they being trucked in from Finland or Norway or Russia or someplace to make toys for a pittance? They all seem very blonde. I was concerned they might be exploited indigenous people but there’s this one scene where for like three seconds an igloo blows away and you see two figures who look like Inuits, so it feel more like foreign labor. (Though, also, why are the Inuits so hidden away? Do they just scorn Santa and the other inhabitants? Or are they forced to live separately, thanks to racist laws or policies?) I feel like someone needs to investigate here. Something is rotten in the land of Christmas Town. These elves deserve happiness, wherever they’re from, as do the indigenous people of Christmas Town.
People seem to just lurrrrrrve YC, but I guess they missed the fact that he’s actually a gleeful, mustache-twirling imperialist robber baron. All that motivates him is silver and gold – he’s got an entire SONG about it, you guys. He literally says this is HIS land and he’s going to plunder it for all it’s worth. Sorry, indigenous people. And oh, sorry local wildlife, because this amateur Teddy Roosevelt is about to take down the Abominable Snow Monster, who yes, wanted to eat everyone, but hello, he’s a predator! And now he has no teeth (thanks, Hermey) and he’s going to slowly starve to death and no one seems to care because Cornelius has “tamed” him and taught him to perform like the captive creature he is. Yukon Cornelius is 19th century America, mushing its loudmouth way through the continent, raping and pillaging in the name of the almighty dollar. Also, YC keeps calling the Abominable Snow Monster a “bumble,” which is certainly some kind of derogatory and probably racist term.
The Misfit Toys*
Yes, obviously the misfit toys deserve happiness. They didn’t ask to be born different. (Though I have to point out, might some of these defects be due to cheap labor?) Here’s the thing, though – I’m a little worried about that doll. Why do we never learn what’s wrong with her? She looks perfectly normal. Could her defect be…that she kills children in their sleep? Find the rest of the toys good homes, by all means, but I’m not so sure about that doll. She needs watching.
OH MY GOD. This is the worst Santa ever of all time. He’s SUCH a jerk. I don’t understand how any of us watched this show as children and came away with any kind of high opinion of the Man in Red but seriously. He’s a creep to Mrs. Santa, he’s a jerk to the elves, he treats Rudolph like garbage because of the red nose until he needs that nose then suddenly, hey, Rudolph, lead my sleigh why don’t you? Even when Rudolph comes back and finds his parents gone, Santa tells him he’s worried - not because he’s concerned about their well-being and safety, but because WHO WILL LEAD HIS SLEIGH ON CHRISTMAS? Which by the way do they not have understudies? What if a reindeer gets sick? And why does Santa have NO Plan B for a routine snowstorm? What kind of half-ass CEO is Santa, anyway? He’s the worst. No happiness, never, not for this Father Christmas, not for poor Mrs. Claus, and not for anyone in Christmas Town who lives or works under his terrible iron beard.
Amber Sparks is the author of The Unfinished World and May We Shed These Human Bodies, and her fiction has appeared in American Short Fiction, The Collagist, and elsewhere. She lives in Washington, DC.