The Genius of Rudolph: A Twelve-Year-Old’s Perspective

There’s a bloodbath this Christmas. At the center of the flock of vultures, the Christmas movie Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is being torn to shreds for being “sexist,” “homophobic,” “racist,” “offensive,” and all-around politically incorrect.

I’m twelve. I’m likely closer to the Santa mythos than anyone reading this article. And I think it’s about time someone my age chimes in to defend this holiday classic.

I’m not here to argue with you. I was about four years old when I figured out what all these adults seem to only be discovering this year. In fact, I’d say that most kids figured it out around the same time of their lives as me – while adults, apparently, had their heads in the sand. 

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is anything but a shining example of the Christmas spirit. Santa’s an idiot. The elf factory is a sweatshop. And the North Pole isn’t a place to be if you’re different.

But knowing all that, I’m going to say that those are the reasons that kids should watch it.

Let’s break down the lessons it taught me at a very early age:

Lesson #1: Good leadership is important.

At the heart of the Rudolph-hating this year, Santa is a pretty clear target. 

He should be. But it might surprise you that Santa in this movie teaches kids more about leadership than I’ve learned in eight years of school. 

Many people are pointing out that Santa is clearly sexist. There are no female reindeer leading his sleigh. If you’re a girl, you are stuck on the sidelines, only allowed to giggle and ogle the boy reindeer during flying practice like poor, capable Clarice, who even had the courage to hunt for Rudolph in a land menaced by an abominable snow monster. Yet apparently Santa thinks she can’t handle leading a sleigh.

Santa also has pretty extreme views of what a reindeer should look like in order to pull his sleigh. Primarily, the size of one’s nose seems to be important to him. In fact, if Hermey the elf wanted to be a plastic surgeon rather than a dentist, there might have been a future for him at the North Pole from the get-go.

With a leader like this, is it any wonder that the chief elf does not accept Hermey for wanting to be a dentist? 

Leadership sets the stage, whether it’s a company, a school, or the North Pole. Santa is the CEO, and any manager under him will probably act the same way. Bad leadership trickles downward.

Lesson #2: Bullies exist.

This shouldn’t shock anyone. It’s a no-brainer. The North Pole is not immune to this phenomenon. Adults talk to kids about bullies all the time. But for some reason, people want to believe that the North Pole is somehow an exception. It’s not. It’s right here on our imperfect planet. And those reindeer games are no different from the playground at school or the workplace or even that mecca of poor behavior we call Washington, DC.

Bullies are everywhere. We can fight against it. We can call it out. We can ignore it. But they’re there. And kids need to learn that right away.

Lesson #3: It’s okay to question even the most respected authority.

Authorities are just people. It’s okay to question them. If we kids learn that authorities are always perfect and kind and never make mistakes, then when we encounter a bad authority, we will automatically assume that we are in the wrong. We’ll judge ourselves as unworthy. We will bottle it up and feel horrible inside. For a red-nosed-reindeer, it would be natural to think that Santa must be right, because what North Pole authority is more revered than Santa? 

It was a huge risk for the creator of this movie to make Santa this bad. I mean, seriously, he’s really bad. And kids all but worship Santa. He’s right up there with freshly made chocolate chip cookies and Disney World (or the iPhone XS, if you’re a tween like me). 

By making this character unexpectedly imperfect, kids learn that we should think for ourselves and make our own decisions about whose opinions of us we should trust. 

Lesson #4: Sometimes an apology should be enough.

I think this lesson is the most important.

We all have seen it: at the end of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa finally sees the light (ever so slightly), and manages to grunt out a brief apology to Rudolph. His few words are less than I would hope for. We all know he should have done more.

But what does Rudolph do? Rudolph accepts his apology. 

W-w-w-wait a minute? He accepted Santa’s apology and moved on? Who does that? Rudolph should sue Santa, right? He should post it on Facebook and tweet it out to everyone, so that we share it with our social media “friends” and pounce on Santa and get him thrown out of the North Pole. Santa needs to get fired. No—let’s do better than that. Let’s make sure Santa is unemployed for all time. He deserves it, right?

Hold on there, vultures. Maybe the best lesson that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer teaches us is about forgiveness. Rudolph, in his red-nosed glory, teaches us that hate and anger only breed hate and anger. Sometimes it’s smarter to just accept someone’s apology and move on. Rather than letting the anger build, Rudolph shows he’s the better person – or reindeer, I suppose – and goes right to the head of that sleigh in the middle of the most dangerous snowstorm in recorded history and shows us all what Christmas is really about.

So please, grown-ups, put away your daggers. Let us kids learn the lessons of Rudolph. And if you want to hate something this Christmas, let’s talk about fruitcake.

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