As I’m far, far too broke to properly celebrate Christmas this year (and in my mind, properly means hiring Dickens style British children to stare into my front windows with chimney soot smudged across their cheeks – oh and when I catch them there, to make them carol like a church choir) I figured I’d make a lame attempt at recapturing some of the Christmas spirit by rewinding to a smaller, less jaded version of myself. No, I don’t mean last week. I’m talking four or five year old Hillarys. Laren day Hillarys.
So today I’m gonna visit one of my holiday favorites:
I still watch Rudolph almost every year, and for some really screwed up reason, I still love it even though I can appreciate how fucked up it is now that I’m an adult. “It’s Rudolph, Hillary! How can you say that?! That’s like saying Santa’s going to crap down my chimney this year!” Before you get your Rudolph-loving pants in a twist, let me state up front: it’s a wonderful sort of fucked up, no need to get offended. This special is marvelous, grand, great, and I actually resent that I’m not watching it when it’s on broadcast TV, ads and all, because it loses some of the nostalgia factor on dvd or dvr. That said? Something stinks in Elf Town.
For starters, this dude:
Let me lay the scene for you. Everything in Rudolph Land is as it ought to be barring a few setbacks that seem comically banal in the vast scheme of Christmas chaos. Santa’s too skinny and Mrs. Claus is force feeding him spoon fulls of Crisco so he fits his suit. Dancer and Prancer are off coaching Reindeer games, and they’re being total sports-dick dads about it (typical Reindeer dads are typical). The elves are tinkering away in their shop. Sure one of the does dropped a red-nosed reindeer, and that’s kinda “whoa” in its own right, but then our attention is pulled away from Rudolph to the elf that hates making toys and wants to be a dentist. Yep, a dentist. All Hermie wants to do is ditch this toy gig and rip your teeth out. It’s so random. “Okay so Reindeer Games, Santa, Rudolph, Red Nose . . . check, check check aaand check. LET’S ADD IN A DENTIST FOR FUN.” Nowhere in the song is there a line about a dentist. In fact, everyone I know hates going to the dentist, so why would we want to remind children that they exist when they’re dreaming of Sugar Plum Fairies and Tonka trucks? For that matter, why would we terrify them with the notion that their dentist may be one of Santa’s former elves? Hermie’s inevitably got rage issues that he wasted his formative years working in the cheeriest sweat shop in history. He’d probably use a chainsaw to pull your teeth.
There’s also the matter of Yukon Cornelius to take into account for “why Hillary thinks Rudolph is a psychotic Christmas special”. He’s a random gold prospector wandering around with the most ragtag group of sled dogs he can find.
He has absolutely no purpose other than licking an axe to see if he can find silver and gold which – HEY, YEAH, I LICKED THE POLE WHEN I WAS A KID – his tongue doesn’t stick to. Magical Christmas Magic is Magic! My small squishy brain automatically jumps to “Magic > Science” . . . and would account for me living in La La land most of the time. But I digress. Yukon Cornelius is just some greedy guy who wants to get rich, so he straps a beagle to the front of a sled because he’s too cheap to get Huskies, tells them to mush, aaaand . . . that’s it. That is pretty much all he contributes to the story beyond introducing Rudolph to a few random folks. Who happen to be on the Island of Misfit Toys.
Oh right! Leper-Toy island! Have you ever listened to the song that goes along with the Island of Misfit Toys? The introductory bars are the most depressing thing in the world behind Charlotte’s “I’m about to die” song in Charlotte’s Web.
I hear the song start and I immediately go for the Drain-O because I was a horrible child that didn’t ask for a train with square wheels and I deserve to die. Island of Misfit Toys was Shutter Island before Dennis Lehane dreamt it up. One of the first things we witness is Charlie-In-The-Box’s breakdown that everyone wants Jack-In-The-Box (Charlie’s older, prettier, more emotionally stable brother) and that he’s going to rot unloved for the rest of his existence thanks to a crappy name.
So let me do that tallying bit again. Rudolph, Santa, Snow, Reindeer games. Check, check, check, check. Freaky dentist, gold prospector, sled Yorkie, abandoned island of broken toys? Check. Check, check. Check? Things have gone from typical to really bizarre really fast. I’m totally okay with that, mind you, but Rankin & Bass were screwing with us when they put this together. And hey! They must be doing something right if I’m still watching the special thirty years in and loving it. I sing along with Burl Ives as the snowman, I cringe when I see the Abominable Snow Monster, and will forever remember that “BUMBLES BOUNCE”.
Rudolph is – to me, anyway – the epitome of everything that’s right with Christmas. It conjures images of me hiding against my mother/grandmother whenever the Abominable came on TV, but knowing that enduring meant Santa was near and all I had to do was make it through. I associate it with sitting in Lauren and Greg’s living room at our annual Christmas party watching shows we know by heart together. So while I may not be having the flashy, London street urchin filled Christmas of my dreams, I’ve still got Rudolph. And Leper-Toy Island.