Today when I got home a little after 8pm, I sat down to check life on Facebook, and a friend of mine wondered aloud in her status why the children's Christmas classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was making her cry and was slightly depressing. Of course, the only answer I could come up with was a smart-ass one, so I said something along the lines of "because Hermey doesn't want to make toys." and I left it at that. A little later, I decided I should change my own status (the last being from Thanksgiving Day), so I revisited my friend Hermey and wrote: Hermey doesn't want to make toys. I don't want to do the dishes. We're even.
And the ball, she started rolling.
Across several Facebook pages various discussions of Rudolph waged on. On the "Why does Rudolph depress me?" page, opinions varied from my dig at Hermey to someone calling Rudolph's dad a "hater" to someone else wondering if we weren't all misfits.
My page had taken on the highly philosophical question "what exactly is wrong with the doll on the island of misfit toys? Why is she there?" I read that comment and thought for a minute.... I guess I didn't know. She didn't have square wheels like the train, she wasn't misnamed and her speaking voice didn't suffer from permanent puberty woes like Charlie in the Box, and she wasn't pink and polka dotted like the elephant. So what WAS wrong with her, anyway?
I vaguely remembered she cried a lot, but aside from that, I really couldn't remember an identifiable "malady." So, having to know the answer, I turned to the source of all knowledge: the Internets. Was there an answer? Of course there was! She was sad and unloved (hence the tears). I shared my mad skillz as a research specialist with my Facebook friends.
After reading all the discussions and dissections of a favorite childhood memory, it was clear that this holiday special held a very special spot in the hearts and memories of 30 and up crowd. And when you think about it, it makes sense. Some of the themes of the story speak to an older audience. Hermey is unhappy being stereotyped as a toy-making elf. He wants to be a dentist. Rudolph is in the need of a great deal of therapy. Rudolph's dad really IS a hater, Yukon Cornelius is a loner with an oral fixation, and the Island of Misfit Toys have enough social and emotional problems to keep Oprah, Maury and Dr. Phil busy for quite some time. We know these characters. We are these characters. We've all taken extended vacations on the Island of Misfit Toys. Some of us own land and have a time-share there.
With the exception of Charlie Brown (specially designed for optimal heart-string tugging), I can't imagine any other Christmas special gathering the same amount of sympathy. Would anybody spend any measurable time wondering about emotional psyche of Frosty the Snowman when he keeps yelling HAPPY BIRTHDAY as if it was an audition for the revival of Rainman? Meanwhile, over at Santa Claus is Coming to Town, sure everybody loves the Burgermeister Meisterburger, but when he breaks his leg and loses control over Sombertown, nobody is really shedding any tears. We like to see him fall down and fail. It's funny.
Stuff a sock in it, Frosty.
It's hard to be a tyrant when you have such a cute name and tweakable cheeks.
Sure, there are some characters in Rudolph we don't care much about or have much sympathy for (see: Crankypants Santa). But Rudolph and those misfit toys, we really feel for. Even the bad monster Bumble becomes squishy and cute when we find out BUMBLES BOUNCE! He has fun fur AND he's alliterative! What's not to love?
A half hour or so after the Rudolph conversation wrapped up on my Facebook page, I was checking statuses again, and, I kid you not, a second person (not privy to the first conversation) wondered why the doll was stuck on the Island of Misfit Toys. Twice in one night. Coincidence? Or had Rudolph really hit a nerve?
As I was re-posting my earlier "Island of Misfit Toys" research, I wondered if TeenTuna's generation had any TV shows or characters that would withstand the test of time. Thirty years from now, will there be conversations on some website about the social and emotional ramifications of Zach and Cody living with their mother in a hotel? Will they be protective of Spongebob Squarepants and defend his live life on his own terms (even if it's in an underwater pineapple)? I highly doubt it. But as I sat down to write tonight, TeenTuna kept yelling at me from the living room. There was a special tonight that showed all of the Pixar shorts. And there was the girl in "One Man Band" who was tempted by two musicians to give away her only coin... And there was the enormous bird on the wire who wanted to share it with his friends... And there was the misfit alien that was trying so hard to learn how to use the controls of the ship... And there was the old man playing chess... And there was the little lamp who was having so much fun playing with his bouncy-ball...
She was so excited. They were like old friends she hadn't seen in awhile.
So I guess her generation will be OK after all. They have some pretty special characters of their own that are worthy of love and care and concern. As long as it isn't Spongebob, I'm alright with it.
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