It’s bad enough that Halloween has been ruined by overzealous monitors of political correctness, but now even cherished Christmas movies from childhood are being mined for social justice themes.
Case in point: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the 1964 television classic which a writer for New York magazine claims is chock full of hidden gay themes.
After a “close, analytical reading” of the film, writer Brian Moylan determines that “Rudolph is totally, absolutely, 100 percent, Neil-Patrick-Harris-French-kissing-Ricky-Martin gay. Anyone who even knows what Queer Theory is can tell you that the subtext of the narrative seems to be a pre-Stonewall contemplation of the power of coming out and embracing sexual minorities into society at large.”
Um, OK. Or maybe “Rudolph” is just a cheesy 1960s stop-motion children’s movie that needed to add a confused Yeti, a nerdy Elf, and an Island of Misfit Toys to fill out the original story?
It’s true that the Honest Trailer for the movie gives a nod to the fact that Hermey the Elf, who sports a noticeably styled lock of blond hair and wants to be a dentist, must also secretly be gay. Then again, they also describe the movie as “Lord of the Rings for kids on acid.”
But suggesting that a character in a kid’s classic movie might one day grow up to be a gay dentist is one thing; seeing gay subtexts in every single character in the film is another. For example, the New York magazine writer describes the character of Yukon Cornelius, whom Rudolph and friends meet in the wilderness, as an “older, hirsute gay man who embraces an over-the-top masculinity, despite being gay,” and dubs him a “lumbersexual.” He even likens Santa Claus, who initially urges Rudolph’s parents to mask his red nose, to a “church elder” forcing Rudolph into gay conversion therapy.
Of course, this isn’t the only gay reading of this Christmas fable; academics have been “queering Rudolph” for years. But the theory’s eager adoption by magazines such as New York is a reminder of how easily wacky academic theories make their way into mainstream popular culture. (Wait a minute, maybe Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster just needed a “safe space” to retreat to, not Hermey the overzealous would-be-dentist to remove all of his teeth, an act which surprisingly has not yet elicited an objection from PETA).
It’s somewhat heartening that commenters to New York magazine’s website (usually a predictably liberal bunch) had problems with the creative license taken in the gay Rudolph article. Several commenters pointed out that Rudolph has a female love interest in the movie and is excited when she calls him cute; many more noted that the movie is “about empathizing with misfits and outsiders” in general and not about particular expressions of sexuality.
And that’s the point: the problem with “queering Rudolph” isn’t that it promotes homosexuality. It’s that it cynically takes an admittedly weird but highly entertaining and innocent classic kids’ movie and turns it into fodder for social justice warriors. No one cares if Rudolph or Hermey the Elf or Yukon Cornelius was gay or straight. In the movie they are supposed to be the (asexual) stand-ins for the kind of values grown-ups should want kids to emulate: acceptance, empathy, and tolerance. Too bad overzealous PC warriors can’t just leave poor Rudolph—and kids’ movies—alone.