History would have us believe that the lessons to be learned from Rudolph the Differently-Nosed Reindeer are that we should accept and celebrate our differences; that everyone has value; and that passive resistance is the best way to counteract bullying.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Rudolph, as you may recall, was the youngest and smallest of Santa’s enslaved Rangifer tarandus who, as a result of extensive inbreeding, could fly.
Born out of wedlock and never knowing his real father (although scholars have long suspected that facial similarities, i.e., the red, bulbous nose, point toward Santa himself), Rudolph had no protectors at the all-boys school he attended, although he would eventually befriend an outcast elf who fancied himself an orthodontist and who was subsequently arrested for practicing dentistry without a license in Florida.
Underweight and smaller than his cohort, Rudolph was bullied on a daily basis, sometimes being hung by Christmas lights from the rafters of the gym while the reindeer below laughed and called him names.
Whereas some reindeer would have bulked up with weights and perhaps learned tae kwon do, or at the very least, the Brazilian art of capoeira, Rudolph instead found solace in alcohol, which he stole from Santa’s liquor cabinet at night, stealthily finding his way by turning his nose to 1, its lowest setting.
You might ask, “Where was Santa during all of this?” After all, he knew when they were sleeping and he knew when they were awake. But he conveniently had no knowledge of the brutal hazing that Rudolph experienced on a regular basis.
That is, until Rudolph’s value-add to the corporation, North Pole Inc. and its subsidiary, Santa Claus LLC, became apparent due to inclement weather patterns over the Bering Sea as a result of global warming.
Then, and only then, did Santa intervene and give Rudolph the encouragement and affirmation he so desperately needed to counter his body dysphoria. Glowing with self-worth, Rudolph was then able to express his true self and assume a leadership role in his team.
The other reindeer, who were emotionally-stunted cogs in the capitalist machine, could express love for Rudolph and shout out with glee only after they saw the benefit to themselves of timely completing their annual project, i.e., Christmas, and thereby collecting their bonuses.
Further examination is needed into Rudolph’s later years. Did he seek treatment for his alcohol addiction? Did he take advantage of his leadership role to radicalize the other reindeer and form an alliance with the elves to fight for better wages and healthcare? *
The historical record is silent. However, it may be enough to imagine Rudolph streaking through the sky, lighting the way over the melting polar icecap with tears in his eyes.
* Please refer to my prior work The Role of Collective Bargaining in Fairy Tales: From Hansel to Hoffa.