Red Flags Over a Red-Nosed Reindeer

Christmas classic "Rudolph" raises questions upon scrutiny

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Rankin/Bass Productions
    Do these two really stand up to analysis? No.

    Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” was on TV last night. I watch this special every year, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I’ve seen it at least 150 times in my life. I taped it and watched it incessantly as a child. Even now, when those snowflakes blow across the opening producer credits, I get a little chill down my spine. It’s just one of those things that gets me.

    But there have been things that have bothered me about the special over the years. There are questions I have. Once you see the special enough times, you start to notice the little things. For instance…

    Whatever happened to the “Fame and Fortune” song?

    Okay, right after Rudolph meets Hermey in the snowbank, they decide to be “independent together”. Then they launch into a song. Now, when I was a kid, the song they sung was “Fame And Fortune” FAME. AND FORTUNE! FAME. AND FORTUNE! WE’RE OUT TO SEEK THEM NOWWWWW. It was there. I remember it clear as day. But now, the duo sings, “We’re A Couple Of Misfits,” in a reprise of the song Hermie sings when he’s fired, and Rudolph sings when his dad makes him wear a false nose. Why the switch?

    Well, one enterprising website found the answer:

    When it came time to re-broadcast the special in 1965, GENERAL ELECTRIC executive Willard Saloff decided he wanted to replace the song and sequence of "We're A Couple Of Misfits" with a NEW song "Fame and Fortune." The sequence is very similar to the original with the exception of the snowless trees on the set for "Fame And Fortune," so there was obviously a re-shoot done in 1965. There were also some minor deletions made to the program and this brings us to the 1998 restoral project of the special.

    Is the special sexist?

    There are two instances of total sexism in the special. Mrs. Donder wants to help her husband look for Rudolph, and Donder says, “NO! This is man’s work!” Then, later on, after Yukon falls off the cliff, Sam the Snowman tells us that, “the important thing was to get the women back to Christmastown.” Because women reindeer are too weak and stupid to survive out on their own!

    Why is Mrs. Claus Italian?

    She’s always nagging Santa to eat, and she sounds just like a Sicilian grandma. “Now, that’s-a my Santa!” What’s going on here? Is Mrs. Claus not really a North Pole native? Did Santa pick her up on a tour of Lombardy?

    Why did Sam the Snowman suddenly inject himself into the story?

    There’s a bit of narration at the end, when Rudolph is trapped in the Snow Monster’s cave, where Sam says, “Where was I? Oh yes, their last chance. Not quite, you see…”, and then he explain that he sent Yukon and Hermey out in the storm to look for Rudolph. Whoa, where did that come from? Sam was never part of the story, but suddenly he’s buddy-buddy with Yukon and Hermey?

    Why do Bumbles bounce?

    Is it their large butts?

    So many questions. That’s “Rudolph” for you. It’s layered, like an Orson Welles film, with elf dentists.

    Drew Magary is a writer for deadspin.com.