Monday, December 04, 2006

Column on Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

This is one of my favorite columns. I wrote this back when I was in college, with today's media environment in mind. Enjoy! 0~<[];-)>


Reindeer find success
Santa’s team has made leaps to get to its position

You know Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donder and Blitzen. And you may, of course, recall the most famous reindeer of all: Rudolph.

What you may not know about is the internal politics and power mongering that goes on in the selection of the reindeer that pull Santa’s sleigh. Each of the above reindeer has their story of heartbreak and tragedy on their way to the big time.

Dasher came from a poor, tough reindeer neighborhood guided only by a dream and the support of his mother to make it to Santa’s team. Comet overcame disastrous Internet investments and Donder overcame bouts with depression and alcohol to earn the right to pull Santa’s sleigh.

Cupid is still fighting old girlfriends who claim he is the father of their respective children.

Blitzen sports body piercings and branding marks (reindeer versions of tattoos) and has the reputation of arrogance and showmanship, but few know of his charitable deeds and donations in the off-season. He seems to prefer it this way. He wants to keep his reputation because of the potential financial windfall that being the “bad boy of the reindeer gang” can bring.

Dancer and Prancer had long endured the homophobia of others in Santa’s polar community before banding together with “alternate lifestyle” elves to form the Association of Northern Gay and Lesbian Elves and Reindeer (ANGLER), which has provided them a sense of belonging in the cold environment that they live in.

Vixen, the only female of the team, is a single mother of two bucks and a doe. Hers is the story of the struggles of single motherhood and her efforts to provide for her children despite the lack of help, financial and otherwise, from the children’s father.

Rudolph’s story is well known. Born with the birth defect of a luminous snout, he was long the brunt of jokes and cruelty because of it. Shunned by his peers, he was made a pariah of the reindeer community. Such were the ways of those unenlightened times.

Rudolph persevered only because of his dream of one day pulling Santa’s sleigh. Every Christmas Eve, Rudolph would watch as the reindeer took flight and went off into the distance in the cool night. Then one night, fate looked Rudolph’s way.

One Christmas Eve, a vicious snowstorm blew across the North Pole. Santa was about to cancel his traditional run until he noticed in the distance Rudolph’s nose. How it gleamed, even through all the winds, snow and turmoil. Santa took this as a sign, and he had Rudolph brought to him and latched not just to the team, but in front of it.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

The selection of Rudolph, one might assume, helped the other reindeer see the errors of their ways. This assumption is based upon the closing lyric of the famous carol based on Rudolph’s story: “And all of the other reindeer /shouted out with glee / Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer / You’ll go down in history!” What the carol doesn’t tell is of the shameless brown-nosing behavior of the other reindeer.

The very reindeer that, at first, had called him names and discriminated against him because of his physical uniqueness, now praised him and tried to bask in his glory. This, though, may actually be indicative of Santa’s power over the reindeer community.

Is Santa a jolly old elf or is he a reindeer power broker? Reindeer lives and careers have been made and broken based on his decisions, but the question of whether this is done intentionally by Santa or if it is an unavoidable consequence of being limited to just nine reindeer is not easy to answer.

In any case, let us be happy for Rudolph and his newfound success. Perhaps hiring a reindeer with a physical uniqueness can be seen as a positive sign of our changing times. And let us hope that Santa’s tradition of delivering toys to good little girls and boys never dies.

Here’s to the children of the world. May their futures always be promising and bright.

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