Last Tuesday, the 1964 stop motion animated classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was welcomed into millions of homes for its annual airing on CBS, instead of warming hearts with holiday cheer, the special drew critical ire for what many deemed to be "messed up" messages about bullying. Now, one of Rudolph's original voice actors is firing back at those critics.
The woman behind the voice of Sue the dolly, Corinne Conley, told TMZ that people looking only at the negative are completely missing the overall point of the story.
"I would say that it's more relevant now than ever because there is so much bullying going on, but I mean it's all reconciled in Rudolph and surely people wouldn't love it so much if it left a resonance of bullying it wouldn't be so indelible in people's hearts and believe me I've got to tell you having been in it and having a list of credits over the last 60 years, people read my credits and say 'oh, you were in Rudolph!' and you know, they start to cry," Conley said. "Now, I don't think they're associating Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with bullying or at least bullying that hasn't been reconciled."
If by some chance you're not familiar, here's a brief primer on the special. The Rankin/Bass Productions program follows famed glowy-nosed reindeer Rudolph (Billie Mae Richards), an outsider discouraged from participating in reindeer games, who ventures to an island of misfit toys with fellow oddballs Yukon Cornelius (Larry D. Mann) and wannabe dentist elf Hermey (Paul Soles). When Santa Claus (Stan Francis) is forced to cancel Christmas gift-giving because of a harsh blizzard and low visibility, Rudolph’s unique distinguishing feature saves the day when he guides Santa’s sleigh and helps deliver the misfit toys to children around the globe.
While Rudolph -- and Hermey -- are eventually accepted and celebrated for their differences, they are initially teased and bullied for them. Conley's argument appears to be that the point of the story is that the "outcasts" are eventually accepted once the bullies realize how special they are, thus reconciling the situation and likely teaching the valuable lesson that everyone is special once you get to know them.
Unfortunately, that's not how contemporary viewers are seeing things with many taking to social media with the argument that Rudolph is only accepted by the group once he ends up having something that they can use to their benefit -- such as his glowing nose.3comments
And Rudolph isn't the only classic animated holiday special getting a critical second look this year. A few weeks ago A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving drew the ire of viewers who deemed a scene in which Franklin, the only black Peanuts character, was shown sitting by himself on one side of the table at the festive meal while the white characters were all crammed on the opposite side to be racist.
What do you think about the bullying backlash about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Let us know your take in the comments.