The stop motion animated holiday classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer came under fire last week for what viewers perceived as sending "messed up" messages about bullying in the well-known story of the iconic, more colorful member of Santa's sleigh team. Last night, Saturday Night Live weighed in on controversy in a grim, yet hilarious, parody sketch.
In the sketch, which you can check out above, Rudolph (played by Pete Davidson) is teased by the other reindeer for his bright red nose with some of them making jokes about him. One calls him "neon nose" while Comet describes it as a maraschino cherry. However, when Santa (Jason Momoa) comes in to inform the team that Rudolph will be leading the Christmas flight, that's when the tables turn. You can check it out in the video above.
As you can see, Davidson's Rudolph doesn't just accept the generic apologies the other reindeers give him. Oh no, Rudolph decides to give them a taste of their own medicine in the most brutal way possible. His taunts escalate from claims that he slept with another reindeer's wife to full on setting up a situation where Santa executes Comet for being "rabid". That's right, the bullied Rudolph turns into a vicious bully himself.
If by some chance you aren't totally familiar, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer follows the famed glowy-nosed Rudolph who is an outsider discouraged from participating in reindeer games and ultimately ventures to an island of misfit toys with fellow oddballs Yukon Cornelius and a wannabe dentist elf Hermey. When Santa is forced to cancel Christmas due to harsh weather conditions and low visibility, Rudolph is able to save the day as his oft-mocked difference is exactly what allows Santa to fulfill his Christmas role of delivering toys to children around the globe. The intended message is that those who are different are special once you get to know them just as all people are.
In the classic program all's well that ends well. However, people have been concerned that the real takeaway is that Rudolph is only "accepted" because he has something that the others can exploit for their benefit -- his nose. The SNL sketch takes that idea and shows the impact the initial bullying had on at least this Rudolph with him not just graciously stepping up but making sure he does so on the backs of those who tormented him, an interesting illustration of how bullying can impact someone.
And while it's Rudolph that got the SNL treatment last night, it 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 SNL's Rudolph sketch? How about the bullying backlash against Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.