Television audiences were first introduced to the stop-motion TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1964. While audiences know the special as a holiday story about a bunch of misfits who save Christmas, many analysts have re-examined the Christmas childhood classic and made the discovery that Rudolph is about being gay. Sound silly? Blasphemous? Just nonsense for people with too much time on their hands? Maybe. But it’s worth taking a look at the possible gay subtext in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
It’s quite easy to make an analogy about the struggles of Rudolph to the hardships that a young gay person must face. Rudolph’s father Donner tries to closet his son by covering up his flaming red nose with black mud. Once Rudolph’s secret is discovered by the other reindeer, he is mocked, banned from further reindeer games, and ultimately forced to leave the North Pole.
The real meaning of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer mirrors the tale of so many young people who are different from the norm. These theories about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer may just ring true despite our reservations. Fifty years ago, no one was able to write a children's story about the trials and tribulations of a young gay person. Perhaps this was the way to depict the struggle.
When Rudolph is born, he has a red nose that his father, Donner - the leader among the reindeer - immediately hates. Father Donner sees his son's red nose as an obstacle to living a normal life. Rudolph agrees to cover up his red nose - what makes him different - by placing black mud over it. When Rudolph meets the other reindeer, Donner does not care that his son is not able to exist freely as he was born.
In the 1940s, clothing manufacturers made the flippant decision that boys wear blue and girls wear pink. The gender rules are no different at the North Pole. While the elves all look pretty much the same, the rigid rules of gender color assignment dictate their identities. The boy elves wear blue and the girls wear pink. The TV special is drawing a picture here that deviation is not considered an option.
After Santa first meets Rudolph, he lets Donner know exactly how he feels about his son. He doesn't like that Rudolph is different from the other reindeer and advises Donner to try and change what he considers to be a shameful member of the North Pole family. Santa is the boss and what he thinks really matters.
Donner apologizes to Santa for his son's red nose, "I’m sure he’ll grow out of it, Santa." Santa replies, "He’ll have to, if he wants to join the sleigh team."
Brian Moylan from Vulture likens Santa to a church elder who wants Rudolph to go to conversion therapy. The man in red tells Donner that he should be ashamed of his son and absolutely positively must change him... or else.
Rudolph befriends a buck named Fireball at the reindeer games. Fireball informs Rudolph, who is forced to wear the black cover up over his nose, that the games are a good place to impress pretty does. One doe in particular, Clarice, takes a liking to Rudolph.
Rudolph winds up impressing everyone at the reindeer games with his performance, but when Clarice pays him a compliment, he gets excited and his nose glows to its luscious red. The other reindeer become scared of Rudolph and they begin to mock him for being different. The reindeer teacher even says to everyone that they won't let Rudolph join in anymore reindeer games. Even though Rudolph was participating in the games in the same fashion as all of the other young reindeer, he was ostracized for falling out of the "normal" spectrum.