Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rudolph the Red Knows Rain, Dear

We watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer tonight, and it was a vivid reminder of why people took drugs in the '60s.

I always loved Rudolph when I was a kid - the bright flashy light of his nose, the jerky puppetronic action of the figures, the Island of Misfit Toys (an apt metaphor for so many things in this world), and, of course, Yukon Cornelius, the only character in the entire show who seems to be enjoying himself.

I haven't watched it in a while, and with Tabitha and Lauren gearing up for the holidays in a big way, it seemed a good time to revisit this one in its natural habitat: network TV, complete with commercials. They loved it, as kids will. As a grown-up watching it, however, all I can ask is "what were those people smoking, and where can I get some?"

There is no continuity in this show - thing happen, and then some other things happen, and then a few more things happen, and then the credits roll. For example, Rudolph's parents have been missing for months, nobody's figured out where they are, and suddenly the action shifts to the Bumble's lair, which in the blink of an eye becomes as crowded as "Half-Off Day" at the dollar store. Why Bumble chose that particular moment to try to eat the parents (and Clarissa, the damsel in distress) instead of polishing them off straightaway with a nice Chianti and some fava beans, we are never told.

The whole notion of a dentist as a misfit is odd but, having seen and enjoyed Little Shop of Horrors, not too odd. Steve Martin got the better song, though.

The narrator is a snowman in a derby and knitted vest, all the better to keep himself warm. My graduate advisor for my MA looked just like that snowman, which made my MA exam rather difficult to pass since I kept waiting for him to break out into "Silver and Gold." Or melt, one or the other.

And what's with the Bumble? Sometimes he's taller than mountains, other times he fits into elf houses. At least he bounces, which is the best line of the whole show.

There is a definite "bad trip" sort of feeling about the whole thing, really.

It was also odd to see it as a historian, that being what I have become since the last time I watched it - the rigid and oddly conservative gender roles, the idea of Santa as a 1950s Rotarian, the strange prevalence of Brooklyn accents at the North Pole, the college-football-like atmosphere of the Reindeer Games (tm). I am clearly reading way too much into a harmless kid's show, but now I'm hardwired to see it this way. This is why nobody takes historians seriously.

Of course the crowning moment of absurdity came during a commercial which announced that at some point in the near future there would be a broadcast of Frosty the Snowman.

In high-definition.

What moron puts a Rankin-Bass animation product in high-definition? That would be like taking a 20-megapixel photograph of a Pong graphic - you can do it, but all you'd end up with is a mass of exquisitely rendered flaws.

Lawsy, there are still three weeks of this to go. Eggnog, must have eggnog.

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