The classic 1964 claymation film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has so many parallels to real-life situations for individuals with disabilities. Some are truly cringeworthy moments that I never picked up on as a child watching this movie during every holiday season. Let’s recap a few and see what we can learn! I promise you will never watch this film the same way again.
The Opening Scene
The newborn Rudolph and his parents are visited by Santa. Rudolph’s red nose is instantly seen as a problem and an obstacle to his future potential. Donner, Rudolph’s father, hatches a plan to hide his nose by covering it up so he can be “normal” like all the other bucks.
EVERY parent of a child with disabilities can relate to the opening scene. Every parent knows the heartache when their child is seen as different and told that they will never live up to the potential of their peers. Parents will go to any length to fight for their children helping them to fit in. It may mean that they fight for accommodations or they work tirelessly with their children to help them fit into the world’s standards. They may even be tempted like Donner to hide their child’s disability to save them from inevitable hardships.
Why am I such a misfit?
Early in the movie both Rudolph and Hermey the Elf realize that they do not fit in with the other reindeer and elves. Both sing the same song. Read the following lyrics from “We’re A Couple Of Misfits” by Burl Ives. “Why am I such a misfit? I am not just a nit wit!... Seems I don’t fit in. We may be different from the rest. Who decides the test, Of what is really best?”
Ouch. The moment when a child realizes what their parents long feared. The cruel misunderstanding world ostracizes anyone who appears different from the rest. The crushing isolation that follows is something that everyone affected by disability can identify with. The remainder of a lifetime can be spent either trying to fit in or paving one’s own trail. Both are met with peril.
After Rudulph and Hermey set out on their own they find themselves in danger. If not for the help from an advocate, Yukon, they would’ve been eaten by the Abominable Snowmonster of the North.
The Bible teaches us that all people should advocate for others in Proverbs 31:8, “Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.” People with disabilities often find that their voices are not heard. This is wrong and should not be. Everyone should be heard and valued. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in the backward world that we live in. That is why God calls for people to advocate for each other. Advocates are kind and considerate people who are willing to fight for the rights of others. Yukon Cornelius is a great advocate for Rudolph and Hermey.
Island of Misfit Toys
Yukon, Rudolph, and Hermey wash ashore upon the Island of Misfit Toys after escaping the Bumble. They quickly find that every toy on the island has been cast aside because they don’t work like all the other “normal” toys.
Yukon, Rudolph, and Hermey find comfort in the fact that they have found others that have lived a life of shared experiences. Those experiences are heartache from not fitting in. There is comfort in belonging no matter where you find it.
Rudolph, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?
When the storm of the century hits Santa fears he may have to cancel Christmas. He doesn’t think that he can safely fly his sleigh through the snow. Then it happens! Rudolph walks in and blinds Santa with his nose so bright. It is then that Santa realizes that Rudolph can lead his sleigh. Rudolph was not a mistake. He and only he could save the day for Santa and all the children in the world.
People with disabilities were never meant to be pushed aside by society.
God has glorious plans for all people and that includes people who live with disabilities. Don’t believe me? Read John 9:3 when Jesus teaches his disciples why a man was born blind. “’Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” God has plans and a purpose for everyone. People with disabilities were never meant to simply be objects of others’ ministry efforts. People with disabilities were meant to be leaders. They were meant to live out the divine purpose that God set out for them. That only they can accomplish. Just like Rudolph!