Last night the 1964 claymation “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer” was on. I haven’t seen it since I was a kid and nothing much was on so I watched part of it while bouncing between channels.
Boy, Santa’s kind of a jerk in that movie. So is Rudolf’s dad, Donner. Up until the very end when it finally appears that they can benefit from Rudolf’s nose they (and really all of the North Pole males) are openly hostile toward Rudolf. Meanwhile Rudolf suffers a serious inferiority complex and when he runs away everyone, including Santa, seems to think “good riddance”. It’s only after Donner realized his son’s blood will be on his hands (hoofs) that he decides to look for him – which really perturbs Santa who seems all too quick to cancel Christmas. When Rudolf returns many months later as a grown reindeer nobody seems happy to see him – not even Santa, who more-less tells Rudolf that it’s his fault if Santa has to cancel Christmas due to Donner’s absence.
I’ve also heard others complain about the whole sexist element (only the male reindeer have names except for Rudolf’s girlfriend, Clarissa), but I think that was really just to keep the story simple and focused on the traditional elements. The part where Donner instructs his wife to stay home while he looks for their son (“No! this is man’s work.”) was a bit sexist though.
My point is that this show was a perfect slice of our social history. Men were supposed to act that way. It was considered “manly” to be emotionally distant. It was also considered a man’s job to maintain the status-quo … even if that meant ostracizing someone because of the color of their nose, skin, or way they dressed or acted. One can look back on that in embarrassment or shame or anger, but those who do miss the whole point.
Point is, we’ve come a long way, and it wasn’t easy. The point is that my parents were social revolutionaries. Both the men and the women. My Dad, and most men his age, were spoon fed from their infancy that being a male chauvinist and an insensitive jerk was “manly” – a thing to be admired and emulated. But together the men and women of that era made a social change in the expectations of manhood and civil behavior that is unequaled in the history of mankind. Never before had men been expected to be sensitive and considerate and respectful of others. Until recently those were largely considered matriarchal traits.
Tom Brokaw and his “greatest generation” may be great for fighting for the liberation of mankind from despots, but the next generation after his, although flawed in many ways, fought in the social revolution that redefined who we are individually as decent men and women.