Why am I Such a Misfit? Queerness in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

MatthewsPlace.com
Dec 23, 2020 · 6 min read

by Sassafras Lowrey

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Do you have the holiday tradition of watching Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer? The 1964 claymation film might be a little bit dated, and more than a little cheesy but it also speaks so intimately to anyone who has ever been discriminated against, felt like a misfit, or been rejected because of who you are. With good reason, the film has quite a cult following amongst queer audiences and serves as a bit of an anthem for any queer misfits figuring out who they are amidst discrimination.

Gender Nonconforming Reindeer

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Why am I such a misfit?

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“What’s the matter with misfits? That’s where we fit in!”

As Hermey and Rudolph leave Christmastown, they soon meet Yukon Cornelius, an arctic prospector who I have always thought of as a gay bear with his pack of delightful little unlikely sled dogs. Yukon not only helps protect Hermey and Rudolph from the harsh realities of the world (including the Abominable Snowman), but he serves as an older independent role model to these two new adults as they struggle to think about what kind of future they can have. These misfit characters have always read as somehow queer to me as they try to understand their own identities, self-doubt, and developing independence. In this way I think the film offers us important lessons about self-respect, self-confidence celebrating difference and resisting heteronormativity.

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Rudolph and Hermey arrive on the isle of misfit toys finding so many more characters who like them do not fit in. The toys on the isle feel abandoned by Santa and have almost lost hope of being loved. These toys have built a world together protected by King Moonracer the ruler of the island. Sadly, and here’s one of the ways the film feels incredibly dated the misfit toys are….miserable in their difference. Unlike Hermey and Rudolph who have learned to celebrate being misfits the toy’s only desire is to be “normal” so that Santa will give them to children.

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Difference can and will be commodified

As the song dictates after his adventures in self-discovery, Rudolph returns to Christmastown and saves his emotionally abusive family (who had mistreated him in an attempt at masking his difference). Then, Rudolph discovers that Santa is in trouble because of a big storm and so needs to capitalize on Rudolph’s difference, and only now that he’s useful will Rudolph be accepted by everyone. This moment reminds me of the coercive aspects of heteronormativity: queer people will be accepted as being different so long as we can be useful in some way. It’s complicated of course because Rudolph and Hermey seem happy and ok with forgiving the members of Christmastown — so I suppose I’m happy they found their way home.

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Unsurprisingly, I don’t like the ending of Rudolph, but I do think it’s a meaningful moral to the story for queer viewers. You can and should celebrate your difference, and should you choose you can build your own life and remain on the isle of misfit toys. in the end Rudolph and Hermey return to Santa and his heteronormative patriarchal world leaving behind the queer kinship they have built together to assimilate into the normative world of Christmastown. Essentially showing that If you choose to forgive your oppressors and make your difference tolerable, heteronormative culture likely will welcome you home/back but only if and when they determine that your difference can be commodified, manipulated or used.

Though only a small supporting character King Moonracer (king of the misfit toys) is to me the hidden queer heroes in the end of the film, as the only character who encourages his subjects to make their own decisions even if that means leaving him. He himself resists the confines and pull of normativity to remain in his misfit kingdom away from Christmastown. There’s room in the world for all of us: the Rudolphs and Hermeys the Yukon’s and Moonracers and regardless of if you choose to forgive those who have mistreated you or set-off on your own, just like for every misfit toy there’s a place for you.

About the Author:

Matthew’s Place

MatthewsPlace.com

MatthewsPlace.com

Written by

MatthewsPlace.com is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation| Words by & for LGBTQ+ youth | #EraseHate | Want to submit? Email sara@matthewshepard.org

Matthew’s Place

MatthewsPlace.com is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation| Words by & for LGBTQ+ youth | #EraseHate | Want to submit for our publication? Email sara@matthewshepard.org

MatthewsPlace.com

Written by

MatthewsPlace.com is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation| Words by & for LGBTQ+ youth | #EraseHate | Want to submit? Email sara@matthewshepard.org

Matthew’s Place

MatthewsPlace.com is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation| Words by & for LGBTQ+ youth | #EraseHate | Want to submit for our publication? Email sara@matthewshepard.org

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