Santa may need a mediator to sort out this brouhaha, but there’s a professor at Long Island University who claims that the CBS holiday television classic “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” promotes bullying.
As reported by Pittsburgh’s CBS affiliate KDKA (link here), Long Island University special education professor George Giuliani “says ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’ promotes bullying.” He’s even written “a book about it called ‘No More Bullies on the North Pole.'”
According to the professor, “the message that Rudolph’s uniqueness must have a useful purpose for Rudolph to be accepted is the wrong message for our children.”
Psychologist Paul Friday, interviewed by KDKA, takes a different view:
I think the idea that you can take something as innocent and as nice as “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” and pull some kind of psychological or sociological pathology and place it on there – I think this guy has too much time on his hands.
Maybe I need a life
Okay, I’m actually going to dig deeper into this one.
To me, “Rudolph” is a great ANTI-bullying tale. The story makes us feel sorry for Rudolph, Hermey the Elf/Dentist, and all the denizens of the Island of Misfit Toys, and it teaches us that everyone brings something worthwhile to this world.
If you’re a little kid soaking it in, it teaches you about empathy and being accepting of differences and individual choices. Rudolph is ridiculed and ostracized because of a physical difference. Hermey is bullied by the senior elf because he’d rather be a dentist. The Misfit Toys are forgotten by Santa every year. But ultimately, the story ends in their acceptance.
And with that said, I’ll return to watching DVDs of “The Wire.” Have a holly jolly holiday, everyone!
Hat tip to John Smurda of Ohio Healthy Workplace Advocates for the KDKA piece!
I am with you and Paul Friday on this one. Happy Holidays.
I happen to believe that even the most innocently intended stories can send unintended messages, good or bad…but I gotta go with you on this one, David. Kids relate to Rudolph and Hermey and the misfit toys, and when they see the characters accepted and happy, kids understand that this is the whole point–that everyone should be accepted and happy.
(The Grinch is still my favorite, though. Director/animator Chuck Jones could do more with a character’s reaction shot than most could do with an entire cartoon.)
I’m struck by one thing in reading this article. It seems like it’s Human Nature to always miss the point about things. Bullying is a Big Deal these days and needs to be addressed…yes. But over Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer? My thoughts were: Bullying on the playground is one thing. But bullying in the classroom and Administration is the Bigger Deal. And yes….teachers do bully students. I’ve seen it in my College Instructor experience. But that’s the place where it all starts. It’s the adults in the Schools and Company Workplaces that set the tone…the standard….etc. If it is not addressed behind the scenes in the ‘Back Office’, it will continue on the playground as a kid culture. That’s where professor George Giuliani and CBS need wake up and smell the coffee. They need to focus their investigative energies on what really matters and not in the mis-guided observations over Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. It misses the point completely.
I think George (perhaps) hasn’t been published yet and this is his last-ditch effort for this year.
Or — he didn’t really prepare anything for that day’s lecture.
Either way, it’s a way to open discussions with children about the issue of bullying. Media literacy is an invaluable skill on understanding our culture and exploring values. Let’s be realistic and realize that “the truth” varies depending on context and perspective! Absolutes are rare.
This is one of my favorite Christmas specials that I remember from my childhood. The very reason I loved it was the elf who was different was later seen as being very valuable because of his special talents, the misfit toys ended up being needed and Rudolph who was bullied and even had his parents try to hide his difference turned out to be the hero. As far as I was concerned it showed bullying in a bad light and promoted tolerance.
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