Growing up as a socially awkward spectrum kid, I always felt a kind of kinship to Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. But there’s a problem. His story ends in a way that strikes me as being counter-productive. I think it sends a pretty confusing message to kids.
At first, Rudolph is a misfit. I’m with you so far.
He’s teased a lot, a classic underdog. My kind of people.
He’s shut out of the reindeer games, friendless. Been there.
Then, suddenly, his light-up nose is found to be useful and Santa finally offers him a position in the group. The attitude is basically, “Hey, now that you’re useful, why don’t you join our side?”
Rudolph could have replied with:
“Sorry, but you guys are all about exclusion and demonizing difference. No thanks. I’d rather participate in non-competitive groups organized around the concept of inclusion. Anywho, peace out.”
But of course…resentful nerd he is…Rudolph jumps at the chance to be leader of the cool kids. He goes from “Those reindeer are mean,” to, “OF COURSE I’m on their side!”
The story throws out it’s initial premise so that Santa can transform Rudolph into the hyper-competitive alpha-male he secretly wanted to be all along.
Really? Et tu, Santa?
I’m going to make my own animated holiday special.
The story: Marcel the Snowman is a socially awkward teen. He’s on the autism spectrum. He obsesses over French films from the 1960’s and classic Doctor Who. All of the cool snowmen are like, “What? Dude, old stuff is boring. You’re weird.”
But then, one day…nothing changes. The cool kids never invite Marcel the Snowman into their group. And Marcel…here’s the important part…doesn’t care. He has no desire to hang out with people he shares nothing in common with. Normal snowpeople? All they do is talk about the weather….and they live in a magic village that is the same freezing temperature year round! There’s nothing to talk about! He doesn’t want to play snow golf, or other sports. He doesn’t want to watch popular television (which, come on, is basically the same 2 shows over and over: 1. competitions where snowpeople sing holiday songs and 2. snowmysterys, where crimes and murders are solved; “Huh. No fingerprints. No weapon. He was stabbed with an icicle!” Boring!
Marcel the Snowman just does his thing. It makes him happy.
(Well, lights and the bright snow hurt his eyes, but he just wears sunglasses everywhere. And he gets pretty lonely. But a combination of therapy and learning to patiently seek out like-minded snowpeople…this provides him with a perfectly full and contended existence. What Marcel learns from all of this: it’s the challenges that end up making his life more interesting…and his happiness that much greater. Okay…now the end.)
Glad things worked out for Rudolph. But I want more stories for the rest of us. Marcel the Snowman: my kind of hero.