Since it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, I’m sure we’ve all experienced the onslaught of holiday cheer that permeates every facet of life during this oh-so-blessed season of 5-for-1 discounts and prices so good, we’d have to be insane not to buy now. Actually, we don’t even wait for the Christmas season to start the Christmas celebration anymore. “Happy Arbor Day, Larry! Can you help me put my Christmas lights up?” (That’s right — I just name-checked Arbor Day. Deal with it.)
I was in the grocery store this morning, and they were playing the obligatory Christmas music over the PA system. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” to be exact. My question is, has anyone really listened to the words of this song? We all know them, but when’s the last time you really took a moment to absorb the quite unsettling message of this song? We have Rudolph, the freak-of-nature pariah of reindeer society, banished from interacting with any other reindeer, who in turn verbally abuse and mock him. (Feeling that holiday cheer yet?) “Oh, but wait,” you say. “The all have a change of heart… All of the reindeer end up loving him and shout out with glee! It’s a Christmas miracle!!” Not so fast, Chuckles. The other reindeer have their “change of heart” only by way of manipulative group-think. Turns out Santa completely uses Rudolph, who is probably more than happy to get any sort of attention that doesn’t involve having his glowing Chernobyl nose rubbed in Blitzen’s crap. And only because their leader decides on a mere whim that suddenly Rudolph is now acceptable, then all the reindeer love him. It’s shades of 7th grade all over again: for no good reason, the leader of the popular girls arbitrarily picks out some girl for them to completely torment for a week or so, and then the next week everything is fine again and they’re off to randomly torment someone new.
Far more disturbing is “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” Since when is adultury and hints of domestic violence appropriate fodder for yuletide celebration? Stay with me on this one…
The scene: Christmas Eve. A small child steals down the steps of the staircase, awash in anticipation and excitement. The family room basks in the warm, comforting glow of the fireplace, the ornaments of the Christmas tree glint with the dancing reflection of the yule log’s final flames. Stockings hung on the chimney with care. Presents tucked carefully away under the tree. The child peers through the bannister hoping to catch a glimpse of what treasures await him in the morning.
Then he sees it.
Mom’s there. And she’s kissing another man. Right there in the family room. Santa’s burly arms enfold her under the mistletoe as he plays Tonsil Hockey with the woman who pledged to be with no one other than her husband as long as they both shall live. Trollop.
As if these connotations weren’t weird enough in a song about the most wonderful time of the year, it takes an uglier turn. Mommy starts to tickle Santa Claus. Thinking further, the child can only guess what would happen if Daddy could only see Mommy kissing Santa Claus. Dad’s been stressed lately. He didn’t get his Christmas bonus. He was passed over for the big promotion. My gosh…what would Daddy do if he saw this?
I guess these sort of inferences in the songs and stories we teach our children shouldn’t surprise me. While American parents are going on and on and on about seeing Janet Jackson’s floppy boob for a half a second on TV, they put their children to bed with stories like Hansel and Gretel, where the father demands that the mother kill their children, but instead the mother just plops them in the middle of the forest and leaves them to die. Or how about Rock-a-bye Baby, where a couple of sadistic parents put their newborn baby in a crib at the top of a tree during a windstorm, which culminates in the tree branch breaking and the baby — with the crib — falling several stories to what can only be certain death.
If you ask me, stories and songs like this are way more damaging to a child than one floppy boob.