Tis’ the Season…to Debate?

Lauren Stallworth, Editor

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With the Holiday Season upon us, we are all ready for Christmas, and all the traditions that go along with it. Two of the most recognized traditions of Christmas are Christmas movies and songs. Cherished for nearly a hundred years, they are a defining point of the winter season; when Christmas time rolls in, we all bring out our beloved favorites. However, this year, many people do not feel so fondly towards these long-cherished forms of art. In a video released from the Huffington Post grievances are shown against Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the classic Christmas song “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, the typical serenity has been disrupted. These Christmas songs/movies have been deemed of encouraging bullying, sexism, abuse, and being overall unkind.

The song Baby It’s Cold Outside is now being called by some a “foreshadowing of the #MeToo movement”, as many believe the song is about a man trying to drug and rape a woman. With the popularity of these allegations rising, many people are going as far as to protest radio stations that still play the song and television channels that show Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Some people are even calling for the stopping of production of these movies on DVD’s, as well as asking Baby It’s Cold Outside to be removed from holiday collections on iTunes and on CDs.

Although the subject matters being accused of are incredibly important topics, many people feel it simply doesn’t fit. These are children’s movies after all, with a target audience of the younger group. That said age group maintains a level of innocence, that most movie production facilitators would believe it to be unnecessary to worry about a line to be inappropriate and taken out of context. In addition to this, both the movies and song at hand were created before the 1970s, during a time where people were not so worried about their words being accused of a completely different theme other than intended, there was no concern of it sounding “wrong” because it was never thought of in that context by producers and actors or the public. The culture of this time greatly differed as well, by no malicious intent, many thoughts, beliefs, or word choice were common and acceptable during that time, just as 2018 may have words and phrases that 40 years from now are unacceptable. With all these factors in mind, it is not out of the question that these accusations lack validity and are potentially misguided and misunderstood.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Released on December 6th, 1964, Rudolph Red-Nosed Reindeer was widely recognized as the “Christmas Movie of all time”. The movie is about a Reindeer named Rudolph that lives in the North Pole, who is born with a bright red nose that glows. The movie takes us through his early life, and how he never quite fits it, eventually running away because he is embarrassed by himself. He meets an elf named Hermey, who also doesn’t fit in, and they embark on a journey together to be independent. At the end of their journey, it is Christmas and they discover that Santa is in distress because it is too foggy for his reindeer to see. Santa says he does not think he will be able to fly his reindeer, and that Christmas may have to be canceled. Rudolph offers to light the way with his nose if Santa puts him in the front of the sleigh and has him lead. Santa does, and Rudolph is considered a hero and cherished by all. The story is meant to induce the Christmas spirit, by telling the tale of Rudolph and how he became a Christmas Icon. But recently, people have criticized a few lines in the movie, saying that they are an offense. The first claim is sexism. In the movie, when Rudolph runs away, his father goes into a blizzard to find him. Before leaving, Rudolph’s mother asks his father if he wants help finding him, and he responds “No, this is man’s work.”. Many viewers are angry, as they feel that is suggesting men should suppress women’s rights. However, in the time period that this was filmed, almost all women did not have jobs and stayed home. Once a woman had children, she would quit her job and begin to stay at home and take care of her house. This was not unusual and women were not usually angry over this, it was culturally typical and normal. This was also in a time were chivalry was more apparent, and men were supposed to do the tough jobs instead of the women, the motive being to help them.  Another problem many people see with the movie is that Rudolph is bullied by all his peers, and is often criticized by his father. People are afraid the movie may be promoting bullying among kids, by showing it on a screen. However, the purpose of the movie is to show how Rudolph became a hero. With this, comes the lesson that you cannot judge someone from their differences. The movie shows that despite being told he couldn’t do something (in this case, specifically that he couldn’t pull Santa’s sleigh), he still could do it even though he was continually being doubted. This is supposed to be the moral of the story, but it appears amongst the current controversy that the happy ending and perseverance has been forgotten.

Charlie Brown Christmas: Airing on December 9th, 1965, this was a highly anticipated Peanuts sequel. Following suit with all other Peanuts films, it is a short film with the typical characters of Charlie, Linus, Snoopy, Lucy, Sally and the rest of the gang. The premises of this beloved classic is that Charlie does not feel his usual Christmas excitement, so he decides to direct the school play. When they need a Christmas Tree, he picks a rather unusual choice; a small and scrawny tree. However, they all grow to realize the true meaning of Christmas despite his poor tree choice, and the film ends in harmony. The criticism is over a particular scene, where the Peanuts character Franklin is seated at an unstable chair at the table while the kids are eating, and it eventually collapses. Franklin is the only black character in the series, and many people were angry and felt that this showed racism. This is completely understandable without knowing the historical context. Charles M. Schulz (the creator of The Peanuts series) was a known challenger of racism and strongly believed in equality rather than segregation. He had said in many interviews that he added Franklin to attempt to break the stigma against the black community and to show that there should be no opposition against people because of their race. Though we will never know for sure his intention in creating this scene, many believe that this was to show a parallel to society at the time of release and to invoke guilt into people who believed in segregation. It was to give an example of how this opposition is hurtful. With some background information, his purpose is much more understandable.

 Baby It’s Cold Outside: Written by Frank Loesser in 1944, Baby it’s Cold Outside has been incredibly popular for years. It has been redone over a dozen times, even by popular artists Michael Buble and Idina Menzel. But this Christmas, the song has been perhaps the most controversial. The song has many lyrics that critics have found questionable, and feel that hint at the man in the song not letting the woman leave, and to potentially drug and rape her. The #MeToo movement has publicly criticized the song, saying it is “unacceptable”. However, this may be severely out of context. The song was originally written by Loesser for him to sing to his wife to convince her to go to Christmas Parties and to brave to the cold. Upon writing it, it was never intended to seem non-consensual. The phrase “the answer is no” in the song that is sung by the women has made many people believe he may be trying to have his way with her. But Loesser, in reality, put this in the song to convey the playful nature between him and his wife, and to show his attempt at convincing her to leave the fire. If this song was recalling the story of an altercation, then the lyric would be fitting, however, this is not at all what it is written about. It is meant to be a sweet Christmas song for couples to sing to and is not meant to tell any story other than a fictional depiction of a husband and wife playfully debating.

These Christmas controversies all depend on context and intentions. They were all created with one goal: to have fun and enjoy the Holiday Season. By pulling out specific pieces of each and applying it to a different situation defeats the purpose of their creation, and causes tension. All issues brought up are very serious issues that we should eliminate in society, but they do not seem to fit these specific movies and songs. It is highly admirable that people want to fight these issues, but we cannot fight something that is not there, nor should we twist old words into something it’s not and create drama for nothing. This Christmas, we should stop shunning and enjoy these classics and let them be. Rather than dissecting and re-assigning them to another purpose, perhaps let use our investigative skills to work together and tackle these issues directly.