On The Gay Subtext In The TV Classic Rudolph

Over at Vulture, Brian Moylan today unpacks what he sees as the glittery gay subtext in the 1964 television classic, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. An excerpt from the slightly tongue-in-cheek piece:

“For a year the Donner family did a good job hiding Rudolph’s — non-conformity,” the narrator tells us, pausing slightly before landing on the right euphemism. This is the closet of Rudolph’s parents devising, which he goes along with thanks to the internalized homophobia that he inherited from both his father and Santa, the superego of the North Pole, who is equally distressed by Rudolph’s difference. Santa even goes so far as to tell Donner that he should be ashamed of his son and try to change him. It’s almost as if Santa is a church elder trying to force Rudolph into conversion therapy.

Rudolph can’t take it anymore and heads off into the wilderness to live alone. There he runs into Hermey — the only elf with any hair, and it’s a flamboyant blond wave. He also has especially red lips, a feminine-shaped face, and eyelashes any doll in Santa’s workshop would be jealous of. He speaks with a Paul Lynde cadence, as if his ascot is tied on a little too tight. He’s also signaled as different by his professional aspirations: He wants to be a dentist rather than a toy maker. It’s not that dentistry is especially queer or even the sort of creative job one would expect an open homosexual to have during the Johnson administration, but it hammers home that something sets Hermey apart from his conformist class.

Hit the link for more, including Moylan’s take on the Island Of Misfit Toys.

  • Lazycrockett

    While there is enough there for a gay angle, I’ve always said the whole show is bout being a misfit and not feeling like you belong. That crosses a lot of social and culture issues that was going on in the 60’s.

    • lymis

      I agree. If this had been produced in the 90’s, the gay allegory would likely be more pointed.

      In the sixties, it’s an allegory for anyone who has something about them they can’t change that society frowns upon – and could apply at the time to any number of disabilities as well as orientation. Hermie and his dentistry cover nonconformities based on one’s dreams and inclinations.

      And of course, the answer is that both are welcomed back in when it’s clear that they are useful to the mainstream, not because their diversity is being celebrated.

      • LaChatSayWha

        In 1964, it also pointedly addressed having black skin.

    • Ninja0980

      I agree.

  • perversatile
    • lymis

      Applies to Hermie as well – he was allowed back as a dentist because it turned out elves have lousy teeth.

      • perversatile

        I’ve not made it to the end yet, I was absolutely terrified by stop motion animation as a child, resulting in horrific nightmares. I’m all better now.

        • KQCA

          Don’t be afraid. They all die.

          Or I may be confusing this film with The Shining, another epic Christmas tale.

          • perversatile

            Is that the movie where Santa Claus killed Joan Collins with an ax?

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  • Acronym Jim

    Years ago, there was a very cute bartender at Silverado in Portland, Oregon, who had the exact same flip as Hermey.

    I always had a holly, jolly, happy hour when he was on duty.

    • slut!!

      • Acronym Jim

        I WISH I had been able to hook up with him. Still got nice stiff drinks, though.

        • i hear that.
          and my above comment should be said in the style of Blanche Devereaux.

        • JCF

          “got nice stiff drinks”

          Is that what we’re calling it now? ;-p

      • Isn’t the Silverado where they have dancers that do full frontal nude shows? And didn’t I hear that sometimes, like maybe once a year, the bartenders do a special show? Is that true and did your Hermey bartender ever show the goods?

        Edit: posted this on the wrong person but I hope the gist is conveyed through to Jim.

        • Early on in my gayling journey, the ManToWhomILostMyMaleVirginity took me there and the strippers all looked like they street kids and needed to be fed. I felt much more embarrassed than aroused. The strippers all had fun stripper names. I recall one was called Seduction, and he came out and started his routine and then stopped and looked at me and said, “You could at least smile.”

        • Acronym Jim

          Yes it is. I haven’t heard about bartenders doing a special show on an annual basis, but one happy hour, two of them did a strip show (but only down to their undies). I haven’t been in quite some time, but the last time I was there many of the bartenders were attired only in their underwear.

          Sadly, I never saw Hermey in his underoos.

    • Joe in PA

      And by “on duty” you mean…..???

      • Acronym Jim

        Shirtless and serving up stiff ones.

  • Rick
    • bmoore4026

      Oh, just seeing that makes me sad for the He-Man movie.

      Just going to be black leather and gray filter and angst where there was none in the original.

    • perversatile
  • Pollos Hermanos
    • safari

      Yas queen

  • PickyPecker
  • HZ81

    This queer-nosed reindeer always loved him some Rudolph.

  • Mark

    Let’s see…
    Rudolf is gay….
    Disney’s Pluto is gay….
    We are so everywhere!

  • Joe in PA

    As if Yukon Cornelius didn’t make this show gay enough. Sheesh. I mean, grrrr: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e97f6f977a130a663c295d7b14e7af9a9ff16d986fd282086dbd8c615e83c26d.png

    • Acronym Jim

      Interestingly enough, the article does not make mention of Yukon Cornelius’ frequent instances of auto-fellating his pick-axe.

    • HandyAndy

      Tell me about it. The real moral of the story is that the misfits can find guidance and acceptance under the wing of a burly macho lumbersexual bear with a pack of little dogs. The scene where they all share a bed in the tiny cabin in the snow is a nice touch.

      • bdsmjack

        It always disturbed me that Rudolph didn’t shut the door to the cabin, when he left in the middle of the night. Was he trying to freeze them to death?

    • David Walker

      So is this proof that your tongue doesn’t instantly freeze to metal? He’s hot, but that hot?

      • Joe in PA

        You’re overthinking this one David. 🙂

      • clay

        Where has he been keeping it?

    • lymis

      A small theater in Chicago often does “Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer” where Rudolph is a straight cross-dresser. The character of Yukon Cornelia is as butch a dyke as you’ve ever seen on a stage. Delightful.

    • Octoberfurst

      LOL. I always wondered why he was constantly licking his pickax. Out of sexual frustration perhaps? Maybe he kept thinking, “That Hermey kid looks mighty fine! Too bad it is so damn cold out!” So lonely in the arctic. So very lonely.

      • clay

        Ya never know where it’s been.

      • joeyj1220

        Apparently there was originally a scene where he does it to check for gold and silver… that works sexually too as far as I’m concerned

  • Acronym Jim

    If this doesn’t look like free pool night at the Eagle, I don’t know what does.

  • safari
    • clay

      “Uh, hello, um, my name is clay, . . . and I’m a misfit toy.”

      • David Walker

        “Hi, Clay.”

      • EweTaw

        Cute shoes, Clay. Do you like to play dress up?

    • ultragreen

      I couldn’t help noticing that the wrapped boxes with ribbons were lavender and pink.

    • MusicBear88

      “A Jack-in-the-box waits for children to shout
      ‘Wake up! don’t you know that it’s time to come out?'”

      Those children are very presumptuous, but perceptive…

  • TK

    Honest trailer joked about this also:


    He’ll be a ‘dentist’ one day
    Which is clearly code for gay

    • Martin

      Just the other day I had a dentist fill my cavity.

      • TuuxKabin

        He thrilled you while he filled you and you didn’t need no Novocain that day?

      • Robincho

        Those chairs are SO cool, with all their possible angles and whatnot…

  • barrixines as aladdin, nightly
  • i feel so ashamed I first glanced at this and thought there was a reference to the Donner Party, which took me in a very different direction from my memories of this TV classic…

    • Jerry

      Don’t invite them for xmas dinner…

    • Bj Lincoln

      I did too for a second. Ha Ha Ha.
      Maybe that should be Ho Ho Ho.

      • bdsmjack

        Who you callin a ho?

  • Silver Badger

    Oh my Thor! Who knew!

  • Baltimatt
    • David Walker

      Love it. Thanks for sharing it. “Fearing his red nose will attract the Abominable Snowman to Gay Bar Island (by the way, if I ever open a gay bar, I’m calling it ‘Island of Misfit Toys’)” made me laugh with such a HA that the cat looked over to see what was happening. I like when that happens.

      • Bj Lincoln

        I really do like the way you think friend. 🙂

        • David Walker

          Thanks. I do too, most of the time.

      • Alessar

        I think it would also work for a sex toy shop. ^_^

  • lymis

    Setting aside the glowing nose and the dental fixation, what’s with the damn toys?

    The train with the square wheels, I get, but why the hell would anyone who actually wanted a Jack in the Box care if he was named Charlie? And the spotted elephant was adorable, and after the editing, no reason was ever given for what was wrong with the doll.

    • David Walker

      What can I say? It was a different time.

    • safari

      The doll is obviously a lesbian.

  • Cousin Bleh

    On the scale of gay allegories, I put this just in the middle of Top Gun and The X-Men.

  • Octoberfurst

    I think the whole “Rudolph is gay” thing is a stretch. I mean, he clearly is crazy about the doe Clarice. (But Hermey? Oh yeah!) The whole movie is about not fitting in & conforming to what society expects of you & how hurtful that is.
    I loved the movie as a kid—still do in many regards. But as an adult it seems to me that the moral of the story is that people who are “different” are only acceptable if they are “useful” to the hive. If not—sucks to be you ya outcast!

    • David Walker

      First of all, many of us had our versions of a Clarice. They helped us through many an obstacle, broken heart, and fag bashing. But second of all, it was made in a different time. 1964 was not the most liberal of times. Civil rights for African Americans had not been entered into law. We were invisible, if we were smart, and did take the crumbs when offered. The ’60s hadn’t really started yet, the rage of Stonewall and…shit, I can’t remember the names of the cafeteria and the bar on the west coast. It WAS a time that we grabbed at anything that sounded vaguely familiar, and this didn’t seem as vague as most. I was 18 in ’64 and I did find a little hope in it. As you correctly write, we were only acceptable if useful to the hive. In my case, it also made me just a little bit more aware of myself and of others.

      Please. I’m not taking you to task on this. It’s just that sometimes context is important.

      • Octoberfurst

        Good point. Thanks.

      • DonnaLee

        Um….it’s from 1974.

        • David Walker

          Really? Well, shit. Strike the paragraph!

          • DonnaLee

            I checked IMDB, that’s my go-to movie and TV source.

          • David Walker

            grumble grumble grumble grumble grumble grumble grumble grumble

          • DonnaLee

            Sorry dear, way too many holiday movie posts going on…..damn you Heat Miser!

        • William

          Check again, the article says 1964. I knew I watched this as a wee little one.

          • Oh’behr

            Yes, I remember watching this show on TV in the 1960s.

          • DonnaLee

            IMDB says 1974.

          • William
          • DonnaLee

            Shit, you are correct! I was commenting with someone about The Year Without A Santa Claus, and I still had that up in my tab, so when I looked at IMDB again, it was there!

            Sorry about that….too many holiday movie posts.

          • William

            Later I thought about another Rudolph tv movie, made in the 70s. Shiny New Year, or something. Rankin Bass got out of stop motion animation and went on to the more traditional cartoon type animation. I always those those were pretty horrific.

            Who needs animated holiday movies when we can pop Rosemary’s Baby in the DVD player anytime. That movie always cheers me right up.

    • William
  • BeaverTales

    I’ve always related to this toon since Kindergarten. My location in the blogosphere has always been set to The Island of Misfit Toys. It’s where I always knew I belonged.

  • Stogiebear

    Hermey. Hermaphrodite.

    Talk amongst yourselves.

    • Platos_Redhaired_Stepchild

      Transgendered. The only other elves with blonde hair were female. The cis male elves were naturally bald.

  • drbrentzenobia

    In my mind Hermey and Yukon C were always a couple. Rudolph always struck me as more queer or bi than gay, a misfit who didn’t easily fit into any sexual categories (even among misfits you’re misfits!) But my favorite detail is Yukon’s toy poodle – you have to look closely to see it.

    The tall elf with the glasses was modeled after the producer.

    • Natty Enquirer

      Maybe that’s because Rudolph was voiced by a distinctively female actor, Billie May Richards. I found it confusing as a child.

  • EweTaw

    In 1964 just about everyone regarded this stop motion animation thing a piece of cheap trash. I still do.

    • Natty Enquirer

      This four-year-old found it absolutely enchanting. But then again, I suppose you’d like to see me boiled in my own plum pudding and buried with a stake of holly through my heart.

      • EweTaw

        I guess I was just more fortunate. I grew up on the fluid and richly animations of Disney, Warner Bros, MGM, etc. Stop motion animation, in comparison, appeared cheap and tacky. We are all victims of our zeitgeists. Cooking children into plumb pudding always makes it taste like dirty sneakers. I don’t like dirty sneakers.

        • They’re only good for babyback ribs, the BBQ sauce covers the gym sock taste admirably. (I despised this particular television production and I’m not really a member of the Donner party.)

          • EweTaw

            I knew I wasn’t alone! 😀

        • TexasBoy

          But we also grew up with Gumby, and that was stop motion. We had a mix of artistic animation styles. The one I really hated was when they put that jerky limited animation on Saturday Morning. Even stop motion was better than that.

          • EweTaw

            I had a hard time accepting Bullwinkle and Rocket J. Squirrel. What saved them was the writing was so hysterically funny and cerebral, especially for Cold War humor. My biggest wish is to discover upsydasium.

          • jsmukg

            The writing and the musical scores were the *point* of Rudolph, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and several other animated cartoon-type productions. The animation was a vehicle conveying other things. It’s a pity you are so challenged as to have missed that, and the brilliance of those productions, utterly and completely. Your posts on this thread alone are purest emesis. Buh-bye!

          • EweTaw

            Oh, my. You’re so precious. How do you live without reality bruising you all over? 😀

        • Oh’behr

          When we had three TV stations not including PBS’s two in the Twin Cities, MN in the 1960s (and early 1970s). I’d take anything I could get in the 1960s which wasn’t adult oriented which was kid oriented. I love Disney yet it wasn’t on that much. Same with film which tended to be on after my bedtime when I was young.

          I think my taste shifted as a teen, then I saw stop motion animation in a different light.

          Though my favorite was when someone put the Pillsbury Dough Boy in the oven. It was on a short film clips Sunday evening program run by Film in the Cities hosted by Dave Moore in the late 1960s/early 1970s on WCCO TV.

          That was excellent stop motion animation as the little Dough Boy man baked in the oven pounding on the glass door. Very funny. I was 11 or 12 when I saw that clip. I learned that black and white film is beautiful. Stop motion animation can be funny even when just a two minute clip.

    • TKW

      Hated it. Reminded me of a Norelco commercial. Give me Charlie Brown Christmas!

      • bdsmjack

        Really? With all that buy-bull bs?

        • TKW

          Was all about the music. Like all of Sunday school, it all seemed about as real as the Great Pumpkin.

          • bdsmjack

            Oh, yeah, I liked the music, too. Especially the dances they did at the party.

          • TKW

            My favorite part.

  • I was always drawn to the story – as a “misfit” in a cisworld.

    • bdsmjack

      Me, too! I grew up on this, and totally related to the ‘misfits.’

  • ultragreen

    Just change the color of the Abominable Snowman to orange, and you have Trump.

    • Nah, the Bumble is sweet and adorable, unlike cheetolini

  • Xiao Ai

    THANK DOG I found this thread!

  • Spudman
  • KaBoomBOX

    I always related to Hermey. Not so much that I wanted a career in dentistry,

  • bdsmjack

    I’ve been meaning to write this story for years!

    The doll on the Island of Misfit Toys had no discernible misfiture –obviously a Lesbian!

    Clairice, Rudolph’s “doefriend” was exactly the same type as my Junior High “girlfriends” –we used to call them faghags, back in the day.

    And remember how Santa was skinny “Eat, papa, EAT” and then, overnight he gains 100 lbs? That gave me an eating disorder that lasts to this day! (Christmas cookie? No, thanks, I MIGHT GAIN SIX SIZES, ARE YOU MAD?!!)

  • Platos_Redhaired_Stepchild

    Pshaw! Everyone knows Rudolph grew up to be a mobster.

  • bmoore4026

    Mario Cantone did it first. Mario Cantone did it better:


    • Oh’behr

      Chuckling loudling. Thank you for the video. That was excellent.

  • Ogre Magi

    So what does the winged lion King Moonracer represent?