Today, I watched the 1964 TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with friends who enjoy the “innocence” and apple spice of Christmas just as much as I do. It’s been awhile since I’ve watched any of these specials, but I knew I was avoiding these shows for a reason…(drum roll)……… gender studies (cue dramatic secret-has-been-revealed music). For these Christmas specials and other things I used to enjoy as a young and ignorant adult, gender studies has crushed. But don’t worry, I’m still in love with hir.

This week, in the crushing realities a gender studies major has learned and applied to media, is the subject of the inappropriate/d. In Donna Haraway’s text, “The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others”, the subject of non-normative people and beings is discussed. Currently, and for most of written history, the “other” has become one that needs to be fixed and/or completely erased from society. Haraway shows that society replicates itself, and therefore never changes; no difference is visible. The differences that an “unintelligible” person may possess should be seen as differences, and not as problems, according to Haraway. Because these people are not intelligible, they become inappropriated within the context that they exist. She argues against the stasis of existence within a society, and instead suggests that the focus and acceptance of difference be introduced.

In Rudolph, the main character Rudolph, his friend Hermey the elf who wants to be a dentist, and The Island of Misfit Toys are viewed in the common theme of the misfit. Rudolph’s red nose makes him stand out. Even though it is only a cosmetic difference between himself and the other reindeer, they still wouldn’t let him play in any reindeer games (like Monopoly, lolz).  His father even attempted to cover the bright nose by placing a fake black one over it, but once the others discovered it, Rudolph decided to run away from the reindeer who could not read him. Hermey becomes inappropriated by the other elves when he announces his desires to become a dentist instead of a toy-maker. The head elf scolds him, and this prompts Hermey to run away as well. Rudolph and Hermey find each other, and decide to become unintelligible together, when they run into Yukon Cornelius, the greedy prospector who claims to own the North Pole. They all run away from the Abominable Snowman and find the Island of Misfit Toys. Rudolph and Hermey learn of all these others who have become unintelligble and therefore useless to their societies, and come to the only place where they can be understood. Their differences are recognized, and they bond through this.

There’s more plot and blah blah blah, and now we are at the moment. One foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say (ho ho ho), “Rudolph, with your inappropriated nose so bright, won’t you put yourself to use now and guide my sleigh tonight, even though I was an asshole before I needed you?” And everyone cheers; Hermey is allowed to become a dentist, and the misfit toys find homes. Although everyone is recognized and accepted for their differences, as Haraway suggests should happen in societies, the misfits are only still intelligible when the context has changed. Rudolph is only intelligible and appropriated once there is a use for his bright red nose, and the rest of the misfits’ “acceptance” follows only because of the guideline the story must follow to be successful with audiences. Rudolph went down in history, as an example of the inappropriated other who only becomes intelligible when put to good use. If only Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen had taken Gender Studies 101 instead of reindeer games.

-Eleanor Stevenson