Is Rudolph gay?

The 1964 Rankin-Bass animated classic Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer has been my favorite Christmas special ever since I was a boy, sitting on our yellow shag carpet in my PJs, watching it on an old black-and-white TV. Seeing it again recently, though, I noticed something I hadn’t before: The whole special is kind of like a gay coming-out story.

Rudolph has this problem: He has a very shiny nose (you could even say it glows.) All of the other reindeer laugh and call him names, and Rudolph’s father, Donner, is horrified. (No son of his … etc.)  Donner insists that Rudolph cover his nose with mud. Rudolph hates the mud, and feels like he’s living a lie, but at least he fits in. Problem is, he can’t seem to keep that nose out of sight, especially when he’s getting physical with his friend Fireball.

Meanwhile, Hermey, the perfectly coiffed elf, wants to be a dentist, but he can’t be because elves aren’t allowed to be dentists. They have to make toys. The two boys meet and discover they have a connection, and, realizing that they can’t be their true selves in this oppressive, small-town North Pole, the flamboyant reindeer and the elf with the oral fixation set off in search of a place where they belong. They find it in the Island of Misfit Toys, an ice floe ruled by a winged lion where other fabulous toys (e.g a Charlie-in-the-Box, and a doll with abandonment issues) who don’t quite behave or look like they’re “supposed to” can live together in peace and harmony. (Think West Hollywood).

But then, lo and behold, it turns out that all those haters at the North Pole need a little help from a flaming nose when the Xmas eve fog gets so thick that Santa can’t see well enough to take off. Suddenly, everyone realizes that being different can be kind of cool, and Rudolph’s kind of fun to have around, really. There’s even a hint that he’ll be allowed to marry another reindeer.

So what do you think, Christmas Popwatchers? Am I stretching the metaphor too far, or was this show eerily progressive for 1964?

Comments (188 total) Add your comment
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  • J.

    Another childhood memory destroyed. Next you’ll be looking for homosexual overtones in He-Man.

    • Kp

      I agree. As a conservative who is still mostly undecided on the issue of homosexuality, it drives me absolutely bonkers how today’s media has decided that EVERYTHING has to be examined under a microscope and found to be supportive of homosexuality… Does it not occur to these people that maybe it’s just a story? Next thing you know they’ll be claiming (Heaven forbid this should actually happen!!!) that Woody and Buzz from Toy Story are having an illicit affair behind everyone’s backs…

      • Cris

        Oh come on, they didn’t call him Woody for nothing!

      • Chris

        The only thing you are undecided about is to come out of the closet or not. Just do it already and save all of us the headache of your misplaced outrage.

      • Bonez

        Kp, where were you when the fundies were banning everything in sight because THEY saw homosexual undertones or imaginary devil worship in it? Or is it only wrong to read into art when someone finds something positive that they can relate to?

      • Keb_RI

        “Mostly undecided on the issue of homosexuality”?

        I understand. I am mostly undecided about whether you deserve any civil rights too.

      • The_Raven

        Wow.. Lovely.. GO OVERBOARD CONSERVATIVES! Maybe not just homosexuality.. but yeah i can see where you got it, Very intelligent! X]
        But the idea that Rudolph stands for being what society doesn’t want you to be. That you have to run away and find your place among others like you, or those who should understand you is very real :P And Homosexuality seems to be whats touched on, as well as the oppression of standards and expectations. Rudolph was never a Conservative wholesome story, twas always about Finding what you’re meant to be rather than what you’re supposed to be :]
        I’m Bisexual, i like guys more. I’m Agnostic, in my brain, despite my Christian mom, i cant accept the god syndrome. ALSO the issue of homosexuality XD ? What a joke. Its been around much longer than your god boyo.

      • cowboy

        Um….KP, I think J was being ironic. Get a sense of humor.

      • w

        well actually…………

      • Nicole

        Being “undecided” on homosexuality is like being undecided on traffic, or taxes, or weather. These things just are, whether you “decide” one way or the other.

        I’ve never seen the Rudolph special in full, but reading the description of the plot, I can totally understand seeing it as a homosexual coming out if viewed through that lense. It sounds more like a general, love yourself for who you truly are sort of message, but hey – if it helps a gay kid feel more self-acceptance, I say wrap the whole thing up in a rainbow ribbon.

    • Miguel

      Chill out, homophobe.

    • Danny

      HE-MAN??? Prince Adam was so gay!

      • Bonez

        I heard he lives on Fire Island with Tinky Winky now.

    • Joe

      Glad to see you have time on your hands to ruin a classic story.

    • Anne

      Why look when they’re willing to jump right out and smack you in the face?

    • Typ0

      This is seriously one of the most brilliant articles i’ve read on popwatch. Thanks, guys! Too funny. Love it!! :))

      • Pastor M

        I agree. It may be that our conservative readers are looking too closely for something to damn, but I thought the whole article was hilarious, and I’m an ordained evangelical pastor. Great job Mr. Smith–you’ve made me a fan. By the way, you can be “conservative” in a progressive way that shows you can be someone who believes in “absolutes” and loves everyone as God made them anyhow. I LOVE YOU RUDOLF!! How many famous gay men are named “Rudolf” by the way? I’m going to love reading the blasts that come from this post….

      • Lala

        Haha I can’t believe people are taking this article seriously. It’s hilarious and awesome. Chill out, everyone. It’s all in good fun. And, it’s a reindeer.

      • Thank you, Pastor M

        If there’s one thing that anyone who is friends with gay men appreciates about them, its their incredible sense of humor!! I can’t believe ANYONE would be dumb enough to take this article seriously and claim that it has ruined a nice story. We’re talking about a freaking CARTOON, you humorless maniacs.

    • Ugly Jenny

      I’m gonna go with stretching the metaphor too far, the story of Rudolph is about loving something that makes you different. What’s up with correlating everything to having a homosexual undertone. Ernie and Bert (I still insist they are just roommates) and now Rudolph. When will the madness stop?

    • mikeijames

      wait, he-man wasn’t gay?

    • brett

      Sad that Kp, and many others, didn’t see the sarcasm in your post.

  • Chris

    I never thought about it, but I think you’re right on the money!!

    • Nick T

      I’ve been saying this since I first saw it. Just look at that elf’s hair!

  • Harry

    that’s so funny and very true!

    • Bonez

      Rudolph’s not gay because his parents always knew about his issue, and he didn’t have to spend the first 18 years of his life in terror that they would find out and kill him or put him into the streets.

    • Nate

      when is the media’s obessiong with who’s gay/what’s gay gonna end? as a huge supporter of gay rights, seeing things like this annoy me because I can just see religious nutjobs using things like this to continue with the “gays are after the children!” cry. enough!

  • Josh

    I will never watch Rudolph or sing the song the same way again… not that its a bad thing. Very smart and interesting metaphor.

    • Otis Jefferson

      Of course you’ll never watch it the same way again. From here on out, you’ll have a chub in your pants, just thinking about the forbidden love that has eluded you for so many years.

      The only things that are smart and interesting are the wily and extravagant measures that you take to remain closeted. Bone smuggler.

  • DJ

    This is the dumbest thing I have ever read on this site….

  • PJ

    Don’t know about Rudolph, but EW sure is.

    • jp

      Oh, snap

    • Danny

      uh, no he’s very right. Even Rudolph’s voice is gay.

  • Tracey

    I think your reaching! But very funny!

  • Richard

    This is one of the dumbest articles ever. seriously.

    • AcaseofGeo

      Well you have to realize, that gay people often try to find ways to relate their own experiences to something they see. We can empathize with both Rudolph and Hermie’s struggles to be accepted. So I think this article is kind of cute. Is it accurate? I don’t think of either character as gay or gay-wannabe, but its message of being accepted is clearly one we embrace. But yeah, the whole oral fixation thing? That really is VERY GAY.

      • Cas


  • sbwm

    Clarisse! He looooooves her.

    • JCK

      Second that. How did the writer miss that?

      • Rudoplhs Lawyer

        Exactly! Hell, Rudolph litteraly flew because she thought he was cute and was ready to have ‘relations’ with him when he was finished his reindeer games.

        The author definitely missed that part. He was ‘antlers over hooves’ for that doe.

        My problem was with Santa, and I quote “I’m very disappointed with you(Rudolphs Father), he had such potential” . Santa said this when everyone discovers Rudolphs nose

        Santa looks like quite the twat in that Christmas Special.

      • Danny

        oh whatever, she’s a beard.

      • Juniper

        I was always bothered by the fact that Clarisse has a woman’s voice, but Rudolph sounds like a little kid… Weird.

  • JCK

    Annoying article. Leave the show alone!

  • Cunegonde

    Interesting idea! But I think you are over-reading the film’s texts too much. Any type of minority ideology/orientation can be substituted for queerness in this film and it would also be just as valid as the one you mentioned.

  • Joey

    Every kid doesn’t fit in at some point. Not just gay kids.


  • dctoronto

    I always knew Hermey was gay (ex BF had the same hair) but Rudolph?

  • Enrique

    I did not need to see this post on Christmas. Thanks alot a-hole. By the way you’re an idiot. Funny how you don’t mention the girlfriend reindeer at all just to try to add weight your worthless observation.

    • Snarf

      You do realise what homophobia says about you, right Enrique?

      • sickofitall

        Yeah, that homosexuality is wrong and obscene!!

    • Chris

      Why did you even read the article? If you were so worried about Christmas being ruined for you then you would have avoided clicking on it. The title tells you exactly what you were getting yourself into.

    • Lala

      Wow. If THIS is what it takes to ruin Christmas for you, then you clearly have some issues.

    • Teetee

      The “girlfriend” reindeer was clearly a beard for Rudolph and something that you’re most certainly familiar with! That much hostility towards something meant to be funny and lighthearted leads me to believe that you’re angry at having to oppress your own same-sex feelings. Hey champ, buck up! It’s 2009 and you can march right on out of that closet and into the world. Psssst, being gay is like having a Visa card…accepted worldwide.

  • Doe a deer

    Why turn a beloved children’s story into a gay parable?
    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Besides that Rudolph had a crush on a female reindeer (doe) named Clarise.
    Rudolph is a story about being true to your dreams and ambitions and yourself; not necessarly a coming out story.

    • Chris

      She was his beard and soon to be his hag.

    • BigTex

      And sometimes a cigar is a big ole phallic symbol.

    • Orac

      And sometimes Clarisse just needs to be served with some fava beans and a fine chianti…

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