LI prof: 'Rudolph' sends wrong message
A Long Island professor has caused a Christmastime controversy with a book contending the 1964 TV film "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" sends the wrong message about bullying and ostracism.
Lighten up, say defenders of the long-beloved animated classic.
"It's a cartoon!" said an exasperated Gretchen Carlson on the "Fox & Friends" show when C.W. Post special education professor Dr. George Giuliani appeared to discuss his book, "No More Bullies at the North Pole."
Giuliani's critique of the holiday favorite, which was inspired by the song of the same name, calls out Santa for letting his eight other reindeer mistreat their red-nosed teammate. Also troubling, he said, is its elf-deprecation: Hermey, an elf, is mocked as a misfit by his peers because he dreams of being a dentist rather than a toy-maker.
"There is a parallel between Rudolph and most special education or exceptional children, and every child in the world who has ever been mocked or bullied," said Giuliani, 74, of Dix Hills. The television special "sends terrible messages and one is that it is OK for children and adults to reject exceptional children," he said.
And what about Rudolph becoming a hero when his red nose lights Santa's way one foggy Christmas Eve? That doesn't fly with the professor.
"Talk about hypocrisy. Now, because you can do something for me, I am going to accept you," Giuliani said.
Giuliani's theory has faced a blizzard of ho-ho-ho-stility in TV and Internet chatter.
"I don't care who you are: if you have an appendage that illuminates, they are going to make fun of you," said stand-up comedian Brad Stine, who appeared with Giuliani on Fox.
Give it a rest, a Pittsburgh psychologist advised Giuliani.
"It's time to take the children, their dreams, fantasies and fairy tales off of the world's analysis couches," said Dr. Paul Friday, chief of clinical psychology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Shadyside. "Adults, the vast majority of us, also need to be allowed to relish our own memories of childhood events without being constantly chastised for not being squeaky-clean now or then."
Rudolph teaches a glowing lesson in self-esteem, said Ginger Lieberman, an anti-bullying activist and Plainview-Old Bethpage Board of Education trustee.
"He got Santa through the night," she said. "He didn't keep his nose down . . . he took this gift and made it something so bright and so great, everybody benefited from it." Including Rudolph. "He felt good about himself."
Giuliani, a state-licensed clinical psychologist and certified school psychologist who also trains future special education teachers, stands by his conviction. He notes that the word "misfit" is used 27 times in the televised tale.
In his book, he offers parents and educators an alternate version -- a scenario in which Mrs. Claus highlights injustices at the North Pole to Santa to help him change his ways. Giuliani isn't against children seeing the TV classic -- so long as it is used as a teaching tool.
"There are people saying: 'Leave it alone. It is just a children's movie.' As you know, bullying in America has grown to epidemic proportions," said Giuliani. "Our best long-term hope is by educating children about bullying, starting as young as 3 years old."