Jason's View

Why Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer is About Disability Rights.

21 Dec 2016 by Jason Harris

I love to watch movies and I love Christmas. One of my favorite movies is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). Rudolph is the ultimate example of the medical model figure trying to switch to a role that is more socially inclusive. Rudolph gets made fun because of his physical difference. It is seen as “his” problem that makes him an outsider. He attempts like many to fix or cover up his disability or difference because otherwise society aka the other reindeer would have a problem with him for no other reason then his one single difference. That difference, the red nose, defined Rudolph over everything else about him. This difference led to him being ostracized by the group.

This is common for people with disabilities to be excluded because of their differences. Rudolph like many people had to find his own way in a world that does not accept him and wants him to change so as to fit in. Like many disabled people, Rudolph eventually gets noticed and cherished because of his disability, but this time this recognition is for his ability to be better than the other reindeer. This very much is inline with the idea of the super crip having to be super human to gain respect or be valued. If it were not a foggy night, would Rudolph have been accepted as a valued member of the group??? With the social model peaking through I think the answer is yes. Claire and another boy did accept Rudolph. Other people such as Hermey and Yukon Cornelious. They also go to the Island of Misfit of Toys where they have actually built in some ways a community of acceptance that doesn’t try to change who they are.

In the end Rudolph was ahead of his time for disability awareness and acceptance in a way that the creators and even viewers may not have recognized. And for this reason, Rudolph will always have a special place in my heart.

Jason Harris

Founder of Jason’s Connection – an online resource for those with disabilities, mental health, aging and other needs. Jason was awarded an M.S. in Cultural Foundations of Education and Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies from Syracuse University.  Jason is also a Project Coordinator and Research Associate at the Burton Blatt Institute, an international think tank for Disability Rights and Human Justice at Syracuse University.  He regularly contributes to the blog in his own series called Jason’s View and travels the country consulting and speaking about disability issues and rights. To read more from Jason Harris, read Jason's View