Christmas Jeer: NY Times Critic Says 'Rudolph' Musical Denies Equality to Half the Population

December 13th, 2016 5:19 PM

Here's more proof that The New York Times will not let the most innocuous trifle pass unjudged for sexism: Laurel Graeber’s theater review on the Arts page of Tuesday's New York Times of the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” musical was headlined “A Red Note Lights an Uneven Field – All receive lessons against bullying, but bucks still get more attention that does.” Online headline: “A ‘Rudolph’ for Inclusion (at Least if You’re a Guy).”

Yes, folks, you read that correctly. Graber, who reviews theater aimed at children, and her editors found harmful sexism in a kids musical based around anthropomorphic reindeer.

The show, at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, begins in Santa’s homeland, which appears to be not only frozen in atmosphere but also frozen in time. Based on the 1964 animated television special and a subsequent theatrical staging directed and conceived by Jeff Frank and First Stage, this “Rudolph” features elf boys in blue, elf girls in pink. The lyrics about Christmas toys specify “a scooter for Jimmy, a dolly for Sue.” And when an adolescent Rudolph arrives at the Reindeer Games, the coach, Comet (same dude from “A Visit From St. Nicholas”), growls, “My job is to make bucks out of you.” As for does, they apparently can’t compete.

Graeber complained that the heroine, “Clarice,” “stays an ego-stroking damsel” throughout the production. Not even the fact that Rudolph is played by a woman assuaged her.

The story’s themes -- that bullying is cruel, and that those who are born different can make vital contributions -- certainly remain timeless lessons for children. But you can’t help being disappointed that this show championing equality still denies it to half the population.

We are still talking about a kids Christmas musical about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, correct?

Graeber’s tirade falls in the politically correct path of the paper’s humorless movie reviewers, who make a seasonal habit of ruining movies with allegations of racism and sexism. In September, movie critic Manohla Dargis was ready to ditch artistic achievement in the name of racial and gender bean-counting. The story’s text box: “Insisting on the sanctity of art can just be another way of shutting our eyes and denying ugly systemic realities.”