Apparently it has been a joyous and bountiful holiday season in America, because the complainers are working pretty hard to find things to rant about.
Desperate for material, social media trolls are leaving no stone unturned — including the rock they climbed out from under — in finding sources of indignation. Take, for example, those who have declared “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” racist. Ugh.
Twitter users found the holiday classic offensive because Franklin, the only African-American member of the “Peanuts” cast, is seated alone at the Thanksgiving table, across from white characters and Snoopy. To my way of thinking, the only character justified in feeling offended is the one seated next to the dog.
There’s more to be upset about, if you reach far enough. Franklin is seated on a lawn chair, whereas others get wooden chairs. Also, he was asked to dinner by Peppermint Patty, not the host Charlie Brown, so Franklin received something of an un-vitation.
Let’s forget for a second that Charles Schulz insisted on adding an African-American character, a ground-breaking move he threatened to quit over, 50 years ago after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Let’s also conveniently forget that Franklin gets a regular chair next to Charlie Brown and Lucy van Pelt in “Snoopy Come Home.” We’ll forget these things because nothing gets in the way of a Twitter tantrum like facts and context.
If I, as a left-handed person, find myself sitting alone across the table from a bunch of right-handers, I don’t immediately assume bias. I figure that’s just the way things shook out. And as long as you don’t put me next to my lactose-intolerant Uncle Milt, I’ll take the crappiest lawn chair you have.
Unless the rest of us shine the light of equanimity on the trolls, sending them scurrying back into the shadows, they’ll continue attacking Christmas favorites like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” You know the story: Donner and his mate have a son whose nose shines like a cashier alert at Target. Kids tease Rudolph until his gift makes him indispensable to Santa Claus and he saves Christmas.
It’s an inspirational story, right? Not to the Twitter trolls. Donner was drilled for forcing his son to wear a prosthetic nose that impedes the youngster’s breathing. All of the other reindeer are chastised for calling Rudolph names and never letting him join in their games.
And if you thought bullying was bad, well, the prospector Yukon Cornelius uses a whip on his beasts of burden and carries a pistol.
There’s more: The bosses at the North Pole toy shop need a visit from Human Resources. Comet should be removed as coach because he’s the Bobby Knight of flight instructors, and even Santa should be ashamed for recoiling from Rudolph’s nose so bright. The main complaint, though, was the show’s perceived message that your peers will only accept your abnormalities if you can provide them a service.
That might be your takeaway if you actively seek out opportunities to take offense. Perhaps my left-handedness has thrown me off-center, but I think the program’s message is this: What makes us different makes us special.
Not all holiday favorites age well. “Holiday Inn” is wonderful, but it’s best AMC removes the blackface number. I can’t quibble with radio stations that have stopped playing that date-rape anthem “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” When viewed through the prism of #MeToo modern times, any song extolling Cosby cocktails rings off-key.
But we may have reached a point where many are reaching for things to vent about. Is there systemic racism in America? Sure, but I wouldn’t make Franklin sitting in a lawn chair Exhibit A.
Is belittling those outside the norm a problem? Of course. But we’re talking about a show starring reindeer dolls in stop-motion animation. “Rudolph” is hardly “The Birth of a Nation.”
It must be a sign of good times that our nation can find nowhere else to direct its outrage than holiday cartoons. Let us all enjoy the bounty of this season as friends and neighbors, even when no one is sitting next to us.