Friday, December 20, 2013

How Rudolph became a sociometric star

Rudolph, the reindeer with the red nose, is the classic character of Christmas lore. You know, the lonely reindeer bullied by other reindeer because of his unusual difference.

Rory Remer, a TEP and professor of educational, school and counseling psychologist the University of Kentucky, reminds us that this story is a lesson in the effect of changing the sociometric criterion of choice and the impact of aristotele.

Sociometry is the science of surveying preferences in relationships in groups of people -- or reindeer! -- and  aristotele is [x]. The reindeer bullied poor Rudolph until he was selected by highly respected Santa for his special talent -- which had been seen as a defect. Yet Rudolph was the perfect choice to guide the sleigh on a Foggy Christmas night because he fit the role that was needed.

Truly, Rudolph has guided our values in cartoon and song. since the 1940s and beyond. Originally created as an advertising gimmick to lure customers to the Montgomery Ward department store in Chicago, he has become the protagonist in a charming often-told story.  

For more on Rudolph lore and legend, see Snopes.
As Ronald Lankford noted in his cultural history of American Christmas songs, Rudolph's story was a classic reflection of American values during the 1940s and beyond:
Much like the modern Santa Claus song, Rudolph's story is for children; more specifically, it is a children's story about overcoming adversity and earning, by personal effort, respect in the adult world. As a young deer (child) with a handicap that turns out to be an unrecognized asset, Rudolph comes to the rescue of an adult (Santa) at the last minute (on Christmas Eve). When Rudolph saves the day, he gains respect from both his peers (the reindeer who refused to include him in games) and the adult world. The story of Rudolph, then, is the fantasy story made to order for American children: each child has the need to express and receive approval for his or her individuality and/or special qualities. Rudolph's story embodies the American Dream for the child, written large because of the cultural significance of Christmas.