Long-time readers of Hard Ticket to Home Video… well, they’re all gone now, and this site is as barren as an old west town after a nuclear holocaust. But if anyone is still out there, please, send help. Also, my disdain for both Rudolph and Charlie Brown are well-documented. Both are completely bewildering and full of cruelty and questionable morals, and are only popular because they existed during childhoods and got a lot of TV time. While I’ve never liked Charlie Brown, I did like Rudolph when I was a kid, and wasn’t until my advanced adult years that I realized how messed up it is. But which one do I like the least, and why would you care? Let’s find out (note: the scoring is for which aspect of the special I liked the least, so at the end I can determine which I dislike more):
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Charlie Brown: Charlie is depressed about the commercialization of Christmas basically from the get-go, which is par for his horribly depressing character. Plus, as is Peanuts tradition, all of his friends treat him like a piece of garbage. The only reason they’re nice to him at the end is because Linus Jesus-guilted them into it.
Rudolph: Rudolph is happy for about three seconds after he’s born, but his dad sees him as a freak whose deformity must be hidden from the prejudiced fascists of Christmastown. So he has to live his shameful life with a ball of dirt over his snotlocker. When his unacceptable secret of looking different is exposed, everyone of course treats him like a piece of garbage, so he mopes and runs away from home.
Worse: Charlie Brown because at least Rudolph had the balls to do something about it.
Horrible Supporting Characters
Charlie Brown: This section is kind of an addendum to the one above, trying to determine which of the supporting casts were bigger a-holes to the protagonist. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, everyone hates Charlie Brown and tells him what a loser is every chance they get, just like they do in every other Peanuts-related media. Charles Schulz must have really hated his childhood. Lucy is, of course, the worst. She has such a dislike for Chuck it borders on the psychotic. It’s like making his life miserable is her hobby. And she’s very good at it. All of the other kids just kind of go along with her train of thought about this sad bald boy because they’re probably afraid she’ll give them the same treatment. But what’s worse is that not only does everyone hate Charlie Brown, but they also seem to hate Snoopy. Snoopy does amazing things like decorate and dance, but they all act like he’s the biggest nuisance on the planet. Well, second-biggest, anyway. As for the parents, I assume Lucy had them all killed.
Rudolph: As bad as Charlie Brown’s town is, at least it’s not an oppressive dictatorship. This special takes the idea of Santa, the kindest person imaginable, and turns him into Kim Jong-un. The job of every elf is toymaker. Period. There is no other career aspiration you’re allowed to have. If you don’t want to be a toymaker, tough ti-toy. Poor Hermey just wants to be a dentist, but it’s forbidden. Then who is their dentist? I guess there isn’t one? Gross.This suffocation of ambition is made worse in that not only do you get shunned if you want to just do something else for a living, but also if you’re different in any way whatsoever. The Abominable Snowman is feared and hated by all just because he doesn’t celebrate Christmas (please watch the special again and tell me exactly what he does wrong to anyone). Rudolph of course gets ostracized for his nose, but there’s a whole island of deeply saddened toys who were for whatever reason, not made properly. WHY WOULD YOU PUT SQUARE WHEELS ON A TRAIN AND HOW HARD WOULD THAT BE TO FIX???!!! Anyway, read my Rudolph article for a detailed breakdown of that gloomy and mystifying situation.
Message for the Kids
Charlie Brown: You can treat someone like a garbage child, but feel better about yourself if you act sort of nice toward them for a few minutes on Christmas. As long as you believe in Jesus, that is. If not, forget it, garbage child. And the true spirit of Christmas is not buying things, because commercialism is not very Jesusy.
Rudolph: Having a body part that is different than normal is bad, unless someone in a position of power finds a use for it.
Charlie Brown: Except the last 90 seconds, this whole special is is the polar opposite of cheerful.
Rudolph: When they’re not banishing freaks and toeing the proletarian line, the elves seem happy, but so do the people of North Korea when their leader says they are. They’re so cheerful they even successfully force the Abominable Snowman to accept their beliefs. Sam the Snowman always seems happy, yet he stands idly by while these atrocities are committed.
Worse: Charlie Brown
Charlie Brown: I’ve always thought Peanuts looked like the average third-grader could draw it. But maybe that’s the point. Or maybe Chuck Shulz just sucked at drawing.
Rudolph: Dated but still cool, with the exception of anything to do with water.
Worse: Charlie Brown
Charlie Brown: Even if you’re not a big fan of jazz, the soundtrack is still amazing and iconic. For me it’s by far the best thing about this special (and the only good thing, but still).
Rudolph: Let’s break this down by song:
- “Holly Jolly Christmas”: A fun holiday classic.
- “Jingle Jingle Jingle”: Ehhh, not so good. “I am old Kris Kringle, I’m the king of jingling”? Huh?
- “We are Santa’s Elves”: Ugh. This is just an creepy indoctrination chant for Fearless Leader.
- “There’s Always Tomorrow”: Ugggggh. “Cheer Up Charlie” from Willy Wonka is better than this.
- “We’re a Couple of Misfits”: Annoying, and Hermey and Rudolph are actually pretty lousy singers.
- “Silver and Gold”: I’ll never understand the point of this song.
- “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year”: The beginning is so creepy, then it gets into why nothing is really wrong with these misfit toys.
- “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: Rumor is they based the special on this song, but I don’t see the connection.
- BONUS – “Fame and Fortune”: This song replaced “We’re a Couple of Misfits” for many years but I only remember ever seeing “We’re a Couple of Misfits.” But a lot of people probably remember this song instead. Regardless, it’s stupid. All Rudolph and Hermey wanted to do was find someplace to accept them, but all of a sudden they want fame and fortune? How would being a dentist earn Hermey fame?
Well, I guess that solved nothing. Seems that I dislike both equally, which I’ll have to resolve by never watching them again.
What do you think? Did we score the fight fair? Which beloved holiday special is worse?
Now just so you don’t think I’m a total Grooge (that’s Grinch and Scrooge combined) here are six Christmas specials that I actually love and you should watch for 24-hours straight this Christmas night!
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
For my money this is the best and most entertaining of the “classic” Christmas specials and it’s not overly depressing and has no horrifying implications.
Prep & Landing
This and its follow-up, Naughty vs. Nice, are excellent 21st Century specials for your own kids, and their kids, and their kids’ grandparents.
The Fat Albert Christmas Special
Even though Bill Cosby is an absolute disgusting monster, I still love everything Fat Albert.
Toy Story that Time Forgot
Nothing related to Toy Story has ever been bad, including this.
Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas
I’m well aware this really isn’t very good, and Charlie Brown lovers may see this and wonder what the hell I’m thinking, which would be a bonding experience, so we could both settle down and watch something else entirely, like The Star Wars Holiday Special.
Mickey’s Christmas Carol
This is a fantastic retelling of the classic story, as Scrooge McDuck makes the perfect Scrooge, since he has the same name. Also, bonus points for Pete the Ghost of Christmas Future smoking a huge cigar. Another fun Christmas Carol adaptation from my childhood is Rich Little’s Christmas Carol, which ran on HBO 487,000 times back in the day. If anything, it’s worth watching for his imitation of Paul Lynde, which is never not funny no matter what holiday it is.