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Star Signs: Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials
In the beginning, there were alignments. Then there were Hogwarts Houses. And then there was BDE.
When it comes to judging your favorite characters, these are all very fine and worthy metrics, but isn’t it time we went back to the metrics that mattered? You know, the stars?
With their hands determinedly covering up the birthdates of your favorite characters, FANGRRLS Clare and Sara set out to assign star signs to all your faves, one franchise at a time.
In this edition, Clare and Sara explore the wonderful world of Rankin and Bass.
Clare: So, fun fact: due to being raised by wolves, I had never seen any of the Rankin/Bass holiday specials before researching this article. We decided to focus on what I call the Santa Claus trilogy — Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, The Year Without a Santa Claus — and I have learned a LOT about mid-century America’s conception of Santa. And also stop-motion animation.
Sara: My family did not celebrate Christmas but we did celebrate television so I watched a lot of these as a kid.
Clare: Essentially, the trilogy charts a young, idealistic rebel ossifying into the very thing he’s rebelling against. Seeing Kris Kringle go from Toys 'R Us Robin Hood to an old man so cruel to Rudolph for a physical “defect” that Rudolph leaves the only home he knows is harrowing. Eventually, this ideological dissonance depresses him so badly that he can’t do his job in The Year Without a Santa Claus... and then he gets guilted into doing his job by his wife, his employees, and children.
Sara: Capricorns take responsibility very seriously even if you sometimes have to lay massive guilt trips on them to remind them that emotional responsibility also exists. Santa does his job and he does it well, but any Cap will leave you on read forever if they feel like you need to figure it for yourself. The real solution to his problem was for Jessica Claus to take up the reigns for a minute, but that was never going to happen because she’s a -
Jessica Claus: Cancer
Sara: A great match for Capricorn, for Cancers are master guilt-trippers and Capricorns are known for having elaborate guilt complexes already in place.
Clare: Cancers and Capricorns go together like eggnog and cookies. Jessica Claus (nee who cares who she was before marrying Santa Claus?!) is introduced to us as a secretly rebellious schoolmarm. And after she meets young, idealistic Kris, she throws caution to the wind and joins him in his quest (to… distribute toys?). She even has a song, “My World is Beginning Today,” that is so trippy it’s occasionally cut out of the broadcasts.
Sara: That’s just how Cancers view the world.
Clare: The gardens of their minds are a beautiful thing. But as Jessica grows older, she becomes more passive-aggressive. At the beginning of A Year Without a Santa Claus which she narrates, she performs what is basically a drag number asking why she can’t just put on a fake beard and be Santa Claus. It’s such a compelling argument that I 100% thought this was going to be the plot of the film, but as soon as someone is like “what are you going to do about your hair?” she’s like “OH NEVER MIND LET’S DO SOMETHING ELSE.” She and Santa do not communicate directly, and it is weird to see her going behind his back or guilt-tripping him, to be perfectly honest.
Sara: Unless you’ve dated a Cancer in which case this fear of confrontation mixed with subtle longterm guilt-tripping will be familiar to you.
Clare: Santa’s made his peace with it… for eternity.
Clare: Can I just say that I had no idea Rudolph’s nose also emits a brain-melting shrieking noise when it glows?
Sara: They are extra mean to Rudolph but that nose shriek is pretty hard to handle, you have to admit.
Clare: But, like, it’s not his fault he was born with it! Other than the shrieking noise, he’s such a nice little guy with such low self-esteem. I want to protect him and take him to a self-defense class.
Sara: When Rudolph flirts with Clarice and nervously looks at the ground and says, “Yep,” in response to every question, I think a lot of Pisces could relate. I also want to note that having just a modicum of honesty and acceptance towards Rudolph from his parents really would have changed the entire dynamic of this film.
Clare: TRULY. Like, for a modern woman and reindeer wrangler such as myself, the AWFUL things his own parents say to him are harrowing. This could have been a story about being yourself, but it’s just a story about how your differences will be ruthlessly punished until they are useful to The Man.
Sara: It tells me a lot about this time period that literally every adult feels comfortable publicly humiliating every slightly unordinary child. Hermey admitting he wants to be a dentist and not a helper elf is a tense moment.
Clare: I have to confess I thought his name was Herbie until three weeks ago. Something something Love Bug pop culture warped my brain. Anyway, cute little mild-mannered misfit, sounds great to me! However, no one told me that underneath that mild-mannered affect lies an utter maniac.
Sara: I like it when his boss threatens him with being fired if he doesn’t finish a project then the second the boss walks out of sight Hermey pushes the project away and starts reading about dentistry again. Responding in a way that makes the other person question whether or not you actually heard anything they just said is definitely prime Aquarius.
Clare: They have the listening skills of cats, where you’d pretty sure they heard you but also they definitely didn’t? But Hermey is far, far worse than a weird tabby. When Rudolph and company are held captive by the Abominable Snowman, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius stage a daring rescue. They lure the Abominable Snowman off-screen… and then Hermey pulls out all of his teeth. We don’t even have a word in English for that! Do we even have an Edgar Allan Poe story for that? NO! BECAUSE THAT’S A SAW MOVIE.
Sara: Aquarians are unpredictable like that. They’re loyal to their friends and will go all the way for them, even when they literally don’t have to at all.
Clare: I’d say they’re good at escalation but that would imply that, at some point, they’re not just already at 11 on their “throw down” meter.
...why does he even have monster-sized pliers on him?
Winter Warlock: Cancer
Clare: Now we’re getting into the nominal villains (they can’t be too scary, it’s Christmas!), and Winter Warlock is probably my favorite?
Sara: This guy just straight up sounds like a Cancer. “Who nears my mountain?” is a classic Cancer line. “Now I have you and you’ll never get away” is also a big one for the crab.
Clare: That’s what the pincers symbolize, y’know? I just love Winter (yes, Winter Warlock is his full name, not his title) having a change of heart and immediately going, “Oh this is so nice… but maybe I’m fundamentally nasty so who knows how long it will last?” Who among us has not gone “Oh, things are so nice… for now…”
Sara: Also he is defeated by Santa giving him a toy at which time he goes on a tender monologue about how no one ever does anything for him. Remember when we were talking about a Cancerian guilt trip earlier? He’s guilting Santa even AFTER Santa did something nice for him. That’s that Cancerian perfection.
Clare: Santa cannot catch a break!
Snow Miser: Libra/Heat Miser: Aries
Clare: Before we talk about the Miser Brothers, we need to talk about how their little minions are exact copies of them who are either completely naked or wearing full bodysuits.
Sara: Two characters that create small armies of themselves makes it pretty clear we’re dealing with a Libra/Aries combo.
Clare: Snow Miser is barely a villain? Like, he’s basically the Kramer to Santa Claus’ Jerry. He’s their kooky neighbor! He invites the Clauses to dinner! He wants to be friends! He loves Christmas!
Sara: Libras love going into a confrontational situation and just sort of shrugging their shoulders with a charming smile like, “Can you even believe this situation I’m directly responsible for?”
Sara: Libras love to charm while Aries love to get extremely mad, so I’d say that pretty much sums up this whole dynamic. The Libra’s way of fighting is to get other people to fight for them while the Aries is like, I will fight literally all of you and have no problem with that.
Clare: FROSTY IS A TAURUS BECAUSE HE’S CHILL.
Clare: Terrible, terrible wordplay aside, Frosty’s entire approach to suddenly and dramatically developing sentience is “huh, what a neat thing to happen to me!” This resonates with me since this is my approach to the whole “existing” thing.
Sara: Mine is mostly an unending inner scream but that’s because I’m a Cancer moon. Frosty is a triple Taurus.
Clare: Absolutely right, we’re looking at a triple dipped bull here. Nothing seems to flap Frosty, except anything that puts Karen in danger. And even then, he’s like “oh, no, she’ll freeze to death! Here, I’ll go into a greenhouse and die so she can live” in a split second.
Sara: Frosty is unbelievably cool with his potential to melt at any given moment and frankly, it’s inspiring.
Clare: Frosty embraces death like a brother and honestly, that’s what the winter holidays are about.