Rudolph has a girlfriend?

by William Grosso

Related link: http://blog.santa.com



The case against extending copyrights has been made, clearly and eloquently, by numerous people. The idea of the creative commons, of building on the artistic works of prior generations and thereby creating an ever more grand and rich cultural infrastructure, is a compelling vision.


But, sometimes, I wonder.


Santa apparently has a weblog. In which:



  • There are new elves with clever names like Rock Tock (Rock Tock likes to begin his sentences with "Dude") and Cuckoo.
  • The elves are gender segregated. Boy elves work on boy
    toys; girl elves (named "Twinkie" and "Dazzle") work on girl
    toys.
  • The boy elves are, ahem, interested in the girl
    elves and can be convinced to work on the girl toys (the girls fell behind in their work and needed the boys to help them out) because of that.
  • Comet and Vixen (the reindeer) are married and expecting.
  • Rudolph has a girlfriend named Clarice. In fact, Rudolph gets Clarice a position on the sleigh team because she's his girlfriend.
  • Product placements abound. In ALL CAPS, of course (side note: I'm also a little distressed by the very existence of the Barbie Cruise Ship).
  • References to actual traditional Christmas themes or stories are non-existent. I'm not saying Santa's weblog should be a litany of Christian thought. But maybe it could reach a little beyond elves making toys and various forms of pair-bonding (Rock Tock likes Dazzle. Vixen and Comet are married. Rudolph is in love with Clarice, and so on). Occasionally reinforce a platitude or two, that sort of thing.


Now, you might look at Santa's weblog and think "Hmmm. A weblog attributed to Santa that makes frequent reference to BARBIE CRUISE SHIPS or KICK 'N DRIVE GYMS [the weblog has them in all caps]. Kinda depressing, but not entirely surprising."


Which is what really bothers me. Isn't the current state of Christmas, that we're not surprised that some guy in a marketing department somewhere took advantage of the latest communication tools to shill for profits (and do so in a way that continues the stripping of all meaning from the event), distressing? Doesn't it hint, a little, at something being wrong with allowing anyone to build on common cultural themes? Isn't it, even a little bit, a refutation of the notion of a creative commons?


Are there some cultural themes that should be off-limits, or more tightly controlled?


8 Comments

charliebrown
2003-12-24 23:53:33
If you got da money...
Clarice is indeed Rudolph's girlfriend in that 1964 Rankin-Bass program. But now it would be interesting to ask why that web site is allowed to take such liberties with RtRNR, when it is originally a short story by Robert L. May pubilshed in 1939. According to my calculations, it is still COPYRIGHTED!
http://german.about.com/library/blmus_rudolphE.htm


I suppose one reasonable explanation is that the Small Seed Company, LLC, who claims the copyright of the content on Santa.com, has simply bought a LICENSE to the material. After all, it's just a part of doing business. And that's what modern literature is all about, right?

wegrosso
2003-12-25 09:19:21
If you got da money...
Wow. I didn't remember Clarice at all. Aside from making the title of the entry a bad choice, I don't think it affects the argument very much.


As to modern literature being about "doing business," well, I don't know. I'm not willing to draw that conclusion (I've got a copy of "Yellow Dog" half finished and I'm willing to use the words "Wow! Art!" to describe it).

anonymous2
2003-12-26 06:01:57
Where It Ends
And here is where it ends:


http://www.customizedclassics.com/romeo.asp

anonymous2
2003-12-26 09:05:32
Allow for the Darwin Effect
I think this is a great example of expanding up cultural ideas. The Darwinian principle doesn't just apply to genes, it also applies to ideas. The story you are referencing will go nowhere and will probably not return next year because its so stupid.


The creative commons is a fantastic idea and we can't question it's ability because of some stupid extensions. This is exactly why we should allow it, let the weak ideas try and die and the strong ideas try and succeed. But everybody should have a shot.


Joe

wegrosso
2003-12-26 22:15:58
Allow for the Darwin Effect
Of course we can question the "ability of the creative commons." Until said ability has been empirically demonstrated, we'd be idiots not to wonder what we're signing up for.


I'm not entirely against the darwinian argument. And the fact that I didn't remember Clarice from previous stories shows that, even at the story level, a sort of addition-by-subtraction happens (wherein we forget the stuff that doesn't matter and remember a "better version").


But there are holes in the darwinian argument as well. Here's one: in order for evolution to happen, you need a way to determine success, a way to reward success, and a way to evolve the things that currently exist. Do we have those in the creative commons? I don't know. I do think that the things that will get rewarded are not necessarily the things that enrich the commons.


That is, there may be a "tragedy of the creative commons" here. It's quite possible that Santa's blog was a success (in that it did move the BARBIE CRUISE SHIPS off the shelves). Which means that it might return next year, in a larger and more grandiose format (Maybe Rudolph will have his own blog next year too, in which he can talk about his relationship with Clarice and how eager he is to pull Santa's sleigh, containing lots of KICK 'N DRIVE GYMS. Or maybe the elves will get blogs in which they talk about how much fun they're having building MAGIC RATTLE POOHS).


Of course, this is all hypothetical and we won't really know until the rubber hits the road and we start seeing what the creative commons produces. I'm just starting to feel a little skeptical, that's all.

anonymous2
2003-12-27 05:23:37
Rudolph a lesbian?
Recently I heard that only female deer have antlers this time of the year. The males loose them and grow new ones by Spring. So, since all of Santa's deer have antlers they are female ... Rudolph is a female with a female girlfriend ... hence a lesbian.
Maybe some biologist can confirm or deny this but it gives the whole story a nice twist :-)
anonymous2
2003-12-28 10:57:29
Allow for the Darwin Effect
I'm not sure of your (or the poster you reply to's) grasp on the concept of Darwinism.


Evolution does not, despite common usage, imply 'improvement' or climbing up a ladder of evolution. Not for the individual organism, nor for the environment that sustains it. Generally something that doesn't evolve as its circumstances change will die out but that definitely doesn't guarantee high art.


Your comment about the creative commons not encouraging things that enrich the commons is a statement about "evolutionary stable strategies" and CC with it's share-alike clauses which (like the GPL) creates a strong network effect that seems likely to strengthen it over time if it can only achieve critical mass. Of course the first step to an ESS is evolution which CC certainly encourages.


It does however seem that you aren't questioning the CC so much as the re-use of the public domain in general i.e. the very thing that has produced much of the christmas mythos (& Shakespeare etc.) that you now seek to 'protect'. Protect that is by killing and stuffing it so that it remains a static and slowly decaying snapshot of something that was once vibrant and ever-changing.


This seems particularly ironic with regard to Christmas which has without doubt 'co-evolved' with modern commercial capitalism to an unprecedented degree. With Santas employed by department stores and popularized by Coca-Cola adverts. They say that Christmas starts earlier every year and who do think is pushing for that? Who is giving this Santa guy so much free publicity?


It's probably the most 'manufactured' myth in common currency excepting the De Beers diamond cartel's re-invention of the engagement ring.


You could even argue that it is the pliability of these elements of Christmas that has allowed them to out-evolve the story of the birth of christ. Historically of course Christianity has changed radically to reflect the (often political) realities of the times (e.g. co-opting pagan solstice festivals as the date for the birth of christ) but that has become unfashionable recently.


It's interesting to ponder how Christmas would have evolved if Jesus's message had been "if you don't spend (at least) one month's salary on someone at christmas then you don't really love them" rather than "peace and goodwill to all men".

wegrosso
2003-12-28 16:10:58
Allow for the Darwin Effect
The lovely thing about blogs is that you can revisit badly articulated arguments.


Darwinism to the side (I think I understand evolution. I'm not sure what you were objecting to in my statements), you got the main point of the original article: the impetus behind the cc license, to my understanding, is the idea of enabling people to reuse specific elements in the public domain (in order to create a richer cultural infrastructure). And the continuing evolution of Christmas, and Christmas stories, is an already-occurred test of the idea. We've got 2000 years of Christmas tradition, and roughly 150 years of high-quality testbed (high literacy, industrial and post-industrial societies with lots of leisure time modifying the core story elements in response to societal pressures).


What's the experimental data? Are our Christmas tales richer and more vibrant today than those of our ancestors? Has the original version of the Santa story been improved? Has the original version of the Rudolph story gotten deeper and more resonant? And so on.


If not, if a somewhat unfettered market in XMas lore hasn't resulted in a more vibrant culture, what should we have done differently?