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The Most Depressing Christmas Special Ever

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Darling readers, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

It’s when people decry sentimentality and cherished traditions!

Oh, you may think I’m kidding, but I’m not.

Last week there was an uproar about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with people calling Santa a bully, wondering why Rudolph goes to save Clarisse from the Snowman, and Hermy the elf getting shamed because he wants to be a dentist . 

This made me want to say Hey, did you ever see Rudolph before? Santa is supposed to act like a jackass. And the point is Hermy makes amends with his shaming boss. And my hope is after Christmas Rudolph and Clarisse go to Barbados on a romantic getaway…

People are also upset about the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” because it sounds date-rapey. On the sentimental side, we have Ruth Graham saying we shouldn’t get misty about President Bush 41’s service dog lying near his person’s coffin because “(the dog) was only in service for six months.

Well, I’m ready to join the crowd!

So here we go.

I think Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey is the most depressing holiday special ever and shouldn’t be seen by young children.

A refresher: Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey is a stop-motion special produced by Rankin Bass, the same team who brought us Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, and countless other holiday specials. This one they based on a Marty Robbins country western song, so we know it’s going to be darned depressing.

Nestor is a cute little donkey living with his sweet mother on a farm during the Roman Empire. Poor Nestor is a target because he has overly long ears. How long are they? Well, put it this way–Dumbo-esque.

His mother puts socks on his ears to stop the mocking–don’t ask where she got them. Just go with it.

One day a Roman soldier comes demanding donkeys.

Again, go with it.

The owner gives them Nestor but leaves Nestor’s mom behind. Our Nestor is not having this and wrestles away, revealing his long ears. Angered at his defiance, the soldier takes all the donkeys. And the farm owner casts our Nestor off into a snowstorm.

This all happens within the first ten minutes of the special.

Nestor’s mom goes out to find him and they try to find a warm place, but they have no luck. Finally, she covers Nestor up with her body to keep him warm. Unsurprisingly, his ears pop out. “Ears, Nestor,” his mother whispers. “Yes, Mama,” he answers.

The next morning Nestor wakes up but we don’t see his mother. We only see a lump of snow.

Why does Nestor have to lose the one animal in the world who loves him unconditionally?

I get it, Nestor has to go on his hero’s journey. But does that mean does he has to lose his mom in the process?

Forty years later, this still makes me mad.

All alone, Nestor wanders. Eric Carmen should be on the soundtrack singing “All By Myself” but instead we have narrator Roger Miller handling singing duties. While walking, Nestor meets Tilly the angel. Tilly doesn’t resurrect Nestor’s mom, they just walk.

And walk.

They walk for months.

Finally, Tilly brings Nestor to Bethlehem and she tells him if he waits, then he’ll “save another.”

Even at the new stable, he is treated badly because of his ears.

Just when all hope is lost, a couple walk into the stable. The man has a beard, the woman is pregnant and wearing blue. Yep, Mary and Joseph! Mary’s quiet serene beauty makes the stable master give them Nestor for free. Nestor is chosen for his “gentle eyes.”

It’s true–out of all the Rankin Bass creations, Nestor has the best and biggest eyes.

Of course, a sandstorm occurs. By then a hailstorm of frogs wouldn’t be a surprise. Yet our Nestor becomes the hero, and wraps his ears around Mary, and gets them to a manger. Cut to Mary holding a baby in her arms, three kings visiting, a drummer boy drumming.

You get the idea.

Yet Nestor watches from a distance. Why? Because he’s shy? Because he doesn’t want to be the center of attention? Who knows?

We then have Nestor going back to the farm of his youth. By then he’s considered a hero and all the animals who teased him welcome him with open paws. The mean owner lifts him up on his shoulders.

This is what ticks me off.

I get it–Nestor didn’t know where else to go. Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt because they were afraid King Herrod would kill Baby Jesus and odds are they had to travel light. But why did Nestor go back to that awful farm? The owner is responsible for Nestor’s mom dying, for crying out loud! Nestor could’ve hung out in Bethlehem, given kids rides around town, anything but going back to the place where he was treated so badly.

This is why I don’t think young children should watch this special. Hey! You do something heroic! Now go back to the people who were horrible to you! What kind of message is that sending?

Yes, I’m taking this special in the Rankin/Bass cannon way too seriously. I know the message is Nestor used what others considered a weakness into a strength, which is something everyone should do in their lives. But why did his mother have to die in the process?

What lesson did that serve?

Am I missing something here?

Just don’t get me started on Santa Claus is Coming To Town.