The Art Of Perspective
Thanksgiving has come and gone. The holiday season is in full swing. And that means something wonderful or terrible, depending on your point of view. No, I’m not talking about the repetitive, cheesy Christmas music that makes you want to shove an ice pick into your eye. It’s the other holiday tradition.
In a few days, the old-school Christmas specials will begin appearing on television in earnest. I had discussed this steadfast tradition at a holiday gathering. I turned a few heads when I shared my opinion of these happy holiday classics.
Let’s take the much-loved, Rudolph, The Rednosed Reindeer. The story wraps up with all the appropriate niceties when Santa grants Rudolph the reins of the sleigh team. The other reindeer, who previously bullied Rudolph, now ride his coattails and become his friends. Let’s not forget that Rudolph gains these friends only because Santa anoints him the lead sleigh driver. I explained my alternate perspective to the group.
The reindeer bullied Rudolph because of his perceived deformity. Even his parents, especially his father, felt the need to cover up his unsightly blemish.
Only when Santa deemed him cool did the other reindeer befriend him. It wasn’t some grand epiphany about Rudolph’s character that caused a change of heart. It was that the exalted leader proclaimed Rudolph desirable. On this pronouncement, the other reindeer decided he was worthy. How’s that for a storybook friendship?
The Art Of Interpretation
My interpretation contrasts with the happily-ever-after explanation of the 1950’s claymation take that has persisted on unquestioned.
Someone pointed out that I tend to find the negative in everything. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. I often look at stories and try to take an alternate perspective. What if the other guy was telling the story? How would it be different?
No, Not Frosty
Since I was already the downer at the party, I later pointed out the questionable message in Frosty The Snowman. You know, how these kids ran away from home to escort a snowman to the North Pole. Their parents must have been worried sick. In today’s world, these parents may have been arrested for allowing their kids to go on such an ill-advised journey. Can you picture the social media outrage?
“Never do that to us,” I told my kids.
Perhaps it’s time to rewrite the endings to classic holiday fairytales. How about Santa expels the other reindeer from his sleigh team as part of his zero tolerance on bullying.
The kids who run away to help Frosty, return home to find their parents in jail. Child protective custody whisks the children away to a foster care home.
You probably think that I must be the biggest buzz kill at holiday parties or any party. I’ve just ruined two-holiday classics for you. Or, maybe I’ve shown you how to look at these timeless stories from a different perspective.
Change Your Perspective
Perspective helps us derive meaning from stories. From Rudolph The Rednose Reindeer’s view, everything turned out great. Santa chose him to lead the sleigh team. All the other reindeer loved him. That was good enough for him.
A modern-day observer might question the happy outcome. The other reindeer only accepted him because Santa did. What if Rudolph injures a leg? Will the other reindeer bully him again?
Looking at stories, and even facts, from different viewpoints, opens your eyes to different interpretations of an event. Interpretation explains how two people can see or hear the same facts and come to different conclusions.
Rewrite Your Story
A more ambitious approach is to rewrite a story from an alternate perspective. Kind of like how Wicked is a retelling of the Wizard Of Oz, but from the witches point of view. You can tell the same story, without changing any facts, and leave the audience crying in sadness instead of crying tears of joy or rooting for the bad guy instead of the good guy.
The retelling exercise reminds us that one person’s villain is another person’s hero. One person’s saint is another person’s scoundrel. It’s not the facts that make a difference. The facts often aren’t in dispute. It’s the interpretation of those facts that determine how we cast our judgment.