This week, we have learned about the thinly veiled bigotry in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” We’ve also learned about the racism of Charlie Brown and the classism of the Grinch. I am grateful that we are having these conversations, and I certainly cannot imagine a more pertinent subject to be discussing. I find it deeply frustrating that so many people expose their children to these holiday-themed fairy tales without even stopping to consider the problematic ideas and images they contain. It is no surprise that hate crimes skyrocket during the Christmas season, according to statistics that I saw in a dream last night.
It does, however, shock me that no one has yet noticed the most racist, sexist, and transphobic Christmas cartoon of them all: “Frosty the Snowman.” Frosty is so fraught with discriminatory messaging that it makes Rudolph look like an innocent children’s tale by comparison. Indeed, Frosty is straightforward Nazi propaganda, as any clear inspection of the story reveals.
Racism. Now, let’s not be ridiculous. I would never call Frosty racist just because the snowman is white. There is nothing in principle wrong with featuring a white character in a story. White characters can even be entirely necessary if the plot involves, say, a serial killer or a rapist or a devious factory boss dumping poisonous chemicals into a river upstream from an orphanage. These are all roles that can and must be filled by whites. But what makes Frosty problematic is that he is not a serial killer but a “jolly happy soul” who likes to “laugh and play.” The obvious insinuation here is that minorities are neither jolly, nor happy, nor inclined to laugh and play.
But the racism goes much deeper. Frosty, we are told, can only survive in cold and snowy environments. He is a creature made of snow (that is, made of whiteness) who “belongs” in the snow (that is, among other white people). “Frosty the Snowman,” it turns out, is nothing more than a polemic against desegregation.
Sexism. Again, there is nothing on the surface wrong with the fact that Frosty is a snowman. There was a wonderful children’s movie a couple of years ago about a murderous sociopath called “The Snowman Killer.” In that context, it made perfect sense that the character was a man. The film was quite wholesome because it drew the necessary connection between masculinity and violence. But Frosty sends the opposite message. It is grounded in an outmoded, masculocentric point of view where anything magical, anything wonderful, anything happy or joyful, must automatically be male.
Transphobia. Frosty’s gender was assumed based solely on the fact that he wore a top hat. In a similar way, an infant’s gender is assumed based solely on its genitalia, which is just as arbitrary and fundamentally meaningless as a top hat. “Frosty the Snowman” erases the LGBTQI community by refusing to honestly grapple with the protagonist’s gender identity. This is a massive missed opportunity when you consider the fact that Frosty has no sex organs at all. He is, in fact, androgynous and sexless. A more worthwhile and honest Christmas cartoon would explore this fact. But “Frosty the Snowman” bypasses the whole issue, choosing instead to reinforce an archaic binary paradigm.
There are plenty of other reasons to be offended. Frosty is a climate change denier. Frosty’s top hat symbolizes the power of the moneyed class. His eyes, made out of coal, signify a rejection of renewable energy resources. We could go on for days. But I think we’ve got enough here to work with.