What can I say about Charlie Brown? Plenty, as it turns out. Poor Charlie Brown. Blockhead. Lovable loser. Hard luck follows him. This passes for entertainment for kids. I’ve had enough.
Everyone of a certain age knows Charlie Brown, the prematurely bald, eight year old protagonist of the late Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip. Charlie Brown also starred in numerous television specials. Many of these specials center around a holiday–A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown, etc. Others follow a similar theme of the dour circumstances of young Charlie, such as You’re in Love, Charlie Brown, You’re Not Elected Charlie Brown, What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown, ad nauseum. Each of these hour-long specials involve some sort of maudlin circumstances where our put-upon hero is bullied, terrorized and berated until the inevitable “upbeat” ending where some kind of lesson is delivered.
He is always called “Charlie Brown,” not Charlie. The only exceptions to this are the androgynous pair of Peppermint Patty and Marcie who call him “Chuck” and “Charles.” He even called his grandmother once and said “Hello, this is Charlie Brown.”
Charlie Brown is tormented by insecurity and self-doubt, hardly a healthy role model. He constantly battles the vacuous children of his school. They, of course, reinforce his insecurities by consistently reminding him of his various inadequacies. He’s bald, too. Charles Schulz said that he isn’t bald, that he has close-cropped, light-colored hair. Sure.
Let’s be clear. I’ve got no beef with Charlie Brown. In fact, I identify with him to a certain extent. Insecurity, self-doubt and downright neurosis hover about me. This is how I looked when I was eight years old:
I may sympathize with Charlie Brown, but the same can’t be said for the maladjusted gang of misanthropes with whom he surrounds himself. I loathe his so-called friends. He’d be better off among the Children of the Corn.
As a kid, no Christmas show may have disturbed me more than A Charlie Brown Christmas. Poor Charlie Brown tries to teach that pack of troglodytes the true meaning of Christmas while they turn it into a Bacchanal of consumerism. Even his own dog, Snoopy, fails to understand. Okay, in the end, everyone “gets it” and all is well–except of course for the severe psychological wounds inflicted upon Charlie Brown.
(Actually, a piece of TV tripe called The House Without a Christmas Tree is worse. Jason Robards plays an emotionally abusive father of a 10-year-old girl. The bitter old bastard hates Christmas and won’t allow a Christmas tree in his house. By the time he sees the light, you’ll already have wished him dead for so long, you won’t care.)
As far as I know, my children have never seen even one Charlie Brown special. There’s a simple reason for that. I love my children, and I don’t encourage them to warp their minds with cartoon child abuse. If they are to be bullies themselves, I would prefer it just develop naturally rather than be learned on TV.
But, what of Charlie Brown’s “friends?” That alternate between contemptible and pathetic.
Lucy Van Pelt
Lucy was likely the prototype for Rhoda in The Bad Seed–a hateful, conniving little witch whose singular purpose in life is to make Charlie Brown miserable. Her running gag is to hold a football for Charlie Brown to kick and then pull it away at the last second, thus humiliating him once again. Perhaps one can rightfully question Charlie Brown’s intelligence or self-esteem to fall prey to this prank dozens–if not hundreds–of times. Nevertheless, it is Lucy ultimately who bears the responsibility for this abusive behavior.
Once–just once–I’d like to see Charlie Brown trot toward that ball, stop abruptly and kick Lucy square in the teeth. Hard. Blood spurting freely from her mangled mouth, she’d roll on her back. Just when you think she’s dead, she coughs, spewing blood and a mouthful of broken teeth. Charlie Brown, grinning slightly, mutters “I guess that one split the uprights, bitch.”
Pig-Pen doesn’t pick on Charlie Brown like the rest of those miniature Blutos in whatever the hell town they live in. No, his “humor” derives from his horrific hygiene. He is always surrounded by a cloud of dust or dirt and is perpetually filthy. He is largely shunned by the other third graders. Only Charlie Brown, of course, unconditionally accepts him, leading to Charlie Brown’s further ostracization. Pig-Pen last appeared in Peanuts in 1999, shortly before Charles Schulz’s death. Evidently, the humor to be found in a filthy child died with him.
Growing up in Eastern Kentucky, I knew filthy-looking kids. They weren’t funny. My parents always said that one sign of trashy people was a baby with a dirty face. Pig-Pen, alas, may have been trash or just drawn that way.
LINUS VAN PELT
Lucy’s younger brother, Linus is as close as Charlie Brown gets to a real friend. Of course, Linus is an odd, possibly mentally ill child who fantasizes about The Great Pumpkin, a holiday myth in which he is the only child who believes. He is also emotionally attached to his blanket, no doubt as a result of the absence of his parents, a disturbing living condition of all these children.
Linus appears to have well-above average intelligence. Of course, this may just be damning him with faint praising by comparing him to the sadistic children who degrade Charlie Brown. Lucy, of course, also attacks Linus trying innumerable times to hide or destroy his blanket, hoping no doubt to force a final break from reality for her younger sibling.
Peppermint Patty is a lesbian. There, I said it. Oh, I know others have made the same observation. It doesn’t take a person perceptive about human relations to make this deduction. She is. No big deal, mind you. The irony is that she also has a crush on Charlie Brown. That’s how things go for Charlie Brown. That’s right. One girl likes Charlie Brown, and she’s gay.
Patty regularly dominates Charlie Brown in sports, baseball especially. This further adds to his degradation. If Linus is a genius, Patty appears to be a nitwit, believing that Charlie Brown’s dog, Snoopy, is a kid with the “long nose.” Her long time companion, Marcie, consistently refers to Patty as “sir.” This gender-bending can only warp young minds.
THE LITTLE RED HAIRED GIRL
She is Charlie Brown’s unattainable true love. One time she wrote Charlie Brown a note and said she liked him. Did we ever see her again? Of course, not. That’s how Charlie Brown’s world works.
I theorize that the Little Red Haired Girl doesn’t really exist. She’s merely a figment of Charlie Brown’s imagination created to maintain some semblance of sanity. No doubt his fragile young mind created her as an unapproachable ideal, yet something to make his life tolerable.
What I don’t like about the Little Red Haired Girl is that Charlie Brown still can’t catch a break. He swoons and he carries on about her. He obsesses like a bald, eight year old stalker. But, does he ever really get to work his game with her? Of course, not. Even an imaginary child disses Charlie Brown.
I read that the Little Red Haired Girl was based on Charles Schulz’s unrequited love for a woman who left him to marry another man. I don’t know if that’s true. If it is, it’s unfortunate. Perhaps some psychological counseling would have been appropriate, rather than tormenting Charlie Brown.
She doesn’t readily come to mind when one thinks of Peanuts, but she is the most despicable of them all. It is she, I believe, who coined the term “block head” for Charlie Brown. She both verbally and physically abuses him. She’s also a haughty little harridan, constantly bragging about her father or other self-perceived superiority. If these characters aged like real people, I’m confidant that Charlie Brown, after years being institutionalized, would return and decapitate her and bury her head in Snoopy’s doghouse.
Along with Linus, Schroeder may well be a real friend of Charlie Brown’s. A piano prodigy modeled perhaps after Van Cliburn, Schroeder supports Charlie Brown in most of his endeavors. Unfortunately, his obsession with the piano limits his availability. He also thumbs his nose at Lucy, rejecting her at every turn. For that alone, I like him.
What?!?! I have a problem with Snoopy? Man’s best friend? Yep, I do. He’s arrogant and self-absorbed. Unlike a faithful, loyal, real life dog, Snoopy smugly lolls about his doghouse expecting Charlie Brown to bring him food or address any other whim. He doesn’t even know Charlie Brown’s name–referring to him as that “round-headed kid.” This is a dog who can communicate with a bird. The least one could expect would be that he knew his master’s name. If Snoopy were any kind of dog, he would maul Lucy, tearing out her throat. The day he does that, I’ll change my opinion.
The adults are never seen. When they are heard, it is only as the mute drone of a trombone. Having children myself, I realize that is the sound they hear when I talk. Regardless, one would think an adult–any adult–would step in on occasion and protect Charlie Brown from the slings and arrows of his childhood. Instead, they sit idly by while his torment continues. To Hell with them, too, I say.
Many other characters have traveled in and out of the Peanuts world. Franklin the black kid. Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally. Snoopy’s sidekick, Woodstock. All of them have piled on Charlie Brown on occasion. Is this entertainment? Perhaps. So is bear-baiting for some folks.
While everyone gathers around to watch the latest abuse heaped on Charlie Brown, remember this: He might grow up one day. If he does, there will be Hell to pay.