The Charlie Brown Season
November 24, 2013
Tuesday, November 26th is the 91st birthday of Charles Schulz, creator of Charlie Brown. Sadly, Schulz passed away in 2000, but his legacy lives on in the beloved characters that he created in his comic strip. The Peanuts gang has been taken into the hearts of people of all ages. Today, most kids are having their first taste of this adventurous group not through the newspaper, but through television. Reading the Sunday comics is no longer something that the average child does. As a result, most children’s first experience with Charlie Brown and his friends has been with the holiday specials that have become as essential to our yearly celebrations as jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin pie, and Christmas trees.
My first introduction to Charlie Brown came with A Charlie Brown Christmas. I don’t know what age I was when I saw that special for the first time, and I cannot tell you how many times I have seen it since, but I do know that no Christmas is complete without good old Chuck and that pathetic tree. And of course, Linus’ simple and elegant explanation as to what Christmas is all about. A yearly visit to Linus’ pumpkin patch (It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown) is also required before taking to the streets in the hope of not receiving those rocks that Charlie was always finding in his bag. And this Thanksgiving, I wouldn’t necessarily mind some of that popcorn that Charlie and his friends partook of during their unique celebration (A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving).
The characters that Charles Schulz created have been around for a half century and continue to connect with us today. The question is, why? The stories are fairly simple. There are no over the top visuals, no aliens or zombies, and you don’t see a lot of cell phones and computers. You would think that a modern child would look at the world of Peanuts and dismiss it as an unsophisticated blast from a much simpler past. But the everyday situations that are explored in the adventures of Charlie, Linus, and the rest have not gone away. Nor have the many kids who have grown up feeling just like Charlie.
Let’s face it; everyone would rather be the popular, good looking kid than the awkward, plain, forgettable kid. The fact is, though, that is who most of us are. I look and see how many people today are desperate for their 15 minutes of fame. So much so that they will often humiliate and degrade themselves to get it. I think this comes from us feeling like Charlie Brown: invisible, unimportant, and clumsy. Whether you are male, female, old, young, black, or white, we can all relate to feeling like the outsider. We all struggle for acceptance and a desire to be noticed, like Charlie.
One of my favorite recurring gags in the story of Charlie Brown is Lucy’s removal of that football before Charlie can kick it. Every time one sees that scene, you want to scream at him, “Don’t do it! She’ll just pull it out of the way!” Yet, over and over again, he goes for it. And he always ends up flat on his bottom. So why does he keep trying? Is he just gullible? Or is he simply a glutton for punishment? I like to think that he just refuses to give up even when things seem hopeless. Just because you might never succeed doesn’t mean you should stop trying. In fact, I think that this pretty much sums up Charlie himself. Yes, his life is not perfect, but he keeps plugging along.
Then, you have the other characters in Charlie’s life. My two favorites are Peppermint Patty and Linus. Patty represents, to me, all those girls that are looked over by even the plain fellows like Charlie. He is infatuated with the little red haired girl, who will not even acknowledge his existence, while Patty stands right in front of him with her enduring love for all to see. Girls like Patty, outspoken and not your standard beauty, have to compete for attention against the bombshells that even the unattractive guys prefer. And Charlie’s best bud, Linus, is known for always carrying his trusty security blanket with him. This is something that many of us can relate to. I had, and in fact still have, a blanket just like that. While I didn’t carry it around absolutely everywhere, for years I took it with me whenever I was sleeping in an unfamiliar place. Seeing Linus with his blanket made me less self-conscious about mine.
Every other character that Charles Schulz created can be found somewhere in our lives. The bossy girl (Lucy). The adorable kid sister lusting after her big brother’s best friend (Sally). The kid more focused on having fun playing outside than worrying about being clean (Pigpen). Then, we have the world’s smartest dog. Snoopy is the one element that I don’t think has an equivalent in our everyday world. There just are not that many dogs out there that can win a contest for decorating their doghouse. But his devotion is still a pretty good representative of man’s best friend.
The reason that Charlie Brown has become so much a part of our lives is very simple. There is a little bit of Charlie Brown in all of us. Watching him navigate the waters of his world, we can easily see the parallels to our own daily trials, even as adults. And no matter what your age, the holiday season is the perfect time to revisit Charlie and company. So take a trip back to the pumpkin patch, gather round the popcorn-laden picnic table, and watch the transformation of Chuck’s little tree. It might just bring a smile to your face on those days when somebody swipes your football and you land on your bum.