Charlie Brown: The original bullied child

Every year the holiday specials would start at 8:00pm. Usually they played on Wednesday nights, so we’d rush to get home in time to watch after church. We had our priorities!

That familiar tune of Vince Guaraldi’s would come on and we’d tap our toes as we watched Charlie Brown and the gang come on the screen. Their antics are world famous among children. Lucy snatching the football away from Charlie Brown’s foot, leaving him flailing about in the air. Sally’s obsession with Linus. Pigpen’s cloud of dust. Peppermint Patty’s clueless and rather brutish tomboyishness. Schroeder’s piano playing. Linus’ attachment to his blanket. And my personal favorite, Marcy, with her (often witty) wisdom that was usually directed at Peppermint Patty.

Recounting those scenes, the images that come to mind bring happy memories of the smell of my mother’s baking for the holidays while we watched our favorite specials. She would give us tasks to do to help that we could finish on commercials or as we were watching. Until I got into my teen years, I could always be found sitting with my brother(s) as we laughed along with the characters in these classic shows.

Last year, I introduced the Charlie Brown holiday specials to Brandon, thanks to a DVD box set that my older brother’s family gifted to us years ago. It was just after he was starting to build his vocabulary more quickly and within about two showings, he was requesting to watch “Shar Bown” by name. Over and over and over. Kids love Charlie Brown! The Peanuts were and still are my younger brother’s favorite cartoon and I sent him that same box set last Christmas. Personally, I lost interest in cartoons by the time I was 12. So, watching them with Brandon is taking me way back. We don’t have cable, so I get to hand pick what he watches and I don’t have to worry about commercials - it’s actually a great arrangement.

However, watching the Peanuts as an adult and through the lens of parenthood is enlightening. I’m a little disturbed by how mean Lucy and her friends are to Charlie Brown - almost constantly. And yet, he seems to handle it like a mature adult - one with a clear idea of how to handle bullies - an impressive feat for a second grader. The Christmas special is perhaps the most egregious example of the mean-spirited snobbery of Lucy and her gang - apart from Lucy’s football trick.

  • He’s made fun of in the first Halloween episode because he puts too many holes in his ghost costume. 
  • In the second “Halloween” episode, there’s a choice between Charlie Brown and Linus for Class President - Lucy does a poll and states in no uncertain terms that Charlie Brown will never win. So, he throws all of his efforts into helping Linus win.
  • Peppermint Patty invites herself and two others to Charlie Brown’s for Thanksgiving, then complains quite loudly and rudely when the food served isn’t the traditional meal. Despite that, he still asks his unintended guests to join him at his grandmother’s for Thanksgiving.  
  • In the Christmas episode, nothing he does is right. He goes out of his way for his friends and it’s never good enough. Somehow, Linus brings them all around in the end.

While I think it’s interesting to see the way Charlie Brown handles being bullied by his friends, and possibly children could learn from it, why weren’t the Peanuts cartoons made just a little bit more happy-go-lucky? Yes, the football bit is funny. But I don’t find a lot of what goes on in these holiday specials all that humorous. There is a prominent sense of entitlement prevalent in many of the characters. (And here we thought that was a new thing to more recent generations.)

No TV show will portray life in a way that is perfect, influencing children to behave perfectly. However, they can be more realistic and tone down some of the negative attitudes that exist. The attitudes need to be there to some extent, because they are part of the reality of life and shows without them won’t be realistic. I just find it hard to understand why a (now) classic children’s cartoon included such a large dose of negativity and bullying.

Or perhaps I’m taking the whole show way too seriously.

***** 

Mama's Losin' It

This post was based on the prompt “A book (or tv show … or something) that you watched/loved as a kid, that you see through entirely different eyes as an adult/mom. (inspired by Paula from Momforlife)” from Mama Kat’s writing workshop. 

Full disclosure: My brother will probably hate that I’m writing this post, but he’ll get over it. Just because it’s his favorite cartoon doesn’t mean it has to be everyone else’s. :)