In today’s PC world stuffed with anti-bullying rhetoric, Charlie Brown is a victim and the Peanuts gang are bullies that are mean to their friend. If Peanuts’ creator Charles Schulz drew his cartoons today, Peppermint Patty would be sent to the principal’s office, Lucy would be expelled, and Snoopy would be put down all because of how they treat Charlie Brown.
On Monday night on ABC, the network is going all out with a two-hour special for the 50th anniversary of the Charlie Brown holiday classic. I am seriously debating whether to watch this, and share it with my daughter again. No more do I find this an adorable cartoon strip.
This special is mean, depressing and cruel. The world is hard enough, and a little kids’ TV show does not need to remind us of that much of the struggle begins in elementary school. Only the end of this special has any redeeming qualities; when Charlie Brown learns the true meaning of Christmas, and his “friends” are actually friendly. The finale of the kids singing around the infamous little tree remains a iconic moment in holiday TV.
Because so much time passes between watching Charlie Brown bumble his way through Christmas as a kid and as a parent, you are likely going to forget most of the show until you watch it again with your child. When you watch it once again you will be absolutely appalled by this show.
Charlie Brown sounds like he borders on depression, Lucy is an unrepentant monster, Peppermint Patty runs over Charlie Brown without apology, and Snoopy treats his owner like dog food. All of his friends laugh and mock and ridicule Charlie Brown for every breath he draws. The only one that gets a pass is Sally, his sister; she’s family.
No cartoon creator, much less a studio, would draw or give this concept a green light today. The only reason “A Charlie Brown Christmas” endures is because the fond collective memories of the parents, and because the networks have aired it for five decades.
The beauty of The Peanuts gang, and Charlie Brown, is that it’s kids going about their routine as kids often do - without a filter. Kids can be mean, and dramatic. The appeal of Charlie Brown is that he is a lovable loser; that’s his role. The other appeal of Charlie Brown and The Peanuts Gang is that they are, or should be, an escape.
Not enough of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” feels like an escape. It feels more like a Sam Mendes movie.
The “The Peanuts Movie” doesn’t gut Charlie Brown to accommodate our more PC society, and it does not turn Charlie Brown into a gold medalist. He is still a lovable loser, and he endures a string of bad breaks, but he does not sound as if he needs to go on anti-depression medication, and his friends actually have some redeeming qualities, too.