Good grief: Unpacking ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’

More holiday fun from The Plaid Crew. This is a piece co-written by TPC’er Laura and myself. Also, enjoy our close readings of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.'” (Warning: language and subject matter may be offensive to some people. You’ve been warned.)

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) is truly a Christmas classic (view a clip here). It begins with Charlie Brown faced with Christmas depression —suffocated by the consumerism that surrounds him. After he is appointed director of the Christmas play, Linus touchingly teaches him the true meaning of Christmas. However, like Rudolph, Charlie Brown finds himself smack dab in the middle of Cold War anxieties, an increasingly religious America, and the rise of feminism.

Did Joe McCarthy Know about Charles Schultz?

We’re not totally calling old Chuck a commie (if we are, he should take it as a compliment). Charlie Brown is a classic anti-consumerism tale. The lead character is fed up with the presents, the glitter and glam, and all that Christmas hype. Clearly, this a thinly veiled assault on American capitalism.

Charlie’s choice of tree belies his desire to eschew the ostentatious commercialism of the holidays. At the Christmas tree lot, he passes one garish, overpriced tree after another until he settles on the pitiful one that no one else wants. Indeed, Charlie’s choice is downright offensive to his peers who are too wrapped up in the madness of the season to understand his anti-capitalist statement. The tree is eventually made beautiful when Charlie’s friends take it upon themselves to improve it. This act suggests grassroots community organizing, which proves that Schultz is clearly endorsing a socialist agenda.

Enough with the Christian Schmaltz, Schultz

We admit, Linus’ recitation of the Nativity narrative gets us every time. But we’re Irish- and Italian-Catholics with twelve-plus years of parochial school indoctrination under our belts. And what about Laura’s half-Jewish kids down the road? We don’t think they are going to appreciate Linus telling them Christmas is all about Jesus. Couldn’t Linus throw a line in their about Ramadan or Hanukkah? Can’t this be a non-denominational classic, or are the Jewish kids left with South Park and John Stewart for their holiday television cheers?

As the Bill O’Reilly’s of the world circle the wagons in the War on Christmas, we can’t help but notice that their defense is exclusionary and vaguely intolerant. In a season about peace, love, giving, the would-be arbiters of such principles (Christians) remain the most prejudiced. Since when can the majority play the victim? And besides it’s just downright unnerving that nutjob evangelicals can lay any claim on a classic like “Peanuts.”

Lucy: Super Woman or Mega Bitch?

In our research, we came across a few bloggers who viewed Lucy as completely unlikable. We have a feeling these bloggers also find Hermione irritating. They probably called any independent-minded/good-student in high school names like feminazi or some other term totally lacking in creativity or sense. Fear not if you were one of those characters. We were all jerks in high school in one way or another, and look at how far we’ve come!

There’s also Schultz’s interesting and brave choice of including Peppermint Patty and Marcie’s emerging adolescent homosexuality (we wonder what the evangelicals make of this one).

But let’s stick with Lucy. We argue that she was one of the first television super ladies, and clearly no doubt the character from which Hillary Clinton modeled her entire professional career. Let’s run down her résumé:

  • She’s athletic. She can throw snowballs with the rest of the boys, and she kicked poor Chuck’s ass in football during the Thanksgiving special.
  • She’s a doctor for crying out loud (and Chuck is her patient).
  • She’s a businesswoman who knows what she wants: cash and real estate.
  • But she also wants love. She falls for the soothing jazz of Schroeder. What sane girl wouldn’t?
  • She’s a proven leader. When Charlie can’t take charge of the Christmas play, she takes control.
  • She’s the Christmas Queen for god’s sake!
  • She wears blue, a powerful and masculine color typically associated with male characters.
  • She’s intelligent and craves discipline.
  • She’s not afraid of men. She threatens to punch Linus.

And, of course, there’s the incredible score by Vince Guaraldi. Nothing snarky here; we all just really like it.


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