Thursday, October 29, 2009

Good Grief, Great Pumpkin!

One of the few moments in my childhood when the cacophony of yelling and hyperactive activity would die down and everyone would shut up for a short while was when a Charlie Brown special would come on TV. This time of year it would be "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" which would help overcome the misery of the beginning of the school year. As an adult, I still try to catch it every now and then. Sort of a reminder of childhood that didn't involve my brother throwing things into the fireplace or my sister getting milk poured on her head. Ah, to be a kid again!

For those of you who were too poor to own a TV, or those of you who just hate America so much that you're unfamiliar with the Peanuts gang, I'll summarize--the "Great Pumpkin" special involved a group of cartoon schoolchildren who couldn't wait to put on their white sheets and go around the neighborhood demanding candy from adults who had voices that sounded like trumpets being tuned. (Of course, it's not advisable to go around town in a group that is ALL wearing white sheets, lest the neighbors think it's a Ku Klux Klan rally and you end up on Jerry Springer). Lucy, who was sort of ahead of her time as a feminist and psychiatrist (she'd offer psychiatric help for 5 cents, and tell Charlie Brown things like "direct a school play" when he comes to her with serious concerns about his crippling depression), would dress as a witch. Pigpen, who represented the urban proletariat what with his clouds of dust, was recognizable for his filthy sheet. Charlie Brown, the hapless loser, had cut his sheet full of holes and would have been better off pretending to be Swiss Cheese. The trumpet-sounding adults would torment Charlie by giving him rocks instead of candy. (It is a wonder he didn't later star in "Put the Gun Down, Charlie Brown!")

Snoopy, who was Charlie's pet beagle, would in the meantime fly his doghouse into a WWI air battle (this was created in the mid-60s around the time LSD became popular) and then ended up crashing the kids' Halloween party. When Lucy bobs for apples, she'd inadvertently end up smooching with the dog. Despite her histrionics after discovering she was kissing Snoopy, I think the lady doth protest too much!

But the main focus of the special is Linus, who is Charlie Brown's loyal sidekick. He decides to forgo trick-or-treating and wait in a pumpkin patch for some monster called "The Great Pumpkin" who apparently shows up for kids of faith, and gives them all sorts of riches and rewards. This may be a religious allegory, but in the end--SPOILERS!--the Great Pumpkin never shows up. Is this the creator--Charles Shultz--telling us that there is no God? Or did the Great Pumpkin simply never appear because Linus wanted tangible benefits like riches and candy? Was this Shultz's way of telling us to live our lives well and enjoy it, because we find God in our everyday happenings? Had Linus gone with the other kids he would have still gotten candy, and perhaps the Great Pumpkin would have shown up when needed. Maybe to smite Lucy for her Wiccan beliefs!


  1. Dude, I really want to watch this again now

  2. Nothing beats the Peanuts holiday specials. I watch this rountinely with my nephew. While all the Pixar animations are great, nothing will ever top these cartoons.

  3. J--sounds like a bit of childhood calling!

    DF--the classics never die!