Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's Pagan New Year, Charlie Brown!

Another thing I like about this time of year is the holiday specials that are on TV--the Scrooge story is a good one, advancing an early Marxist message that wealthy and financially sound capitalists should divest their fortunes and give to their labor forces based on need. (After all, if Bob Cratchet was a bachelor happy with a cup of gruel each day, the spirits wouldn't have used threats of violence to force him to give the guy a raise). The first version I ever saw of "A Christmas Carol" was the Mr. Magoo version, and I remember by the end of it thinking "wow, this is pretty deep for Mr. Magoo!"

Then of course there's the claymation Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer special, in which we learn that the other reindeer were a bunch of dicks and Rudolf only became popular when his genetic abnormality proved useful. Keep that in mind, club foot people! We also learned that the elves were enslaved, as when Herbie the Elf wanted to become a dentist he was shunned.

But the best special on TV was the Charlie Brown Christmas special. It's the best of all the Peanuts specials, edging out "Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" and coming way ahead of "It's the Passion of the Christ, Charlie Brown!" and "It's the Cuban Missile Crisis, Charlie Brown!" As you may know, it starts out where Charlie wants to find the true meaning of Christmas, and Lucy (who seems to be an unlicensed psychiatrist) convinces him to be the director for the gang's Christmas play. Of course, it just results in everyone doing their own crazy dance (this was the '60s, after all) and no one listening to Charlie. Because it's clear that Charlie is a drag, man, they send him to get a tree and of course he screws that up by getting a scrawny piece of crap. The other children are correct to mock him, and they sure do, leading him to limp off in sadness, ask what the true meaning of Christmas is, and then his buddy Linus quotes from the Bible to remind the viewing audience that all the pageantry is somehow connected to the birth of Christ. Charlie then tries to put an ornament on his sad tree, and it wilts, much like his spirit. He trods off in sadness, and then Linus and the other kids give the tree a little "love" (which seems to me to consist of simply wrapping Linus' blanket around the base, then putting a bunch of ornaments on it and the tree somehow seems to be more full and healthy).

What's great about the Charlie Brown special is (a) the fact that they use real kids' voices, (b) the catchy jazz score, and (c) the touching aspect of what Linus did for Charlie. When the chips were down and Charlie proved to be a total tool, Linus stuck by the dude and helped him get the lousy tree, and supported him even though Charlie picked out the saddest tree in the lot. He then buoyed the dude's spirits with his religious recital, and saved the tree in the end. Ultimately this is a story about friendship and sticking by people when they're down. And that's what Christmas is all about!

Plus Snoopy being way cooler than his master? Priceless.


  1. The Charlie Brown Christmas Special is really about trees. Charlie realizes that in order for Christmas lust to be sated a tree must be sacrificed. Dreading this, he picks one that looks already completely dead to remind everyone that killing trees is wrong. Of course, because he is a blockhead (code for no fashion sense), his message is missed.

    The moral? Wear a new sweater once in a while.

  2. Lacochran--I should have suspected the Tree Lobby was behind this!