Bertolt Brecht would have approved of “Peanuts”
August 18, 2019 5:37 PM   Subscribe

This article sums up pretty much EXACTLY the way I related to Peanuts even as a CHILD. Childhood wasn't always the super exciting whiz-bang fun stuff other cartoons suggested it was - there were moments of struggle and sadness and pathos, and Peanuts was the only one that seemed to acknowledge that, and I NEEDED someone to empathize with me about that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:28 PM on August 18, 2019 [16 favorites]

Maybe some of you are not familiar with Peanuts but it is honestly one of the greatest (possibly the greatest) continuous narrative in human history and as far as I am aware, the only one that was crafted by a single person for 50 years. If you are only familiar with the franchise from animated specials or greeting cards, then you are capturing a totally valid dimension of the work but there is an infinite amount of existential ennui, self-loathing, victory and defeat, depression, introspection, fun, whimsy, and mythology in the 17,897 strips. Do yourself a favor and start reading them.
posted by koavf at 7:31 PM on August 18, 2019 [19 favorites]

One aspect of childhood that Schulz captured like no one else I am aware of is the pleasure of contemplative time, of rainy days looking out the window, truces between Linus and Lucy with cereal in front of the TV.
posted by thelonius at 8:01 PM on August 18, 2019 [13 favorites]

I was pretty unaware of the deeper cultural impact of Peanuts until I read David Michaelis’ great book, “Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography”. It was a really entertaining biography with lots to reveal about the man himself and what drove him. I also remember being very surprised by how much the strip meant to grownups for many years, even as snoopy merch took over the world.
posted by mmc at 9:18 PM on August 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

I loved The Peanuts so much as a child. My family often gave me Peanuts merchandise, but they missed the point completely. I didn't want a stuffed Snoopy, I wanted my daily dose of philosophy.
posted by mumimor at 5:57 AM on August 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

RE: The part about 'the wall'. The WPA built a lot of stone walls, especially around schools, so they would have been relatively common back in the day. My school had one that was about as tall as the wall in Charlie Brown and like 3 feet wide surrounding our school.

That's another aspect of our disposable society - that chain link is cheaper and metal rails are taller and more menacing.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:39 AM on August 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Also, I think it's kind of interesting in that the author states that the Peanuts kids don't talk about things real kids talk about, but I think that is wrong. The "what is morality" section I think kind of makes his point, in that "what is morality" is a grown-up question.

But remember that kids are learning about history in school and perhaps in church, about all these terrible things that are done, and that adults just keep doing them, and there is never a reason given 'why'. So I think the 'morality' discussion is very much something kids do think and talk about, as they are trying to figure out the divergent lessons given by their elders.

Good article by the way. I never noticed the 'rhythm' of the strips mentioned, but it totally is there!
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:51 AM on August 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

If Charlie Brown ever declined to kick the football, would he still be Charlie Brown?
posted by tobascodagama at 8:07 AM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

OK, I love Peanuts, and I'm in favor of admiring Schulz's remarkable combination of universality and minimalism. But I'm a little put off by the implication that no other comic did anything like it.

First, you'd want to look at Percy Crosby's Skippy, which was an acknowledged influence on Schulz— down to the design of Charlie Brown. Skippy wasn't as deep, but it took a wry, kid's-eye view. You'd want to glance at Krazy Kat, which shared the philosophical bent and the dysfunctional relationships. Quino's Mafalda, sadly unknown in the US, had the adult themes in an apparent kid's strip, and the same affectionate acceptance of difficult characters. Walt Kelly's Pogo could be equally empathetic/perceptive on human foibles. Tove Jansson's Moomins have some of the same lovable melancholy. As for longevity, Frank King created Gasoline Alley for 51 years.
posted by zompist at 9:52 AM on August 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

I remember eagerly awaiting the Sunday paper for the latest color Peanuts. I cut them out and pasted them into an old photo album. I must’ve had 2 or 3 albums by the time I stopped. Peanuts was the first comic I read and I loved it. I had all the books and the folks even took me to see the play “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”.

As I got older, I drifted toward the underground comics and put away Peanuts. Comix were new, ground breaking and dealing with those issues I was experiencing as I became a teenager (I overlooked the racism, misogyny and other problematic themes). Peanuts was for kids.

I clicked over to Amazon to check out the volume reviewed (Peanuts Every Sunday: 1961-1965), took a look at the first comic in the preview (Lucy with the large snowball) and had a nice long laugh.

Thanks, Peanuts.
posted by jabo at 12:19 PM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I was at peak Peanuts fandom as a child, and it was indeed because of this kind of mindset. Peanuts gave me the words for how to express frustration with things. There was a strip where Lucy has been struggling with roller skating, repeatedly falling down, and finally in frustration she rips off her skates, runs inside, and throws them into a closet, hollering "they can lie in there and ROT for all I care!" A year or so later, I tried roller skating, had the same lack of success, and - did exactly what Lucy did, to the great amusement of my father who walked into the room right when I was flinging the skates into a closet and hollering that my skates could rot at the top of my seven-year-old voice.

Although one of my favorite strips came when I was in my 20s, and it was because of a worlds-collide moment; I was really heavily into W.B. Yeats after a college class, and there's a strip from the 90s where Schroeder, dressed up in his catchers' uniform, wanders over to Charlie Brown on the pitcher's mound - and all he says is "Things fall apart, the center cannot hold." Then he turns and walks away. Watching him go, all Charlie Brown says is "when catchers get hit on the head with too many fly balls, they get a little weird."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:40 PM on August 19, 2019 [7 favorites]

Soon after Schulz's death, On May 27, 2000, over fifty cartoonists included a reference to Peanuts in their own strips. Not shown: One I remember (but don't recall which comic), where an angel was holding the football for a dubious Charlie Brown, and saying, "C'mon, we wouldn't do that to you here; this is Heaven."

And then there's Funny or Die's Blockhead's Revenge movie trailer.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:01 PM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm an old, but totally read Peanuts in the 60s-70s in the paper. Peak Snoopy started coming in near the end of this.

But somewhere in that same time I found some older compendium books of strips. They felt very different. Quite the dichotomy from what I was reading every night in the comics.
posted by Windopaene at 8:35 PM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I discovered Peanuts via a paperback compilation on the train from Stirling to Oxford in 1970. So I would have been about five. I learned the word "sarcasm" that day, I think (just as I learned the word "facsimile" from Mighty World of Marvel three years later). I think Charlie Brown was probably the only fictional character with whom I ever felt any kind of affinity, though I'd rather have liked to have been Moomintroll.
posted by Grangousier at 12:09 PM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

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