Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Childhood is Mean and Lonely

Artwork by Charles M. Schulz
My goodness:
As Halloween nears, many families will gather around the old television set for the annual viewing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” But, one dad says it’s time to retire the classic cartoon because of its taunting messages and unkind words. 
“The show is riddled with the kids calling each other stupid, dumb, and blockheads. There is continous teasing and bullying. Charlie Brown is supposed to be the hero, instead he is kicked and demeaned at every turn, even by the adults giving out candy,” Buzz Bishop, otherwise known as DadCamp, wrote at recently. 
Bishop argues that apart from a sense of nostalgia for parents, the Charlie Brown specials have nothing of value to offer today’s kids. He finds the shows’ acceptance of schoolyard teasing to be antiquated. And, as the father of young kids, he finds the constant use of words like “stupid” “dumb” and “blockhead” to be a bad message for those little ears. “Charlie Brown is always an outsider, the cool kids continue to play tricks, and nobody is ever held to account. In an era of hashtags like #RIPAmandaTodd, these types of attitudes are no longer appropriate,” Bishop wrote.
Mr. Bishop is living in a fantasy world where children aren't mean, lonely, belligerent or confused about the world. Luckily, he can make an ass out of himself in public.

The sheer brilliance of Peanuts--the Greatest Comic Strip Ever--was that it had a world view that almost nobody understood until modern society could grasp Shulz's melancholia in the proper way. Shulz wrote about loneliness like no one else has or ever will. That, in and of itself, elevated his work above the simple gags and slapstick humor that Mr. Bishop probably wishes our kids could get right now.

If you understand Peanuts, you would never say it is irrelevant. You would say that kids should be exposed to it, over and over again.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Charlie Brown (and in another way Linus) are the heroes because they perservere in the face of all this. I guess this Dad only feels "heroes" in stories are those who are liked and have everything easy? He claims to be against bullying, but he also stomps down the (thankfully imaginary in this case) kids who are bullied, outsiders. His underlying message is that there's no place for them in reality.

    Even as a preschool kid, I understood that we were meant to emphasize with Charlie Brown and that Lucy's constantly berating him was mean and yes- bullying. Lucy's character was frequently described as "crabby" in Peanuts comics and cartoons. It seemed clear to me she was in the wrong -- but it never occurred to me to pretend people like her didn't exist. To do so would be almost as BLOCKHEADED as carrying on about what should happen to cartoon children instead of trying to help real life ones.