Lessons Learned From Peanuts
Lost On This Generation?
Linus was my favorite Peanut when I was little. He is cute (Sally Brown agrees with me.). He has strong beliefs. (He believed in the Great Pumpkin when no one else did.) He doesn’t care about his reputation. (Even as he ages, he never leaves home without his trusty security blanket.) He has an older sister, Lucy, who, despite bringing him down at every chance she gets, loves him and a little brother named Rerun who is so like him that he might as well be his clone. He is a loyal friend to and the biggest supporter of Charlie Brown.
Charlie (or “Chuck” to Peppermint Patty) is your average, accident prone kid. He always tries hard to succeed, but something (usually Lucy) always happens that causes him to fail. He is the big brother of the aforementioned Sally and takes his job seriously, trying daily to set a good example for her. He has had a lifelong crush on a mysterious “little red-headed girl.” He is the proud owner of Snoopy.
Snoopy is a beagle with an overly imaginative mind. He has daydreams where we see him flying planes, writing best-selling novels, being a baseball hero, solving mysteries and such. He comes from a large family that includes Spike, a desert dweller. He has a bird friend, Woodstock, who only he can understand. He loves Charlie, or as he likes to call him “that round-headed kid” very much. (It should be noted that Charlie was not his first owner. His first owner, Lila, had to give him up when her parents moved her family to a “no dogs allowed” apartment complex.) He is in constant competition with Lucy and enjoys stealing kisses from her.
Lucy has been described as both “crabby and cynical.” She is the big sister of Linus and Rerun. She runs a psychiatric booth (Simply put, it’s a psychiatrist’s office set up like a lemonade stand.) where she gives out advice for a nickel. Oddly enough, her most frequent customer is Charlie who she spends her free time tormenting. While she is openly in love with the piano playing Schroeder, many people believe she harbors a secret crush on Charlie.
Last, but not least is Sally. As mentioned before, she is Charlie’s little sister. She is very girly, bubbly, laid back and blonde. She has a huge crush on Linus, her “Sweet Babbooette.” She can’t figure out why he doesn’t reciprocate. She loves Charlie, her “big brother” as she more often than not calls him, but is often disappointed with him. Like many little sisters, she wants him to be her protector and gets frustrated when he allows people to get away with insulting her.
All of these characters appeared in the Charles M. Schultz comic strip, Peanuts which ran from October 2, 1950 to February 13, 2000 (the day after Schultz died of colon cancer). It starred Charlie Brown and told about his daily misfortune…I mean his life. His friends, especially his dog, added spice to his life and, even Lucy at times, lifted him up when he was down. Numerous movies and television specials (A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, A Boy Named Charlie Brown and Snoopy, Come Home to name a few.) were created around the strip as well as two Broadway musicals (You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown and Snoopy!!!-The Musical). The characters have been used to promote many products, Met Life Insurance and Chex Mix being the most well-known.
With all of this in mind, I was shocked the other day to have to explain who Peanuts are to a young person. For me, the Peanuts characters were a childhood staple. I could do the Snoopy dance. I compared my brothers to Charlie and Linus. I wanted to be like Lucy because I saw her as strong and opinionated and hated being compared to Sally. I ate Chex Mix all of the time. I thought my parents were the coolest for using MetLife insurance. I have countless t-shirts and other memorabilia with the images of the Peanuts on them. How could someone not know who these kids were?
While we only have a ten year age difference, perhaps my generation was the last to be introduced to these characters. In school, we read specific weekly strips to help us understand what we were being taught. For example, if you were having trouble understanding a math problem, you would read that Charlie did too and how he overcame it. The Peanuts taught my class about dental health and nutrition. It was cool to give out Peanuts Valentines. Christmas wasn’t Christmas until we were shown the Peanut’s Christmas special. Perhaps this young girl has learned all of these things through the eyes of SpongeBob?
My love for the Peanuts gang will never wane. It has always been a part of my life and always will be. Through Charlie, I learned that failure shouldn’t mean you should stop trying. If he can preserver after countless points of failure, so can I. Thanks to Linus, I understand that security is an important part of someone’s life and, while we may not go as far as walking around with a baby blanket, we should never lose touch with what has always made us feel secure. Lucy, for me, will always be a symbol of strength and a reminder that a hard exterior doesn’t mean a hard heart. Snoopy is a reminder of how beautiful and limitless one’s imagination can and should be. You can’t get a better poster child for love than Sally. Together, the Peanuts kids show us that friendship is important and supporting someone, while not always easy, should go without question. Can SpongeBob do all this?
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