Tuesday, December 7, 2010

'A Charlie Brown Christmas' Open Thread

 What did you think?


  1. Of all the Christmas Special cartoon shows, this is the most fun. I love the encouraging nature of the story, despite all the travails that Charlie Brown goes through.

  2. Well first of all, thanks, Jim, for insisting that we give my professed favorite Christmas show the full Movie Club treatment. To be honest, I've been feeling kind of silly about trying to "discuss" a half-hour cartoon (25 minutes, with no commercials).

    On the other hand, I do enjoy it, every time I watch it, but I don't know when I would have sat myself down and watched it if I hadn't "had" to. Which is blissfully ironic, because I've been running around Christmas shopping too much to have time to watch a holiday program that lampoons the commercialization of Christmas, and actually reminds the viewer quite overtly of the essential significance of the holiday.

    Now, I will admit that part of my delight in the Charlie Brown Christmas is the nostalgia, the association so well established of watching the show as part of the great Christmas gear-up. I loved getting ready for Christmas, decorating the house, going tree-shopping, helping with the Testing of the Lights -- miles of electric wiring criss-crossing the living room floor, my father doggedly seeking the traitorous bulb that was keeping the string he was muttering over dark. I don't recall particularly what my role was, but I always understood it to be essential. I think it was primarily Sitting Still And Not Stepping On Anything. Making cookies -- some years making ornaments!. -- and applying tinsel to the finally decorated tree (in single, or possible double, strands, not "thrown on by the handful"), were rituals as joyous, if less manic, than the opening of presents on Christmas morning. And Charlie Brown always kicked off the countdown.

    And of course, there is the goofy charm and, well, cuteness, of the characters and the rather primitive animation. Lucy and her "Nickels, nickels, nickels" school of psychotherapy; Sally and her "Tens and Twenties" letter to Santa; Snoopy and (when not too occupied with reading the news) his Neighborhood Lighting and Decoration Contest. I especially love the scenes of all the kids dancing on the stage -- each in his own little world, each doing his own unique steps. Lucy plaguing Schroeder; Snoopy mocking Lucy.

    And then Charlie Brown, discouraged by the self-absorption of all the others, and frustrated in his ignored attempts to "direct" as requested, cries out:

    "Would somebody please tell me what Christmas is about?"

    As a kid, I didn't understand Charlie Brown's holiday depression to begin with; it just established his as the "Charlie-Brownest" we had ever seen him, and set up the story line of all his subsequent disappointments with the other characters. (They were always so mean to Charlie Brown.) Nor did I recognize the effect on Charlie Brown of Linus' reciting from Luke. I only recognized his happiness, at the very end, in discovering that his friends had decided to help with his little tree.

    Continuing to watch it as I grew up, and still as an adult (and having come to absolutely love that moment of profound beauty), at some point I spotted the look on Charlie Brown's face when Linus concludes the reading, and the unprecedented calm about him when he picks up the tree and walks out. Now, his new optimism is undermined when he believes he has killed the tree trying to decorate it. And whether Schulz intended it or not, it is the support of Charlie Brown's community -- that flock of playmates who follow after him, sorry for the way they have been treating him -- that encourages him, and helps him regain the happiness he had begun to experience on understanding what, as Linus says, Christmas is all about.

    Plus, I love the music.

  3. Yeah, that's a great one. One of my favorite things about Christmas is the fond memories of days gone by. A big part of that was the excitement and the fun that the Christmas specials would bring. Besides being fun and Christmas-y, they were a great reminder that the special day would soon be upon us! Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas - we would huddle by the TV and watch them all, usually on one Thursday night that had all the Christmas specials. But in the looking back it was the nearness of loved ones that was the best of it all. Christmas is all the better when we have such good things to remember it by. Thanks for sharing those great stories.

  4. I loved the way every time Pig Pen would even move his head, a pile of dust would come off him.

    : )

  5. This was a great one. I see people are coming around again to check out the photos and read the comments. Thanks so much Cathy for your insights and heartfelt comments, on the Charlie Brown Christmas and on all the movies we've watched together. You're a good one.

  6. I always found this special somewhat ironic. It's a commercialized Christmas special based around condemning Christmas commercialism

  7. Condemning might be a bit of a strong word for it. I see it more as a gentle reminder, and one that I certainly benefit from. With all the hustle and bustle of getting things for people and giving things for people and getting it all done before time runs out, here is this quiet little reminder. And watching it we have to laugh at ourselves, because I can see myself in Charlie Brown, a frustrated blockhead all caught up in trying to control things that in the end are largely out of my control, and I am reminded of the truth of the matter... that it is we that received a great gift at Christmas, and we should always be mindful of that.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  8. James?
    Is that the same "anonymous" that had so little regard for the frightened child in your other post?

    I find that some people really have a problem with the Charlie Brown Christmas special because they actually mention the Birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And more so, they say that this is the most important part of the day and season. Try and think of another one that does.
    For example, on the new Doctor Who series, even though they do use the word "Christmas" in the show they have the central character explain that we are celebrating the midpoint of Winter.
    We are half-way on the path to Spring and things getting better. Hope. I hated to single them out because no other television show does any better. Characters always learn that it is family that matters or the people you actually spend time with. Important and obvious points.

    What makes that Charlie Brown special "commercialized?" The commercial breaks the network inserts? Hmm? The fact that CB merchandise and art was later authorized by the creator? Weak tea. Especially since it's on free TV and you are free to leave the room to take a leak like the rest of us are doing.
    Keep in mind you need us Capitalists to sell you the rope that you will use to hang us with.