The Peanuts Movie leaves Charlie Brown fans with hope, but Peanuts – the comic strip – is enduring because it accepts life’s aches and pains.
Charles Schulz – author of the Peanuts comics – had this to say about his creation Lucy in 1985:
‘She is annoyed that it’s all too easy’ he wrote.
‘Charlie Brown isn’t much of a challenge. To be consistent, however, we have to let her triumph – for all the loves in the strip are unrequited; all the baseball games are lost; all the test scores are D-minuses; the Great Pumpkin never comes; and the football is always pulled away’.
Like most of Peanuts – in my view one of greatest contributions to visual art in the 20th century – this sentiment that can be reapplied and extended to cover large swaths of human existence.
All of us strike out in the ninth or arrive at the party on the wrong day – and nobody ever really works up the courage to talk to the little red-haired girl.
The reason Schulz’s strip lasted for 50 years and is now a feature film grossing more than $110m – fully 15 years after its parent strip’s demise – is that Schulz was unswerving in his commitment to incredibly harsh answers to the kinds of existential questions eight-year-olds are not yet afraid to ask.
Schulz is hard on Charlie Brown. Though he is the butt of every joke he also remains the one with the most to learn: in A Charlie Brown Christmas, he laments the commercialization of the holiday only to have Linus explain to him – using a passage from the Bible – that the point of the whole exercise isn’t just against commercialism but totally uninterested in it.
It’s not that we feel our smallness in relationship to the larger forces of the universe with too much sensitivity, according to Peanuts – it’s that our suffering indicates that we don’t yet feel small enough.
Charlie Brown – Schulz seems to be saying – kind of deserves it.