We’re Being Privatized, Charlie Brown

‘Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy’

Joshua N. Miller
Debugger
Published in
8 min readOct 23, 2020

--

Image: Joshua N. Miller

I don’t remember when I started watching the Peanuts specials, only how quickly they became a staple for the holidays. I’d pester my parents to either cart me off to my grandparent’s house or let me stay up the extra hour while I was still in elementary school, save for Thanksgiving, when the special usually airs on the day of. Even now, one of the holiday traditions that I maintain and hope to one day share with my own kids is the yearly viewing of the first Peanuts holiday special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s one of the few Christmas specials that holds a lasting appeal for me, with enough hijinks to capture my attention as a child, along with a genuine message that I finally understood as an adult.

With its cast of elementary school characters, it’s easy to see how A Charlie Brown Christmas might be thoughtlessly labeled as a story for children, and oftentimes the Peanuts programs that followed have leaned away from the social commentary that defined the special. But the program’s opening lines, spoken once Vince Guaraldi’s classic theme dies down and the camera rests on Charlie Brown and Linus leaning against a bridge, resonate because of the gravity attached to them: “I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.”

Today, Charles Schultz’s original comic strips don’t always land with the same humor that defines more contemporary comics like Calvin and Hobbes. On the contrary, Peanuts’ characters were more often defined by the philosophical dilemmas that arose in their daily lives, like trying to write the next great novel or finding ways to appeal to their seasonal deities (some more fantastic than others). But surely even casual viewers might agree that this is a fairly loaded sentiment to hear from a character who’s supposed to be eight years old, and in a children’s Christmas special at that. More importantly, it’s an issue that isn’t cleared up anytime soon, as Charlie Brown spends the majority of the special in awe of the ways his companions express their holiday cheer, whether it comes in the form of his sister, Sally, penning a letter to Santa asking for money; his therapist and Linus’ sister, Lucy, ruminating on her Christmas wish for…

--

--

Joshua N. Miller
Debugger

Joshua Miller is writing about pop culture. He aims to dissect individual pieces of art to assess how they contribute to shifts in the entertainment industry.