Cartoon Review: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Posted: December 20, 2009 in Cartoon Review, Holiday, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Notice: This may very well be the darkest review I’ve ever done, be advised. This isn’t a joke, this is really the meanest I’ve ever been to a cartoon. Any children may want to ask their adults, who are usually the big crybabies in these things, to leave the room. If you can’t take an honestly critical eye aimed at one of your childhood favorites, turn away now. Anyone who gives me any soppy “You raped my childhood” bullshit will be met with derision and some version of the sentence “I fucking told you, bitchpants!” If your childhood was so fragile that it can be shattered by my shining a bright light on things, then it’s time for you to grow the fuck up anyway. Besides, as we all know, your childhood is a whore and was into it. Your childhood likes it rough.

With that in mind, let’s bend Charlie Brown over a chair and give him a good solid caning.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965 Dir. Bill Melendez)

One of the problems I have is that the animated Peanuts stuff tends to expand out unpleasant bits while reducing the nice bits. Example, when Lucy started pulling the football away, it was because she was afraid of getting her fingers kicked. It wasn’t until much later that she did it because she’s a bitch. Linus was never meant to be a sanctimonious little prick, and he’s not in the daily strip if memory serves, but animate him and he’s spitting out bible quotes and verbal abuse to his best friend like nobody’s business. And on that point, we know what kind of kid quotes the bible. It’s the kid who would never let you go to his house, lest his mother discover what sort of friends he had. It was the kid who had no toys besides a bike and a baseball bat. It was the kid who was only allowed to play Bible based video games. He was not a happy kid, I can tell you that. We’re talking about my cousins here, I know all about it.

Endlessly they circled, round and round until Doomsday.

Over all, the biggest problem is that Charlie Brown becomes the victim of a bunch of evil little fucks during each cartoon and you end up wanting him to just grab a gun and start to pwn some noobs all Bring me the Head of Charlie Brown style. Seriously, everyone else in this show is so selfish that it’s like watching some bizarre experiment to see how much emotional isolation a person can take before eating a bullet. I’ll always feel sorry for old Chuck though, because he’s one of the only cartoon characters that is clearly suffering from depression. So you’ve got a depressed kid, being surrounded by people who want to victimize him in one way or another, and it’s all supposed to cheer you up during the holidays. How could you help but become a little cynical about this?

Dude, if you want to suck on something round, hard and about two inches long, I’ve got a suggestion.

I’ve gone back and forth over this special many times over the years. I liked it, and then it annoyed me because of how overly sentimental it was. Then, I liked it again. Unfortunately I then started to hate it for its hypocrisy. I mean let’s think about it, we’re on commercial television, during the holiday season, showing a program designed to draw in viewers in order to get them to watch commercials and it’s talking about how bad commercialism is. The central feeling I get is “Commercialism sure is bad, and we’ll talk even more about how bad commercialism is after these words from Dolly Madison snack cakes!” I mean how I managed to watch this and not end up in a black turtle neck talking about how great Karl Marx is while using the word “Actually” 47 times EACH AND EVERY SENTENCE I’ll never know. Oh, yes I do, those Dolly Madison Snack Cake ads always brought me back.

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor shall be lifted – nevermore!

It doesn’t help that they completely and totally sold the Peanuts gang out to the hoards on Madison Avenue. I mean c’mon, you can buy Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree from Urban Outfitters for $24 plus shipping. If that’s not enough, you can also get Linus’s blanket to wrap around the base! This isn’t new a new thing that just came up either. Schulz sold them out to merchandising firms almost from day one. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that (arguably) but it does hurt your credibility when you’re trying to rail against commercialism. I just wonder if maybe Regan had something to do with this. He saw what sort of communistic clap-trap was passing as holiday entertainment and he made sure we got lots of commercials, just to try and balance the scales a little. He knew what these commies were up to and got some GI Joe toys slipped in between to cushion the blow.

Look! I hate you! And I hate the bands you like!

Enough of that though, let’s watch the cartoon shall we? Now you might remember in the Thanksgiving review I theorized that the Peanuts gang were just oddly drawn college students. I’m going to continue with that idea because it’ll make some of the things I’m going to say sound less creepy. Not a lot less, because this whole review is going to be extra creepy with creepy sauce, but a little less. It just works better if they’re 19 instead of 9. It’s not much less creepy mind you, but it helps. Let’s get on, shall we?

Snoopy’s starting a harem over there! What’s that? Well of course Schroeder is part of it. Oh come on, we all know which way he swings!

We start with the gang ice skating and presumably singing the song we’re listening to during the opening. It’s children singing “Christmastime Is Here” which has become something of a standard on jazz themed Christmas Albums. This is the first Peanuts cartoon they ever made, but the music was top drawer right from the get go. I’ve got to say, no matter what else they might have done to me, these specials did introduce me to jazz. Make of that what you will, but the first real jazz album I had was Happy Anniversary, Charlie Brown!

And so Fortunato was all like “For the love of God, Montresor!” And I was all, “Yeah, for the love of God!”

Charlie Brown and Linus are walking to the ice pond and Charlie reveals his problem which has its roots in his deep depression. It seems Christmas doesn’t cheer him up like it does everyone else, he likes the season but in the end it just crushes him under a dark morass of depressed feelings. Linus, in his usual condescending manner, simply turns to Charlie Brown and berates him for taking a wonderful thing like Christmas and turning it into a problem. He then informs him that it’s just like him to fuck something totally awesome like Christmas up with his whining. Way to go genius, add guilt to his crushing depression, that’ll make him want to open up and get help later. Dickhead! No wonder Charlie Brown’s carrying that snub nosed .38 with the single dumb-dumbed hollow point bullet in his coat pocket. It’s not for you Linus, your superior ass doesn’t have to worry about justice cutting you down just yet. That bullet is for him and you’re just driving him to use it! Linus is so wrapped up in himself though, he won’t even consider the fact that this little conversation might be what pushed his friend over the edge.

LOOK! Why is everyone else having a constant orgy but I’ve got cobwebs between my legs? Get me a man!

Anyway they go to the skating pond and look at the girls in their jeans until Snoopy, the avenging angel of these shows, swoops in and snatches Linus’s blanket. He accidentally gets Chuck wound up in the blanket but by then it’s too late to stop. He spins the two of them around until Charlie Brown slides away on the ice and Linus goes sailing through the air. We follow Chuck as he coasts across the frozen pond and hits a tree, and watch with pity as a pile of snow lands on his head. We then get to see the title card. I dislike specials that are just “A (Newspaper strip character) Christmas” because it always comes off as a cynical attempt to cash in on the holidays. That was probably what was on the memo the studio sent “We would like a Charlie Brown Christmas special” and they probably used that as a temp title. They didn’t bother to think of a new title though, just threw up the temp title as the final one. This is why you need to think ahead! Always work harder to come up with names.

Linus is planning a 3 way tonight.

Charlie Brown starts the cartoon proper by walking out to the mailbox and calling into it in hopes that a card might answer him. So crushing and complete is his depression that he’s calling into the post box looking for love. He then begins to complain that there shouldn’t even be a holiday season, since it only re-enforces the fact that no one likes him. Not only is he filled with depression, he’s got something of a persecution complex going on. Gosh, I wonder why? Do you suppose we’ll have confirmation in about 8 seconds? He walks through the campus of Peanuts University and talks to all the people he meets. Violet (a stuck up sorority bitch) confirms that she didn’t send him a card and sticks her nose up as she marches away. He then comes upon the back to earth hippy Pigpen (who goes unadmonished for his filth) and comments that he is the only person he knows who can raise a cloud of dust in a snowstorm. Not much, but atleast Pig Pen gets to be in this. Then there is Snoopy, who munches bones while mutely reading the PU Student Paper.

Upon seeing how far she could stick that tongue out, everyone else became quite interested in Patty.

After this, we are treated to a stoned out party of four catching snowflakes on their tongues. Patty (not Peppermint) comments that it’s fun, while pothead Linus (in a serious attack of the munchies) comments that it needs sugar. Lucy is on such an acid trip that she explains that December snowflakes are too early and she waits until January as if it were a perfectly reasonable comment to make. Schroeder stands in mute fascination, his mind filled with just how much booze would be need to get Patty, Lucy and Linus into a 4-way. If I were any judge of the situation, I’d say not much. They then begin to throw snowballs at a can from a distance of about ten feet. Linus turns his blanket into a sling and smugly nails the can from a distance of about 17 inches. He makes some smarmy comment about how he’s going to turn his blanket into a sports coat and then walks off like his shit don’t stink. He is watched by the others with distain and confusion as he goes off congratulating himself for being so witty. All at once, as Charlie Brown walks away, the snow fades. I don’t mean that it tapers off or anything like that. I mean it just fades out and a flake in mid air suddenly vanishes. It’s like you can see where the studio executive saw how much the snow effect was costing and demanded they cut it out now!

There was no one- in waking hours- who could remind me of it; but my dreams are filled with terror, because of phrases I dare not quote.

Charlie Brown goes to Lucy’s Psychiatric Help stand, which I assume to be the PU answer to having a free counseling clinic. Five cents is clearly just Lucy (a psych student) getting a bit of beer money from the undergrads. Lucy goes through so psychobabble, trying to pad her part out but also proving that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. When Charlie Brown finally gets a word in edgewise he informs her of the same problem that he talked to Linus about. He gets more sympathy from Lucy than Linus. In fact, she almost seems like she really understands for a moment, but Lucy’s own problems prevent her from being able to help him. She can’t trust, she can’t reach out, she can’t tell him how much she wants to love him. So instead she hands him something like a solution, but her solution isn’t very good.

Pull my finger!

She tells him that what he needs to get involved with the Christmas play and tells him to be the director since they have everything else. This tells me that this is going to be a shoddy play if the director wasn’t even in the project during casting and only was assigned the first day of rehearsals. Lucy also reveals that the reason she can be so understanding is that she too is touched by depression. Although in her case it’s because she gets toys and clothes instead of real estate. Still, she understands for a moment and its more understanding and love than anyone else will show him the entire program. She wants to help, but she doesn’t know how. He wants to hold her, wants to kiss her, but he just can’t bring that level of emotion to the surface without cracking. He’s afraid if he trusts her, something might happen and dash them both against the rocks. That thirty-eight has to feel like it’s about 800 pounds right now.

Dude! WTF! You’re a dog! You don’t even have thumbs!

Charlie walks away and follows Snoopy who is putting up some lights and other displays on his doghouse. Snoopy shows him a flyer for a lights and display contest, and clearly Charlie Brown’s psychosis is on a whirl wind at this point because at this point he acts like Snoopy has handed him a flyer for a KKK rally. For the first time we see Charlie starting to blame things that make no sense. He announces “My own dog, gone commercial.” which makes no sense because the dog is just putting up some lights! The dog hasn’t gone commercial he’s just not bothered by the depression that crushes Chuck’s soul at every step. We see Charlie Brown’s misplaced resentment towards commercialism start suddenly and for no reason. When approached by young, sexual frustrated Sally he decides to help her write a letter. She barely gets started when he screams about her being too commercial even though she’s just trying to write a note to a fat man. True, she’s being so incredibly helpful that she dips into OCD territory, but that’s not really something we can blame on commercialism. Sadly, we now start to see the emergence of a Charlie Brown who thinks one bullet isn’t enough. It’s not him that has the problem, it’s everyone else. They don’t believe in Marxism, they think private ownership is not only good, but to be actively encouraged. He knows that they all have to die.

Hey! If you sign my petition I’ll totally get my friend to blow you!

We then go to the theater, where the team has assembled to await both their director and their angel of death. Everyone is on stage, jamming away, we even see Linus dancing with Sally in a rare moment of not pretending he hates her. He’s such a snob about it because he knows he’s the smartest person in their group and that Sally is the dumbest, but he likes to use her for sex since he’s sure that no one is good enough for him. Charlie Brown shows up and proves that he’s over prepared for a play that was being put on by the college and only hired him the first day of rehearsal. He drones on so long that the actors walk off and start playing music again to show their distain. Charlie Brown gets them to stop dancing for a moment and then sends Lucy to hand out the scripts and costumes. In fact, she’s assigning rolls which says that no one even knew what part they were going to have. This is going to turn out to be some kind of nude experimental theater by the end, isn’t it? I mean they’re so totally unprepared. I would have just canceled this shindig myself.

Dance of death my lovelies.

When Charlie Brown tells them to start the play, without even a single script read through, they show their distain again by going right back to playing music and dancing. Charlie Brown screams and yells and tries to work with the actors for a moment before getting fed up and walking off. Noticeably, after being told that Sally will be playing Linus’s wife, he remembers he supposed to hate her so he dances with Violet instead. Sally doesn’t seem to mind, she knows who he’s going to bang when they go back to their dorm. Sadly, she also knows that if she wants to achieve orgasm she’ll have to turn to a small piece of motorized plastic. Charlie Brown nearly busts a vein decrying how wrong the whole play is and Lucy reveals that for all her apparent consumerist urges, she’s a commie deep down. In fact, she even revels her deep belief in conspiracy theories she got off the internet. She explains that Christmas is a commercial racket run by a big eastern syndicate and hands Charlie a Trotsky pamphlet. We’re about a week away from seeing Charlie Brown in a black turtleneck spouting socialistic phrases about the proletariat.

Look, I’ll tell you straight, I like my men to come in through the back door. You bring the lube, I’ll bring the butt.

Charlie Brown announces that for the proper, non-commercial, Trotskyite mood, they need a tree. That’s all he understands. To him tree equals Christmas. Charlie Brown thinks there were pine trees in Bethlehem or something. He’s so confused that it’s heart breaking. Lucy, noticing that she went too far in showing her allegiances, announces that he should get a nice shiny aluminum Christmas tree. This is supposed to show that she’s as lost as the rest, but really she’s just covering up. Linus and Charlie Brown leave the theater, and walk into town looking for a tree. They find trees in every color other than green. I must point out for facts sake that during the 60s in America there was a short lived fashion for aluminum Christmas trees. If you can imagine an artificial tree where all the green stuff is made of tinsel instead of green fibers you can imagine this. They would be lit up by a flood lamp with a rotating wheel that would make the light different colors. In the show they’re shown to be big cones of metal, but this is an inaccuracy born by the makers of disgust for anything non-traditional and their desire to stuff all those fake tree users into gas chambers.

“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.”

While looking, they discover a sad little branch that some Phi Beta Kappa has clearly put on the lot as a joke. Charlie Brown though, in a fit of defiance and fellow feeling for something so pathetic, decides that they’ll take that one back with them. He believes that if the tree can be saved, than maybe he can too. This causes everyone else to laugh at him and deride his choice of trees. Charlie Brown, publicly humiliated and gripping the .38 in his pocket, calls to heaven begging to ask if anyone knows what Christmas is all about.

And I say that any among you who does not follow me shall be slain!

This of course is Linus’s moment and he knows it. He even asks them to dim the lights so that he can be the only thing seen when he recites a bible passage from memory, lying to everyone that this is what Christmas is all about. He’s so full of himself, and he’s so delighted by this moment that he’ll relive it again and again later that night. He’s not going to fuck Sally over this one, he’s just going to make her kneel down in front of him while he jacks off in her face, now assured that she isn’t even good enough to touch him. He’ll tell her how cool he was and how he turned everyone around and how it was all because of him until he comes in her face and walks off to the shower without even acknowledging her existence. And poor Sally will take it, she’ll open her mouth and let him come all over her because she’s so enamored of him and just wants his sperm inside her so badly she’ll swallow it just to get a little bit of him within in her.

…did I go too far there? I can never tell you see, because I’m just sitting here alone with only Fancy who is asleep and thus can’t editorialize for me.

That calm, almost too serine smile? Yeah. He’s made his mind up and all knows all his problems are over.

So at the moment Linus is done lying to the group, and telling him that bible passages are what Christmas is all about despite the fact that they bloody well aren’t. Besides, if this little tree is supposed to symbolize Charlie Brown’s Christmas Spirit (and it is) why is it that it’s a pine tree? That’s a secular and commercial symbol of Christmas, held by someone bitching about commercialism. So after Linus is done being a jerk, Charlie Brown leaves the group with his tree in one hand and the thirty eight held tightly in the other, knowing full well that he has to kill himself to find peace. He now has clearly decided to finish it off, first burning the tree and then putting the barrel in his mouth. He looks up, remembers Linus’s condescension and decides to take the tree home and finish it there. When he gets to Snoopy’s Dog house, he takes one of the bulbs away adding theft to his list of crimes. Of course the bulb is public property in his socialist mind anyway, so it doesn’t matter. The bulb by the way isn’t there in the establishing shot by the way. It only shows up when he takes it off the house. He attaches it to the tree, causing it to bend over double. He screams that he’s killed it and runs off to kill himself in the bathroom.

Dude! I can see through time! This stuff is awesome!

Linus shows up and proves that he can do no wrong by wrapping his blanket around the base of the tree. Strengthened as it is, the tree then stands up. Everyone then raids Snoopy’s house and decorates the tree. This adds about 600% volume to the twig which is now a complete tree. Everyone starts to sing, which brings Charlie Brown outside. He looks at the tree, looking in a way he could never have made it look, and realizes his life is empty and meaningless. Everyone shouts Merry Christmas too him, and then his Quaaludes kick in and a dopey smile appears on his face. They all start to sing and a moment later Charlie joins in with them. Really, with only a revolver he doesn’t have enough rounds to kill them all anyway, best to just submit, to try to fit in, to be like the rest of them. As soon as the singing starts, the snow begins again. As soon as the scene switches to the end screen, I swear I can hear a shot and some screaming.


Official Score:
-10 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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  1. Amy Aletheia says:

    OMG, I was laughing hysterically at your review, and I LOVED this show growing up. But you are So.Right!! 🙂

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