Day 12 - A Charlie Brown Christmas

What more is there to say about A Charlie Brown Christmas? It's been around for 47 years and remains a Christmas staple. People have written about the music. People have written about the convergence of commercialism and spiritualism. People have even written about the very specific dances that the kids do in the auditorium.

I don't think there is much more to say about A Charlie Brown Christmas. I will say that it's not much of a Christmas unless you watch it.

Like I said in a previous post, nothing was more special than seeing a cartoon during prime time back in the bad ol' days of pre-cable television. It was kind of a big F-U toward adults, saying, "Now I get to watch what I want to watch instead of your stupid Knots Landing, or whatever." Of course, being younger, we didn't realize that most of our parents or siblings had been watching this same special every Christmas since they were kids.

Last Christmas, however, I broke with tradition. The terrible thing about Christmas specials these days is that they aren't so special anymore. We live in an age where there are multiple 24-hour cartoon networks. The original television networks can't rely on the once-a-year specials to get a quick ratings boost during the holiday season when most shows go on winter hiatus. This is why a special like A Charlie Brown Christmas is shown now twice during the holiday season, if only to pick up some viewers here or there. The first showing is usually just after Thanksgiving, with the second airing maybe two weeks later.  So last year, I said, "Screw that noise" and opted to buy the Blu-ray instead. Unfortunately, I decided that too late and had it delivered to the house right before Christmas. When all was said and done, I popped it into the player in our bedroom and never got a chance to watch it.   Yesterday, when I opened up the case and discovered that the disc wasn't in there, I knew where to look for it.

Now, a confession: remember when I said this endeavour of ours might backfire and I might be sick of Christmas? Well, last night was a good indication. I came home in a bad mood, proclaimed we wouldn't be decorating the tree that night, and set about to mope all night like some 12-year-old wannabe goth. After I had calmed down a bit, we decorated the tree and then popped in the movie. Well, the holiday spirit flooded back. The combination of the Christmas-tinged jazz coupled with the crude-by-today's-standards animation dove into my brain and retrieved the happiness I used to feel whenever that special night came around in my youth when we sat in front of our piece of furniture with the picture tube and watched this flawed masterpiece.

Flawed masterpiece? What kind of sacrilege is that?

Yes, A Charlie Brown Christmas is flawed. There are things that remain unexplained (Why are they allowed in the auditorium without adults present? Did Charlie Brown pay for that tree? How can Snoopy just eat bones without requiring a trip to the vet?), and there are contradictions (Linus says he can't memorize his lines, yet he recites Bible verses without so much as a pause). It's really just a mishmash of different vignettes. Up until the point where Charlie Brown laments to Lucy that he doesn't feel the spirit of Christmas, there is no direction other than that the plot is loosely based on Charlie Brown feeling like shit.

He certainly has a reason for feeling like shit, too. Honestly, everyone ridicules him. Even his own dog! I don't advocate it, but after watching the scene where his dog boos him after Lucy announces that he will be the director, I would understand if Charlie Brown kept him tied up outside for the night (as long as it wasn't too cold, mind you). You're supposed to feel bad for Charlie Brown, to stick up for him as people are putting him down, yet I can't. When he goes up to Violet and sarcastically thanks her for the Christmas card, there's a little piece of me that feels like Charlie Brown is acting like a prick. Same goes for when he tries to direct the play. He was named director mere minutes ago and all of a sudden he's Charlie Hollywood with all his stage directions.

But it's the tree--the branch with about 18 needles stuck to a wooden base--where your heart melts for him. He tries, sometimes too hard, but he tries nonetheless. He LOVES that tree. Of  course, we're to believe at the end that the addition of glitz and glamour is what's needed to make something look fantastic, but as Linus succinctly points out, "Maybe it just needs a little love." And personally, I love the away-from-the-camera double-take jump that Charlie Brown does. Makes me laugh every year.

Flawed masterpiece. That special would most likely never see the light of day on a network these days. Maybe straight to DVD. Too much religion. Not enough fat people to look at. Can't it be reality based? Maybe set it in space, or an alligator farm? Can Linus sing a song, or maybe rap? Nah, too preachy. Ah, screw it, let's scrap this pilot and air A Very Kardashian Chrismukkah.

Thank God for tradition. Even if I don't watch it on television anymore, A Charlie Brown Christmas, with its loose plot and squiggly lines, will still be there, lighting the way to  Christmas through all the cold, dark Decembers as the nights keep getting longer and longer.

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 13, 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

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