One of the best things about this time of year is re-living a little of my childhood, often through holiday television specials and classic movies. There’s a purity in their seasonal magic. I remember the first time I saw them or the warm traditions they inspired with family and friends around the TV set every year.
So I was appalled to discover after decades of turkeys that A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special was, in fact, racist. Sure, this holiday classic about a blockhead and his stalker eating dinner with friends, his dog and a cannibalistic bird had some inherent problems. But this year, social media lit up like a Christmas tree, complaining that the black kid was forced to sit on his own in a lawn chair. Some even demanded it be re-drawn.
Apparently, they didn’t notice all the mismatched chairs. According to the written story, Chuck’s dog pulled out “lawn chairs, beach chairs, rocking chairs” to seat everyone. And Franklin, the target of this unwanted online tirade, wasn’t the only one sitting alone. Linus and Marcie also sat solo.
Meanwhile, Charlie Brown had his little sister beside him, a fawning Peppermint Patty glued to his other side and his dog at the end. But each one had a reason to be closest to him. And sitting there also meant they faced the readers and viewers.
But if social media is so focused on the seating arrangements, they certainly aren’t listening to the moral which, frankly, a child could understand. Nope, people are too interested in being morally superior to a cartoonist who fought his editor to include a black child in the Peanuts world at a time when segregation was still commonplace.
And now I fear they won’t stop there. How many other childhood Christmas classics will fall? Will Rudolph be verboten as an example of child/deer labour and endangerment? Will The Grinch’s behaviour with his tiny pup be considered animal abuse?
Is it possible that Frosty the Snowman encourages children to run away from home on a train? Or that The Santa Clause will inspire others to plot St. Nick’s murder on the off chance they could take over the job?
Since its debut in 1983, A Christmas Story has been a holiday staple and was named “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress. But with so many gun-related deaths and mass shootings in the U.S., will someone demand that Ralphie’s Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle be edited out?
And what about my beloved It’s a Wonderful Life? Once thought romantic, George Bailey’s rough treatment of Mary right before he proclaimed his love could rile up the #MeToo movement. And what will mental health experts say about Clarence’s attempted suicide to help George?
Some of the magic of the classics is in the time – the context – in which they were created. Perhaps it’s time to consider our history before we attack a classic. There’s modern-day value even in an old “racist” cartoon.