Just read a blog post on Babble.com that decries the latest danger that must be kept from our kids. Ready? It’s Charlie Brown. Well, specifically, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”, because this 46-year-old* piece of beloved Americana threatens to turn your kid into a bad-mouther at best, and a bully at worst. Or something.
The writer, Buzz Bishop, describes in the post, titled “It’s Time to Retire, Charlie Brown,” that when he and his Halloween-mad wife sat down for their annual viewing of the show with their five- and 12-year-old sons, they suddenly realized that, uh-oh, this has to go on the trash heap of history, along with smoking sections in planes and cars without a five-point-harness car seat.
Okay. Deep breath. Here goes.
I feel bad for poor old Charlie, who gets rocks in his candy bag on Halloween. I feel bad for Linus’ continual disappointment, and even for Sally, who forgoes trick or treating to stick with Linus in the pumpkin patch (choosing love over candy!). I feel bad that Charlie is sneered at by friends and adults, as he does in every Charles M. Shulz comic strip and TV special. I felt bad for him when I was a kid, too (even though I also laughed because, you know, it’s funny). But it was then and still is clear to me that actually calling someone a blockhead is not nice. It was also clear to me then, as it is now (and as it is to my sons, who thanks to the fact that we own the DVD have now seen the show many more times than I ever did), that watching kids be mean on TV doesn’t automatically translate into them being mean in real life.
Unless Bishop’s sons live in a bubble (and judging from the few comments I read on his blog post, he’s been amply accused of trying to keep them bubble-wrapped, which is possibly unfair), they’re heard worse than “blockhead” in their young lives. And if they’re like my sons, they’ve lobbed worse than blockhead at each other. My boys call each other dumb-ball and idiot about as often as they use each other’s given names. They’d also rise to their dumb-ball brother’s defense in a hot minute, should someone else threaten. They are also, I’m quick to add, admonished and told they’re being mean when they are, you know, being mean.
That’s my job – to tell them that that sort of speech is not right. But it’s not my job to keep them from ever hearing kids call each other bad things. Especially when it’s fictional and animated! Was it not clear to Bishop or his wife that Charlie has good friends who love him, even if they call him a blockhead?
If we can only let our kids consume entertainment that’s bathed in hyper-niceness, all we’re left with is Caillou.
One other thing: Bishop says that Charlie Brown has nothing of value to offer our kids. Does everything have to have social value? Does everything have to be a school assembly about bullying? Can we give our kids the benefit of the doubt and assume that (especially if we help them) they can understand the difference between Lucy calling Charlie a blockhead, and how calling real-life kid a blockhead is not cool?
* I looked it up: “It’s the Great Pumpkin” first aired in October, 1966. I was four months old!