Thursday, November 22, 2012

Charlie Brown gets the Pilgrims all wrong

By Frank Moraes

With Thanksgiving comes not one, but two Charlie Brown specials. As I was cooking in preparation for today's thang, I watched them -- mostly. The first one was the traditional A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. This is an interesting film because Lucy is not in it. As a result, it seems that Charlie Brown is meant to act the part of the asshole. He treats Snoopy and Woodstock as though they are slaves. And then, when everyone heads off to Grandma's condo for dinner, the animals are left behind to fend for themselves. I was outraged. Really.

Snoopy has a turkey dinner all ready to go in his dog house, of course. But then, after all the animal slavery, something happened that bothered me even more. Snoopy serves Woodstock part of the bird and Woodstock eats it! I know this is technically not cannibalism, but it is close enough. This is supposed to be a children's show. What is wrong with these people?!

The second Charlie Brown special was so much worse. I didn't even make it to the first commercial. It is the first episode of This is America Charlie Brown: Mayflower Voyagers. It pissed me off right away. Here were Charlie Brown and Linus in their iconic modern dress. But the girls were all in period costume. Why? How the hell should I know?! One thing I do know: it was offensive for vaguely sexist reasons.

But the reason I turned away was that the show told the same lie that most people continue to believe: the Pilgrims came over on the Mayflower to find religious freedom. I'm so inspired. Wait! I feel a song coming on:

And the la-hand of the Freeeeee!
And the hoooome, of thhhhhe, braaaave!



And the crowd goes wild. Of course, this is total bullshit. The Pilgrims left England because the English were a bunch of intolerant assholes. They moved to Holland and got all kinds of tolerance. Too much tolerance! Their children were starting to behave is bizarre ways: being open minded and shit. He were hanging out in the hash bars. Okay. There were no hash bars, but if the Pilgrims were there today, that is exactly the kind of place their kids would be hanging out. So the Pilgrim elders thought, "What we really need is to find a place that is tolerant of us but of nobody else." And if they could find such a place, there would be no one to get in the way of their occasional witch hunts.

The solution: America! Which is perfectly fine. I don't particularly have a problem with people going off alone and doing their creepy shit. (Well, actually, I do; but I don't think I can do much to stop it.) What does really bother me is when their bigoted offspring claim that they were all about freedom. Fuck that! The Pilgrims came to America to escape freedom. In large parts of America, we managed to move beyond their small minded beliefs.

Here's the thing: I think it is good to hide unpleasant things from kids. If I were a parent, for example, I would wait until my kids were at least six before showing them Night of the Living Dead. (The remake, of course, because it is totally awesome!) But I don't believe in lying to children. So fine, don't teach second graders that the Pilgrims were a bunch of narrow minded assholes. But don't teach them that they were some kind of noble freedom seekers. And if you do, expect that forty years later, you're going to have listen to some disappointed old man rant on about why he couldn't get through that Charlie Brown special.


(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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