Watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas
” this year has brought me to the sad conclusion that although I loved it as a kid -- and still love the wonderful soundtrack
-- the special just isn’t quite how I remember it.
So Charlie Brown is upset about the commercialization of Christmas? That I get -- and it’s worse now than in the 1960’s when the show was made. But all the stuff with the Christmas play is confusing. They’re apparently rehearsing a play of the nativity, yet whenever they practice they start dancing around to Shroeder’s playing. There’s no story, no play, no nothing.
It’s also unclear just why Lucy chose Charlie Brown to direct. Lucy hates Charlie Brown! This is the girl that always tricks him into kicking the football, and who always pulls it away at the last minute. (It’s also always bothered me that he goes to her for psychiatric advice when she’s constantly playing mind games with him -- huhm, I think I’m detecting some co-dependency issues ...) Yet somehow, she decides to have this guy who she thinks is a big dork, a “blockhead” as she calls him, direct.
I’m also especially unclear on why everyone hates him. He doesn’t seem like that bad of a kid -- yet, he’s constantly being shit on by everyone around him. His dog even mocks him!
The story is paced like a series of comic strips -- with a joke building up to a punch line. So everything just feels fragmented and incoherent. Perhaps this is for the benefit kids with short attention spans, but I found it jarring.
Linus’s speech about the meaning of Christmas still stands out as a high point, because it’s so well done. Even though I consider myself an atheist, I still found it moving. Especially the part at the end when he says: “Peace on earth, good will towards men.”
And like I said, the music is superb -- especially “Christmas Time is Here.” Listening to it still takes me back to my childhood, when this show got me excited about Christmas (somehow, I never got that it was pushing the religious aspect of the holiday -- something I never quite understood as a child).
But overall, I don’t like it anymore, and that makes me sad. It was a big part of my childhood and the Christmas holiday -- part of me wishes I didn’t watch it this year. That way, I would still think of it fondly.
As an aside, TV Funhouse on Saturday Night Live did a great parody of it this week. The kids discover their power to miraculously change anything (through turning Charlie Brown’s sad little tree into a “real” Christmas Tree), and then go around town creating lesbians and the like. Tasteless, I know, but it made me laugh.