By Savage Jeff Lester
Despite all that goo that Newsweek shovelled around about Schulz being a purveyor of quiet and fundamentally decent values, a good chunk of Peanuts is about rejection, and loathing, and the resultant depression and self-hatred that results. Roughly ten years after that debut, here's the opening of a typical strip: "You're a fool, Charlie Brown! I don't know why I waste my time even talking to you!" Unlike your typical schlemiel joke, most of the time there is no reason ever shown for everyone's hatred of Charlie Brown. Walking around throughout the strip, frequently holding his stomach and saying, "I can't stand it," Charlie Brown presents an image of the outsider that we see moving in comic art from Crumb through Clowes. In being true to his childhood (and resulting adulthood), Schulz allowed several generations to be in touch with their outsider status and feelings of inadequacy. Every time I've ever hated the world so much I've gone home, closed all the curtains, and sat in the dark staring at the ceiling, shows the debt I owe to Schulz, as does everyone like me. Short of teaching us to cut down the arm instead of across, he showed a nation of depressives and misanthropes how it was done.
And the language! By making Charlie Brown and all the gang mature in their elocution and their sometimes philosophical conversational subjects, Schulz not only perfected a form of comedic contrast, he allowed himself the freedom to access all his big topics. Within every child, there is an adult waiting to get out, and within every adult there is still the child and the childhood that existed, and Schulz is able to access both vantage points whenever he chooses. Sometimes Charlie Brown is the child being openly loathed, and sometimes he's the adult scarred with self-doubt and anxiety caused by a tough childhood, but he always has the same language, the same body, in either case. It's only as I get older and realize what my childhood has made of me, that I see that Peanuts is very much about how the past and the present exist simultaneously for all of us, inside, in how we see ourselves.
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