“Mommy, can we the Peanuts movie tonight?”
Toby, my eight-year-old, loves to watch movies. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, he also loves superheroes, and superhero-themed movies have enjoyed a renaissance at a pivotal time in his childhood. Among his most prized possessions are his Lego superhero minifigures—his Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Ironman, Hulk, Flash, Arrow, and countless others. And he doesn’t have just one type of each superhero, but several. After all, there’s Flash with his “new” costume versus Flash with his “old” costume (what the difference is, I couldn’t tell you) and there’s Batman with his blue cape and Batman with his black cape. And don’t even get me started on all the different Iron Man suits there are. I find myself simply nodding my head as he points out these small but distinct differences on each one.
Since Episode VII came out a few months ago, our family has also been a bit obsessed with the Star Wars franchise. My husband and I grew up with the original trilogy, of course, so we are long-time Star Wars fans, and thanks to the new films, our boys are also growing up under the magic of Star Wars. And so recently, anytime Toby asked to watch a movie, it was almost always a Star Wars film.
Tonight, however, he didn’t reach for a Star Wars DVD or the latest Marvel superhero flick. Instead, he asked if we could watch the Peanuts movie. Our pre-ordered DVD arrived a few days ago, and when Toby saw it sitting on the table, he quickly looked at the clock to see if it wasn’t too late to watch a movie. When I said it was fine, he grabbed the remote controls, unwrapped the DVD, and within minutes, Lucy, Linus, Peppermint Patty, Sally, Snoopy, and Charlie Brown filled our screen.
When we went to see the Peanuts movie in the theater a few months ago, I didn’t have very high expectations. I grew up with the classic Charlie Brown cartoons, and so I was very skeptical of this new slicker, almost 3D-like version of my favorite childhood friends (my Christmas isn’t complete without listening to the soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas). I was worried that this new movie—in its attempt to appeal to today’s audiences—wouldn’t live up to the spirit of Charles’ Schultz’s original creation.
How thankful I was, then, to be wrong.
Though the animation was new—though not necessarily improved (I still prefer the vintage style of the originals)—the Peanuts characters I knew as a child were all still there. And unlike the forceful, fast-paced, almost staccato-like scene changes of Captain America or Avengers, the Peanuts movie unfolded slowly, deliberately, thoughtfully.
As we were watching, I couldn’t help think about what Charlie Brown’s character has to teach Toby and his brothers. Charlie Brown isn’t a superhero by even the most generous stretch of the imagination. He doesn’t have an unbreakable shield, an armored flight suit, a cave as a hidden headquarters.
And yet there is something really endearing and admirable about Charlie Brown. Even when he knows he probably shouldn’t, he is trusting to a fault, somehow always falling for Lucy’s football trick. In this latest Peanuts film—spoiler alerts!—he develops a crush on the new girl who has moved into his neighborhood, the “little red-headed girl.” At one point, he has an opportunity to impress her during the school’s talent show. Like the earnest, hard-working kid he is, Charlie Brown had practiced a magic routine with Snoopy as his faithful assistant. But by the end of the talent show, there is suddenly only time for one more act, and his sister Sally has yet to perform. Like her older brother, she too has been practicing all week for this big moment. Charlie Brown looks out into the audience and see the little red-headed girl watching, then looks at his sister’s disappointed face—and he chooses. He walks over to his sister and tell Sally that she’s up next. He gives up his opportunity in the limelight so she can have hers.
Nothing ever seems to go right for Charlie Brown. Time and time again, no matter how hard he tries, he always ends up being the one who “messes everything up” (Exhibit A: that sad and little and unforgettable Christmas tree). In the Peanuts movie, over and over again he thinks to himself, “Maybe this one time things will work out for me…” But his earnestness is almost always met with disappointment. Yet through these disappointments, Charlie Brown picks himself up. He is unflinchingly honest and sincere;he is humble and generous; he is good and kind friend.
So maybe he is a superhero after all. 🙂
This post is part of the “Slice of Life” series, organized by the teachers at Two Writing Teachers, whose goal is to give teachers a place to write and reflect. This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even some students), visit twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.