Charles M(onroe) Schulz

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In two single-spaced pages (please answer all the parts), use critical tools to analyze cultural texts: In this case, you have to make an argument not just about why Charlie Brown’s endless struggle against Lucy and her football is funny, but what the significance of the humor is. Is this cartoon about gender politics and sexism, and if so, how do you read Lucy’s character and her motives? Is it a nihilistic warning against ambition and the inevitability of our disappointment or a sympathetic portrayal of an indomitable underdog? Consider one of the theorists of humor we’ve discussed already (Arendt/Brecht, Freud, Critchley, Carpio, or Bergson) and make a concise, detailed argument about what Charlie Brown’s struggle is, why it is important, and why it is important to address it in the form of a joke. For this assignment, closely analyze the plot and language of one of Peanuts cartoons.

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Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz prided himself on putting Charlie Brown through the wringer. In fact, a September 2015 article in The Atlantic claims that when Schulz was asked if his final strip would include Charlie Brown finally kicking the elusive football, Schulz reportedly said "'Oh, no! Definitely not! . . . That would be a terrible disservice to him after nearly half a century.'" This in itself suggests that Peanuts is, as a whole, "a nihilistic warning against ambition and the inevitability of our disappointment"; the overwhelming majority of strips focus on the disappointment of children and their too jaded, perhaps too wise, views on the nature of existence. However, because of Charlie Brown's perpetual attempt to try and try again—to give others the benefit of the doubt despite knowing that he will be disappointed—the strip is also "a sympathetic portrayal of an indomitable underdog." This is what makes it so endearing, even nearly three quarters of a century after its first publication.

The specific comic in focus presents good old Chuck's perpetual struggle, but as is often the case, Schulz has presented it in a slightly different way. When it comes to the "football gag," as it is often referred to, the beginning and the ending are always the same. The middle is where Schulz will switch things up a bit. This is where Lucy's different strategies come into play. In this particular strip, she has chosen to sucker Chuck in by playing on his sympathies toward her. She accuses him of threefold mistrust, claiming he mistrusts her as an athlete, a person, and, finally, a woman. She then connects herself to his mother via gender, which is what finally gets Charlie Brown to fall for her trick, yet again. However, despite her ploy, this cartoon seems to be less about sexism and more about sympathy. As the above mentioned Atlantic article states:

Peanuts was deceptive. It looked like kid stuff, but it wasn’t. The strip’s cozy suburban conviviality, its warm fuzziness, actually conveyed some uncomfortable truths about the loneliness of social existence.

Charlie Brown wants so desperately to connect to those around him that he is always willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, regardless of gender, race, or age; he simply will not learn from past experiences because he wants the world to be a much better place that it is. Perhaps this is why the comic and characters are so timeless. Deep down, most of us have the desire to connect, even when our attempts are either rebuffed or deliberately foiled. Like good old Charlie Brown, we keep falling flat on our back because even the chance of contact makes it all worth it.

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