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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Rocks for Treats: Post-Halloween Commentary

The Washington Post | ‘American Horror Story’: 10 questions about ‘Halloween’ part 2
For most, Halloween fun includes making costumes, picking pumpkins at the local patch (which might mean the grocery store), carving the pumpkins, dressing up, trick or treating, and eating candy. A viewing of It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown is an annual treat: "I got five pieces of candy",  "I got a chocolate bar", "I got a quarter",  "I got a rock". If I were Charlie Brown, I would have played a trick and switched my bag with Lucy's. That is what she deserved for years and years of pulling the football away just as Charlie Brown was about to kick it and watching him fall flat on his back.
What about the dark side of Halloween? Monday night, within the Angry Birds, Elmos, Harry Potters, and Disney Princesses, a dark side emerged. No, not Darth Vadar but a few scary masked spirits. Their presence stirred me like anything that emerges and submerges without sound or status. A crying or smiling hairy lion exhibited facial gestures that expressed (did not disguise) who they were and what they were feeling. A masked, four and half foot tall body covered in a flowing black gown to the ground dressed as Edvard Munch's (or, more currently, Wes Craven's and Kevin Williamson's) The Scream did not laugh and did not shout a traditional "Trick or Treat". Instead it floated quietly to the front steps and stood in front of me, staring even after I placed candy in their pillow case. It had no status. As I sent it wishes of "Happy Halloween" it lingered and I was forced to wonder who or what was under that mask. The oddness of costume and of character chilled me.

As kids, we spent years watching Charlie Brown fail and prevail. Charlie cut too many holes in his sheet to be a ghost, picked a very small and weak Christmas tree, unacceptable to the Peanuts gang, was vulnerable and naive and lacked self confidence. He had psychiatric sessions with his peer and nemesis, Lucy, in order to resolve his problems. She was quick to point out all of his issues. Even when things would look up for Charlie, she would slap him in the face. For example, Charlie was ecstatic when he received an invitation to a Halloween party, but Lucy pointed it out as a mistake because there were "two lists: one with those invited and one with those that weren't."

Charlie Brown had status; his face and body language told all. Charles Shultz, the Peanuts cartoonist, used his own personality as a model for Charlie; shy and withdrawn. He used the jazz music of Vince Guaraldi to add to the dreariness of Charlie's moments. 
The people that were closest to Charlie were innocently awkward too. Charlie's dog, Snoopy, also known as Joe Cool, was interesting as he made every attempt to be popular and used strange methods to gain attention. He would wait by the drinking fountain and flirt with girls as they took a drink. They were never impressed. His best friend Linus had trouble growing up, ie. he carried his blue baby blanket with him everywhere he went. The blue blanket actually came to life one day and danced with Linus. Then there was Peppermint Patty. Masculine, abrasive, and loud, Peppermint Patty loved "Chuck" and his blush was not of reciprocation but embarrassment. These relational characters added to Charlie's status.

Charlie found happiness when he pondered and discovered the truth in things. He didn't like the superficial commerciality of the holiday light contest that Snoopy entered or the party that consistently arose during practice for the Christmas pageant. Charlie's own truth, his status, showed in his wrinkled faces, his slumped body, and his big wide open shouting mouth. While some find truth refreshing and masks fearful, others, like Linus find Charlie's truth a bit frustrating: "Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy's right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Brownest."

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