A Charlie Brown Christmas: 1960s Anti-Commercialim Through a Charlie Brown Lens (Day #18)

Title: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Release: December 9th, 1965

Director: Bill Melendez

Writer(s): Charles M Schulz

Starring: Peter Robbins, Chris Shea, Kathy Steinberg, Tracy Strattford,

Ann Altien, Chris Doran, Sally Dryer, Karen Mendelson, Geoffrey Ornstein

*Warning, this review may contain spoilers

I am so excited that the time is finally here. I have been low key waiting for today to finally show up as we have finally made it to the first of my favorite Christmas movies. A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the few movies that remind me of the innocence of my own childhood and not have that illusion shattered after watching it again many years later. Fun fact, I actually spent half of my childhood in Santa Rosa, CA, the aforementioned home of legendary Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz. I still have family in the area, so when I revisit I still swing by the statues of Charlie Brown and Snoopy strewn about downtown.

All praise Railroad Square!

For those very few of you who have never seen A Charlie Brown Christmas, you’re lucky that we can wrap it up short and sweet. The audience follows the titular character of Charlie Brown, your everyday child living in the Peanuts comic strip universe. As Christmas begins to roll into town, Charlie tells his fiend Linus about his severe depression despite the cheer surrounding him. In order to get his mind off his troubles, he consults his friend Lucy, a young girl who runs a fake clinic. She convinces him to busy himself in a Christmas project. To no surprise, it doesn’t initially work. The further Charlie Brown involves himself in the Christmas cheer around his town, the more he sees commercialism infecting the nature of Christmas. What can one boy do on his journey to discover the true nature of Christmas?

If you are familiar with the 1960s global phenomenon that is the Peanuts, the animation style should feel familiar. Despite being sponsored by the Coca-Cola company, A Charlie Brown Christmas was rushed on the smallest of budgets, skimping by with production lasting over six months.  Originally ordered for a single hour of animation, special director Bill Melendez had to talk them down to half that time, worried about not completing on schedule. Actually, everyone on the project believed that all of the work put into A Charlie Brown Christmas destined the project to fail….boy were they wrong.

Best place to lay out your depressive thoughts…your own brick wall!

Despite having heavier themes than a normal Christmas special, A Charlie Brown Christmas still has hilarious moments scattered throughout its runtime. Both Lucy and Linus’s aloofness and naivety to Charlie’s core problem makes me giggle each time they come on screen. Once Christmas comes around and commercialism invades the children’s psyche, their wishes border on absurdity. Lucy desperately wants “real estate”, even showing how much more thrilled she is for her fee instead of actually offering help.  Each scene littered with pure sarcasm, I discovered just how ridiculously funny this special appears to be.

Do you know what this play needs? More commercialisation@

For being a special garnered for children and families alike, the core idea of commercialism is an important concept to dump into children’s laps. A Charlie Brown Christmas makes it clear that commercialism exists everywhere, invading the minds of our characters and devaluing everything in their lives. Creator Charles M. Schulz took a strong stance against commercialism in his own life, clearly letting it bleed into his work. Finding plenty of ways to stick it to the puppet masters behind the scenes, like simple artwork, a slow place, and breaking standards,  Schulz would finally have the last laugh. “Let the audience enjoy the show at their own pace.” – Charles M. Schulz

One of Schulz’s biggest jabs at production norms involves the inclusion of a laugh track. The official standard for television sitcoms during the 1960s, a laugh track was included in almost every program even if to just break up the downbeats. Schulz stood absolute against the decision, instead opting in for a smooth jazz recording to play instead. Slowing down the pace, Schulz and Mendelez were completely fine with letting awkward silences hang for comedic effect…or just to twist the knife against the sponsors. Isn’t it ironic that Coca-Cola requested and sponsored this special?

While Charlie Brown’s friends may be infected with that dirty, disgusting commercialism in the beginning, everyone opens their eyes by the final act. Linus even goes as far as ar to preach Luke 2:8-14. His oration doesn’t feel out of place and I am not even annoyed with the inclusion of a religious quote (you know my views on religion if you have followed me at all). Linus speech moves the rest of the children into disowning their commercial ideals and embrace what they have learned as the true meaning of Christmas. I understood the meaning when I was a youngin’ but seeing it again as an adult gave me another chance to learn from a different perspective. I may agree with Schulz. Down with commercialism and all that.

With that final thought, A Charlie Brown Christmas is another one in the books! I am so glad to finally revisit this childhood favorite full of happiness and vigor like my first viewing party over two decades ago. Even now that I may use my big brain energy more often, I can enjoy A Charlie Brown Christmas on an entirely different level. While this may be my personal favorite, stay tuned for tomorrow too. It is my other standout and a bit of an odd choice.

Brought to you by our corporate overlords Coca-Cola. With Love.

Thanks for reaching the end of the article! This piece is apart of our Modern Neon Christmas Bonanza, where we are looking at 25 of our favorite or well-known Christmas movies.  So click through to see the previous and next movie, or go back to the home page to find your favorite movie!

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