|Picture taken of my son's DVD|
What word do you usually associate with Charles Schulz's character, Charlie Brown? Is it blockhead or is it maybe failure?
This past December the Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon based on Schulz's comic strip Peanuts celebrated it's 50th anniversary. Around the same time, a new movie came out about the Peanuts featuring the lovable odd ball, Charlie Brown. As I was watching the movie and listening to discussions about the Christmas special I pondered why it is that someone who never seems to succeed at anything has such an enduring legacy.
Let's consider a few things we know about this unlikely hero. First, he owns a funny, beagle with delusions of grandeur who is sometimes anything but Charlie's best friend. Second, Charlie's team has never won a single baseball game. Third, his therapist, Lucy is openly greedy, bossy, often mean, and highly narcissistic. Despite all of these challenges, Charlie Brown continues to play baseball, remains ever hopeful he will one day kick that football Lucy is always offering to hold for him, without being invisible to do it, and loves his dog despite his strange behavior.
Charlie Brown represents a lot of things to people, but the one thing he is in every incarnation is an underdog. A very sympathetic underdog. Even though he is considered to be a hopeless failure or as Lucy likes to call him a "blockhead" by most of his peers in the cartoons and comics, he isn't one. In fact, Charlie Brown is an enduring symbol of hope and success for everyone who has ever felt that they just didn't get it or at one time or another didn't quite fit in. Why is this? He never seems to come out the clear victor or hero in any of his story lines.
Because Charlie Brown is true to one person, always. He doesn't follow the popular or accepted path in anything. He sees beauty in tiny, spindly trees and chooses them over the beautiful and elaborate fake ones. He flies kites in the middle of winter in the hopes they won't get caught in the kite stealing tree. When he finally gains acclaim in the recent Peanuts movie, he could continue to let people believe the fiction. He could accept the awards and adulation, it would be easier to do that and finally manage to impress the "little red-headed girl" he has such a crush on. But he doesn't. He admits a mistake was made in front of everyone and goes back to being unpopular and unappreciated.
Charlie Brown never takes the easy path or makes the obvious choice toward acceptance. And he is repeatedly ridiculed for it. But children and adults alike continue to love him because he always does what is right or seems right to him. That is why Charlie Brown is such a hero and such an enduring success. He is always true to himself. He excels at being authentic, kind, even when it isn't warranted, and hopeful for the future. In a clever and subtle way that is the genius of Charles Schulz's creation. He isn't preachy or obvious about his character's attributes. In fact, he goes to great lengths to drown them out under the weight of all Charlie Brown's many flaws. Charlie Brown is far from perfect, but he is genuine.
It is easy to let the world weigh us down and make us feel like we shouldn't try, shouldn't hope, or shouldn't love who we are as individuals. Charlie Brown epitomizes this over and over again. Yet, in spite of this he keeps his optimistic spirit and continues to muddle through, ever positive in the end that next time things will work out in his favor. When the world makes you feel like you're a Charlie Brown sort of person, own it as a banner of success. If you've earned that status being true to yourself or doing what was right instead of easy, it means you've probably become an unlikely hero in your own story.