After reading one too many articles on how post-election anxiety is leading to the most unpleasant Thanksgiving in American history, I did something I hadn’t done since elementary school: I watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. I hoped reconnecting with a classic holiday special would hasten some much-needed seasonal merriment. I was unprepared for how much the show upset me.
Okay, maybe not completely unprepared. Earlier this year, I watched The Peanuts Movie with a friend’s son, and I was appalled by Lucy’s behavior. When Charlie Brown pays her psychiatric booth a visit, she holds up a mirror and says, “[Yours] is the face of failure. A classic failure face.” As a kid, a phrase like “failure face” probably sounded no worse than “dodo brain” or “blockhead.” But as a middle-aged man, those words … stung. How could anyone say that to another human being? Lucy is a horrible person!
The Thanksgiving special is even more traumatic because it revolves around the true terror of Peanuts Land: the Peppermint known as Patty. For reasons that are unexplained (and more than a little disturbing), her father has left her all alone on Thanksgiving, so she calls Charlie Brown and invites herself and Marcie and Franklin over for dinner. Problem is, Charlie Brown will be having supper at his grandmother’s. But he can’t explain this, because Peppermint Chatty doesn’t let him get a word in. So Linus enlists Snoopy to whip up a quick feast for earlier in the day, but when Peppermint Horror sees the spread—popcorn, pretzels, jellybeans, toast—she loses her sh*t: “Where are the mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie?!”
Now, we have all come into contact with real-life Peppermint Monsters, those family members and friends of friends who are rude and entitled and borderline sociopathic. You know that scene in Taxi Driver where Travis Bickle takes a date to a dirty movie, and when she objects he grows defensive and violent? That sheer lack of social grace, that deep level of utter obliviousness, terrifies me. Granted, unlike Mr. Bickle, Peppermint Patty does own up to her atrocious manners (“Why can’t I act right outside of a baseball game?”). But when she makes Marcie apologize for her, I know what time it is. This is a person who has ruined the past 43 Thanksgivings, and she’ll keep doing it again … and again … and again.
Gee, why am I so triggered by a character in a children’s cartoon? You think maybe something happened this year that’s made me ultra-sensitive to demanding, self-centered, loudmouthed bullies who are short-tempered, thin-skinned and incapable of hearing people out and can’t say they’re sorry? And come to think of it, why do they sit Franklin, the lone person of color in Peanuts Land, in a wobbly chair on one side of the table all by himself? Perhaps it’s best that I take a pass on all those incoming Rankin/Bass specials. Since so-and-so appointed a climate-change denier to oversee the EPA transition, I don’t think I can handle the potential menace of Snow Miser and Heat Miser.