Now that the election is finally (and thankfully) over, we can return to a time when most of the ridiculous things we read on the Internet aren’t about politics.
One such story is a recent blog by a dad named Buzz Bishop, warning us that the venerable Charlie Brown television specials are too mean for today’s kids and shouldn’t be shown.
He argues that the bullying and name-calling common in the programs are bad examples and negative influences on kids today, when serious bullying is a significant problem. He also believes words used in the specials, such as “stupid” and “blockhead,” are bad for kids to hear.
Good grief. What’s next on the list of things that aren’t suitable for kids? Puppies? Ice cream? The circus?
As a parent, it can be a challenge to find appropriate entertainment for kids, especially once they outgrow “Sesame Street” or “Dora the Explorer.” I’m particular about what my kids watch. I’d never let them watch “Shrek,” with its gross-out humor, or “Hop,” which features abundant jokes about bodily functions. But I’m happy to let them watch anything starring Snoopy.
The Peanuts gang has been a part of our popular culture since 1950 when the comic strip first appeared in newspapers. The television specials came along starting in the 1960s with “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The Halloween-themed “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is also a popular annual tradition, with Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day and Easter specials in the mix. My kids love them — they’re a refreshing change from the computer-animated indulgences of today. I enjoy the nostalgia, the calmer, gentler pace of the stories and, of course, the beloved characters.
My kids have been taught not to use words like “stupid;” hearing a TV character use such a word isn’t going to erase their training. And on the whole spectrum of unsavory words, “stupid” is pretty mild, especially when it’s not directed at a person. What happened to parents teaching kids right from wrong and expecting compliance? That helps downplay outside influences.
In his anti-Charlie Brown blog post, Bishop urged parents to avoid the Peanuts specials and to instead watch modern kids movies, including one current film he mentioned by name. So let me get this straight: instead of time-honored, decidedly G-rated classics, Bishop thinks kids are better off watching currently popular movies, many which include questionable language, bathroom humor, sarcasm and characters with sassy attitudes toward parents and friends? What a blockhead.
Unbelievably, Bishop even connected exposure to the bullied Charlie Brown to the horrifying type of modern-day bullying that leads some troubled teens to suicide. That could possibly be the most absurd, far-fetched idea in the history of thought.
The Peanuts gang actually offers some good life lessons for readers and viewers. Charlie Brown is a lovable loser; he tries hard at everything, but usually fails. His less-than-sunny disposition prompts him to say things like, “I’ve developed a new philosophy ... I only dread one day at a time.” But despite his failures, he never gives up — a great lesson for kids.
The relationships between the kids are varied and diverse; because they handle conflicts and situations mainly without adult intervention, they set strong examples of independence and self-reliance. That’s particularly important now in the age of “helicopter parenting.”
Why can’t we just take these and other positive lessons from the Peanuts gang? Yes, Charlie Brown is bullied; but perhaps he offers kids a gentle view of bullying before they encounter it themselves. Despite being harassed and put down, Charlie Brown always finds the inner strength to stay true to himself. That’s a powerful lesson to kids and adults alike.
A show that portrays bullying can even open a discussion between parents and kids, giving parents a perfect opportunity to explore the topic in a low-key way. And incidentally, most people of my generation grew up on Peanuts and not too many of us run around bullying others.
Instead of being a bad influence, the specials offer sweet memories and a return to a simpler time, in addition to clever stories, catchy soundtracks and hilarious one-liners.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is one of the few mainstream shows to depict the actual Christmas story (that is, the one starring Jesus) and it does so in a reverent but unobtrusive way.
Buzz Bishop ought to lay off good ’ole Charlie Brown. Or as Snoopy once advised, “There’s no sense in doing a lot of barking if you don’t have anything to say.”
Rebecca Horvath of Johnson City is a wife, mother and a community volunteer.