Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Charlie Brown and the Minnesota Vikings

Poor Charlie Brown. All he wants to do is kick that football. And that stupid girl always pulls the ball away so that he falls down. Charlie Brown, the archetypal loser. Everybody else gets candy; Charlie Brown gets rocks. But he's not the only member of the Peanuts gang to remind me of the Minnesota Vikings.

In "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," Linus sits around all night waiting for the Great Pumpkin while all his friends go out trick or treating. They don't believe, and they go party; Linus has faith, and so he waits.

Linus writes letters to the Great Pumpkin. While he writes, his friends come to mock and ridicule him. There's no Great Pumpkin and he's a moron for thinking there is. Why is he wasting his time? It's worthy of mockery and laughter.

In a conventional plot narrative, the faithful hero withstands the scorn of society and is rewarded for his faith. But Peanuts never gives us a conventional plot narrative. We see characters suffering through a world they don't understand. We see failure and disappointment. We see cruelty and depression.

And so Linus is never rewarded for his faith. Ultimately, he spends Halloween out in a pumpkin patch waiting for nothing. His friends make costumes and get candy; Linus waits on an empty faith.

Tell me, Viking fans, you don't know this story. It's not surprising that Charles Schulz is a Minnesotan. He was writing Peanuts before the Vikings even existed, of course. But there's something here, something in the long, cold, snowy winters, that prepares us for emptiness and disappointment. It makes the Vikings the perfect team for us. We wait and wait and wait and withstand the scorn of all around us, but our faith is never rewarded. Eventually, some of us are like Sally: we realize it is all stupid and give up in anger, cynical and jaded. But some of us, like Linus, take this year's failure in sadness, but hope and believe that next year, maybe, perhaps, the Great Pumpkin will show up. "Just wait til next year Charlie Brown! You'll see!" Linus is intent, devoted to the idea of the Great Pumpkin, and no matter how badly he is disappointed, he'll be back. Because he believes.

We're all Linus sitting out in a pumpkin patch. Blockheads.


  1. Not trying to be condescending but-
    Do you read/watch anything without relating it to the Vikings?

    I guess that means that they're always on your mind. Even while watching a children's movie you are reminded of the Vikings.

  2. Anonymous9:46 AM

    It is a near certainty that when a writer starts a sentence with "Not trying to be (blank)", (blank) is exactly what they will be.

  3. Anonymous9:58 AM

    PV, that was a good post. Schulz can be a grim fellow, and I don't recall if I fully grasped that quality when I read his strips as a kid. I just remember thinking it was hilarious that there was a kid surrounded in a perpetual cloud of dirt and dust.

    My great pumpkin this year was that Tavaris Jackson was ready to play qb in the NFL. Intellectually, I knew it was most unlikely, but in an effort to have some hope, and make at least the first half of the season more interesting, I grasped the straw that Childress was professional football coach who had spent a lot of time around qbs in general, and then Jackson in particular, and Childress seemed to think the potential was there. Oh well. The rest of the league has a lot of interesting stuff going on, and unlike you I only despise all things Favre and Packers when they play the Vikings, or when the Vikings are competing with the Packers for a playoff spot, so I can even enjoy what is happening a few hundred miles directly east of the twin cities, except for a game in a couple of weeks. For some reason, I've always disliked the Bears more.

  4. But I really wasn't being condescending. Your theory is true in real life, but on the internet it's hard to pick up on the intent of certain statements. It's safer to clarify in case the reader takes it in a different manner.

    In real life- Yes. If someone says "I don't mean to be racist but-" they are being racist. But I was just making sure my question didn't get read in a condescending manner.

  5. We should all share our Great Pumpkin stories. We all have them--that's what makes Peanuts so appealing.

  6. Anonymous1:04 AM

    Charles Schultz is from Minneapolis. I am sure you knew this, but it is too perfect. Hold that ball, Lucy, let me kick it this time!!!