Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown
Peanuts character
CharlieBrown.jpg
First appearance October 2, 1950 (Comic Strip)
Last appearance Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown (Television Special)
Voiced by Original:
Peter Robbins
Other:
Chad Allen, Erin Chase, Todd Barbee, Brad Kesten, Brett Johnson, Duncan Watson, Arrin Skelley, Wesley Singerman, Anthony Rapp, Spencer Robert Scott, and Zachary Gordon on Robot Chicken
Information
Gender Male
Family Sally Brown (sister)
Unnamed parents

Charles "Charlie" Brown is the protagonist in the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz.

Charlie Brown and his creator have a common connection in that they are both the sons of barbers, but whereas Schulz's work is described as the "most shining example of the American success story", Charlie Brown is an example of "the great American un-success story" in that he fails in almost everything he does.[1]

Contents

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[edit] Character

Charlie Brown is a lovable loser,[2] a child possessed of endless determination and hope, but who is ultimately dominated by his insecurities[3] and a "permanent case of bad luck," and is often taken advantage of by his peers. He and Lucy Van Pelt star in a running gag that recurs throughout the series: Lucy holds a football for Charlie Brown to kick, but pulls it away before he kicks it, causing Charlie Brown to fly into the air and fall on his back.

Schulz acknowledged that he created Charlie Brown as somewhat of a self-portrait, in that the character shares Schulz's self-doubt and insecurities.[4]

[edit] Friends

[edit] Names and nicknames

Since the early strips, where Shermy mentions him and Patty refers to him directly, Charlie Brown is nearly always referred to or addressed by his full name by everyone whenever possible, and only otherwise for specific reasons. Umberto Eco has pointed out that the fact that Charlie Brown is invariably referred to by his full name follows a convention found in epic poetry giving Charlie Brown a sense of universal identification.[5] It was eventually revealed that the first person to have called him "Charlie Brown" was Poochie, a blonde little girl who played with Snoopy as a pup.[6] Peppermint Patty calls him "Chuck" most of the time, while her friend Marcie usually uses "Charles"; in 1979 they admitted to each other that each probably has a crush on him, explaining the familiarity. Snoopy usually only obliquely refers to Charlie Brown as "the round-headed kid," though in strips up to the mid-1960s, even Snoopy occasionally called him "Charlie Brown." Eudora also calls him "Charles". A minor character named Peggy Jean in the early 1990s who called him "Brownie Charles", because Charlie Brown, in his typical nervous and awkward fashion, messed up his own name when he introduced himself and couldn't bring himself to correct the mistake when it turned out he liked when she called him that. Also, Lucy called him "Charlie" at one point in A Charlie Brown Christmas. To avoid awkward-sounding dialogue, his sister Sally Brown simply calls him "big brother," though she has used his full name when discussing him with others. He is occasionally referred to as a "blockhead" by some characters, especially by Lucy.

[edit] History

First Peanuts strip, October 2, 1950. From left-to-right: Charlie Brown, Shermy, (original) Patty.

Charlie Brown was one of the original cast members of Peanuts when it debuted in 1950, and the butt of the first joke in the strip. Aside from some stylistic differences in Schulz's art style at the time, Charlie Brown looked much the same. He did, however, wear an unadorned T-shirt; the stripe was added within the first year of publication (December 21, 1950), in order to add more color to the strip. Charlie Brown stated in an early strip (November 3, 1950[7]) that he was "only four years old", but he aged over the next two decades, being six years old as of November 17, 1957 and "eight-and-a-half years old" by July 11, 1979. Later references continue to peg Charlie Brown as being approximately eight years old.[8] Another early strip, on October 30, 1950, has Patty and Shermy wishing Charlie Brown a happy birthday on that day, although they are not sure they have the date right.[8] His name has been stated by various sources to be for a childhood friend of Schulz, or for author Charles Brockden Brown, author of Edgar Huntly.

Initially, Charlie Brown was more mischievous and playful than his character would later become: He would play tricks on other characters, and some strips had romantic overtones between Charlie Brown and Patty and Violet. He would cause headaches for adults (knocking all the comic books off their stand at a newsstand, for instance), though he was from the start not especially competent at any skill.

Charlie Brown soon evolved into the Sad Sack character he's best known as: feeling enslaved to the care of Snoopy, beset by comments from everyone around him. Common approaches to the strip's story lines included Charlie Brown stubbornly refusing to give in even when all is lost from the outset (e.g., standing on the pitcher's mound alone on the baseball field, refusing to let a torrential downpour interrupt his beloved game), or suddenly displaying a skill and rising within a field, only to suffer a humiliating loss just when he's about to win it all (most famously, Charlie Brown's efforts to win the statewide spelling bee in the feature-length film A Boy Named Charlie Brown). Charlie Brown never receives Valentines or Christmas cards and only gets rocks when he goes trick or treating on Halloween but never loses hope. His misfortunes garnered so much sympathy from the audience that many young viewers in North America of the Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown TV specials have sent Valentine cards and Halloween candy respectively to the broadcasting television network in an effort to show Charlie Brown they cared for him. This also extended to protest letters when viewers felt the victimization of Charlie Brown went too far such as in It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown where Charlie Brown is publicly derided for making his football team lose when it is obvious that he is not at fault, since Lucy kept pulling the football out from under him.

Charlie Brown maintained this demeanor until the strip ended its run in 2000, and classic strips run in many newspapers today. He did have occasional victories, though, such as hitting a game-winning home run off a pitch by Roy Hobbs' great-granddaughter on March 30, 1993 (though she later admitted she let him hit the home runs) and soundly defeating "Joe Agate" in a game of marbles on April 11, 1995 (and in He's a Bully, Charlie Brown). Usually, Charlie Brown was a representative for everyone going through a time when they feel like nothing ever goes right for them; however, Charlie Brown refuses to give up. In the final weeks of his strip, determined to finally have a winning baseball season at last, Charlie Brown tried to channel Joe Torre, which made his sister think he was cracking up.

[edit] Relationships

Despite all this, and despite the abuse he has often received, Charlie Brown has many friends, the best being Lucy's brother Linus, who may occasionally admonish Charlie Brown, but stands by him. Linus's brother, Rerun van Pelt, also seems young enough to look up to and admire Charlie Brown; in one comic strip, he wanted to watch him pitch in a baseball game, thinking that he was a master at it. Whether due to his compassion or harmlessness, Charlie Brown has no real enemies aside from intangible unluckiness, though practically all his friends are blithely critical of him at some point. His dog Snoopy seldom treats him with overt respect except when "That Round-Headed Kid" pleases him. Nonetheless though they are often shown hugging, particularly after they have been reunited after a separation, and Charlie Brown has implied he enjoys the fact he is depended on by someone.

Linus initially appeared as an infant, but as he aged (and grew to a year or two younger than Charlie Brown) he became a profound philosopher and Charlie Brown's best friend, often supporting each other in small ways when the other's foibles had been painfully exposed (Schroeder and Lucy van Pelt were also significantly younger than Charlie Brown when they first appeared, but aged to the point where they became his peers). Linus very often serves as a way for Charlie Brown to express his thoughts and woes without judgement or condemnation; he almost never attempts to convince or directly advise Charlie Brown of anything, and tends to only be critical in an intellectual or philosophical way. Linus's own troubles with being taken seriously may explain this sympathy. Partially because of this quality, he is the only person to ever have any direct impact on Charlie Brown's actions. This is most clearly seen in "A Charlie Brown Christmas"; after Charlie Brown wonders aloud whether anyone can tell him what Christmas is all about, Linus simply recites the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke, leaving Charlie Brown to successfully draw his own conclusions. The two of them are shown sitting and talking behind the often-used brick wall more than any characters.

A classic running gag in the strip involved Lucy taunting Charlie Brown by holding a football and promising to let Charlie Brown kick it. Initially, Charlie Brown claimed that he would not trust her because she has tricked him this way many times, but Lucy then gave some reasons why Charlie Brown should give her credence. For example, to give him a signed document stating that she would not pull the ball away from him (later to reveal that the document had never been notarized). His doubt undermined, Charlie Brown then sprints toward Lucy to execute the place kick. At the last possible second, Lucy snatched the ball out of Charlie Brown's path, causing him to be flung up into the air and land hard on his back. This even occurred during the Homecoming game in It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown, which lead to Charlie Brown's teammates unfairly blaming him for costing them the game, even though Lucy was at fault. One notable exception occurs in A Charlie Brown Celebration when Charlie Brown is admitted to the hospital. At one point in the story, Lucy promises never to snatch the football again. Upon release, Charlie Brown hears of the promise and challenges Lucy to honor her word. This time, he misses the ball and kicks Lucy's arm. Another notable exception occurred during It's Magic, Charlie Brown, when he was briefly rendered invisible by a magic spell from Snoopy, and so was able to successfully kick the football out of a bewildered Lucy's hand, and he even teased her about it afterward. On the hit TV series Robot Chicken Charlie is told by Lucy she won't pull the ball away and Charlie runs to kick it. Lucy pulls the ball away at the last second, as always, but Charlie stops, smiles at the camera and kicks her instead. He then tells her, "That's for years of humiliation, bitch."

There is also a scene in an episode of Family Guy in which Peter Griffin, enraged by Lucy's cruelty on Charlie, steps in and proceeds to litteraly kick the living crap out of her, demanding that she never, ever pulls that stunt on Charlie again. He forces her to hold the ball, and Charlie successfully kicks it, then Peter reminds her that he did some research and found out she isn't a real therapist, in which he kicks her once more, knocking her out.

Lucy, along with early characters Violet and Patty, was often attracted to Charlie Brown physically. Charlie Brown, who felt similarly about them, was too shy and expressed his love through the far away admiration of the Little Red-Haired Girl. On one occasion when Lucy was little, she falsely claimed that Charlie Brown was about to hit her, and grinned in the background when Patty came to retaliate.[9] Violet once hit Charlie Brown with her doll after he accidentally hit it with his tricycle. Shermy once sent Charlie Brown home because he allowed a goal during a hockey game. Although Charlie Brown had romantic occasions with Violet and Patty, the two clearly favored Shermy. Yet when Charlie Brown asked Lucy during their psychiatrist booth sessions why no one liked him, Lucy always laid the blame on Charlie Brown himself. Lucy often thinks ridiculous beliefs are true (i.e.: there's a different sun every day, snow comes up out of the ground, birds can fly to the moon and back); regarding them as "little known facts", she thinks that true facts are silly and laughs at Charlie Brown's attempts to prove her wrong. Lucy is openly contemptuous of Charlie Brown, having no qualms whatsoever about crushing his hopes and telling him that he is worthless, friendless, and destined to be a failure. However she occasionally falls victim to Charlie Brown's sarcasm. In one strip when she suggested that his baseball teams sells up and move to the city, Charlie Brown responded: "I've got a better idea. Why don't we keep our baseball team and just sell you?"

Like all adults in the strip, Charlie Brown's parents are never seen and were only given speech balloons in the earlier comics, but occasionally referenced. His father is a barber (as was Schulz's), and his mother is a housewife. Charlie Brown enjoys a great relationship with his father. At one point, he counters Violet's bragging about her father's possessions and club memberships by pointing out to her that his father is always happy to make time for him, even on the busiest days. Hearing this, Violet walks off, dejected.

In 1959, Charlie Brown's sister Sally was born. She resembled Charlie Brown in some ways, but with a shock of blond hair. Like Linus, Lucy, and Schroeder, Sally began as an infant but soon became "mature" enough to interact with the other characters on a more-or-less equal basis. Initially Charlie Brown doted on her, though she too became a thorn in his side as she would pester him for help with her homework, and berate him for misunderstanding concepts (despite herself being the one in the wrong). Charlie Brown would stoically and guiltily bear this, although sometimes he was able to let Sally dig her own holes without pulling him in with her while very occasionally firmly putting his foot down on truly unacceptable behavior (such as lying about stealing a crayon from school).

Charlie Brown has a pen pal, but he uses a fountain pen (rather than ballpoint) and he has less skill than others at keeping the ink flow under control. This is exaggerated to humorous levels, often covering entire words, or even himself, in large smudges and blots of ink. He has often resorted to graphite, starting off the letters, "Dear Pencil Pal". These correspondences, which began in the August 25, 1958 strip, are usually one-way; but on April 14, 1960, Charlie Brown read Lucy a letter he'd received from his Pen Pal. In the letter, the Pen Pal revealed that he or she had read Charlie Brown's latest letter to his/her class, and that they all agreed he must be a nice person and someone who is pleasant to know. In response to which, Charlie Brown uttered a vigorous "Ha!" to Lucy. In a strip series in 1994, the Pen Pal was revealed to be a girl in Scotland named Morag. Charlie Brown also fantasized about a future romance with Morag, but his plans were crushed when he learned Morag had 30 other Pen Pals.

Charlie Brown is infatuated with an often unseen character known simply as "the Little Red-Haired Girl", though he rarely has the courage to talk to her, and when he does (in encounters which always occur off-panel) it always goes badly. He frequently says that the reason he cannot talk to her is that "She's something and I'm nothing. When she looks over at me, there's nothing to see. How can she talk to someone who's nothing?" Even when she temporarily moves away, Charlie Brown still fails to work up the courage to talk to her, despite Linus's frantic urging. Because of his preoccupation with the Little Red-Haired Girl, he remains oblivious to the occasional attentions of Peppermint Patty and Marcie. In particular, he has a tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, to both of them; Peppermint Patty when she seeks reassurance over her "big nose" and her lack of femininity, and Marcie when she tries to show that she cares about him (once, when asking if Charlie Brown missed her while she was away, got the reply "my cereal's getting soggy"). However, sometimes Charlie Brown might return feelings for one of them; for example in "You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown" near the end after Marcie winks at Charlie Brown, he blushes, which can be interpreted as saying he likes her. Another time in 1989 while Marcie and Charlie Brown were at camp on the phone he told Peppermint Patty that Marcie was wearing a red swimsuit and looked real cute. Charlie Brown once had a brief, yet surprisingly successful flirtation with a minor character called Peggy Jean whom he met at summer camp. She kissed him and said she loved him. Charlie Brown also had a dance partner named Emily.

[edit] Portrayals

[edit] Musical

In 2011, Alternative Rockband Coldplay played a song named Charlie Brown at Rock am Ring. The band later confirmed it was related to this character. It is expected to be released as the band's fourth single, after Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall, Paradise and Princess Of China (which is going to be the third single), respectively. The song has now been released as the 4th track on Coldplay's fifth studio album, Mylo Xyloto.

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