Who Are You, Charlie Brown?

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If your kids turned out even slightly well-adjusted, chances are two pop culture icons deserve credit with an assist: Fred Rogers and Charles Schulz. The former has already been galvanized on film, and until Tom Hanks gets around to playing Charlie Brown’s papa, this will have to do. As a child, I was never without a paperback compilation of the newspaper strips poking out of my back pocket. Around the Bar Mitzvah age, we parted company. With the exception of the TV specials and an occasional read in the Sunday funnies, I had forgotten the sizable contributions Schulz made to the art of comic strips, and the responsibility with which he cared for and nurtured the popular culture icons he created. Each of his characters represented a different facet of the cartoonist’s personality. He worked without assistance, right down to the inking, which he did himself. Franklin was the first recurring African-American character in a comic strip, but the idea came to Schulz from a woman named Harriet Glickman. And Peppermint Patty, patterned after tennis star Billie Jean King, was the group feminist. At a little under an hour, one could have done without the standalone TV special contained within (It’s a 500 Word Essay, Charlie Brown), although Pigpen starting a dust storm simply by jumping rope brought a smile. (2021) — Scott Marks

Rated NR | 0 hour, 54 minutes
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