The Sinister Secret Subtext In 'The Charlie Brown Halloween Special'
If you were a child during or after the 1960's, odds are you are familiar with the Halloween holiday staple It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! The cartoon, which logically should have faded into obscurity around forty years ago, will not be shown on TV this year, breaking a tradition nearly six decades in the making.
Children are drawn to the film thanks to the vibrant colors, Snoopy's crazy war flashbacks, and children who speak like adults. And of course, they go absolutely bananas when our hero (enemy? Anti-hero?) Charlie Brown trick-or-treats the entire night and only ends up with a bag full of stones.
But do yourself a favor and really watch the movie as a grown-up. If you start to look hard at that bag of rocks, bizarre details begin to materialize like one of those magic eye books from the school book fair. Why did that happen? How was this allowed to happen? Obviously, the bit is that Charlie Brown gets the short end of the stick, the drum rolls and everyone laughs at him. But let's quickly dive into all the circumstances that have to come together in order for an 8-year-old to go home with a sack full of, what is essentially, yard trash.
First of all, this nonsense was premeditated. This was a deliberate conspiracy where the execution only works if every adult in town is in on it. There would be no other way to pull this off. If you look at how the evening progresses, the children sideline after every house to see what kind of haul they pulled in. At each stop, all of Charlie's friends have various treats and goodies while he pulls out a decent-sized rock. There is no coincidence there because that sort of thing doesn't just happen.
And before you even give them the benefit of the doubt, the issue is not lack of candy supply. At one point during a Peanut huddle, Violet clearly states that she received "five pieces of candy." FIVE PIECES OF CANDY. Any amount of that sum could have gone to Charlie Brown with enough left over for the rest of them to enjoy. You almost need to go out of your way to give someone a rock from your garden. Furthermore, Lucy asks an adult for some extra candy for her brother and is given it without argument nor hesitation. Can you guess what this same house gave Charlie Brown? If you guessed "Now and Laters," we've got some sour news for you.
Something that makes this whole situation even more inexplicable is the setting. We're talking about a show set in the 60's, which would have to mean that any discussion of how to pull this off would likely be in person. Moreover, the parents of Charlie Brown's friends were not only involved but instrumental. There would have to be discussions on what each kid was wearing, so as not to mistakenly give their own kid one of the rocks. Regardless, at no point during these discussions did any adult stand up and say, "Hey, maybe we don't do this to a little boy? I mean, he's got it bad enough already, right?"
We can't put so much blame on the adults without asking Charlie Brown to stand up for himself just a little bit. At no point during the random checkpoints did CB walk back up to the house and demand answers. Some perfectly reasonable responses to receiving a rock on Halloween could be "I was a toddler not long ago, why are you doing this?" or "Is it a good idea to basically invite me to smash your window, you psycho?" And If the answer is anything other than "Sorry, here is actual candy" in the form of a muted trombone, then you should legally be allowed to start swinging your rock sack.
Alas, Charlie Brown famously did none of those things and, instead, spent the night being further abused at a Halloween party he was not invited to. The special ends with everyone in the Brown household being disappointed for getting grifted. At least Linus gets to enjoy the candy his older sister obtained for him. Charlie Brown attempted no such deal during his trick-or-treating and the show leaves it ambiguous as to whether he shared his rocks.
Erik Germ can be found on Twitter shouting jokes directly at your face.
Top image: CBS