Charlie Brown and the Lost Art of the Runt

We miss you, Charlie Brown.

One of my favorite holiday traditions is sitting down to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. Like so many others, I watch it every year at Christmas time and play its soundtrack throughout the holiday. But this time I saw it differently. Maybe because of the anti-bullying campaigns that have intensified recently, I noticed how members of the Peanuts gang treat Charlie Brown and was shocked by some of the things they say to him.

“Boy, are you stupid, Charlie Brown.”

“You’re hopeless, Charlie Brown.”

“You’ve been dumb before, Charlie Brown, but this time, you really did it.”

I had never paid attention to how harsh those things sounded and told Katie that if A Charlie Brown Christmas were made today, none of that dialogue would make it into the final product.

Why was this OK nearly 50 years ago when the program first aired? Because in the end Charlie Brown always comes through, despite what everyone expects from him. Charlie Brown loves that little, pitiful Christmas tree, and in doing so he shows everyone else what there is to love about him. He is resilient, and we love him for it.

When did we stop making movies about the runt who makes it through his struggles and saves the day?

Take Lucas, for example. A frail high school kid who is bullied, Lucas gains the attention of the popular football team captain, who appreciates his courage and wants to learn from him. Then there’s Rudy, a kid whose grades are low, whose athletic skills are poor, and who is only half the size of other football players. But he has the heart to eventually get carried off the Notre Dame field by his teammates. And this is a true story!

The focus of all these beloved tales is overcoming adversity rather than avoiding obstacles altogether. But that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

If you look at the some of the most popular shows for kids in recent years, you find that the star of the show is already that, a star. Miley Cyrus’ character in Hannah Montana is trying to hide the fact she’s a celebrity. In the opening theme of Wizards of Waverly Place, star Selena Gomez lets you know that “everything’s gonna be a breeze, that the end will no doubt justify the means, you can fix any problem with the slightest ease.”

I don’t believe bullies should be ignored and do think mean kids should learn to take responsibility for their actions. But I also believe in making sure every kid is equipped to handle any tough situation that comes their way.

Parents must understand that removing all the negative things in their children’s lives doesn’t help them become adults. On the contrary, by facing these obstacles head on with courage, children learn how strong they really can be. A sword is dull until it faces the intensity of a grindstone. That one experience of never backing down can change a young life in a positive way forever. And it could make others finally see how special someone really is, like Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas: “I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”


Article originally published on Huffington Post.

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