A holiday TV special titled “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” that has aired since 1973, has made news around the world after some viewers took to Twitter to point out elements of a scene that they thought to be in bad taste, or even racist. Following the complaints, other Twitter users responded to clarify the situation.
The 22-minute special first aired on Nov. 20, 1973, on CBS, and was aired there every year until 2000. In 2001 it moved to ABC and has continued to air annually, around Thanksgiving day. Its latest airing was on Nov. 21.
The scene under scrutiny shows the Peanuts characters seated at a table for an impromptu Thanksgiving feast where Snoopy had served the guests buttered toast, jelly beans, popcorn, pretzel sticks, and ice cream.
Charlie Brown Thanksgiving aired in 1973. People interpret this scene differently. Some say it's offensive, some say Franklin has the best seat at the table. How do you see it? pic.twitter.com/LeH2NxNjul
— Trevor Donovan (@TrevDon) November 23, 2018
Viewers pointed out that Franklin, the only black character in the cartoon, is drawn seated alone on one side of the table, while on the other side of the table are the rest of the characters.
They also pointed out that he is seated on a lawn chair instead of a dining chair like the other characters.
“Watching Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving is hard knowing they put Franklin at the end of the table by himself,” Twitter user Sincerely AJP wrote.
“Not watching Charlie Brown Thanksgiving anymore, until they sit some people on the same side of the table as Franklin,” user ASharp52 wrote on Twitter.
“Why is Franklin in Charlie Brown Thanksgiving sitting all by himself at the table. Man. Things that I did not notice as a child,” Twitter user cmass4eva wrote.
When Franklin first tries to sit in the chair, it topples over.
“They give our friend the busted chair and won’t even sit on the same side of the table, more proof that Charlie Brown and his cohorts are RACIST,” one Twitter post read; but the user later noted they were being sarcastic.
“If y’all don’t think racism exist..check out Charlie Brown…so you mean to tell me, no one wanted to sit by the lil black kid and why they give him the worse chair….think about it…” one Twitter user TheScorpioBaby wrote.
Clarification Over Thanksgiving Cartoon
One Twitter user responded to the claims of racism with an explanation of the interpersonal relationships between the Peanuts characters.
“Does anyone even know the characters? That’s Charlie, his sister, sally, is to the right closest to her crush Linus, and peppermint patty is to the left cause she’s crushing on Charlie and then there’s his dog. Marcy is sitting by herself in a metal chair,” user Brookesalvation wrote in a Twitter post.
The same user explained the situation in pictorial form:
Come on people anyone who knows Charlie Brown knows what’s really going on here… pic.twitter.com/Q0u7p8qZbi
— Brookesalvation (@Brookesalvation) November 24, 2018
Twitter users also pointed out that the creator of the Peanuts cartoon, the late Charles Schulz, had added Franklin in a move to combat racism at the time.
“Seriously please get some historical context. Charles M. Schultz was a trailblazer and bucked racism in those days by adding Franklin to reflect the issue… and challenge what was then going on in society,” California radio show host Mark Larson wrote.
Schulz added Franklin to the Peanuts cast in 1968, just after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
A teacher by the name of Harriet Glickman had written a letter to Schulz to suggest that he include a black child in the cartoon to do something about the environment at the time, which she described as a “vast sea of misunderstanding, fear, hate and violence.”
The head of the cartoon’s publisher, United Feature Syndicate, had asked Schulz whether he was sure if he wanted to include Franklin.
“Either you run it the way I drew it, or I quit,” Schulz said, according to The Washington Post.
Franklin has since become a cherished Peanuts character, and in July, the Schulz Museum celebrated 50 years since his first appearance.
Happy 50th Anniversary, Franklin! Franklin first appeared in Peanuts 50 years ago today in this strip originally published on July 31, 1968. pic.twitter.com/b1LlNsgoKZ
— SchulzMuseum (@SchulzMuseum) July 31, 2018
“Charles Schulz bravely added an African American character to his comic strip at a time when many people frowned upon such things. He was helping to break down racial barriers in his own way,” user JamieERatliff wrote.
“When this animated special was created it was during a time when having characters of mixed race interacting with each other was still offensive too many people. It should be applauded for what it was doing during its place in history,” he added.
From NTD News