Monday, April 19, 2010

"Deux root beers, sil vous plait."

THE KICKER - Marcie Howe (last name unconfirmed, based on an implication that her uncle is WHA all-star Gordie Howe,), an oddly profound and profoundly odd grade schooler from Charles Schulz’s immortal Peanuts. First appearing under the name of Clara during a summer camp storyline, Marcie’s character traits were quickly established. She was weird, unathletic, and called her female assistant counselor ‘sir‘. When reintroduced to the strip years later, she had aged up a bit and become named Marcie, but retained her personality and fondness for military precision, still calling her ex-counselor, now her classmate and friend, ‘sir’. With her distinct personality, an entertaining blend of book smart and street clueless, she quickly supplanted the generic character Roy as said friend’s sidekick. Independent of said friend, she plays a weirdly romantic role as a French peasant girl in Snoopy’s WWI fantasies. Sometimes it’s not really sure if she’s playing along with him, or if he’s imagining her. Either way, it suits her character, as she would be the only character weird enough to engage in WWI reenactments with a friend’s pet dog.

WHO THEY’RE KICKING - Patricia “Peppermint Patty” Reichardt. A brash and seemingly confident tomboy who lived on the other side of town from Charlie Brown. She was introduced as a friend of the aggressively bland Roy, who was basically a character to give the others someone to talk to when they want to camp. Roy brought Patty over to help Charlie Brown’s team, and Schultz quickly realized he had found a far more interesting character, what with her fondness for nicknames, forward attitude, and inability to tell that Snoopy was a dog. She has a close relationship with her single father, who calls her a ‘rare gem’. She does terrible in school, a fact exacerbated by her insomnia. (She’s too insecure to fall asleep before her late working father gets home.)

WHAT THEY BRING - Well, as you may note, the two are extremely different people. Marcie does great in school and is insightful, Patty does poorly and is confused. Patty is outgoing and athletic, Marcie is introverted and indoorsy. Patty calls Charlie Brown “Chuck”, Marcie calls him “Charles”. Marcie is certainly the more well-adjusted of the two. She is incredibly comfortable with herself and who she is, and is able to see though a lot of Patty’s insecurity because of it. This is very clear in their respective crushes on Charlie Brown. Marcie knows she likes Charlie Brown, knows he’s not interested, and accepts that. Patty also has a crush on Charlie Brown, but has no idea. She knows she wants his approval and reassurance, but doesn’t know why, and Chuck is oblivious, but doesn’t like upsetting her. It’s actually a very well-written examination of the kind of pre-pubescent crushes kids develop at that age. Anyway, Marcie, strange though she may be, is Patty’s grounding force. The anchor that holds her somewhat distracted friend in the moment.

WHERE’S THE RESPECT? - Hey! You know what I’ve managed to go all this time without mentioning? Peppermint Patty and Marcie are gay! DURRR HURR HURRRRR. Seriously, when was the last time these two were brought up without that being mentioned? It’s actually kind of pathetic that even in today’s society, people still look at a tomboy with a close female friend and think “Well, she must be gay.” Sure, the ‘sir’ thing is a little weird, and Patty’s favorite athlete is Billie Jean King. But the ‘sir’ thing was SUPPOSED to be weird, a sign of Marcie’s social oddness. And BJK was a symbol for equality between the sexes, and someone who showed the girls could excel in sports and should not be looked down on for it. The fact that she’s gay is incidental. The other major character from Patty’s side of town, Franklin, is also subject to this. If you ask a Peanuts fan, Franklin is a serious-minded boy whose father is in the army, stationed overseas. (Initially in Vietnam, but it changed with time, of course.) He is philosophical and prone to quotations, like Linus, but is much more sensible. He is the only character who seems to notice that all of the other characters are slightly off their rockers. If you ask a non-Peanuts fan about Franklin, they’ll say TOKEN BLACK GUY DURR HURR HURRRR. Never mind how ballsy it was for Schulz to show black and white kids playing together in 1968 in the first place.

So where’s the respect? Depends on if you read the comics, I guess. She didn’t make it into “Snoopy!!! The Musical”, but that’s probably for the best. “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”, aka the good Peanuts musical, was written before she came to the strip. Schulz certainly wasn’t going to let anyone else continue his work, and more TV specials seem unlikely, so there’s not going to be much Marcie in other adaptations for me to critique. So just remember that Charles Schulz created a surprisingly in-depth world for his creations, and no hacky comedian’s going to change that.

As Chuck to the Red-Haired girl, so Patty to Chuck. Also Lucy to Schroeder, Linus to Miss Othmar, Sally to Linus... Man, Sculz had issues.

He's in the hospital. They're not just staring at his house.



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