I’m going to be honest: I always thought Charlie Brown was, for all of his good intentions, a bit of a try-hard. So when I watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving for the first time as an adult, I was expecting pretty much the same from its star and what I’ve seen from the Peanuts gang — Charlie Brown tries hard to impress his friends, he’s made fun of, he mopes, Sally whines, Linus prophesizes, Snoopy saves the day. And this is what exactly happens in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.
What I wasn’t expecting was liking it so much despite it being a very silly TV special. Case in point: I seriously LOL’d for five straight minutes at one point, to the degree that my cat gave me side-eye. But let’s back up for a second and unravel the thread that is A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.
Mean girls are the worst.
The 1973 TV special opens with Lucy and Charlie doing their schtick, in which Lucy humiliates Charlie. This time it involves her using him as a human football. I’m not sure why Charlie insists on hanging around Lucy since it never ends well for him — but I guess it wouldn’t be Charlie Brown if he didn’t have low self-esteem and poor boundaries. Thankfully we don’t see Lucy for the rest of the special, which I’m fine with because I don’t like her. Sorry, I don’t have time for mean girls.
Then we get into the real plot of the story: Charlie Brown needs to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner for his friends. How does this happen? Well, not surprisingly, CB has trouble asserting himself when Peppermint Patty ends up steamrolling him into doing it. She rings Charlie up on the phone and invites herself over for Thanksgiving dinner because her dad said it was OK for her to do so.
Where are these kids’ parents?
This is a tad problematic in and of itself. Why did Peppermint Patty’s dad assume it’s cool for his child to go over to another person’s house for Thanksgiving dinner without asking first? And why doesn’t he want to spend the holiday with his young daughter? Never mind this because parents don’t exist in the Peanuts universe.
Anyway, Peppermint Patty is yakking away to CB, not giving him an opportunity to speak up (again, his boundaries/self-esteem issue). Then she goes ahead and invites Marcie and Franklin over, too. I won’t even bring up the fact about their families either because what’s the point?
The thing is, Charlie and Sally are already going over to their grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, so Linus suggests Charlie should make dinner earlier for his friends before they leave for their grandmother’s. Thanks a lot, Linus.
Snoopy deserves better.
Somehow they think Snoopy should get involved in this, so they wake him up and order him (!) to start prepping for this dinner, including going into a very overcrowded garage to fetch a table and chairs for the event. Excuse me, since when is Snoopy some type of servant to these kids? Oh, well. Because misery likes company, Snoopy wakes up Woodstock, and together, they start to make this dinner happen.
I was getting annoyed that Snoopy and Woodstock were doing all the work for these very entitled kids, but I started to think they liked it —because what else do they have to do with their lives? I was pleasantly surprised to see Linus and Charlie in the kitchen to help cook the actual dinner... a meal which involved lots and lots of toast. Like, hundreds of pieces of buttered toast.
Seriously, someone come get Peppermint Patty.
I literally said out loud, “That’s a lot of toast. Is this really what they serve for dinner?”
Yes. Yes, they did. They served toast, plus popcorn, pretzel sticks, and some candy. I had a mild reaction to this meal because it’s obviously not healthy, and it’s more like a movie snack than an actual dinner. But then I thought, “Well, what else do you expect from two kids, a dog, and a bird? It’s amazing they didn’t burn the house down.”
However, Peppermint Patty was not as forgiving. Peppermint Patty was expecting a turkey and mashed potatoes — at a dinner, mind you, that she invited herself to — and, well, she was livid that she was being served what you might eat at a birthday party. I found this weird since she’s a child, and wouldn’t children love to eat candy for dinner? Anyway, at least she had the sense to wait for Linus to say his little whitewashed Thanksgiving prayer (yawn) before she went off on Charlie Brown because, obviously, he’s to blame for everything within their circle. He leaves, silently (moping).
As I was yelling profanities at an ungrateful Peppermint Patty, Marcie, thankfully, had the sense and the gumption to call out Peppermint Patty for her rude behavior. Peppermint Patty admits she was wrong, but she asks Marcie to apologize to CB because she doesn’t trust herself to do it right, to which Marcie agrees! Gee whiz, these kids need to be taught about codependency and boundaries! Maybe if they had parents around...
All’s well that ends well, especially for Snoopy.
Marcie is the one to cheer up CB, reminding him that the day is supposed to be about the people you’re with, not what you eat. Then Peppermint Patty ends up apologizing to CB herself, and he forgives her (of course he does). When his grandmother calls to ask where they are — because his impromptu Thanksgiving dinner made him late for his actual Thanksgiving dinner — he asks if his friends can join. Next thing you know, all the kids are in the back of a station wagon singing, “Over the river and through the woods, off to Grandmother’s house we go!” Then Charlie has to meekly inform them that his grandmother actually lives in a condo. Well, I hope that’s good enough for Peppermint Patty’s standards!
The last scene wraps up with Snoopy and Woodstock having their own Thanksgiving dinner, complete with a turkey and all the fixings. Looks like he pulled a fast one over those kids — he was bogarting the best food for himself and his real friends — and I was happy to see it. Snoopy is constantly saving the days for these kids; he deserves a good meal (even if that does make Woodstock a cannibal).
It’s not perfect, but the takeaway is OK.
Look, I enjoyed this TV special. Do I think it’s a bit contrived? Yes. Do I think the kids are bratty? Yes. Do I believe a botched Thanksgiving and a lot of backtalk from a mouthy kid symbolize the true meaning of Thanksgiving? Absolutely not. But it’s enjoyable, and despite Peppermint Patty’s flaws, I did think the scene with her phone call with Charlie Brown to be one of the funniest bits in the movie, probably because she is unapologetically herself.
Maybe the lesson is that if we can forgive another’s flaws, perhaps we can forgive our own? If you ask me, that’s the type of grace we can lean into this Thanksgiving.