Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Peanuts Gang and Unrequited Love

As all Peanuts fans will know, unrequited love is one many recurring themes of the comic. The most famous recurring storyline has Charlie Brown all hung up on the Little Red Haired Girl, a girl who we never see and whose name remains unknown. Other characters have their own unrequited loves. Lucy has Schroeder, Sally Brown has Linus and just to make the comic complete, Peppermint Patty has a crush on Charlie Brown. Each of these stories are usually handled individually and very much in keeping with the characters. The crabby and headstrong Lucy for example, continues to pursue Schroeder despite the fact that he has told her repeatedly that he is not interested. A typical Schroeder/Lucy interaction works like this:




Sally and Linus are slightly younger than some of the other characters and this is reflected in their interactions. Often Sally will pursue a reluctant Linus, not getting the hint until he finally blows up and yells at her. And a typical Sally Brown response? Deny all knowledge and yell back:



From a personal perspective I find the Charlie Brown/Little Red Haired Girl and the Peppermint Patty/Charlie Brown stories to be the most realistic and, consequently, the most fun. The Little Red Haired Girl first appeared in the comic in November 1961. She attends the same school as Charlie Brown, but is never seen in the strip. Instead, the reader is treated to Charlie Brown's love at first site reaction and close to forty years worth of comics, where his budding romance with her remains completely in his mind. In Charlie Brown's own words, 'She's really something and I'm nothing."

As Charlie Brown's relationship with the Little Red Haired Girl is all in the mind, he is free to imagine all kinds of things about her and usually does. Her spurning of him is completely in his own mind, as can be observed in this comic from 1963:



Of course, we know that the Little Red Haired Girl isn't going to spurn Charlie Brown. She won't, because it is unlikely that she even knows he exists.

On Valentine's Day, Charlie Brown usually has the same heartbreaking fantasy that everybody who is suffering from unrequited love has at some point or another. He imagines (or perhaps hopes,) that the Little Red Haired Girl will send him a Valentine's Day card and then he won't have to make a move and risk rejection. Of course, it all goes wrong:



If anything, at least Charlie Brown can take some comfort in the fact that the Little Red Haired Girl's rejection comes from the fact that she is unaware that she exists. She has never rejected him outright, Charlie Brown simply imagines that, if given the chance, she would. Equally amusing is the fact that Charlie Brown himself is the object of unrequited love from another character Peppermint Patty:



Peppermint Patty's crush on Charlie Brown, or Chuck as she knows him, is made more complicated by the fact that she not only denies it--to both herself and others--but that she projects her own feelings on Charlie Brown:



Poor Peppermint Patty. She is the one lying in bed, unable to sleep, while Charlie Brown snoozes away peacefully. (Actually she reminds me all of the hopeful young women who write to advice sites asking, Does he like me? when it is obvious that the writer is the one with the crush.) Amusingly, I've been in this situation myself, to the point where I eventually typed out an email to a trusted friend, asking what the hell was up with this somewhat unpleasant guy that I knew. She promptly wrote back, stating Kathryn has the hots for Christian Grey! (I can laugh about it now, but at the time ...)

Meanwhile, Charlie Brown handles Peppermint Patty's crush with a surprising amount of maturity, as compared to the way that Schroeder and Linus handle being the object of unwanted affection. Perhaps because of his feelings for the Little Red Haired Girl, Charlie Brown is able to feel some empathy for Peppermint Patty. This as anyone who has been in his situation knows, is a very difficult thing to do. (Read this article on unrequited love--it's one of the few that details the feelings of guilt and frustration the target of infatuation can feel.) In any case, the fact that Charlie Brown remains respectful of Peppermint Patty and lets her down gently by ignoring her advances yet still offering friendship is probably one of his most redeeming characteristics. And perhaps this was also the most sensible option. As the comics wore on, Peppermint Patty's crush slowly faded. The other characters continued on with their crushes ...