You Can’t Bluff an Old Theologian

I don’t like to do two posts about the same basic thing in a row, but sometimes I do because of timing issues. In this case, these are more Christmas-themed television specials we saw, and I want to discuss them before everyone is sick of hearing about Christmas (assuming they aren’t already).

A Family Circus Christmas – I had a collection of Family Circus strips when I was a kid, but I don’t remember having seen any of the animated specials. Beth seems to remember the Easter Bunny’s song from a different special quite well, and had seen this one as well, but didn’t recall much other than the general premise. The strip is one of those wholesome ones for kids that sometimes seems a bit unsettling when you look back at it as an adult. The recurring joke about it on the Comics Curmudgeon site is that the family is in a cult, which doesn’t seem that far from what we actually see in between the strips dedicated to childish malapropisms.

Like most long-running comic strips, it’s been subject to a lot of parody, including the Dysfunctional Family Circus (which I’ve heard Bil Keane actually liked, but thought it went too far), and pairing panels with Lovecraft passages. Anyway, the special mainly concerns Jeffy deciding he wants a visit from his dead grandfather for Christmas. Since this is a universe where dead people, including this paternal grandfather, routinely watch what’s going on, apparently the afterlife is real and this isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Still, everyone, including a store Santa Claus, tries to explain that this is impossible. I’m not exactly sure what this says about faith when these kids are being taught that Heaven is definitely real and Santa is always watching them (causing Jeffy to imagine a weird ghostly Santa hanging around), but ghosts can’t visit people; but that’s probably well beyond the scope of this review.

(I guess my general opinion is that you shouldn’t force kids to either believe or disbelieve anything in particular unless it would be harmful for them, but my uncertainty about it is part of why I’m glad I don’t have children.) And I’m not sure how Not Me and Ida Know figure into this. You’d kind of think this would be leading to some moral lesson about the dire consequences of the living trying to interact with the dead, but not so much. Everyone is just worried that Jeffy will be disappointed, not that there’s any moral issue with his wish. And maybe there isn’t, but again, why are kids supposed to believe some seemingly impossible things and not others? So Jeffy has a dream where he sees the ghost of his grandfather, who shows him where Daddy’s old star ornament that he couldn’t find is. And while Jeffy only sees him in the dream, the star really is there. So I suppose the moral is that the dead can’t have regular conversations with the living, but they CAN help locate lost objects. Beth mentioned that some of the jokes seemed pretty similar to Peanuts, albeit less cynical, which isn’t too surprising considering the popularity of that Christmas special.

Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales – After the initial A Charlie Brown Christmas, which isn’t readily available on YouTube unless some of these others, was aired a few times with cuts to add more commercial breaks, people complained, so in 2002 they instead gave it an hour-long time block and filled up the rest of the space with this twenty-minute show. It’s a series of vignettes with no overarching plot, unlike the 1965 cartoon (although that one still meandered quite a bit). Among other things, Snoopy works as a bell-ringing Santa, Linus is fascinated with a girl in his class who refuses to tell him her real name, Sally thinks Santa’s name is Samantha Claus, and Lucy tries to convince Linus to give her presents by showing him the word “sister” in the Bible.

Rerun, Lucy and Linus’ younger brother, appears briefly in this one; he was later the main character in the bizarrely depressing I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown, which I don’t think I’ve seen all the way through, but I understand is about Rerun adopting Snoopy’s brother Spike, then his parents determining that Rerun isn’t responsible enough and Spike is better off living alone in the desert, or something like that.

What are some other Christmas specials that are worth watching? I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Rankin-Bass The Little Drummer Boy, in which the titular character’s home is apparently destroyed by Arabs. I also want to see Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July again, and see if it makes as little sense as I remember it making. I wonder if it makes more sense to watch that one in December or July. I also recently heard about a B.C. Christmas special, based on the strip where cavemen are Christians. How does that even work? Yeah, the Flintstones also celebrated Christmas and it made no sense, but I’m pretty sure they never mentioned Jesus. Anyway, Merry Christmas, everybody!

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