Friday, November 17, 2017

Lucy, Charlie Brown, and 43 Footballs: The 1950s

1950s: Introducing the Return

1. November 16, 1952
It's Charlie Brown's idea to kick the football. Toddler Lucy, wearing a helmet, pulls the football away with no malice. "Whoomp." Charlie Brown says "Don't ever do that again." He falls again in the same strip. In the last panel, you can see in Lucy's eyes and mouth that she has an idea. Charlie Brown is content to lie on the ground.

2. December 16, 1956
Four years and one month later, Lucy has a plan and Charlie Brown does not trust her. He stoically says "No!" twice. But, he says "I can't resist kicking footballs." He runs with grim determination. Lucy, intent, pulls the football away with a "HA!". "WHAM." She laughs with glee; she clearly knows that all this will happen again. Charlie Brown is content to lie on the ground in nearly the same position he was in four years ago.

3. September 22, 1957
Less than a year later Charlie Brown more emphatically shout "NO!." Lucy is nonplussed. She brings up trust for the first time; her transparently phony smile works. Charlie Brown is becoming resigned. "All right," he says, as he starts his run. When he "WUMP!"s onto the ground he looks more resigned than in pain; his face shows a small frown. Even as Charlie Brown lies prone in a profile view for the third time, Schulz introduces a new element. Three beads of sweat fly from Charlie Brown's face. Lucy, no longer satisfied to leave the scene while Charlie Brown lies in wait for the end of the day or for a snow storm, leans over the prone Charlie Brown and tells him that he has an unspoken epistemology; he believes that "human nature" is something in which to have faith. This realization makes Charlie Brown sweat. No longer driven by the pure desire to kick the football of 1956, Charlie Brown becomes aware that he has fallen into a trap. He now both believes he will one day kick the football even as his sweating head tells him something else.

4. September 21, 1958
Charlie Brown, wearing a helmet and football pants, practices punting. Lucy, with her hands behind her back as if she is disinterested in what Charlie Brown is doing, watches him retrieve one of his punts and suggests that he try some "Place-Kicks." While Charlie Brown holds the football for the first time, she makes a promise of her "bonded word" to get him to turn over the football. Charlie Brown, still stuck in his epistemological belief in the truthfulness of "human nature" begins his run toward the ball. For the first time, he runs left to right, toward the interior of the final panels and not toward the exterior edge of the final panel where he has ended up every year so far. "WUMP!," then barely a frown. Charlie Brown lies prone on the left side of the final panel. Lucy leans over him from the right, boxing him in. Even if he wanted to get up, he'd have no place to go. Lucy takes advantage of this new arrangement and offers only a phatic comment that Charlie Brown's trust in her "is an inspiration to all young people," as if they are both not eight years old. Charlie Brown can only lie there and look up at the closeness of Lucy's face.

5. October 4, 1959
In panel two, Charlie Brown seems to be thinking about walking away, as Lucy stares at the back of his round head and formulates a plan. She chooses to start a wordy argument about trust, full of finger pointing and gesticulations on both their parts. She convinces him to try to kick the football with a bit of convoluted language. "I'm giving you a chance to learn to trust someone who is not trustworthy!" She convinces him that being more trusting, even of one unworthy of trust, will restore his faith in "human nature." And "WHAM!" it does; both Charlie Brown and Lucy know that human nature compels their repetitions: Charlie Brown runs toward the football; Lucy pulls it away; Charlie Brown falls prone on his back. As if to reinforce the now determined eternal return of these events, Lucy asks rhetorically, "See you here again next year?" Their bodily postures revert to their positions of 1959: Charlie Brown lying prone and resigned; Lucy, leaning forward so her face is directly above Charlie Brown's, looks into his eyes and becomes a Deleuzian Nietzsche. In essence, she tells him that they will find joy in beating back the chaos of the world with this yearly ritual. The look on Charlie Brown's face (the lines near his eyes and his absent mouth), paired with the rigidnesss of his body (his arm held out straight parallel to the ground, his feet perpendicular to the ground) show he has no choice but to agree to meet in the same place next year.

NEXT UP: The 1960s--Singing, the vastness of the world, feminism

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