Contented Reader

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The Complete Peanuts: 1967 to 1968

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The Complete Peanuts: 1967 to 1968

Charles Schultz

Fantagraphics

In June 1968, Charles Schultz introduced the character of “Franklin” to Peanuts.  Franklin was black.  At his first appearance, Franklin is playing at the same beach where Sally and Charlie Brown are playing, and they play together on the beach.  Charlie Brown, impressed by Franklin’s mad sandcastle-building skilz, invites Franklin to come and visit him some time.

In October 1968, Franklin appears again, making that visit.  But Charlie Brown isn’t home, so he wanders the neighborhood, meeting many of the other characters, and then, just as his host appears, he decides to leave.

Charlie Brown: Franklin!  Where are you going?

Franklin: I’m going home, Charlie Brown… this neighborhood has me shook.  I didn’t mind the girl in the booth or the beagle with the goggles, but that business about the “Great Pumpkin”….. No, sir!

Charlie Brown: But…

Schroeder: Hi!  Did you guys know there are only sixty more days until Beethoven’s birthday?

Charlie Brown: Oh, good grief!

Franklin: <leaving, eyes wide and anxious> Like, wow!

Accounts of the history of Peanuts say that Franklin was controversial when he first “integrated” the strip.  But they all seem to tell the same few stories, about one or two unhappy letters, and one southern newspaper editor, indicating that there shouldn’t be a black kid in Charlie Brown’s white community, and especially not in school (that isn’t in this volume.  It comes later.)

So the impression I get is that in a comic strip that reached millions, the number of people who had a problem with Franklin was small enough to be counted on one hand, yet the history books still accuses the nation’s Peanuts readers of ‘controversy.’

I mention this because the Internet is kind of like that.  One nutcase way out of the fringes of sanity will say something ugly, and suddenly the video of it is on everyone’s Facebook page.  And people treat these lone nutcases as though they were representative of whatever group of people I dislike anyway, or as if they were evidence of some large-scale social trend.  Remember that guy who burned a Quran?  His whole church was, what, ten members?  But somehow he became international news.  In the same week, I bet there are hundreds of crazy people who did crazy things, but only one of them was a lead story on CNN.  “See the anti-Muslim hysteria in this country?  Isn’t it awful?”  Meanwhile, the vast majority of people in this country are working alongside Muslims and not thinking that hard about it.

Internet, it’s okay to just ignore crazy people when they do and say crazy things.  Most people are actually pretty reasonable.  One crazy person doesn’t mean the world is crazy.  It means, in a world that is mostly pretty sane, the crazy people stand out.

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Written by Contented Reader

October 30, 2011 at 9:08 am

Posted in Reviews

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