Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 13 / 29 March 2018

'Peanut' farming

Out There

"Peanuts" gets integrated: Franklin and Linus shake hands in Charles M. Schulz's classic strip. Photo: Courtesy "Peanuts"
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Out There grew up reading cartoonist Charles M. Schulz 's classic "Peanuts" comic strip. We loved how, especially in the strip's early days, the cast of characters consisted entirely of children, yet they contemplated such adult topics as the meaning of existence, religion, and loneliness. It was like reading Camus recast as a coloring book. In later years, "Peanuts" devolved into a personality cult centering on the pathological narcissist Snoopy and his enabling sidekick Woodstock. But at heart the comic was all about Charlie Brown -style existentialism.

The Charles M. Schulz Museum can be found 56 miles north of San Francisco by car on Highway 101, located at 2301 Hardies Lane in Santa Rosa, CA. Its new exhibition "50 Years of Franklin ," which opened a few weeks ago, remains on view through August 5.

Franklin was the face of racial integration in the world of "Peanuts." The museum puts it this way: "Franklin was a confident kid and felt accepted by all his friends. Many of the strips placed him in the classroom, where he almost always knew the answer and frequently helped his friends. His quiet, industrious demeanor was an important part of who he was. His inclusion in the strip was a bold and important step in the right direction for civil rights."

Franklin's stolid presence could be found in the strip for the next 30 years. But, as the culture writer David Kamp pointed out in a New York Times opinion piece last month, many African Americans found Franklin "to be anodyne at best and a token at worst." Kamp cites a hilarious bit by comedian Chris Rock, who complained that Franklin had none of the signature traits that characterized the other "Peanuts" kids. "Linus got the blanket, Lucy's a bitch, Schroeder plays the piano, Peppermint Patty 's a lesbian. Everybody got their thing except Franklin! Give him something! Damn, give him a Jamaican accent!"

We're glad Rock noted, even in passing, Peppermint Patty's membership in the junior chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis . But may we also point out that OT, as a gay boychik, found traces of homo-resonance in the person of other "Peanut" pals as well? Linus, for example: besides his blanket fetish (an early sign of an incipient Plushy/Furry?), Linus was given to long dissertations on the meaning of Scripture and other religio-sociological texts. His overcompensation in the form of academic achievement and Sunday School honors will be familiar to any queer boy or girl who took refuge in being a "good little boy" or "girl," thus deflecting any questions of sexuality. He also spent many late nights hanging out in that classic Peanuts cruising area, the pumpkin patch. His alibi was some invented creature called the "Great Pumpkin." Yeah, right.

Or take Schroeder: we mean, really! Schroeder's devotion to Ludwig van Beethoven and countless hours spent practicing at his tiny piano meant that he could safely ignore all the attention that Lucy and Violet were always bringing his way. He was clearly not interested in heterosexual flirting. Truth be told, we had a wee crush on Schroeder ourselves, but we knew that he was way out of our league. Piano four hands, maybe?

Then there was no doubt that Peppermint Patty would turn out to be the fiercest butch dyke in her womyn-only auto-repair shop. She was devoted to competitive sports, had no time for feminine frou-frou, bossed Charlie Brown and his crew around mercilessly, and confused Snoopy with a "funny-looking kid," believing him to be an exchange student. Her best gal pal, Marcie, routinely called her "Sir!" This led us to the certainty that Patty knew her way around a St. Andrew's Cross and Japanese bondage techniques.

So by all means, celebrate Franklin. But don't forget the latent LGBT crew of "Peanuts!"


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