Post by Josh Zinn.
Though the thrill of Halloween and the festivities and decor the season brings with it still resonate deeply inside me, I must confess to feeling at a loss as to how to properly celebrate this ghoulish holiday as an adult. Truth be told, I find little enchantment in the idea of going to parties where drunken Draculas, kissy-face kitty-kats, and naughty nurses mingle and cavort whilst techno-rave renditions of the Monster Mash thump from cotton cobwebbed speakers. Heck, if I had my druthers Halloween would remain the holiday of my childhood, with trick or treating, haunted houses, and pumpkin carving taking precedent over frat guys dressed as popes pounding Pabsts.
Maybe that’s why today much of my Halloween tradition includes watching as many spooky holiday specials as I can. Because I lose most of my ability to be judgmental when confronted with an animated jack-o-lantern, the majority of these programs have little-to-no artistic merit. Oh sure, there’s probably a way someone could construct a found poem from the dialogue spewed forth in the wittily named “Fat Albert’s Halloween Special,” but I merely prefer to sit back and allow America’s second-favorite rotund representative of the inner city (tip of that hat to you, Biggie) to enlighten me through shoddily animated examples of the proper ways to inspect Halloween candy.
Occasionally, however, certain holiday cartoons are able to excel beyond their “sponsored by Pudding Pop” pedigree. With its lovingly neurotic and sincere tone, “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is just such a feature. In fact, other than the previously reviewed “The Worst Witch,” it may rank as my favorite Samhain special.
Here’s what you need to know: no one likes Charlie Brown, yet that doesn’t stop him from wishing everyone would. Here’s what you also need to know: No one else believes in the Great Pumpkin, yet that doesn’t stop Linus Van Pelt from wishing that the grand gourd of the night will pay a visit to his most sincere of pumpkin patches.
While I am aware that, on the surface, this may sound like a story about disillusionment and the realties of dementia and class-based ostracism, what makes this Halloween tale so charming, disarming—as well as a boon for urban pumpkin farming—is its lack of pretension and its utter belief in the emotional and social worth of childhood desires. That may sound like a heavy way to describe a bunch of Peanuts, but what separates “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”’s wheat from the rest of the cartoon chaff is the way in which it honors and acknowledges the fears and foibles that plague the minds of the under-10 set. These characters pursue their dreams not to teach viewers the proper way to look over a mini-Snickers bar, but rather to show them that being different doesn’t stop you from still being worthwhile.
Perhaps, then, it’s Ol’ Chuck and Linus who showed me that, even in my old age, it’s okay to want a Halloween free from the noise of one-too-many Long Island Iced Tea-induced Alice Cooper karaoke contests. Me? I’d rather be sittin’ in a pumpkin patch, waiting to hear something go bump in the night.