'A Charlie Brown Christmas' Was About Seasonal Depression Before People Knew That Was A Thing
Seasonal sadness hits hard right around the holidays. Though it has a few different names - holiday blues and winter blues are both common - many people are familiar with the melancholic feeling that can strike in November and December. A Charlie Brown Christmas even touched on the topic way back in 1965. The show is considered one of the most popular Christmas TV specials of all time.
The holiday blues are caused by stress, fatigue, over-commercialization, financial worries, loneliness, and unrealistic expectations that the holiday season is supposed to be cheerier than it feels. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz himself apparently had depression, too.
The animated classic A Charlie Brown Christmas works on a lot of levels. It doesn't just offer a look into the realities of seasonal sadness, but also shows viewers how to navigate the malaise that sometimes accompanies the holidays. A Charlie Brown Christmas is emotional and heartfelt. Since it clocks in at around 30 minutes, it doesn't take a considerable commitment to watch. The beloved special helps lonely people around the world feel a little more connected. If you've seen it a million times but never realized it takes an earnest look at sadness, try watching it with fresh eyes.
The Special Presents The Bleakness Of A Holiday We're Expected To Love
Anyone who experiences seasonal depression, or doesn't enjoy Christmas, can probably understand how Charlie Brown feels in this special. All the food, family, shopping, pageantry, partying, gift-giving, and other holiday activities that fill some people with joy fill others with dread. Societal pressure to feel holiday cheer is intense and reminders of it are everywhere, from radio stations that play Christmas music nonstop to obligatory holiday parties throughout December.
Charlie Brown feels awful because he doesn't enjoy things the way other people do, and he feels alone and despondent. Viewers who revel in the holidays might wish he would cheer up more in the special. But Charlie Brown does the best he can during one of the hardest times of the year for people who are down.
Charlie Brown Thinks The Holidays Prove No One Likes Him
In the opening moments of the special, Charlie Brown tells Linus, "I'm not happy. I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel." He's despondent because he's the only person he knows who hasn't received a Christmas card, but his malaise goes deeper than that. Throughout the special, Charlie Brown sees how happy Christmas makes his friends feel, but he doesn't feel the same way.
At the time, there was no name for the feeling he described, but he's talking about holiday blues or just sadness in general. The sentiment stays with Charlie Brown throughout the special, manifesting in new ways (anger, sadness, self-hate) until he - sort of, kind of - has fun with his friends during the finale.
Lucy Tries To Make Christmas About Her So She Can Feel Special
Charlie Brown is distraught at the state of Christmas, Linus is stressed out making sure everyone has a good time during the play, and Lucy desires attention beyond her usual attempts to be the center of the universe. Lucy never explicitly says what's bothering her, but she acts out constantly, which could be asign of depression.
Even after making Charlie Brown the director of the Christmas play, Lucy takes it upon herself to bark out orders and try to run the show. It's not the most effective way to make friends, and she turns into a bossy nightmare because of her need to be noticed.
Charlie Brown Dislikes The Commercialization Of Christmas
A theme throughout the special is Charlie Brown's deep resentment over the commercialization of Christmas. Everywhere he looks, he sees someone reveling in the more profit-focused aspects of Christmas rather than what makes the holiday truly meaningful. His sister, Sally, for example, hopes Santa will bring her money for Christmas, and his dog, Snoopy, takes part in a decorating contest in the hopes of winning cash.
By the end of the special, though, Charlie Brown's pals rally around him and his minuscule tree. And while they don't exactly turn their backs on the crass aspects of Christmas, they at least come together to celebrate their friendship.
Everything Charlie Brown Touches Gets Ruined
Charlie Brown can't do anything right at Christmas - or at least, that's how he feels. He upsets his sister when he talks about the commercial aspects of the holiday she loves, angers his peers when he tries to make the Christmas play more meaningful, messes up Snoopy's Christmas lights, and terminates the tree he sees as a symbol of the holiday.
When he stacks the tree with ornaments, it collapses under the weight of its festive cheer. Charlie Brown laments, "I've [ruined] it. Augh! Everything I touch gets ruined." His comments are a spot-on distillation of how it feels to be down.
Even The Tree Is Sad
Even inanimate objects are sad in A Charlie Brown Christmas, including the droopy, dejected Christmas tree. While planning for the Christmas pageant, Lucy gets pushy and tells director Charlie Brown the play needs a giant, pink, shiny, aluminum Christmas tree. Charlie Brown instead buys the puniest real tree on the lot because he feels sorry for the wispy, unloved little thing - and of course, everyone shuns it.
It's not just that the other children dislike the Christmas tree; they think it directly ties into Charlie Brown's lack of character, which he takes personally. Not only does the anemic tree make him feel like he failed everyone, but he appears to believe he doesn't deserve love.