Who Killed Good Ol' Charlie Brown?
on 12/18/2004 (8)
Whatever happened to Good Ol' Charlie Brown?
|Snoopy, won't you please come home? |
When, and more importantly how, did the gentle, reassuring moral warmth projected by Charles M. Schulz's "Peanuts" cartoon strip lose its wide, hopeful humanistic appeal, and give way to the lurid and grotesque imagery now en vogue in Hollywood?
In order to find an answer, one must go back over 50 years to the very beginnings of television back in the 1950's. Before TV, the only form of video entertainment was prescribed and dolled out by the large, celluloid production houses like MGM, Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox in local movie theaters. Many of the Big Production films Hollywood meted out in the 40's and 50's projected a strong air of propaganda, a leftover from the WWII 'victory' newsreels spun weekly at neighborhood theaters in every medium to large sized cities nationwide.
As TV began to overtake the cinema in the mid 60's, many of the 'wholesome', highly censored values typically used as subject material in movies were carried over into television. Shows like 'Gilligan's Island', 'Gentle Ben', 'The Brady Bunch', etc., were all extreme, 'G rated' low budget productions that characterized the strict censorship and control the large movie houses and the FCC had on early broadcasts. The world according to television seemed absurdly quaint and cartoonish in those early days, in spite of the fact that a terrible war was raging both in Vietnam and in Civil Rights Movements nationwide. the reality was, unlike 'Leave it to Beaver', many families were not so perfect. People got divorced. Families were disfunctional. The world was not glazed in sugar, as Hollywood would have liked us to believe.
Everyone knew that, of course. The Public was not dumb. But Hollywood chose to ignore that fact, perhaps in an effort to provide a cure. By portraying the family as idyllic, as in 'Leave it to Beaver', wouldn't TV provide an idealized model of functionality to at least strive for?
As time passed, however, viewer tastes evolved. In reality, the world was often a terrible, violence ridden place, and viewers wanted to see more of it. Morbid curiosity had almost become a human need it seemed. Hard hitting news shows broadcast the terror of the Vietnam War into every living room. Sitcoms began to script more realistic family structures, including marital conflict and alcoholism. African-Americans became acutely aware that he who controls the mass media controls the country, and made every possible attempt to broadcast their plight on the ever expanding airwaves, -and with good reason- they had been kicked around for a long time and were desperately clamoring for a way out.
TV, once an extension of the cinema, became a political battleground. Where radio and newsreels had fought, and won, WWII, TV was the next big tool of mass persuasion, but far more powerful. A picture is worth a thousand words, after all, and now the picture was in everyone's home.
But has Hollywood gone completely mad?
The human mind can create great things. The human mind can also spawn creative diarrhea of the worst order. We all knew weird and creepy kids in elementary school who said and did disturbing things. Suddenly, It seems that Hollywood became bent on giving these creative mutants a National Voice.
"Fringe" concepts have become mainstream, like 'South Park', 'The Simpsons', 'Jerry Springer', 'Mad TV' etc., artistic concepts that project the ugly, depraved, disfunctional side of the creative brain.
But many, if not most, (inclu
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