I’ve watched Peanuts every fall for as long as I can remember. This year, while watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”, I noticed something I’ve never realized before. All of the Charlie Brown characters represent disempowering communication styles we use every day.
People Pleasing – Charlie Brown
This is one of the most common disempowering communications people exhibit. When we people please, we don’t take into account our own feelings. Instead, we only focus on the other person’s feelings and the issue at hand. Giving excuses and saying yes when you want to say no are key components of people pleasing. Saying ‘good grief’ often is another indicator you people please too much.
Charlie Brown is the epitome of a people pleaser. He constantly gets talked into things he doesn’t want to do (kicking the football while Lucy holds it, hosting a Thanksgiving dinner), will try to give a million excuses to get out of something, and lets people take advantage of his kindness. As his sister points out to him, “It’s your own fault, because you’re so wishy washy!”.
Blaming/Bullying – Lucy van Pelt
This disempowering communication can be somewhat difficult to identify because of our understanding of the word bully. As a disempowering communication behavior, blaming/bullying manifests itself in a slightly different way. When we say someone is a blamer or bully, we mean they take care of themselves in tough situations by putting others down or blaming them for past mistakes.
This should really come as no surprise that Lucy is the blamer and bully in Peanuts. When people try to talk her into doing something she’s not interested in, she resorts to yelling at them, calling them names, or blaming them for wasting her time. She’s fond of picking on Charlie Brown and her younger brother Linus. You often hear her yelling, “You blockhead!” at both of them, several times an episode. Almost all of the characters display this behavior at some point in time during an episode, but Lucy is the consistent blamer/bully.
Passive Aggressive – Sally Brown
Passive aggressive behavior relies heavily on nonverbal communication, as well as tone of voice. It’s basically a cross between people pleasing and blaming/bullying. Initially, you’re disregarding your needs and satisfying the other person; you know if things don’t go as planned, you’ll resent the other person. Whether or not they know you resent them relies heavily on if your passive aggressiveness turns into blaming/bullying behavior, or if you resort to doing petty things (i.e. leaving dirty dishes in the sink). If you’re overly sarcastic, fake nice, or planning a not-so-subtle way to get the point across that you’re upset with another person, then you’re being passive aggressive.
For the most part, Sally Brown is a sweet girl. At times, she gets upset and can be fairly passive aggressive, which can lead her to blame and bully. When Linus tells her about The Great Pumpkin, she sarcastically replies, “That’s a good story” but then gets talked into staying with him in the pumpkin patch all night. She strongly hints to Linus that if The Great Pumpkin doesn’t appear, there will be trouble. When The Great Pumpkin doesn’t deliver, she resorts to yelling and blaming Linus for making her miss the Halloween festivities.
Super Reasonable – Linus van Pelt
Super reasonable people rely solely on objective facts to share their opinions. Oftentimes we think of a parent lecturing a child on the dangers of drinking or drugs. This is a disempowering communication because we don’t take into account anyone’s feelings, not even our own, just the facts at hand. A good communicator will use facts to support their opinions or feelings, and not just rely on facts alone.
The obvious choice for the super reasonable behavior is Linus. He’s always portrayed as the voice of reason among the kids and provides a good lecture when called for. In the show, it works out nicely and everyone normally listens to what he has to say. In real life, his friends would probably get tired of his lectures and end up defriending him, especially if he does it every day.
Irrelevant – Peppermint Patty (and Snoopy)
Irrelevant people are all over the place. They never stay on topic, and often try to change the topic when confronted with a difficult issue.
Peppermint Patty is all over the place all of the time. She never really listens to what anyone else has to say, with the exception of her friend Marcie. She changes the topic anytime Charlie Brown tries to protest against her, and is generally a terrible friend. As Charlie Brown says, “You can’t explain anything to Peppermint Patty, because you never get to say anything.”
Snoopy is also irrelevant, but he is a dog. Although, if my dog made a Thanksgiving dinner for my friends – even if it was just candy, popcorn, and toast – I probably wouldn’t care if he was irrelevant half the time.
Despite the main characters being incredibly terrible at communicating, there is one supporting character who knows how to say it straight and talk in a respectful way that takes into account her feelings, the other person’s feelings, and the situation at hand. That person is….
Marcie is the only character in the Charlie Brown series who consistently tells it like it is in a respectful manner. She takes into account everyone’s feelings when talking to them. She remains calm, even in tough situations; she never puts anyone down or lectures them. Peppermint Patty looks to her to fix all of her mistakes she’s made, and all of the characters seem to respect her opinions.