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Tuesday, February 06, 2024 

Alleged racism in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving TV special addressed in newer special

Inside the Magic tells that the companies in charge of the cartoons based on the classic Peanuts comic strip have addressed a scene from the 1973 Thanksgiving special that supposedly was racist because of how black cast member Franklin was seated at the dinner table, here by producing a new cartoon titled Welcome Home, Franklin:
Now, nearly more than 50 years later, Apple TV officially addressed a scene from the 1973 Thanksgiving special that stirred some controversy a few years ago, including thousands of remarks from social media users who accused the episode of racism.

In the latest trailer released by Apple TV, it was unveiled that Franklin will be getting his own TV special titled Welcome Home, Franklin.

At the end of the trailer, there is a scene that depicts a different scenario from that in the 1973 special. The scene shows Franklin being invited to the table to sit with Charlie Brown, Linus, and Sally.

This is in contrast to the scene from the Thanksgiving special, where Franklin is sitting at the table but by himself.

“The scene would not have had nothing to do with Sparky, because it was purely the animators and the directors working on it,” Jean Schultz, wife to the late Charles Schulz, explained in a 2020 interview. (“Sparky” was Schulz’s childhood nickname.) “The director parcels out the scenes to the animators, and the animators who drew that scene aren’t alive anymore or we don’t know how to find them. The [controversy] first popped up a couple of years ago. I’ve probably watched the special a dozen times, and I hadn’t noticed it. But I wouldn’t notice it: It’s to be noticed now.”

Black cartoonist Robb Armstrong revealed that Schulz had asked permission to give Franklin his last name (Armstrong) in the late 1990s and also noted that he believes the character was “underdeveloped.”

“I can’t believe how accurate that drawing is — I feel like I’m that dude on that side of the table to this day,” remarked Robb Armstrong, the creator of the comic strip, Jump Start and a close friend of Schulz. “I know people are like, ‘That’s racist!’ First of all, Charles Schulz named that dude after me — he is not a racist. He is a wonderful human being who decided to put Jesus on a CBS Christmas special. He wanted Franklin to be that, but he knew he didn’t have it in him. Franklin is still an underdeveloped character… but the guy knew his limits.”
From what I can recall, the whole controversy was but one of many during the 2010s that was blown galaxies out of proportion. It was the kind of thing that Twitter, now known as X, had all sorts of leftists exploiting for the sake of ranting about irredeemable wrongdoing around every corner. Since they mention A Charlie Brown Christmas, another regrettable problem is that the same people who ragged on the 1973 scene are unlikely to have any gratitude to Schultz for working hard to produce the 1965 special with allusions to the Bible and Jesus, and such a story couldn't be made today with all the horrific PC that's since become commonplace. Also, as that Hill article linked above notes:
Black journalist Jeremy Helligar wrote in a Friday commentary reacting to the controversy that Franklin’s placement in other “Peanuts” specials appeared more inclusive.

”A relevant aside: During the farewell dinner about one hour and five minutes into 1972’s ‘Snoopy Come Home,’ Franklin was seated on the same side of the table as Charlie Brown, Lucy, and Frieda — in a regular chair,” Helligar said on Medium.

Schulz, who passed away in 2000, reportedly demanded a black character be added to the Charlie Brown cast in 1968 following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Schulz was inspired to do so after receiving a letter from a teacher named Harriet Glickman.

When asked by the head of the cartoon’s publisher, United Feature Syndicate, if he was sure he wanted to add a black character, Glickman says Schulz replied, “Either you run it the way I drew it, or I quit.’”
Seems quite a few people missed that. I vaguely remember watching Snoopy Come Home decades back, and it's irritating - but hardly surprising - how these SJWs on their high horses would conveniently omit any facts that could prove this was an exaggeration, all courtesy of people who likely never were fans of Schultz's classic strip. Also, how come no argument over whether placing Marcie (I think that's her) and Linus at the sides of the table, no matter how much shorter, constitutes "alienation"? I mean, surely there's room for at least one more person on both those sides?

Here's the Wash. Post's report on the new special for Franklin:
The special was co-written by Robb Armstrong — the “JumpStart” creator who inspired Franklin’s surname — along with Charles M. Schulz’s son and grandson — Craig and Bryan Schulz, respectively — and “The Peanuts Movie” executive producer Cornelius Uliano.

With the “Peanuts” characters animated once again, one particular moment of the special’s trailer struck a chord with fans of the comic strip. Franklin is again settled in a controversially placed chair — but this time, he’s given an upgrade.

“Hey Franklin! We saved you a seat over here!” Linus says, referring to an empty seat between him and Charlie Brown on the opposite side of the table

Some viewers of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” criticized Franklin’s spot in its dinner scene in recent years, posting on social media that it was unfair for the character to sit alone on a long side of the table in a lawn chair while his White friends sat together on the other sides of the table in sturdier chairs.

Robin Reed, who voiced Franklin in the 1973 animation, told MSNBC in 2021 that despite his character’s seat position drumming up controversy more recently, that wasn’t the focus when it was first aired.

“It’s so very easy to get offended or upset,”
he said. “But we have to remember that at that time, that actually represented progress.”

Many who commented on the Franklin special’s trailer said they considered the reimagined version to be a win, especially during Black History Month. Fans applauded Franklin’s new chair on social media, noting how the move symbolically honored the character that effectively integrated “Peanuts” in an era where racial segregation was still commonplace.
It's okay if they want to write a tale that they believe improves upon the earlier cartoon, but omitting acknowledgement of what took place in an earlier cartoon doesn't improve the situation. Some could also ask, based on that, if the producers really had to go to such lengths to produce a new cartoon just for the purpose of seating Franklin more ideally between Charlie Brown and Linus. Or whether the political motivations for the step had to be so obvious. (And is Peppermint Patty's chair really that sturdy?) NBC-13 WTHR says:
Intentional or not, the moment has stuck with many viewers and left a bad taste in the mouths of many. But the new film takes special care to show the changing times, with the infamous seat placement being referenced in a moment from the trailer.
I think the only craws its stuck in are of those who deliberately want to be offended. Besides, I don't see any of these same SJWs clamoring for Armenian characters to be introduced, and an emphasis placed upon aspects of their national community culture. Worse, what if the SJWs are almost completely against such an idea, were Peanuts still in publication today as a strip? That's why this whole hubbub over Franklin's seating wasn't altruistic, and today, it can certainly reflect one of the most aggravating moments from the time when social media was an utter quagmire.

As somebody who read a lot of Peanuts in his youth, and watched a lot of the cartoons produced since the mid-1960s, I think there's a lot to admire in Schultz's creation, Franklin included. But that's why it's very sad there's only so many PC advocates obsessed with what to offend themselves with, and it only has the effect of hurting the quality of the comic strip in retrospect.

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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