Every Christmas, there are two films that I have to watch. The first one is A Charlie Brown Christmas and another one is, well, you have to wait until next week since I want to talk about it, too.
When it comes to Christmas, the only thing I know about it is the fact that every shopping mall and many places are going to decorate their places with Christmas trees and play Christmas songs (from We Wish You a Very Christmas to Wham’s Last Christmas) around that time. What about religious aspect? There might be some religious activities among Christian communities but since most of Thai people (including me) are Buddhists, we only know that Christmas is the time when city become more cheerful again thanks to decorations. Anyway, after watching this special, I learn something more than I knew.
Although this is a time of Christmas, Charlie Brown is still depressed for unknown reason, so he tries to talk to his friends and become a director for a school play.
Well, that’s it. There’s not that much in storyline. Instead, the film focus more on a behavior of each characters. We’ll get into that in a minute.
Commercialization of Christmas
As I told you, this animation uses characterization to drive a plot. We have sets of different characters in this film to tell us something about Christmas in general. Most of them (including Snoopy and Sally) think Christmas is just about getting money and gifts while other kids who anticipate in school play think that aluminium Christmas tree gives more feeling of Christmas than actual Christmas tree. These two cases show us how commercialization changes Christmas. Instead of celebrating about the birth of Jesus or something like that, we are always thinking that we’ll receive gifts in this period of time. Plus, Christmas tree has less and less meaning as the time goes by. I have no idea why does it have to be Christmas tree, but I think it has much much deeper meaning than decoration.
Commercialization isn’t that bad when it comes to the real world of capitalism, but it will be bad if it make us forget about an actual meaning of something. For instance, we are told every Christmas what we have to buy and how should we feel. Last year, there was a commercial for greatest hits album of Nickelback that says something like “Buy it. It’s a perfect gift for this Christmas!”. Okay, we all know that this statement is all lie, but did you notice something in this commercial? It tells us that you should go out and buy this album as a gift for someone else. See? It tells us that there must be gift in this Christmas. Of course, it shows how generous someone else is, but on the other hand it drives us to expect more and more give on other people. I guess that’s why some people (including Charlie Brown) feel sad during Christmas, they expect something from someone else.
Storyline first, NOT message first
This special still mesmerizes us because it gives us unique experience. It has sad, cheerful, comedic, and heart-touching moments in this half-hour special. Plus, it teaches us about what Christmas really means to Christians. As a non-Christian, I don’t think this message is too pressing because it has a good story-line to follow and, to be honest, I think the religious message is just 5-10% of this whole special, so technically this animation has religious message, but it’s NOT religious film. On the other hand, there are debacle happens recently on iMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. That’s right. I’m talking about Saving Christmas, a Christmas film from “that” actor (Somehow I think it’s safer not to mention his name) which by now becomes the worst movie of all time on iMDb website. Although that film tries to give us similar message to audience, why does it fail? Well, according to lots of reviewers, the film focus more on a message that tries to teach audience than an actual plot, which probably makes the film bland. What about A Charlie Brown Christmas? It emphasizes on a story of a loser named Charlie Brown (Yep. This is another reason why we love it. We somehow connect ourselves to this lonely guy in one way or another.) and his relationship between him and his friends. There are jokes and funny scenes out there, but we still learn great message throughout whole cartoon…especially in the end.
This is a fun cartoon that everyone can enjoy. Whether you’re Christian or not, you can learn about Christmas and ask ourselves about commercialization in nowadays’ Christmas after it ends. Plus, the soundtrack is amazing!
During original airing, the cartoon is sponsored by Coke. Although it clearly contradicts the message of this animation, there are two scenes that we will never see again on subsequent reruns and home media releases. I wish someone would remaster it and release the whole Christmas special with Coke logo intact….just for completeness’ sake.