The Peanuts Movie, Charlie Brown, and Charles Schulz

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s a little surreal to see all the Peanuts publicity over the last several months. I was never much of a fan when I was a kid. But after seeing the Peanuts exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago a few years ago, I became really interested in the life of Charles Schulz. Books like Schulz and Peanuts and My Life with Charlie Brown are on my shelf, and I’ve started looking at the strip with an adult’s eyes. You start looking at it completely differently when you realize it was written by a man who, to an extent, was extremely insecure about his place in the world. That’s so odd, considering he’s one of the medium’s all-time greats. But then you look at the strips, and you see Charlie Brown say things like…

  • “I want to be a special person…I want to be needed.”
  • “They say opposites attract…She’s really something and I’m really nothing…How opposite can you get?”
  • “I’m lonely. I feel that no one really cares about me. How can I cure this loneliness?

Peanuts, depressionYou look at this kind of stuff, and you realize that Schulz was not only providing us with his own special view of the world, but he was plunging into the murky depths of his own psyche and putting his findings on the page. It sounds pretty heavy when you put it like that, but it’s true.

When you look at the strip from this perspective, it’s so weird to see Peanuts looked at like a kids franchise, even though it’s been that way for so many years. The movie seems to be at least partially capturing the essence of the Charlie Brown character, though.

Incidentally, there’s a viral marketing campaign out right now that lets people “Peanutize” themselves, i.e. create a Peanuts character that looks like them. But if you’re like me, and you look almost exactly like Charlie Brown anyway, there’s not much of a point. As the Peanuts characters are kids, there’s no way to differentiate between my character and Charlie Brown…

PeanutsCuriously, while they won’t let you give a child character facial hair, they apparently will let you give them a wedding ring. Yes, I know it’s the wrong hand. But why else would they put it in there? Maybe it’s a purity ring…

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Force Friday, and Confessions From A Recovered Star Wars Addict

B-88 , remote control toyBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Naturally, the geek community is buzzing today about “Force Friday,” as the first crop of Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys debut in stores. If you’re real quiet, you might even be able to hear the sounds of plastic lightsabers banging together…

But I will not be participating in the retail festivities.

I love Star Wars. I’ll always love Star Wars. It’s hard not to love Star Wars. I spend a decent amount of time writing about Star Wars. And I love Star Wars fans. It’s an immensely creative fandom, filled with people from all walks of life. No matter how old you are, that universe is a still fun place to be. But Star Wars and I have a weird relationship. When I was a tween and a teen, it was pretty much all I could talk about. Nowadays, it’s sometimes rather difficult for me to talk about.

I’ve been a Star Wars geek most of my life. In fact, you might even call me a recovered addict. When I was a kid, it was all Star Wars, all the time. Posters, books, school supplies, etc. I even had all those Pepsi cans with the Phantom Menace characters on them. And of course, the toys. Hundreds and hundreds of mom and dad’s dollars spent on action figures from all the movies. Even that first Princess Leia figure from original Power of the Force line. Remember that one? Totally looked like a dude. Power of the Force Leia was Caitlyn Jenner two decades before Bruce Jenner was…

Padme Amidala, pregnant action figureAs I got older, I stopped spending mom and dad’s money and started spending my own. I even attended a midnight madness sale myself. It was a little more than a decade ago, when the first Revenge of the Sith action figures came out.

Picture this: You’re 20 years old, standing outside a Wal-Mart with dozens of other Star Wars die hards, being told that once you enter the store at these special late hours, you may only shop in the toys section. Once you enter the store, the group starts off at a brisk pace, then speeds up into a full on run as amused store clerks look on. And once we hit the displays, we got grabby. Really grabby.

I’m pretty sure I still have most of those toys. In retrospect, the most notable one was a pregnant Padme Amidala. That might have been the world’s first pregnant action figure.

But as I got into my late twenties, the collecting, and my undying love for Star Wars started to wane. I attribute that to a lot of things. I grew up, of course, and money had to go elsewhere. But I also became more cynical about the franchise, largely thanks to my exposure to Red Letter Media’s reviews of the prequels. Like a lot of fans, I’d somehow convinced myself that the prequels were good movies. I had a terrible case of what I’ve come to refer to as “prequel denial.” But if you’re any kind of open-minded person, and you watch those reviews, it’s pretty tough to argue with what Mike Stoklasa (as Mr. Plinkett) lays out. Once that illusion was broken, I started to look at Star Wars as something entirely new: A business. And business was, and still is, booming. Gradually, I got so turned off by it that I swore off buying Star Wars merchandise of any kind.

I became one of those people who was really bitter about George Lucas, and how he wasn’t the person we all thought he was. Even after he sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney and donated most of the $4 billion to education, I couldn’t help but see him as a cold, calculating businessman whose artistic soul had been corroded. I wrote a scathing column about him on the old Primary Ignition, which resulted in me being taken to task in the comments section. And rightfully so. Ironically, the pendulum had swung to the opposite end of the spectrum. I’d gone from being overly devoted to Star Wars, to being overly critical.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Han Solo, ChewbaccaStar Wars was such a huge part of my childhood. It gave me an entire universe to escape to when my own universe got a little too dark. It held such a revered spot in my heart for so long that when I finally saw it for what it truly was, blemishes and all, there was a certain pain that came with it. I nearly rejected something I’d loved for so long. It’s almost like growing up and getting to know your parents as real people, and then being uncomfortable with the fact that they’ve got flaws just like anybody else.

This brings me to The Force Awakens. This is the first Star Wars movie I’m coming into without rose-colored glasses on. As such, it’s awkward for me to talk or speculate about it with anyone. I’m so passionate about it, but at the same time I’m keeping my distance. I’m not ranting or raving about anything I’ve seen, even when it comes the classic characters. I’m letting the movie speak for itself. Ergo, I’m not buying anything from The Force Awakens until I know if it’s worth investing my hard earned money in. They’re getting a movie ticket from me. But for now, that’s it. And if that’s all I give them, somehow I think Star Wars will survive.

Still, I will always have a special place in my heart for that galaxy far, far away. That’s why, about six months ago, I bought myself a Luke Skywalker action figure from “The Black Series.” I’ve since added Han Solo, Yoda, and even Obi-Wan Kenobi circa Episode III (Ewan McGregor was the best part of those damn prequels.).

What can I say? While it’s not quite the same as it used to be, The Force is still with me.

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Winnie the Pooh and Me: The T-Shirt Conundrum

Winnie the Pooh, PigletBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve found myself in an awkward situation last week. I was walking into work, and through the back window of a parked car, I spotted a little plush doll of the Olaf character from Frozen. For whatever reason, this planted an idea in the back of my mind. Over the next eight hours, my subconscious mulled and debated over it. Is it necessary? Is it appropriate? Does it even make sense?

In the end, the answer turned out to be yes. At about 10:30 that night, I drove to my local supermarket and found something I knew would be there.

Moments later, I was the proud owner of a $5 Winnie the Pooh plush doll. (The one shown left isn’t it, but you get the idea.) I proceeded to stick it in my back window, in the exact same spot the Olaf doll was housed in the other car. It’s been there ever since. I haven’t told anyone this story, and no one has asked me about it. Not even my wife.

Winnie the Pooh plush dollSo here I am, a 30-something guy with a Winnie the Pooh doll in his car. In truth, I also googled Pooh t-shirts earlier this week. I’m actually considering buying one…

But it seems like that’s the kind of thing you’ve got to be careful with. A grown man wearing a Winnie the Pooh shirt certainly has the potential to be creepy and weird. That perception is fair enough, I suppose. But I’m wondering if it’s worth the risk.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with Pooh, of course. He and I go back to when I was a baby. In old pictures, there’s a plush Winnie the Pooh next to a much, much smaller version of yours truly. In later years, Welcome to Pooh Corner (Remember that show? It’s the one with people in costumes. YouTube it.) would be on before grammar school. As recently as a few years ago, I’d be flipping channels and catch myself stuck on My Friends Tigger & Pooh, which was about a little girl who went around the Hundred Acre Wood with the gang and…solved mysteries, for some reason. Maybe it should have been CSI: Pooh Corner.

Pooh even popped up at my wedding reception. Each table was named after a literary character, and featured an accompanying quote. Pooh had a table, which had a quote most people have seen. It’s something to the effect of: “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”

Winnie the Pooh, Christopher RobinI think the reason I’ve gravitated back to Pooh as an adult is because of what I see as his simplicity and his knack for kindness. He’s not the smartest guy out there, he’s got his share of flaws and weaknesses (such as a knack for “hunny”), and even gets himself in trouble at times. But at his core Pooh has a warm heart, deeply cares for his friends, and doesn’t intentionally put any negativity out into the world. He’s soft spoken, and he’s never mean or cruel. There’s a charming naivety and innocence about him that is synonymous with everything that’s good about being a child. When we reach adulthood, so many of us lose touch with our inner child. And what better embodiment of that inner child will you ever find than Winnie the Pooh?

Also, now that I’m a little older, am married, and likely have kids in my future, I’ve grown rather tired of the idea of being “cool.” I don’t have much use for it anymore. At the risk of sounding sappy or preachy, once you gain a little perspective, you learn that being cool really isn’t important. Being a kind and caring person is. I suppose being in the vicinity of a Winnie the Pooh image is my way of conveying that.

Winnie the Pooh, cutesyBut the world is such a cynical, quick-to-judge place. It always has been, but it seems like that’s the case now more than ever. The last thing I’d want to do is take something so pure, and turn it into something awkward, creepy, or somehow distasteful to people. Normally I don’t necessarily care about this sort of thing, but it seems appropriate here.

Somehow it seems like the key to being a man with a Winnie the Pooh shirt is the proper ratio of cuteness. For instance, the image above is immediately ruled out. If you go around  wearing something that looks like wallpaper in a baby’s room, you’re a creeper no matter how pure your intentions may be.

On the other hand, you really can’t try and take the cool approach with Pooh, because it corrupts his image. I mentioned this to a friend, and they told me about “Gangsta Pooh.” Apparently that’s a thing. It’s rather nauseating, but it’s a thing.

Winnie the Pooh t-shirtSimple and understated is my usual t-shirt M.O., so it seems like Pooh should be no different. At the moment, the shirt shown at right is my leading candidate. It doesn’t beat you over the head with anything. It doesn’t say anything stupid like “100 Acre Wood Gym” or “Pooh’s Wrestling Team,” or whatever. It’s merely the iconic image of the Disney Winnie the Pooh. You see it, you recognize it, and hopefully you get it.

I don’t doubt some people will see my little Pooh project as childish, juvenile, etc. But in a way, that’s the point. There are obviously a lot of things you can’t take with you from childhood to adulthood. But what so many people don’t think about are all the things you can take with you. Things like playfulness, a sense of wonder, and unconditional love. That’s really what this whole Pooh debate is all about. It’s merely a question of the proper conveyance. Sadly, when you’re an adult, that conveyance becomes more complicated than is perhaps necessary.

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