Ah, another entry in my “Classic Cartoon Characters in Violent, Morbid, or Otherwise Disturbing Situations” series. For legal purposes, I should probably throw a disclaimer up right here that neither United Features Syndicate, nor the estate/ghost of Charles Schulz has granted official permission to use the characters from Peanuts in the above manner: the views expressed are my own, and have not been endorsed by any of the characters’ corporate owners, though I have a feeling Schulz may have at least agreed with my message, for reasons I’ll explain.
This idea has been sitting in my sketchbook since around the middle or end of January. It was of course inspired by the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting the month before, and the public’s reaction to that–especially, the reaction of Dumb and Goddamn Crazy people.
I hadn’t planned to take so long to finish it, but it kept getting pushed aside week after week so I could address other topics. These were often more ephemeral in nature, and I could unfortunately be certain that this topic would remain relevant into the indefinite future.
After Sandy Hook, a certain segment of the population has reacted to the numerous other gun-related tragedies that have occurred since less with shock and sadness for the victims, or guilt and outrage over how so little/nothing is being done by the legislature to stem the bloodshed, and more with fear that Obama is gunna take ‘r’ guns!!
It’s really pretty surreal how people who are so terrified of things as relatively harmless as science and gay people can be so dedicated to machines designed exclusively to injure and kill.
Anyway, fear and irrationality were the themes on my mind, going into this cartoon. That got me thinking about “security blankets,” of which the one belonging to Linus in Peanuts is surely the most well-known example.
I realized right away that a Peanuts reference would provide numerous opportunities for symbolic connections: Since its cast is composed almost exclusively of children, the parallels with Sandy Hook would be immediately obvious, and since the characters are practically universal to the American cultural experience, I thought it might allow audiences to experience that type of tragedy on a more personal level, regardless of whether or not they had ever before observed one at closer than cable news-range.
The diverse cast gave me a good range of details and subtopics to complement the main idea, as well. With the possible exception of Woodstock, each of the victims in the cartoon were chosen for specific reasons: Franklin, for example, represents how blacks and other minorities are disproportionately the victims of gun violence in the US, as well acting as a reference to the unprovoked shooting of Trayvon Martin last year.
It was also very easy to make Linus symbolize the US. I briefly considered giving him an Uncle Sam style goatee, but decided I wouldn’t even need to do that, since the use of red, blue, and stripes in the character’s design already subtly calls to mind the American flag, and so the simple addition of a couple of stars should be enough to clarify that metaphor.
Lastly, Charles Schulz himself at least once commented in Peanuts on the absurdity of not having to license military-grade rifles, so I took that as another reason the reference would be appropriate, in spite of how shocking it is.