Dr. Toon: Two for the Show
When the last Charlie Brown film played in theaters, the divorce rate was under fifty percent, brazen, gruesome child abductions were rare, no kid feared being gunned down in a classroom or in a mall, and the technology did not exist to drive children to depression at best or suicide at worst through social media and cell phone cameras. Cyber bullies would have been science-fiction entities in 1980. Humans and zombies did not go down in hyper-realistic florets of blood and cascades of guts on video game screens. The script for the Peanuts movie is unrevealed at this time, and it is my hope that none of these issues are addressed in it.
This film would best be served up as a charming throwback to the strip’s best days – 1965 or thereabouts – just before Snoopy took over as the premier character and merchandising lead. The characters may have engaged in such name-calling as “stupid” and “blockhead”, but their relationships bespoke a time when there was an understanding of community among child peers. The Peanuts characters related to each other more like brothers and sisters, complete with all the put-downs, irritations, and frustrations siblings endure and express.
This is not merely the wish of an aging cartoon fan growing soft; I continue to admire the edgiest animation produced today. It would simply be refreshing to enjoy the film on the terms set by Schulz and Melendez, untouched by edgy irony, revisionist tropes, or meddling forays into modernism. You’re a good man, Charlie Brown; let’s hope you stay true to the spirit of your creator.
Pretender to the Throne
How do you do wrong by doing right? That’s what they must be asking themselves at Disney these days. The studio is set to debut its first Latina character (not counting Donna Duck in 1937 I guess), and the backlash from the Hispanic community has not been totally kind. Princess Sofia is set to debut in a television film called Sofia the First on November 18th, and executive producer Jamie Mitchell insists that the young star is “Latina”. The only problem in this noteworthy venture is: you sure can’t tell by looking, reading the script, or checking out her kingdom.
It doesn’t help that said kingdom is mythical. Sofia’s mother is Queen Miranda of Galdiz, who subsequently married Birk Balthazar of Freezenburg. They didn’t conceive the princess until they relocated to Enchancia. Queen Miranda has a darker complexion than Sofia, partly explained by the fact that her dad is, um, Scandinavian, or something similar. Still, there are Swedes with darker complexions than Princess Sofia, who also has blue eyes and a fluffy coif of light reddish-brown hair. There is something about Sofia that suggests a vaguely ethnic marker, but it’s a good bet – if one didn’t know the context and went by the character’s appearance alone – that ten different people might make ten differing guesses as to Sofia’s nationality. And this has not pleased many members of the Latino community.
A typical response comes from Alex Nogales, President and CEO for the National Hispanic Media Coalition. He makes the point that “We need more heroes now that are very identifiable…If you’re going to promote this to the public, and Latinos in particular, do us a favor and make it a real Latina.” Prominent blogger Ana Flores added, “If Disney were truly trying to step out and directly cater to the Latino community that has been crying out for decades for a Latina princess to represent our girls…She would be as Latina as Tiana is black or Pocahontas is Indian-American (sic).” Some Latinos are simply happy that a Latina princess exists at all, but a glance at Sofia the First suggests that they are oddly settling for less.