Charlie Brown's America - 
      Blake Scott Ball

Charlie Brown's America

The Popular Politics of Peanuts

Despite-or because of-its huge popular culture status, Peanuts enabled cartoonist Charles Schulz to offer political commentary on the most controversial topics of postwar American culture through the voices of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the Peanuts gang. Les mer
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Despite-or because of-its huge popular culture status, Peanuts enabled cartoonist Charles Schulz to offer political commentary on the most controversial topics of postwar American culture through the voices of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the Peanuts gang.

In postwar America, there was no newspaper comic strip more recognizable than Charles Schulz's Peanuts. It was everywhere, not just in thousands of daily newspapers. For nearly fifty years, Peanuts was a mainstay of American popular culture in television, movies, and merchandising, from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to the White House to the breakfast table.

Most people have come to associate Peanuts with the innocence of childhood, not the social and political turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s. Some have even argued that Peanuts was so beloved because it was apolitical. The truth, as Blake Scott Ball shows, is that Peanuts was very political. Whether it was the battles over the Vietnam War, racial integration, feminism, or the future of a nuclear world, Peanuts was a daily conversation about very real hopes and fears and the
political realities of the Cold War world. As thousands of fan letters, interviews, and behind-the-scenes documents reveal, Charles Schulz used his comic strip to project his ideas to a mass audience and comment on the rapidly changing politics of America.

Charlie Brown's America covers all of these debates and much more in a historical journey through the tumultuous decades of the Cold War as seen through the eyes of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Peppermint Patty, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang.

«This is a comics studies book that your parents and non-comics friends would also enjoy. Charlie Brown's America is mostly jargon-free and is a fun, fast read. It reprints a substantial number of Peanuts comics and Peanuts-related images, and these entertain readers and help illustrate Ball's ideas. This is an excellent example of how to write good history that a general audience will enjoy reading!.... One of the most impressive elements of Charlie Brown's America is how it presents Charles Schulz as a deeply thoughtful person and then shows how that translates into his work. Ball really does complicate the legacy of Schulz and Peanuts, but he does so in a way that enriches the strip and helps to firmly ground the seemingly timeless Peanuts gang in cold war America....Charlie Brown's America serves up nostalgia, makes you smile, and still manages to make you rethink and reconsider Peanuts and its legacy.»

Dan Newland, The Comic Book Yeti

«It's enlightening to read Ball's breakdown of where the strip captured the moment and where it strayed.»

Heather Seggel, Progressive Populist

«Peanuts reflects America, or America reflects Peanuts. Both were true in the case of America's favorite comic strip. For half a century Charles Schulz sent his missive out to the world in a love letter, and his readers loved him back with unparalleled affection. In this thoroughly researched and carefully considered study, Blake Scott Ball explores the reasons why Schulz may have been our best cartoonist. Like Mickey Mouse, Superman, and Chaplin's tramp, Charlie Brown has joined our list of icons who help us understand the human condition. He's a good man, Charlie Brown.»

M. Thomas Inge, Randolph-Macon College

«Blake Scott Ball's Charlie Brown's America uses the history of Charles Schulz's Peanuts as a medium for his fascinating tour of cold war American culture.»

Grace Hale, University of Virginia

«This valuable study provides essential context for our understanding of a pop-cultural masterpiece. Charles Schulz generally avoided making overt political statements in his comics. But as Blake Ball demonstrates, that doesn't mean that Peanuts was never a political text. In fact, Schulz cultivated a deliberately ambiguous, even polysemic approach when addressing the most hot-button issues of his day—from Women's Liberation to Civil Rights and Environmentalism.»

Ben Saunders, University of Oregon

«A cultural history with the narrative drive of a well-crafted biography, Blake Scott Ball's Charlie Brown's America unlocks the mysteries behind Schulz's comic masterpiece. Drawing on interviews, speeches, and correspondence between the cartoonist and his fans, Ball offers deftly historicized close readings of Schulz's strip, showing how Peanuts' ideological flexibility made it a 'Rorschach test' for American readers during the Cold War. A tour de force of comics scholarship and an engrossing read!»

Philip Nel, author of Was the Cat in the Hat Black?
Ch 1 Bless You for Charlie Brown: Evangelicalism, Civil Religion, and Peanuts in Postwar America
Ch 2 Crosshatch Is Beautiful: Franklin, Color-Blindness, and the Limits of Racial Integration in Peanuts
Ch 3 Snoopy Is the Hero in Vietnam: Ambivalence, Empathy, and Peanuts' Vietnam War
Ch 4 I Believe in Conserving Energy: Personal Responsibility, Consumer Politics, and Peanuts' Pro-Capitalist Environmental Ethos
Ch 5 I Have a Vision, Charlie Brown: Gender Roles, Abortion Rights, Sex Education, and Peanuts in the Age of the Women's Movement
Blake Scott Ball is Assistant Professor of History at Huntingdon College.