The Life of Charles M. Schulz

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Charlie Brown’s attempts to kick the football even as he knows Lucy will pull it away is one of the most popular and enduring themes in Peanuts. The first time Schulz used the football idea in his comic strip was in 1951, although Violet is the one holding the football for Charlie Brown in that instance. The theme was then shown nearly every year through the run of the strip and has also appeared in Peanuts animated television specials.

Peanuts strip originally published on November 14, 1951

As with many of Schulz’s themes in Peanuts, the annual “pulling away of the football” strips seem to work well on two levels. On their most basic level, they are simply funny comic strips. The notion that Charlie Brown would attempt this year after year, despite failure upon failure, is comical, as is the mere sight of him flying hopelessly into the air and landing flat on his back, only to then have Lucy heap insult upon injury. But these strips also work on a metaphorical level as well to illustrate the ongoing struggle of life and how we must endure and not lose sight of hope in the face of adversity.

Peanuts strip originally published on October 10, 1982

The football theme is so well understood by audiences that many editorial cartoonists parodied the theme throughout the run of Peanuts and continue to do so today to illustrate their observations of the world. The Peanuts football theme has also been featured in an endearing Coca-Cola commercial that aired during the Super Bowl broadcast in 2008 which shows various cartoon character balloons from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade attempting to catch a bottle of Coca-Cola balloon as it sails above the streets of New York City. In 2011, an animated Lucy held the football for Charlie Brown in a pistachios campaign called “Get Crackin’”. The commercial shows Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown with the accompanying narration: “Lucy does it for kicks.”