Valentine’s Day Special – Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown

BE MY VALENTINE, CHARLIE BROWN
Original Air Date: January 28, 1975

It’s Valentine’s Day, and no one is spared from the Holiday heartbreak

BACKSTORY:
Although Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown was hardly the first time Peanuts had tackled issues of the heart in an animated special, it was the first time Schulz and company had addressed Valentine’s Day after success with Thanksgiving, Easter, Halloween, Election Day, and of course, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Not to be confused with these, which aired in 1967 and 1973

By 1975, production on Peanuts specials had kicked into high gear following two successful theatrical films and had been premiering not one, but two CBS specials each year. As such, Be My Valentine was nominated for an Emmy alongside It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. Strangely enough, they both lost to Yes, Viginia, There is a Santa Claus directed by the longtime Peanuts producer, Bill Melendez.

BREAKDOWN:
Ahh… another morose Charlie Brown tale, featuring a Holiday with even more depressing potential than that of Christmas! And it never ceases to surprise me just how much melancholy entertainment Schulz can wring from any American tradition.

You’re doing it wrong. But then, so is everyone else

I’m not a sports fan, but I can only compare the look on my face as I watched Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown to the pre-rage expression of a superfan watching the opposing team run an interception into their end zone. “No… this can’t be happening?”

An image synonymous with Valentine’s Day

Obviously, I love these specials to death, and given that Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown contains the most memorable scenes right behind A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, it’s safe to say scores of other Peanuts fans do too. I’m just not sure why…

Snoopy and Woodstock violently exchange Valentines

Honestly, rewatching these has really made me (shudder to) think: Do I like seeing horribly depressing things happen to children? The Peanuts Gang isn’t a band of bratty, smart-mouthed kids who speak like adults and beg for bad things to happen to them.

The downside of being “Hot for Teacher”

Theirs is certainly a darker humor, usually childlike revelations stemming from a naive perception of the world around them. This makes it easy for kids to relate to, sure, however almost cripplingly depressing for adults like myself who realize they never bothered to find the answers. “You’re right, Lucy/Linus/Chuck. That is another shitty aspect of LIFE.”

Pretty much…

Of course, it’s not all schadenfreude at the expense of preteens, that’s just what I’m choosing to fixate on. For what was, even at the time, a slower paced cartoon, there are more than a few A+ instances of animated gaggery sprinkled throughout Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, with Snoopy and Woodstock bringing the comedic levity throughout. See?

Perhaps my heart has swollen on the eve of this Holiday, where I’m miraculously NOT single this year, so I couldn’t help but obsess over the opinions and attitudes expressed by these children and the nature of love, which are strangely cynical beyond their years.

“Holla at me?”

As Lucy tries to gain the attention of maestro Schroeder, she winds up exploring the entire course of a failed relationship. All the pain and all the anguish. The only problem is, she does so out loud… and quite violently.

“You can’t eat! You can’t sleep! You want to smash things!”

Then, Lucy’s always been a short-fused bitch. But hey, that’s what we all love about her, right? As the Peanuts’ default “Hot Piece of Ass,” we have no doubt the temperamental gal in the blue dress will inevitably find dudes banging down her door for the rest of her days, men uncontrollably attracted to the forceful demeanor of this black-haired firebrand… Perhaps I’m projecting too much? Whatever!

A speechless cameo from Shermy, one of the original Peanuts characters Schulz retired from the strip in 1970

The rest of the gang plunge doe-eyed and naively into crushes the audience knows right from the beginning, will yield nothing more than traumatic and repressed anecdotes that’ll be forever pondered by psychiatric professionals who specialize in the treatment of Rockwell-ian Caucasians with enormous heads.

“Bitch please”

Linus futilely decides to thrust his affection towards Mrs. Othmar, the kids’ teacher and siren-voiced, offscreen trumpet blat. Anyone watching can tell this isn’t going to pay off with the statutory hotness of a modern-day news story… But the fact that Linus parades his obsession around Sally, the one who so desperately desires to be the object of his affection, exacerbates the heartbreak to levels I’m never entirely prepared for.

Screw love

This is the romantic equivalent of how most people watch horror movies. Each and every smiley step these kids take towards inevitable rejection, I’m watching through crooked fingers, screaming “NO! Don’t go in there!” at the screen.

Right… this is should end well

But none of them come close to the bleakness, as always, embodied in Good Ol’ Charlie Brown. He’s not even pining after The Little Red Headed Girl this time around. Instead the romantic idol his heart adventurously seeks is that of… just a Valentine’s Day card, man! He’s checking his mailbox every day, while grinning from ear to ear merely at the notion of being the object of someone’s – ANYONE’S! – affection.

Look closer, maybe you missed something

What did you think was going to happen?! Ever wonder why kids in public schools have to bring Valentines for the entire class? Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown is that reason. And the nightmarish scenario of not receiving a single heart-shaped well-wish from his classmates actually prompted viewers all over the nation to flood Charlie Brown with very real Valentines of very real pity after this special aired.

Oh yeah, Vince Guaraldi is back to score the sadness!

So how does the special make it up to us? Well… compared to the way the children banded together at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas to realize Chuck’s vision of the Holiday while reevaluating their own outlook, the resolution in Be My Valentine is a bit more… low rent. Just a real bummer of a payoff.

Or, is it more aptly suited to a Holiday in question, in that it confuses love with that of a popularity contest… hmmm. Either way, Schroder is 100% correct. However, Charlie Brown is so starved for some kind of acceptance, he gobbles up their halfassed act of pity like the four course meal he was originally expecting. So, not the Valentine’s Day Chuck was expecting, just the one he deserved? I dunno… how do you feel now?

Snoopy acts out the closing credits with puppet versions of the entire cast. Guess who the one on the left is?

PRODUCT INFORMATION:

Be My Valentine Charlie Brown is available on the Peanuts: 1970’s Collection Volume 2 DVD along with FIVE other digitally remastered specials from that era and an all new featurette entitled You’re Groovy, Charlie Brown: A Look at Peanuts in the 70’s. You can still purchase Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown on a standalone DVD, which features You’re in Love Charlie Brown and It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown as bonus specials, but IMO, completists will save money purchasing the decade sets. And because we always need a third, lemme just say I probably wouldn’t like you unless you own A Charlie Brown Christmas on Blu-ray or DVD.

Although Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown was hardly the first time Peanuts had tackled issues of the heart in an animated special, it was the first time Schulz and company had addressed Valentine’s Day after success with Thanksgiving, Easter, Halloween, Election Day, and of course, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Not to be confused with these, which aired in 1967 and 1973

By 1975, production on Peanuts specials had kicked into high gear following two successful theatrical films and had been releasing not one, but two CBS specials each year. As such, Be My Valentine was nominated for an Emmy alongside It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. Strangely enough, they both lost to Yes, Viginia, There is a Santa Claus directed by the longtime Peanuts producer, Bill Melendez.

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