Don’t mind me, I’ll just be sitting in this pumpkin patch…

Because I’m a sap for tradition with a needy and demanding inner child, I still make a jack-o’-lantern for Halloween. Last night I finally carved out (ha) some time for it, and I cued up my DVD of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. 

I watched this cartoon every Halloween as a child. As an adult, I’ve been using it as my pumpkin-carving background noise for years. By now, it’s a comfortable routine; I wasn’t even paying much attention. And then, during the scene where Linus writes his letter to the Great Pumpkin, it hit me right between the eyes that the Great Pumpkin is a metaphor for God.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised by the revelation. After all, another beloved cartoon has made a similar analogy about Santa Claus, and Linus explicitly calls out the parallelism between Santa Claus and the Great Pumpkin. But somehow I had never seen it before. The rest of the episode only strengthened the metaphor: Linus, the true believer, ridiculed by those who don’t share his belief. Preaching the good news of the Great Pumpkin to potential convert Sally. Denying himself worldly pleasures to wait patiently in the pumpkin patch for a reward from a being who never appears and may or may not even exist.

And from there, I had to wonder: did Charles Schulz do that on purpose?

It’s plausible. Schulz often made references to Christian theology in his work; this is the same man who could turn a baseball game into a meditation on the Book of Job. It seems significant that the Great Pumpkin believer is Linus, the same character who quotes the Gospel of Luke in A Charlie Brown Christmas and who in the comic strip is something of a pint-sized Bible scholar. And Charlie Brown frames his and Linus’ differing beliefs (in Santa Claus and the Great Pumpkin) as “denominational differences”, which makes the metaphor nearly explicit. But if Schulz did intend the metaphor, what was he trying to say? Was he implying that God is no more real than the Great Pumpkin, or is Linus meant to be an admirable example of holding fast to faith without proof? Or, following the Peanuts theme of failure, is it that whether or not God the Great Pumpkin is out there, Linus has no more chance of seeing him than Charlie Brown has of kicking Lucy’s football? Or is none of it deliberate, and Schulz just wanted to make a silly joke about Linus confusing Halloween and Christmas?

But really, does it matter what he intended? Sure, it might be interesting to trace the history of the Great Pumpkin Peanuts strips and see if they reflected changes in Schulz’s religious beliefs over time. But even if Schulz deliberately set up a parable about faith, he doesn’t hit anyone over the head with the allegory. (I’m looking at you, C. S. Lewis.) Most viewers watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and enjoy it without reading it that way. Up until this year, that included me.

Nothing has changed about It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown since I last watched it. If anything was different, it was me. The text revealed a new meaning because I had changed in some way, or happened to have different things on my mind. It’s Death of the Author: whatever Schulz was thinking, the work is going to carry whatever meaning a particular viewer sees in it. Maybe all art, done well, is bound to carry undercurrents in it that the author never consciously set up.

 

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Ace headcanons (and a TV pitch)

Coming in late to Asexual Awareness Week, but I had to jump in on the AAW Fandom Challenge! Since I only just discovered the challenge, I’ll do a few days at once (cherry-picking the ones where I had something to say).

Sun 22nd, Day 1: Post about canon and headcanoned asexual/spectrum characters in books and comics.

Canon: Jughead, obviously! I might do a post later about Riverdale and ace erasure and trying to watch the show with my Wishful Thinking Ace Goggles on. But comics!Jughead is an ace representation treasure.

Headcanon: The Fool, from Robin Hobb’s Farseer/ Tawny Man books. He/ she (the character is canonically genderfluid) clearly has a massive thing for Fitz, but gets really offended when Fitz construes that as being necessarily sexual. I think the Fool is asexual and Fitz-romantic, which kind of sucks because they keep running headlong into Fitz’s wall of heteronormativity, allonormativity, and transphobia, none of which their universe has words for yet. The later books, where the Fool spends more time in their female identity of Amber, have some painful scenes of Fitz Tries and Fails At Allyship.

Mon 23rd, Day 2: Post about canon and headcanoned asexual/spectrum characters in shows and movies.

Canon: Sadly thin on the ground (see my earlier lament about Riverdale), but apparently I need to watch BoJack Horseman.

Headcanon: Adrian Monk. It’s been a while since I watched Monk, but I remember him being very sex-repulsed. He clearly had a loving relationship with his late wife Trudy, but there’s a scene with his therapist where he refuses to discuss their sex life that I choose to interpret as evidence that their relationship was non-sexual. I’ve just learned the term acevague (asexuality influenced by neurodivergence), which I think applies here because it’s likely his sex-repulsion is tied up with his OCD and germophobia.

Sat 28th, Day 7: Post about asexual representation in general. What does it mean to see asexual/spectrum characters in the media you consume? Why is it important to you to see asexual/spectrum characters in the media you consume? What sort of stories/plotlines would you like to see about asexual/spectrum characters? What genre do you really want to see asexual/spectrum characters in? How would you like to see asexual/spectrum people represented?

I’ve written this post already, but it bears repeating: asexual representation is how we normalize asexuality. It’s something for aces to latch on to for validation of our identity, but it’s also for the benefit of people who don’t know much about asexuality–like, say, that it exists. I also think that wider awareness and normalization of asexuality might help challenge some of our toxic cultural narratives about sex, which hurt both aces and allos. (And hoo boy, has this been a month for confronting the consequences of our culture’s fucked-up ideas about sex and consent.)

For example, compulsory sexuality. In the older post, I mentioned the asexual relationship at the heart of Pushing Daisies. Even though neither Ned nor Chuck is asexual, I love that their inability to have sex with each other isn’t really an obstacle to their relationship. In contrast, I had soooooo little patience for Richard and Kahlan’s angst over not being able to have sex in Legend of the Seeker.* Ned and Chuck can’t even hug each other! Stop whining about your lack of orgasms when you’re supposed to be saving the world! I want to see more fictional relationships that aren’t centered around sex, and having ace characters in the mix is a great way to bring that issue to the surface. I would love to see ace/ace couples in fiction, but I’d also love to see long-term ace/allo couples who have figured out something that works for them.

But hey, the aros can come join the party too! Let’s have some plots about aro characters dating and figuring out that it’s not really what they want, or dealing with the social expectation that they’re supposed to date.** Let’s have some gray-A and demisexual characters. The more I think about it, the more I think there needs to be a rom-com anthology series about every shade of the ace spectrum. Love, Asexual Style?

 

* Yes, I watched Legend of the Seeker. I also watched every episode of Heroes Reborn. I hesitate to use the term “pop culture junk food”, because I hate genre snobbery and that kind of judgment gets disproportionately aimed at SF and fantasy, but it really is a bit like eating a whole bag of potato chips when you know you should have a proper meal.

** For example, the story in Jughead where aroace Jughead goes on a date with Sabrina the Teenage Witch, thanks to a misunderstanding and Archie’s misguided attempts to play matchmaker. Sabrina tries casting a love spell that will amplify any tiny bit of attraction someone feels. On the one hand: that’s perilously close to date rape. Not cool, Sabrina! But I appreciate that in this case all that happens is that Jughead feels hungrier.

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Stray thoughts on The Defenders

  • I haven’t yet seen Luke Cage, but I think I need to. I get the impression that under the invulnerable skin is a soft, gooey center.
  • Colleen is right, Danny. You are not a businessman. Also, don’t call a meeting with the bad guys to tell them you’re going to destroy them; skip ahead to the destroying.
  • Alexandra is one of those “ooh, look how cultured I am!” baddies. When she’s not plotting evil, she always seems to be listening to chamber music or eating in swanky restaurants. And her veiled references to her immortality are also showing off about how cultured she is–she ate this dish in Constantinople! She knew Brahms before he was cool!
  • Speaking of that restaurant scene… I definitely had the “Istanbul not Constantinople” song in my head afterwards.
  • Also, more than once someone said “You know nothing” and I mentally filled in “…Jon Snow.”
  • When Matt says to Elektra “There is goodness in you. I know because I’ve felt it,” I don’t think the reaction the writers wanted was “Matt, your ex is Darth Vader.”

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The pack survives

(Here be Game of Thrones spoilers! Also wild speculation, but if any of my guesses happen to hit the nail on the head, I take no responsibility for spoiling the future.)

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Goggles, gears, and corsets

18451801_4996543955900_519808288295065688_oWatch City Festival was yesterday, and I’m always happy to get dolled up steampunky. One of my favorite things about steampunk cosplay is how loosely defined it is, leaving people free to make what they like of it. Some people sport lovingly detailed period-accurate Victorian dress, or design elaborate sci-fi gadgets, while others just slap on a pair of goggles and call it a day. Because there’s an inherent fantasy element, you can combine whatever fashions you think are pretty or look cool and not worry too much about whether they’re anachronistic, or if a woman at that time would really be allowed to be an airship captain. You can create a character and backstory or just dress up for fun, customized to your preferred level of effort/ investment. I admire people who are willing to put the effort into meticulous costume design, but personally I tend to err on the just-for-fun side. My guideline for choosing a costume is “what do I really want an excuse to wear in public?”

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