Watch out for children : Charles Schulz’s Peanuts in the 1950s

Kopin, Joshua Abraham
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When Peanuts debuted in American newspapers at the end of 1950, it entered a world of optimistic postwar consumerism that was moving out of the cities and into the suburbs. A comic about the baby boom that depicted the children of that boom without any parental supervision, it appeared to be set in an idyll, a small world of little folks, concerned only with small things. Even at this moment before melancholy and disappointment became its primary characteristics, however, the strip was fundamentally concerned with how its characters found their way in the world, which, at least in part, involved acting as if they were adults. For parents, such autonomy might have resonated with the emerging, and concerning, category of the teenager, had that vision not been covered over with a façade of cuteness. That mask, moreover, was one of the many factors that caused adults to imagine themselves as characters in the strip. By investigating the way that the children in the strip imagined themselves as adults, we can see that the little world of Charlie Brown animated the feeling, as the midcentury political philosopher Hannah Arendt might have said, of being between past and future, of being an actor in a world that does not understand individual agents and over which those agents have no control.