Mar 18, 2023

Charlie Brown, Linus, and Gay-Coded Peanuts

I didn't read  Charles Schulz's Peanuts in the newspaper; our Rock Island Argus offered only a cheap imitation called Winthrop. My knowledge of Peanuts came through Fawcett paperbacks acquired at garage sales during the 1970s and treasuries acquired at the Waldenbooks at the Mall during the 1980s.

Not a lot of gay content.

1. Only two significant same-sex friendships (Charlie Brown-Linus and Peppermint Patty-Marcie), and neither display the intensity, physicality, or exclusivity that might push them from friendship to romance. (Christopher Shea provided the original voice for Linus.)

 Marcie calling Peppermint Patty "Sir" does not signify lesbian identity.  Lesbians do not call each other "Sir."

Plus, every character, almost without exception, is involved in an unrequited heterosexual romance: Lucy is in love with Schroeder, Sally with Linus, Peppermint Patty and Marcie both with Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown with the Little Red-Haired Girl.  Linus and Snoopy never zero in on one crush, but they each get many girlfriends.

In one 1985 continuity, Charlie Brown merely has to say "Eleanor" for Linus to collapse, and "Fifi" for Snoopy to collapse in agony over their lost loves.

Heterosexual desire validated over and over again, same-sex desire absent.  It was a world where gay kids felt alien and unwanted.

But there was an exception.  Like Jughead in the Archie comics, Schroeder is not interested in girls.  He not only rejects Lucy's advances.  He not only lacks a heterosexual crush of his own.  He never expresses any interest in any girl, ever. 

Of course, Schroeder never expresses any interest in boys, either, but he had a passion for music, specifically classical music.  Mostly Beethoven, because Schulz thought the name sounded funny, but also Bach, Schubert, Brahms, Handel.  His artistic interest and ability is gender-transgressive in a world devoted to sports (continuities are devoted to baseball, tennis, golf, ice skating, and so on).  He alone resonated with gay kids as "one of us."  He alone saw the world in a way they could understand.


  1. But what if you're gay (or bi) and athletic?

    Mostly I remember Schroeder as "the kid who plays the piano when the others do their limited animation dances".

    The thing about Peanuts I most remember is aluminum Christmas trees. After a running jeremiad about how commercial Christmas is, I thought it was a joke, only to learn that yes, aluminum Christmas trees were a thing.

    1. My aunt had an aluminum tree. It was silver, with blue ornaments.

  2. They now sell artificial Charlie Brown Christmas-type trees. I'll take 'Completely Missing the Point' for $500, Alex...

  3. There was a B'way (?) show called "Dog Sees God" which covers the life of the Peanuts gang as teenagers. The playwright could not get the rights to the characters so he changed their names. In the play, Schroeder is indeed gay and commits suicide. He is bullied by homophobic Pig Pen who may actually be attracted to either Charlie Brown or Schroeder but Schroeder is attracted to Charlie Brown.

  4. The Charlie-Linus bromance was taken out of the closet in an off Broadway play which used a parody of the Peanuts characters. Schroder is more artistic than gay

    1. Most likely Schulz didn't intent for any of his characters to be read as gay, but lack of expressed heterosexual interest is sufficient for a gay subtext, regardless of authorial intention. Linus is the only main character who doesn't display heterosexual interest.

    2. The thing is, burger culture is so homophobic that five-year-olds are expected to have hetero interest.

  5. I always imagined Lucy ending up with Charlie & marrying him. It makes perfect sense.


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