Good Grief! : Celebrating Peanuts #8: Marcie

Some of the most endearing characters in Peanuts would begin in the background of another story. Snoopy’s bird friend Woodstock was simply one of the many birds who hung around the lovable beagle. The only thing that set Woodstock apart was his inability to fly right, and Snoopy didn’t even learn this bird’s name until 1970. He would not be the only one to gain a new best friend in the 70s, as new comer Peppermint Patty would make her own share of friends that did not revolve around “Chuck” and the ball field.

The introduction of her friend came about in an arc that saw Charlie and Peppermint Patty

Marcie

heading off to camp for the summer. Charlie’s experience was less than stellar as his tent mate just faced the wall and any time someone spoke to him would say, “Shut up and leave me alone.” Patty however was ready to get things started, but was deterred by the rain. In a strip dated July 20, 1971, as she watched the rain her tent-mate a bespectacled little girl came up to her and asked “when is lunch, sir?”

Patty continued to complain about the rain, leading her tent-mate to point out in a strip from July 22, 1971,

“You shouldn’t criticize the weather, sir…it’s all part of the world we live in..besides this rain is probably helping some farmer, which of course, brings up another point…I’ve never seen a farmer go to summer camp, have you sir?”

The girl frustrated Patty not only by her philosophical soliloquy about the importance of rain, but her insistence on calling Patty , “Sir.” Later, the two would go an excursion to the camp on the other side of the lake and visit Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Patty also developed a habit of referring to Marcie’s legs as “Bobby Orr Legs” and “Mamma Cass Legs” and even intended to set Marcie up with Snoopy only for the dog to run off. Their visit was cut short when she met Charlie Brown’s tent-mate who just repeated his catch phrase causing the short-tempered Patty to storm off, insulted  and thinking it was a slight against her.

At the end of the arc, in a strip from August 7, 1971, Patty bid her new friend farewell, only to be called “Sir” one more time. She called Marcie out for this, asking,

“How come you’re always calling me “sir” when I keep asking you not to, huh? Don’t you realize how annoying that can be?”

 Marcie just responded with a “no, ma’am”, and it looked like that would be it for the girl with glasses. However, she would return again in an arc that started on October 6, 1971 when she came to visit. Patty brought her over to see Charlie and Snoopy, and asked them to play a game of “Ha, ha, Herman.” It was during this game that Marcie became one of the first to ask point blank if she was in love with Charlie Brown. This led Patty to dismissing the claims, saying that Charlie was stupid, wishy washy and that no one could love him, not even knowing he was listening. This ended their game quickly as Charlie returned home, feeling heartbroken.

The girl decide , upon seeing Charlie and Snoopy leave, that she would make the first attempt to try and talk to Charlie, and in a strip from we finally learned this girls name when she introduced herself to Sally as “Marcie”. Sally let her in, but Charlie was so depressed he didn’t want to speak to anyone. Sally told her to go home, and even Snoopy could only think of any number of sarcastic responses. Marcie brought the news to Patty who urged her to apologize. Thus began Marcie’s role as Patty’s relational conscience as in the strip from October 14, 1971,despite Patty’s denials and her starting to spout off the same disclaimer as the night before that led to the problem at hand. As Marcie told her,

“I think that a heartfelt apology will work wonders. You see, Chuck simply doesn’t realize that deep down you’re really in love with him, and…careful! Now you’re right back where you started…incidentally, have you noticed that I stopped calling you ‘sir’?”

This would not be the last time she would call Patty “Sir”. In fact this became her customary way for her to refer to the outspoken Patty in the strips and specials. Usually this was followed by an exasperated Patty telling her to stop calling her “sir”. Patty may be athletic but she is still a girl and didn’t like having her friend address her by a masculine salutation. While some have sought to read into the subtext of the strip, Schulz discredited many of these inferences in interviews, it simply became as much of Marcie’s comedic shtick as Lucy pulling away the ball from Charlie, Linus with his blanket, or Sally with her malapropisms.

In fact Shanee Edwards noted in “Peanuts: 9 Ways Peppermint Patty has been Defying Gender Norms” an article from the website SheKnows .com, noted that as time went on, she gradually grew to tolerate being called “sir” in the same way that Charlie accepted both girls referring to him as “Chuck” and “Charles”. Edwards stated,

“Though it’s unclear exactly why Marcie calls Peppermint Patty “sir,” it may have started as a reaction to Peppermint Patty’s strong, sometimes bossy personality or due to Marcie’s poor eyesight. Though the nickname did seem to irritate her for a while, Peppermint Patty seems OK with it in the new movie.”

Calm, cool, collected and well spoken, as well as thoughtful, Marcie made for the perfect foil for the more brash and outspoken Peppermint Patty. The fact that she was quickly aware of Patty’s feelings for Charlie show just how perceptive she tended to be. On top of that, her willingness to go over to Charlie in the first place and smooth things over show just how much she cares about her friends.  In fact it became a common occurrence of to go and smooth things over with Charlie on behalf of Patty. This is best seen in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, after Patty yelled at Charlie for the dinner. Marcie went to talk to Charlie, saying,

“Don’t feel bad, Chuck. Peppermint Patty didn’t mean all those things she said. Actually, she really likes you.”

Linus had to comment on this tendency for Marcie to smooth things over, comparing their little triangle to that of John Alden, Priscilla Mullin and Miles Standish in The Courtship of Miles Standish. Marcie certainly got the reference, as when she handed the situation back to Patty she actually called her “Priscilla”, confusing both her and Charlie. Often times, she is tries to give Patty some practical advice that she thinks may help her do better, as was seen in one strip, where Patty was complaining about her struggles, in one strip from April 11, 1972. Patty has been trying harder in school, but it doesn’t seem to amount to much. Marcie suggests,

“Maybe you need to eat a better breakfast , sir, or have your eyes checked or start going to bed earlier.”

Patty quickly shuts her down, telling her that when someone complains about their problems they don’t want answers like that, they wants someone to try and understand and listen. However, Marcie can only reply with a hint of sarcasm that she’s never really understood that concept. Many of Patty’s problems in school stem from herself, so they were easy to remedy. Whereas Marcie knows from firsthand experience that when Charlie Brown has a problem there’s usually an external factor and he will readily listen to his friends when they offer advice.

In fact in many ways, both Marcie and Patty served as the perfect female counterpoints to Charlie Brown and Linus. Both Charlie and Patty loved sports more then they enjoyed school, despite Patty clearly excelling in the athletic department. Linus and Marcie tended to be well read, intelligent, and insightful. In fact in The Peanuts Movie, when they have to do a book report for school, Marcie suggests such notable works as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye and War and Peace.

Appropriately, much like how Linus would be the one to pick Charlie up by telling him the true meaning of Christmas, Marcie would be the one to do the same for Charlie in a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. She was the one who understood the point of Linus prayer and was able to remind Charlie of what the holiday was all about. Much like at Christmas, Charlie got caught up in the “commercial” aspect of the holiday, believing Thanksgiving was all about food and feeling like his failure of a meal had let everyone down and ruined their day. Marcie told him,

“But Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that’s what they mean by ‘Thanksgiving,’ Charlie Brown.”

She would also call Patty out for her rude behavior at dinner when her friend chews Charlie Brown out for being served nothing but popcorn, pretzel sticks, toast and jelly beans. Patty made it out to be a huge inconvenience considering their cross town trip and Charlie can only leave in shame while Patty fumes. Marcie questioned her, and her indignation, saying,

“You were kind of rough on Charlie Brown, weren’t you, sir?…Now wait a minute, sir. Did he invite you here to dinner, or did you invite yourself, and us, too? “

 Schulz would go on to say of Marcie,

“Marcie is one-up on Peppermint Patty in every way. She sees the truth of things, where it invariably escapes Patty. I like Marcie.”

Thus along with urging Patty to apologize to Charlie Brown whenever she wronged him, she was usually urging her friend to do better in school. Sometimes this involved coming up with imaginary ways to wake her up if she fell asleep in class, such as snapping a three ring binder behind her. She would also humor some of Patty’s lame excuses, and then twist them to urge her to study better. For example in It’s Christmas Time Again, Charlie Brown, Patty is making excuse after excuse as to why it is she will not do her book report. One excuse is that she had a grandfather who didn’t think much of reading and told her if she read too many books, her head would fall off. Marcie offered to hold onto Patty’s head while she finished reading, just in case that actually happened.

Marcie was also more than aware of her best friend’s biggest short coming in her inability to listen. She even sarcastically pointed this out to her in the aforementioned Its Christmas Time Again, Charlie Brown, when Patty went on about how she wanted to be Mary in the Christmas play. Marcie told her,

“She’s already asked me, sir…She asked me yesterday…Why would the angel of Gabriel talk to you? You never listen. ”

She would even take her friend to cultural events, such as Tiny Tots concerts that features a selection of classical compositions in hopes of introducing her to a world of great music. Patty ever clueless about how concerts would work would shout out during a performance like a ball game, or screw up the names for the composers, only to ignore whenever Marcie would try to set the record straight. Patty would usually fall asleep and even would bring pillows to the performances.

Marcie also demonstrates fluency in “Patty Speak”, or the malapropism that can stem from Patty not being able to pay attention to things that don’t interest her, like school. We see this in The Peanuts Movie when she suggests books to Patty for their book report. Annoyed at Patty’s refusal to pick a book, Marcie heads over to the library by herself, knowing she’ll get saddled with most of the work. Charlie seeks her out at the ice rink with Patty only to find she’s gone, and for Patty to suggest mangled up versions of the book titles Marcie suggested, among them “Leo’s Toy Store by Warren Peace”. When Charlie got to the library and mentioned this title, Marcie quickly understood what he meant and tried to talk him out of it.

Further, unlike her friend she possessed a great deal of common sense. In one arc, Peppermint Patty was trying to get more funding for girls sports.   Patty informed Marcie that if she didn’t help her, she wouldn’t get to meet tennis player Billie Jean King. Marcie pointed out in a strip from October 3rd, 1979

“You don’t even know Billie Jean King, sir. How can you say, ‘Billie Jean King, May I present Marcie?’ When you don’t know Billie Jean King?”

However, despite her book smarts, there were some areas where Marcie was helpless. When it came to sports she was slightly worse than Charlie Brown. However, where Charlie could at east make up for it with his heart, Marcie honestly didn’t care. She even told Patty as much on her quest for equal funding for women’s sports, pointing out that she honestly didn’t care about sports and one point even preferred to stay inside and play the electric organ.

She also had a difficult time with something as basic as coloring eggs. In It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, Patty tried to take every opportunity to teach her how to dye eggs for Easter Sunday, only for Marcie to fry, toast and roast them.  She even put one through a waffle press, and made egg soup on the last attempt. Later in a Halloween story arc, she referred to the Great Pumpkin as “The Great Grape”, much to Linus chagrin and even admitted his way made more sense as it would be hard to carve a face on a grape She also tried her hardest to make a skating dress for Patty in She’s a Great Skate Charlie Brown, only for her end result to look more like a smock without sleeves, which she is promptly berated for.

She would  confide in Charlie Brown the pressure her parents put on her to excel in school, almost on par with the pressure Linus was under. This would demonstrated in an arc from October of 1990 when there was a real upswing for parents to pressure their children to excel in everything in school. This only shows how prophetic Schulz was and how one of his key themes was just letting kids be kids and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

Today, anxiety among school aged children has reached near epidemic levels. Pattie Neighmond noted in “ School Stress Takes a Toll on Health, Teens and Parents Say” for NPR,

“Almost 40 percent of parents say their high-schooler is experiencing a lot of stress from school, according to a new NPR poll conducted with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. In most cases, that stress is from academics, not social issues or bullying, the poll found…Homework was a leading cause of stress, with 24 percent of parents saying it’s an issue…Teenagers say they’re suffering, too. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that nearly half of all teens — 45 percent — said they were stressed by school pressures…Chronic stress can cause a sense of panic and paralysis…The child feels stuck, which only adds to the feeling…Parents can help put the child’s distress in perspective, particularly when they get into… catastrophic “what if” thinking: “What if I get a bad grade, then what if that means I fail the course, then I’ll never get into college.”

 

This arc began with her calling Charlie up out of the blue, telling him she was coming to see him as she really needed to talk. In the next strip, dated October 16, 1990, we see her in Charlie’s living room confiding in him, saying,

“My parents are driving me crazy, Charles. They want me to be perfect. They want me to get straight A’s in school , and do everything perfect! I’m cracking up, Charles. I shouldn’t even be here…I’m supposed to be reading ‘Ivanhoe’.”

While it’s clear that Linus is under similar pressure, Linus has his security blanket to grant him some comfort, and his big imagination to give him an outlet. He even gets to take part in sports and likes it. Marcie has none of these comforts, and shares no similar interests with the rest of the gang. Any activities she has are selected by her parents. It was no wonder then that Marcie was showing all the signs of exhaustion and fatigue. She would go on to tell him in the strip from October 17, 1990,

“See how my hands shake, Charles? It’s because of all the pressure…my parents think I should get perfect grades in everything every day…and I’m so tired.”

Charlie admitted that he didn’t know what to tell her, but all she asked was that he sit with her while she studied. Snoopy in his thought bubble even urged him to give her a cookie to help her feel better when she awoke. She ended up falling asleep on Charlie’s chair, causing Charlie to call up Patty for help. Both Patty and Charlie were concerned for her and when she awoke  she even asked Charlie if she could stay with him as she didn’t want to go home, knowing she would have to be perfect the minute she walked in the door. Sally replied if she was looking for imperfection, then she had come to the right place. This gave the Brown’s a new sense of appreciation for what they have as both of them pull C’s in school, yet we get the sense that Charlie and Sally’s parents still love them. With all the pressure she was under, and the way Patty would often treat her, this led to a lot of self image issues for Marcie.

Kevin Wong for Kotaku.com a website focusing animation and comics, wrote heavily on this aspect of Marcie and her  struggle with unhealthy relationships and desire to find a way to define herself. As Wong noted in an essay, “How Peanuts Used Marcie to Explore Unhealthy Relationships”,

“Marcie saw herself as unremarkable, and it extended to her appearance…Marcie almost always appeared in the context of a planned activity, such as summer camp or school. Peppermint Patty had to knock on her door to get her involved in something, but much of the time, Marcie couldn’t come out to play. She had to practice her organ. She had to study. She had to read. There was very little leisure time in Marcie’s day; her parents were protective of her, and their method of keeping her safe was keeping her busy…The effect of this disproportion on a child, of course, is that one becomes unbalanced—overdeveloped in cerebral matters, but underdeveloped in life skills and sociability. A poor self-image isn’t far behind; it’s difficult to imagine being desirable when socializing is so openly discouraged. Marcie resigned herself to her lack of appeal, even taking it for granted.”

Unlike Patty who wouldn’t pay attention to what he had to say, or Lucy who’d dismiss him, she actually valued Charlie and his opinions, beyond just those about her physical appearance. For reasons that baffled even Charlie Brown, Marcie had also developed a crush on him. She was not afraid not show it, as was seen In Happy New Year, Charlie Brown when she surprised Charlie with a kiss on the cheek. In Charlie she found someone who was patient, understanding and knew what it was like to not be perfect, yet at the same time someone who never gave up.

This also surprised Patty, who first learned of her friends feelings in a story arc that inspired the special Get Well Soon, Charlie Brown. The two of them are not allowed into his hospital room due to rules at the hospital, so the two of them consign themselves to a bench outside that faces his window. Patty simply says how she hopes he sleeps well and how much she misses him, while Marcie wishes him to not only get well but says “We love you, Chuck!”

In the next strip, from July 22, 1979, Marcie asks Patty how she feels about Charlie, which leaves the brash tomboy stammering. Marcie then admits,

“I love Chuck! I think he’s real neat!…Someday, I hope he’ll ask me to the senior prom! In fact if he asked me, I’d even marry Chuck!”

This often led to some great comedic moments between her and Patty when it came to Charlie as they would vie for his affections. Sally would even admit in one strip from January 15th 1998, that for someone who never went anyplace that her brother live a very active life after Marcie come to Charlie’s house to ask,

“Is Charles home? I came over to ask him to go to a school dance… doubt if he’d ever go with someone like me, though, so I won’t bother him…”

One arc from June 1989 saw Patty forced to stay home over the summer in while the two of them went  to camp. Patty was jealous of them and would even call to see how they were doing. In one strip, just to toy with Patty, dated June 9, 1989, Marcie told her,

“Don’t stand so close, Charles, and you’re squeezing my hand too hard!”

Then in another strip form June 15, Marcie told her,

“Charles, I can’t hear what she’s saying if you keep nibbling on my ear!”

This infuriated Patty to the point that she snuck off from summer school to infiltrate the camp and see them, only to learn that Charlie got homesick for his dog and hurried home. At the end of the arc, June 24 Patty asked her if she and Charlie actually did anything together at camp. That was when Marcie told her that there was something, but it ended in the most Charlie Browniest of Charlie Brown ways, as she related,

“Well, there was the moonlight walk…it wasn’t much of a walk…We just got started when Charles walked into a tree!”

Later in an arc that saw Patty and Marcie leaving for camp, they called to say good bye for the summer. Marcie promptly grabbed the phone and told Charlie how much they loved him. Charlie couldn’t help but blush and tell his sister that the call was finally a right number. Overall, while Charlie may still pine for the Little Red-Haired girl, and later a girl named Peggy Jean, he actually did seem to know how Marcie felt about him and even somewhat reciprocate.

This was best seen in a strip from June 13,1989, the arc that saw Charlie and Marcie at camp while Patty was in summer school. Patty called Charlie to ask how they were doing, to which Charlie said,

“Yes, we are…we all went swimming this morning…Marcie had on a new red swimsuit…she looked real cute…”

Further he would often blush when she’d kiss him or show him much affection. It’s hard not to see why. Marcie is a very kind, thoughtful, and intelligent girl. Like him she struggles athletically and just needs someone to listen to her. Like Linus she always strives to help her friend be better and offer not only Patty, but Charlie advice. More importantly, she’ll always be ready to give her friend Peppermint Patty the appropriate wake up calls not only in class, but to reality as well.

As she tells Patty after they inadvertently destroy Snoopy’s dog house, Patty had refused to go to school, insisting he would stay on Snoopy’s doghouse and insist that it’s Charlie’s guest cottage and keeps calling Snoopy the kid with a funny nose. Marcie who knows Snoopy is a dog exclaims, in two strips from the arc dated March 21 of 1974,

“It’s not a guest cottage, it’s a dog house! And Snoopy is not a funny-looking kid with a big nose?? He’s a beagle? When are you going to face up to reality?!”

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Edwards, Shanee. “Peanuts’ Peppermint Patty Defied Gender Norms and We Never Knew It.” SheKnows. SheKnows,LLC., 05 Nov. 2015. Web. 02 May 2017.

TV SPECIAL: Melendez, Bill and Phil Roman. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Starring Todd Barbee, Stephen Shea, Hilary Momberger, Robin Kohn, Christopher DeFaria, Jimmy Ahrens, Robin Reed, and Bill Melendez. Charles M. Schulz (Writer.)Lee Mendelson/Bill Melendez Productions/United Features Syndicate.  1973

FILM: Martino, Chris (Dir.)The Peanuts Movie Starring Noah Schnapp, Alex Garfin, Hadley Belle Miller, Mariel Sheets, Noah Johnston, Venus Omega Schultheis, Madisyn Shipman, AJ Teece, Marelik “Mar Mar” Walker, William Wunsch, Rebecca Bloom, Anastasia Bredikhina, Francesca Angelucci Capaldi, Troy “ Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Kristin Chenoweth, and Bill Melendez. Bryan Schulz, Craig Schulz, and Cornelius Uliano  (writers). Blue Sky Studios/20th Century Fox. 2015.

TV SHOW: James, Sam and Bill Melendez (Dir.) Happy New Year, Charlie Brown. Starring Chad Allen, Kristie Baker, Melissa Guzzi, Aron Mandelbaum, Jeremy Miller, Jason Mendelson, Elizabeth Lyn Fraser, and Bill Melendez.  Charles M. Schulz (Writer). Lee Mendelson/Bill Melendez Productions/United Features Syndicate.  1986.

TV SPECIAL: Melendez, Bill (Dir.) It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown. Starring Jamie E. Smith, Mindy Ann Martin, John Christian Graas, Marnette Patterson, Jodie Sweetin, Phillip Lucier, Lindsay Bennish, Sean Mendelson, Deanna Tello, Matthew Slowik, Brittany M. Thornton, and Bill Melendez. Charles M. Schulz (writer.) Lee Mendelson Film Productions, Bill Melendez Productions, Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates / United Media Productions. 1992.

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Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” Peanuts.com. Peanuts Worldwide,LLC Appeared on: 26 October, 1990 /. Web. 8 May, 2017.

Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” Peanuts.com. Peanuts Worldwide,LLC Appeared on: 27 October, 1990 /. Web. 8 May, 2017.

Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” Peanuts.com. Peanuts Worldwide,LLC Appeared on: 15 January, 1998 /. Web. 8 May, 2017.

Wong, Kevin. “How Peanuts Used Marcie To Explore Unhealthy Relationships.” Kotaku. Kotaku.com, 25 Jan. 2017. Web. 02 May 2017.

 

PHOTO CREDIT:

1973. Lee Mendelson/Bill Melendez Productions/United Features Syndicate.

Disclaimer:

This blog is not authorized, endorsed, approved or affiliated with Lee Mendelson/Bill Melendez Productions/United Features Syndicate, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. 20th Century Fox, Blue Sky Studios, Peanuts Worldwide or any other parties involved in the creation, development, and ownership of the Peanuts characters. The views and opinions in this blog are strictly those of it’s author, and do not reflect the views or ownership of the respected owners of Peanut

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About jonathondsvendsen

Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Somehow you stumbled upon it. Whatever brought you around, I'm glad you're here. I am a free-lance writer and independent scholar of pop-cultural mythology, living and working in Minnesota. An aspiring mythmaker, I dream of voyages through space, fantastic worlds, and even my own superhero or two. I am also an established public speaker and have guest-lectured for college classes on the topic of comic book superheroes. I graduated from Bethel University in 2007 with a degree in Literature and Creative writing. I also write for the website NarniaFans.com. Head on over and you can check out my book reviews , a few fun interviews and even my April Fools Day jokes.
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