Why, Charlie Brown, Why?

Mondays are my long, long days — this is the day I get to spend 3 hours talking to students in small groups about cancer (they’re young and invincible, so so far it hasn’t been as depressing as I feared.) And they teach me stuff! Among the things I learned today is that there was a Peanuts special from the 1990s about cancer, titled “Why, Charlie Brown, Why“. I was incredulous — it doesn’t sound like the kind of thing I’d expect on Peanuts — but I looked it up, and there it was on YouTube. So I’ll share. It’s not bad.

The class is operating on a much higher level than this special — it doesn’t mention oncogenes even once! — but the session today was a conversation about everyone’s personal experiences with cancer, and yes, we did talk about television and movies and how they deal with the disease.

(Also on Sb)


  1. sc_d84c886794a620c2cc021f50e6cb165d says

    As a Peanuts fan, I remember this special when it first aired.

    Yesterday I watched Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown on DVD and Linus makes a reference to who would “cast the first stone” after everybody complains about him and his blanket.

  2. DLC says

    In ages past, I would have answered that question with:
    “because God wanted it so.”
    Even then I knew better, but it was just easier to blame it on God.

  3. truthspeaker says

    I don’t know about the TV specials, but there was a lot of angst and pathos in the “Peanuts” comic strip. “Family Circle” it wasn’t.

  4. littlejohn says

    Apparently you young’uns don’t remember when Charles Shultz, a religious nut, had Linus routinely drop biblical references into his strip. During the last couple of years of Shultz’s life, the strip was simply Snoopy asking for a cookie. It was a steaming pile of shit – not even remotely funny.

  5. tblade says

    I am disappointed to see Peanuts creator Charles Schulz labeled a “religious nut”. Schulz is quoted in the 1980s as saying:

    “I do not go to church anymore… I guess you might say I’ve come around to secular humanism, an obligation I believe all humans have to others and the world we live in.”

    I can’t speak for Schulz, and it is true that he was religious earlier in his life. But many of us rational thinkers were believers (of something) at some points in our lives. And I fail to see any evidence that Schulz’s religious period ever crossed into “nut” territory.

    I’m an atheist and I have a lot of respect for Charles Schulz. I don’t know exactly what he believed, but I do know his humanistic ethic is easily identifiable across his large body of work.

  6. Sir Shplane, Grand Mixmaster, Knight of the Turntable says


    What the fuck?

    It’s just like.

    “I have cancer in my blood“, immediately followed by “Teehee, Snoopy is a doctor but he doesn’t eat very healthily lol”.

    Something about the juxtaposition between the horror of cancer and a cartoon dog playing the harmonica really fucks with my head.

  7. thematrix says

    @PZ, now that is exactly what I love so much about the Internet.

    Before it was prevalent and so well stocked with information (even utterly trivial info), someone who told you something like that in class, might have gotten a smile with an “oh, is that so” and you would have to take them on their word, and often simply forget it was ever mentioned.

    Now, within 5 minutes of getting to a computer, you can verify it existed, and often actually watch it!

    The really great thing about this is something the politicians need to learn really fast.

    Way back when, they could spout whichever bullshit they wished, when talking in front of a crowd, even if it was televised, they could play the local audience’s sensitivities and rarely would anyone out of that focus group ever know what was said.

    Now, with sites like Reddit, Facebook and YouTube, them saying something stupid will be spread across the globe within the hour.

    And even if not that quickly, to the people that would generally vote for them, eventually, it does reach that far.

    The entire world watches the Republican presidential campaigns as be they the newest season of Big Brother or Jersey Shore. Its pure comedy and the regular groan with “can’t believe there’s people like that”.

    No wonder they were more then glad to accept truckloads of cash from companies to start censoring the internet, to the politicians, its a nuisance, because it makes them accountable for all the bullshit they spout.

  8. brett says

    I remember watching that, too. It left an impression on me as a kid, particularly the part where Linus completely chews out this kid who makes fun of the girl who is bald because of her chemotherapy.

  9. Rick says

    I can’t watch the video. I’m still trying to process the reality of being diagnosed with cancer, subsequent treatment, and potential for its return.

    2011 wasn’t a good year. Diagnosed rectal cancer in February, 2 months of daily radiation, and 2 rounds of chemo. My prognosis is good, but the reality of the disease, and the suffering involved, makes it hard to even watch Peanuts.

    PZ, I hope in your small cancer groups it’s more than academics. Talk to some real cancer survivors. Nothing drives a concept home like coming face to face with the reality.

  10. says

    Damn Rick, i enjoy FTB, but don’t really like to leave comments. You made me want to respond though. I have had colon cancer for 4 years now, so i do know how you feel. I would like to say that the treatment is worth it, so don’t give up, you’re not alone.
    If you can, try and share your story with other patients- it really helps. I hope you make a full recovery. all the best.
    P.Z. – thanks for confronting quackery, and especially cancer quackery in your blog. there is more of it out there that most of us realise, and there is a huge job of education to be done.
    Thanks again, Chris

  11. interrobang says

    My mother and a good friend are both undergoing cancer treatment right now. (My mom has lost almost all of her hair, too.) Thanks for taking the subject on in a human and humane way; even if the students in your class don’t go on to careers in science and/or medicine, they’ll still be in a better position to cope with, and help their families cope with, cancer if and when it happens to them or someone they know and love. I’ve gotten a lot of comfort from reading Respectful Insolence (written by a breast cancer researcher/surgeon); at least for people like me, far from being cold and sterile (the way superstitious people think), facts are powerful, reassuring things.

    At least from my point of view, statistics helps you not take things quite as personally; it feels less like a vengeful universe (or deity) smiting you than winning the anti-lottery.

  12. Pinkamena, Panic Pony says

    littlejohn @#5: I’d like to think I’m not the capricious type. I give everypony a fair shake.

    But you are killfiled.
    Why? Because you are an idiot.

    Your statement is exactly the kind of ignorance, the kind that could be rectified by one minute’s worth of your time spend researching, that is ruining the world. You have the Internet, the most powerful of all research tools save for the brain itself, at your disposal right now by the very fact that you are posting here, and yet you choose to say something that is outright incorrect in spite of this.

    I’m not sure if you’re doing this because you honestly believe your bullshit or if you’re just saying it because you think it’s going to get you some credibility around here for bashing someone you see, wrongly, as a “religious nut” (free tip: it won’t help), but either way, you are an idiot and I see no reason to waste any more time on you.

    Good riddance to bad rubbish!

  13. madscientist says

    “… television and movies and how they deal with the disease.”

    Cancer of course is a huge collection of diseases. Just a few nights ago my wife had to put up with me yelling at the TV because this stupid show was promoting the silly notion that leukemia is a single disease and someone thinks they’ve got the cure. There are a few types of leukemia which can be treated with great success but the vast majority are still a death sentence.

  14. craigore says

    Wow, I remember watching this special many years ago. It was at the time that I was first learning about leukemia. The greatest shock for me being a child was learning that cancer could inflict children – until then I thought it was an old person’s disease.