“Curse This Stupid War!” Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts in the Vietnam War Era

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 11:20 AM
Washington Room 5 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Blake Scott Ball, University of Alabama
"Curse this stupid war!," exclaimed Snoopy in the summer of 1969. This protest was a new development for Peanuts, a comic that had made little mention of warfare before the escalation of the Vietnam War. Starting in 1965, the comic's author and artist Charles M. Schulz, himself a World War II veteran, introduced the concept of war to the daily strip through Snoopy's imaginary adventures as the Flying Ace. Initially, these recurring stories were little more than nostalgia for past war heroes. As the actual war in Vietnam progressed, however, Snoopy's fantasies increasingly dwelt on the tragedy of war and the bleak prospects of the soldiers who served. By 1970, Snoopy was directly involved in a fictional protest and riot against the Vietnam War, a disturbingly serious scene in a typically lighthearted comic strip. Soon Charlie Brown and Linus were debating their prospects of being drafted and confessing their reluctance to lose their life in war. While Schulz was often subtle in his critiques of American culture, with each passing year of the Vietnam War he articulated his disapproval more clearly. In the most widely-read and critically acclaimed comic strip of the era, Schulz reflected the anxieties of many average Americans who were rethinking their earlier support of the war. By the end of the conflict, Snoopy and Charlie Brown had become vocal dissenters to American involvement in Vietnam. This paper, “Curse This Stupid War!”: Peanuts in the Vietnam War Era, explores changing attitudes towards the Vietnam War as reflected in the period's most popular daily comic strip. This paper finds that comic characters like Snoopy and Charlie Brown came to embody Americans' serious concerns about the real world, allowing readers to consider and debate these issues through an unlikely medium.