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Image: "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
Charles M. Schultz  /  AP file
Sure, Linus, left, looks sweet and innocent as he discusses the forlorn little Christmas tree with Charlie Brown in "A Charlie Brown Christmas," but he wields that baby blankie as an unsuspecting weapon.
msnbc.com contributor
updated 12/20/2007 11:58:10 AM ET 2007-12-20T16:58:10

I've heard that the toughest birthday is the 30th one, but nobody warned me about the 30th Christmas. Something about this year has forced me to view favorite childhood Christmas specials through the spectrum of full adulthood. And it makes for an ugly, ugly rainbow.

What was once whimsical becomes fraught with social messages we may have blessedly missed the first time around. Nostalgia excuses us from critiquing the specials on a technical level, but the accumulation of hard-learned life lessons intrudes upon Who-ville and the North Pole: Why were the Peanuts characters so hideously unsupervised? Why can't Frosty the Snowman get over himself? Why are the elves in "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" so in need of hypertension meds?

In the case of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," baby-sitting my nephew forced me to view the special through the eyes of a person momentarily in charge of a 3-year-old. What I learned wasn’t the true meaning of Christmas or the dangers of over-commercialization, but that whipping other people around with a blanket looks like excellent fun. Hey, let's fling Linus to major head trauma! Peace on Earth. The child thinks this is hilarious, which leads me to fear that he will try it with his baby brother, and I will somehow get blamed.

The rise of caustic reality television has also interfered. I want to know who choreographed these children at the nativity play rehearsal. May God have mercy on their cartoon souls should any of them appear on "Dancing With the Stars." ("You dance like you're on some sort of animation loop produced 40 years ago!")

And perhaps because I grew up to become a teacher who has beheld one too many oral reports ending in, "And if you want to know what happens next, read the book," I've moved past tearing up during Linus' recitation of the birth of Christ. I have too much trouble overcoming his prima donna "lights, please?" before he winds up. Did he also demand M&Ms — but only the red ones — in his trailer between scenes?

Global issues
While we're discussing divas, a globally aware adult's perspective on "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" ruins the entire ending. I think we're bypassing the main victim here — that large, upsetting slab of roast beast.

Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings It looks like an enormous chicken, organs and all. But where the drumsticks should be there are these upsetting, pointy little hooves. What kind of animal is this, and what has it done to the Whos? They seem a peaceful enough society. Was there some sort of bloody, knife-intensive, ritual hunt and sacrifice? Or did they just go off into the woods with beer, tiny bottles of beast urine and “Git-R-Done” hats? "Fah who for-aze" indeed.

Who-hash and Who-pudding, I don't even want to get into. Any number of innocent, ground-up omnivores could have found their way in there.

At least the Whos don’t appear to smoke, judging from the lack of ashtrays on that feasting table. But Frosty the Snowman is no friend to children. He smokes, for one thing, and he's a lumbering fashion catastrophe. He forces me to type the following sentence: His orange scarf clashes with the purple flower in his hat. When you're 8, that's a bold ensemble. At 30? You want to sign him up for "Queer Eye For the (Presumably) Straight Snowman."

Office nightmare
Frosty is no friend to bunnies, either, and embodies all our workplace fears. The plot of this special deals with a magician chasing Frosty to retrieve his magical hat. The antagonist's rabbit suggests the snowman take his case to Santa, but Frosty then congratulates himself on this plan of action. The bunny has to save his melting behind at the end anyway. You are every person we have ever hated at the office, Mr. Snowman.

There is no workplace so wretched, however, as that in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Much has been made of Santa's incredible sense of entitlement in this film, and, as we can see, the North Pole is very much a top-down operation, with counterproductive attitudes issuing directly from the boot of St. Nick.

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I'm surprised CBS still shows this thing unedited, given its outstanding contribution to gender equality issues. Every time Donner says, "No! This is man's work" as he stomps out of the cave, I shake my head over the fact that he still has a job when he comes back. You try that today, you'll have a picket line the size of Texas by noon and every blogger in America tapping furiously away: "I must admit I was shocked today when Drudge reported Mr. Donner's comments. Here's the link ... "

But let us understand the origin of Donner’s destructive behavior. Given the fact that Santa completely emasculated him about 10 minutes prior by ripping him in front of everybody for having produced a mutant, he needed to reclaim his very manhood. Therefore, he lashes out at the missus in a self-defensive patriarchal manner. You see, folks, all negative behavior stems from pain. And so I ask you — on behalf of Donner — don't hate. Appreciate.

However, absolutely none of this excuses the trollopy behavior of Clarice, Rudolph’s little lady friend. She's filling exactly the role the men surrounding her expect her to, and her bow-headed self requires saving at the hands of a non-licensed dentist and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge destructor Yukon Cornelius.

Plus, she just met Rudolph, and she lets him walk her home. And before they've taken two steps? Full body contact. Then, at the end of the film, while everybody else is working, she's standing around under the mistletoe. Help a sister out, Clarice, and help yourself.

The (in)actions of Clarice, however, are mitigated by the portrayal of the female elves, who are really quite liberated. They're hauling presents to Santa's sleigh, pointy ear to pointy ear with the men, and they're wearing sensible shoes while they're at it, too.

It's good to have found new friends, here in lonely adulthood.

Mary Beth Ellis runs www.BlondeChampagne.com from the Washington D.C. area.

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