Good Grief!


I just saw a student production of Bert V. Royal’s ​Dog Sees God , his 2005 “unauthorized parody” of Charles L. Schultz’ beloved Peanuts characters. I didn’t hate it; that alone amazed me. What didn’t surprise me at all, though, were the messages of the piece, which represent the worst of what contemporary theatre has to offer. Unfortunately, this “worst” is all-too typical.
So here we have the iconic Peanuts characters, their names cleverly disguised to avoid any conflict with the Schultz estate: CB (Charlie Brown), CB's Sister (Sally Brown), Van (Linus), Van’s Sister (Lucy), Beethoven (Schroeder), Matt (Pig Pen), Tricia (Peppermint Patty), and Marcy (Marcie; apparently Royal ran out of ideas with this character). Of course, you’d have to be wandering the desert for about 50 years to not know who each character really represents.
What were once the innocent, yet wonderfully prescient children of Schultz’ imagination, are now the misunderstood, angst-ridden, perverted, borderline criminal teenagers of the Left’s imagination. This is to be expected in a theatre world dominated by progressives who believe that the more horrific, the more realistic (this despite the evidence from reality, which is a human construct anyway and not grounded in any objective truth, right?). Thus, we have CB and Beethoven struggling with their sexuality; CB’s Sister struggling with her identity; Van as a pothead; Van’s Sister a pyromaniac; Matt a homophobic bully (is there any other kind?); and Tricia and Marcy as drug and alcohol-addicted whores. And what of Snoopy? He died after contracting rabies and mauling Woodstock to death! This all adds up to a contemporary vision of modern teenage life unless, of course, the teenager is conservative, religious, straight, and level-headed; then he or she is an outcast and doesn’t understand “real life.” To that end, I’ll never forget being a student in graduate school and having a literature class with an unattractive lesbian teacher who refused to shave her legs (but apparently loved off to show the hairy limbs as some sort of protest). One day, she was looking at a flyer for a travel company advertising Spring Break trips to some sunny beach, depicting about 10 college students having a wonderful time together. All of them were clean-shaven, decent-looking people with broad smiles on their faces (and not one of the girls had legs that looked in need of a lawn mower). The teacher’s comment was, “I’d never want to go anywhere with these people.” Of course not! Clearly it was they who lacked understanding, depth, and the required angst; why would anyone want to hang out with life-affirming people?
Why do I say this a typical portrayal of contemporary life? Because what I see again and again—especially in art by and for young people—is that life is basically unbearable, with no hope of redemption. Religion is dismissed as useless mysticism, as in the play when Marcy twice reminds her friends that homosexuality is a sin the Bible and they pay no attention to her (in fact, the audience of college students tittered at this). Van’s sister burns the hair of the Little Red-Haired Girl and is confined to an asylum. Van copes by smoking weed to a state of oblivion and just about every character defines him or herself in terms of sex. Beethoven, of course, is the most level-headed, sensitive child who (again, of course) commits suicide as he cannot cope with the homophobic reactions of Matt and the confused advances of CB. For some reason, homosexuals and non-whites (Beethoven is only the former) are seen to have greater understanding and deeper feelings than everybody else. CB, just as confused at his apparent homosexuality as Beethoven, nonetheless is cruder and more callous than his newly-preferred partner in casual and meaningless sex.
Are these truly the beliefs the majority of America’s youth (let alone our adults) have about the world?
I’m going to guess “no,” but for some reason theatre (under the umbrella term “art”) chooses to deny the life-affirming and focus instead on despair, nihilism, and angst, rooted in a profound selfishness and the conviction that problems can be best solved by drugs and mindless, meaningless sexual encounters. None of the problems of the teenagers can be placed on the doorstep of the teens themselves; it’s always the adults or someone else who has destroyed the character’s trust and sense of wonder. Echoes of this can be seen in the current obsession with banning guns and hating anyone who continues to use the letters “N-R-A” in everyday speech. Teenagers of this mindset grow up to be progressives who eek out an existence as “artists” or go into teaching and refuse to shave their legs.
To add insult to injury, ​Dog Sees God ’s ending reminds the characters to be who they are and (to its credit) to embrace life. However, one gets the sense that this is a temporary fix as the characters seem to have no coping skills--save drugs, alcohol, and sex—and have not exactly been great examples of being who they are up to now. Empty platitudes aside, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the lights faded. Sentiment 10, Unshaven Legs 2, Reality 0.