Unrequited love: A feeling of love that is not returned or reciprocated. Some call it selfless and romantic. To others, it’s just seen as an excuse for stalking and moping. We have seen it in a countless number of times in literature, movies and in culture as a whole: Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Duckie in Pretty in Pink, and Cyrano in Cyrano de Bergerac. However, one of my favorite examples of unrequited love is that of one Charlie Brown of the Peanuts comic strips.
Charlie Brown’s infatuation with the Little Red Haired Girl is portrayed as endearing to some, while to others, heartbreaking. We all, during one point or another in our lives, have felt such great passion and affection for someone who sadly does not feel the same way, or for someone we were too afraid to ask and never gained closure.
Mention of their name gives you the strength of a thousand bulls, yet the sound of their voice makes you smaller than a bug in an instant. Sometimes his love comes close to idolatry-proportions. In one strip, he finds a pencil the Little Red-Haired Girl had dropped in the hallway, and upon picking it up and inspecting it with love, exclaims, “She nibbles on her pencil! SHE’S HUMAN!” It’s a sweet moment.
At the same time, Charlie Brown plays into every “nice guys finish last” stereotype under the sun. He laments, “The amazing thing is that I know I’m the sort of person she’d like. I mean I’m not rough, crude, or anything. I’m not the greatest person who ever lived, of course. But after all, who is. I’m just a nice sort of a guy, who never gets to meet red-haired girls.” When hearing this, you initially feel for the guy. Why can’t he just find that special someone? Why can’t that Little Red Haired Girl notice him already and realize how wonderful he really is. But… is he so wonderful?
I hate to be the one to say it, but… Charlie Brown is a “fraidy-cat.” He’s a wuss, and frankly, a bit of a Debby Downer. Now granted, it doesn’t help when all your “friends” treat you like a leper and are the butt of everyone’s jokes, but let’s just look at it through the lens of someone never knowing the guy or his background, much as if you were going on a blind date with the guy. He’s a depressive loner, whose self-deprecation has no bounds and a personality so bland it makes bread look like sushi. No one wants to share a romantic night out with that.
Sometimes, his actions (or lack thereof) are just down right pathetic. For instance, he sees the Little Red Haired Girl getting pushed down off into the distance by a bully, and instead of going there and protecting her or at least doing something, ANYTHING of substance, he wails and moans about how he isn’t tough enough and how he wishes he weren’t so scared. Instead, Linus goes with his trusty blanket and diffuses the situation, with Brown replying, “It’s very comforting. I’m the friend of a hero.” Oh come on Charlie Brown! Grow a pair!
I’m not saying become Dirty Harry, but give me a break. This is unrequited love at its core. While some characters use their undying passions to make immense and selfless sacrifices for the one’s they love, the great majority have stood in the background, grabbed their rattle, and cried, “Woe is me.” Sadness breeds sadness and such energy is likely to attract no one, especially the significant other you want to hold in your arms.
“Wouldn’t it be something if that Little Red-Haired Girl came over and gave me a kiss? I’d say ‘Thank you. What was that for?’ And wouldn’t it be something if she said ‘Because I’ve always loved you?’ Then I’d give her a big hug and she’d kiss me again. Wouldn’t that be something? And wouldn’t it be something if it turned out that French fries were good for you,” Charlie daydreams.
I guess the point is this… you can always chase the Little Red-Haired Girl. You can write her love poems. You can promise to lasso the moon for her. You can stand with her on a mountain and bathe in the sea. But if you don’t do anything… you’ll never know. You’ll always be a Charlie. This classic unrequited love is misrepresented. It makes a good story, but it’s truly a tragedy for those looking for a happy ending.