You’re A Marked Man, Charlie Brown!

And you thought Elmo was in trouble…

Charlie, in happier days...

Charlie, in happier days…

Peter Robbins, now 56, who was the voice of Charlie Brown on the TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas” as well as other “Peanuts” television shows, has been arrested and charged Wednesday with stalking and threatening his ex-girlfriend and the plastic surgeon who gave her breast implants—no, this was not the little red-headed girl. I don’t think…

He’s accused of terrorizing her, calling her as many as 37 times in a 24-hour period on her cellphone and threatening to  kill her and her son if she did not give back his dog and car. In the most recent and ugliest incident, Robbins allegedly confronted his former girlfriend in a hotel room and began beating his dog—no, not Snoopy!…at least, gee, I hope not… and threatened to continue hurting the dog, not to mention killing her, if she did not promise to get a refund for the breast enhancement.

I have two observations.

1. This sad story illustrates one of the ways in which children are harmed by premature exposure to pop culture fame before they can understand the ramifications to their future. Robbins’ meltdown and shame, as well as his face and name, are all over the national media today, as the idea of Charlie Brown turning into a stalker is too strange and juicy to ignore. Without the link to the lovable “Peanuts” gang, such an item would barely be local news, much less national water-cooler fodder, but thanks to Robbins’ parents’ decision, made for him, not by him, although his life was the one most affected, his reputation is branded far and wide. Parents have an obligation to consider these things with their children’s best interests in mind. Today’s momentary stardom mat be tomorrow’s shame and permanent handicap.

2. Did Robbins have an obligation to avoid this kind of public embarrassment because it would necessarily drag the iconic, lovable character he is identified with down in the mud with him? Yes, I think so. Although he wasn’t responsible for being made a life-time avatar for the “Peanuts” character, he was, he is, and he’s now old enough to know it. I believe it was the late Clayton Moore, the stiff, sonorous and oddly sublime actor when playing his career-defining role as “The Lone Ranger” on TV, who spoke movingly about this special duty in an article I read long ago. He said that he had resolved to live his life by the same high ethical code as the hero he was identified with. It wouldn’t do, Moore said, for the “Lone Ranger” to be arrested for DUI or beating his wife. “I have an obligation to live up to the standards the Lone Ranger stood for, because I’m the trustee for his image, and I can’t let him down. In return, he makes me a better human being than I was before I met him,”  Moore said. (I’m paraphrasing. It was an old newspaper feature, and it’s long gone.)

It’s a shame that Robbins couldn’t strike the same deal with Charlie Brown. Then I wouldn’t have this image in my head of Charlie Brown beating Snoopy while demanding that the busty little red-headed girl give him his car keys.


Facts: Fox News

Graphic: AM NY

14 thoughts on “You’re A Marked Man, Charlie Brown!

  1. I’m no Family Guy fan, but when I was, this reminds of one of the more humorous side-episodes in which the whole Peanut’s gang, grown up, have a reunion, sans Charlie Brown.

    Then he bursts in with an *assumed* prostitute in tow, and punches out Schroeder, and goes off on a diatribe “Remember me? Your ole punching bag, Charlie Brown….” before ranting on about how they’d rather wish Snoopy was there, but that he was dead.

    I think it is a valid connection to make “Did Robbins have an obligation to avoid this kind of public embarrassment because it would necessarily drag the iconic, lovable character he is identified with down in the mud with him? Yes, I think so.”

    Although you personally aren’t the character you portray, in the minds of the viewers (especially the youngest viewers, who cannot make the distinction) you are that character and your personal behavior therefore has significant social impact.

    Audie Murphy, although not living the most pristine life after World War II, had, through his war and cowboy movies, become an iconic hero to children. One night, after one war-nightmare too many, he chose to take his life, and pistol in hand, called up a buddy to inform of his decision. The buddy essentially asked, “What will the children think?” Audie cursed his friend, hung up the phone, and went on living.

  2. Jack, your comments about Clayton Moore got me to remembering one of the reasons I became such a fan of Clayton Moore, the man, even more than his acting. It’s from William C. Cline in “Those Enduring Matinee Idols”:
    “In conclusion, I want to describe a vignette I witnessed during the afternoon that illustrated why Clayton Moore has been so successful and well-loved during his 24-year stint as ‘The Lone Ranger’, and why those of us who cherish serials detected the quality of the man even before then.
    As Moore stood talking–with occasional interruption to shake hands with fans, sign autographs, and even speak to a small boy about the dangers of handling real firearms–a young woman timidly approached him holding the hands of a little lad of about seven and a girl perhaps nine years old. The boy gathered up his courage and thrust out his hand boldly. ‘Hello, Lone Ranger,’ he blurted. ‘My daddy says you’re the best. How come you’re not on TV anymore?’
    The little girl just stood there.
    ‘Thank you, son,” Moore replied. ‘I’m sure your dad is a great fellow, too. Maybe some time later the TV stations will show the programs again. Then you and your sister can see Tonto and me in action like your dad and mother did.’
    The little girl continued to just stand there.
    Turning to her, Moore noticed the expression on her face–that unique, particular expression that indicates only one thing, blindness. Looking up at the mother, he spoke one word, softly: ‘Total?’ he asked.
    ‘Not quite, but legally,’ she replied.
    ‘Here, take my two hands, honey,’ he said, turning his full attention to the girl. Gently drawing her closer to himself, he placed her hesitating fingers on his face and mask, the famous red bandana, the drawcords on his blue shirt, and then the huge silver buckle and belt at his waist. Then he touched her fingers ever-so-lightly to the silver handles of his holstered pistols and looking straight into her eyes–eyes that obviously could see him back only as an indistinct blur–quietly whispered, ‘God bless you, sweetheart.’
    He placed the little girl’s hands back into her mother’s and smiled. The mother smiled back, not attempting to speak. Without another word, the trio turned and walked away.
    It was sudden, unexpected, and only lasted a few minutes. Yet from a man who has played heroes and villains, traded shots with the worst bad guys the movies and TV could dish up, and fought rough-and-tumble with the likes of Tom Steele, Dale Van Sickel, Roy Barcroft, Ken Terrell, Eddie Parker, and Fred Graham, there had come a small gesture to a little girl, so tender, so compassionate, so loving, that it summed up eloquently what Clayton Moore has made ‘The Lone Ranger’ mean to two generations of American youth. Trusted Friend.”

    Now there is a hero.

    Do they still make actors like that?

    • Thanks, Karl. A Comment of the Day!
      And I do think there are a few. I related here (I think here) the story of how Mandy Patinkin has said that he will honor, till the day he dies, the regular requests he gets, even on the street, to say his famous mantra from the “Princess Pride”–“My name in Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” out of respect for the film, the role, the character, and the fans of them all. And when it’s a child, he gets down by the child’s ear and tells him or her to close their eyes and imaging Inigo,as he whispers it in their ear.

      Clayton would have approved, I think.

      • Yes, you did pass that along, right here on Ethics Alarms, and I had forgotten about it. But, I’m sure glad you reminded me of it. And, yes, I agree that Clayton would very much have approved. A few more like him and Mandy in it, and Hollywood would be a better place.

  3. I dont think he had an obligation to Charlie’s image. Clayton Moore may have felt obligated to represent the Lone Ranger but he did so from a position of age and maturity. The role of Charlie Brown was thrust upon Peter Robins well before we could reasonably consider him capable of choosing life long responsibilities.

    Moreover with live acting, I would argue that the pressure to act responsibly is greater. The characters image is literally intertwined with you own. You both inhabit the same body and as such everywhere you go people who watched The Lone Ranger will immediately recognize you as such. I don’t think Peter was walking around being recognized as Charlie Brown.

    • No doubt, with live acting, the identification is greater. But the current story disproves your point, doesn’t it?

      Regarding obligation: the children of famous and admired people and famous families are born into such obligations, and worse. The Kennedys and the Rockefellers are classic examples. They have a legacy to protect from birth, and a duty to protect it—with the privileges come the obligations. will the Obama girls have the same freedom to become, say, porn stars, strippers, adult entertainers or circus snake charmer’s as other women? You know the answer.

      • I see it more as an example expectation vs obligation. He has no ethical obligation to the character, or at least much less when compared to The Lone Ranger, but in practice people will ignore that because its too easy (and enjoyable) to expect it of him.

    • Regardless of whatever obligation was owed to the character he voiced, Peter Robbins is old enough to know that the actions he has been engaging in are 1), wrong; 2), unethical; 3), immoral; 4), despicable; and, 5), illegal. He certainly had an obligation to his ex-girlfriend and society at large, to settle whatever grievances he may have felt he had in a more civilized fashion. But, Jack, I think, is right in noting that in making his slide from fame (however minor) to infamy, the benighted Mr. Robbins has ensured that whenever an old “Peanuts” TV special airs, some in the audience are going to remember (however much they might prefer not to) that the voice of Charlie Brown is coming from the mouth of someone who would later choose to behave like a complete and criminal jerk. The “Peanuts” specials have generally represented television at its best: uplifting without being cloying, humorous without being ridiculing, and providing role-modeling without being preachy. We don’t need Mr. Robbins’ misdeeds coming between great television and us.

  4. I’m a little confused by your point 1. Wouldn’t that lead to the conclusion that it is always wrong for parents to let their child appear in any production that could become well known?

    • You know, Barry, it might. I’ve talked to Paul Petersen about this. He says, “Well, but show business has to have kids!” And I say (though I haven’t to him), isn’t that like saying, “It isn’t a circus without elephants”? I”m not firm on this, but it may be that child performing at the professional level is just too dangerous, and it should be banned outright.

      • Your recent posts on this one have caused me to meditate on the topic greatly.

        Not saying that my daughter has a serious likelihood of becoming a child celebrity, but I did the thought experiment. If a talent agent came to us and proposed that she could be a hugely successful child star and make a fortune and fame, I think I would tell them no.

        And tears in my eyes as I break the sad news to my daughter who just simply wouldn’t understand the danger, but only sees mean parents denying an apparently (to her mind) awesome thing.

        I donno. Talk about ethical dilemma.

  5. I don’t think this guy got in trouble because he was a child star of sorts. If the story is accurate, he got in trouble due to being an abusive scumbag.

    THAT – not Charlie Brown – is his shame.

    And yes, it’s bad luck for him that he’s connected to a well-known TV special, and thus this is newsworthy. The same thing would happen to the child of a well-known politician or author, but I’m not prepared to say that therefore famous people have a responsibility to never have children.

    Just as we don’t call a drunk driver a victim because he hit and killed a nun and is going to prison whereas another, luckier drunk driver hit a shrub and gets no punishment at all, I can’t see calling Mr. Robbins a victim because he’s getting widespread loathing whereas other, luckier abusive scumbags pass below the radar.

    Mr. Robbins is getting nothing that he hasn’t richly earned through his own bad acts. That another person could commit similar bad acts and not get into the newspapers for it is a matter of moral luck, but it’s not a reason to consider Mr. Robbins a victim.

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