It is quite likely that Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown is the first Peanuts special I encountered as a kid. And while I think all the early Peanuts specials had good messages, Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown has some of the most “sincere” (to borrow a term from a different Peanuts special) messages. It presents some very honest truths about love and all the other affections that go with it.
One such truth is the desperation of wanting to be loved. We get this truth close to the end, after Charlie Brown has failed to receive any valentines at all, much less a valentine from the Red-Haired Girl. He says, “I’d give anything if that Little Red-Haired Girl had sent me a valentine.” And not only does he say that, but he says it with such resignation, such a realization that it is just not going to happen.
Another is the material and other constraints of the search for love. Though Linus admires the ground upon which his teacher walks, he knows he is too young, and when he misses his opportunity to give her the valentine he had purchased, he laments the fact that he “spent all [his] money.” The loss of money, a precious and scant commodity at that age, is a further insult to the injury of the loss of love.
Yet another is the “hope springs eternal” aspect of love. After talking over his disappointments with this year’s valentine haul, Charlie Brown switches gears and starts dreaming about the loads of valentines he will get in years to come.
Fortunately, all these truths are balanced with great jokes (Snoopy and Woodstock catching and eating the chocolates Linus throws off the bridge in his anger, Violet saying that she bought a bottle of “heart-shaped shaving lotions” for a man who “wears a beard and saying it to Linus while he is in a rush to catch his teacher, the messages on the candy hearts). They are also offset by the weird way Sally, who threatened to slug Linus if he tried to hold her hand in The Great Pumpkin, now is ready and willing to kiss her “sweet baboo”. But they are still there. I learned them as a kid from this special and experienced them later in life. I’m sure we all did. And while I can’t say I’m happy I did, I can’t really say I’m sad either. Perhaps the best I can do is what Linus did, and just say, “Happy Valentine’s Day” come what may.