Good Grief, Charlie Brown!

The exhibition at Somerset house celebrated all things Snoopy and the enduring power of Peanuts.

The space illustrated the history of the iconic comic: the much-loved cartoon. Peanuts is widely acknowledged as one of the most popular and influential comic strips of all time. I didn’t realise before that it focused entirely on a society of young children.

The ongoing storylines and the cast of colourful characters gave a voice to all the joys, vulnerabilities and anxieties of life which I found very relatable and honest, but in a fun sort of way.

Walking round the exhibition, I recognised that Peanuts addressed themes including war, mental health, racism, feminism and gender-fluidity, which all seem as pertinent today as they were when they first appeared in newspapers half a century ago. I wasn’t expecting there to be such a broad spectrum of themes. The comics crossed social and economic boundaries, and stand as a testament to the power of popular arts.

I loved seeing all of the illustrations and how such simple line drawings could become such an iconic series. My favourite pieces were Mel Brimfield, Remembrance of Things Past which recognised the psychological themes employed in Peanuts and the recognition of self-help in today’s society; “I do not let intermittent feeling acceptance deceive me; my work is meaningless and will not stand the test of time.” It is themes like this that makes them so accessible to a large audience. I also like the, “Happiness is…” bunting which just shows that everyone has their own definitions of happiness and it is about finding your own life’s bittersweet experiences.

I enjoyed the fact that the space was interactive with installations including the Snoopy Cinema, where we sat on the bean bags, viewing Peanuts TV specials. There was also a Snoopy drawing station where you could create a comic scene which engages all age demographics and encourages individuals to create their own stories, sparking imagination. I enjoyed sitting down for a couple of minutes and drawing.

I didn’t grow up reading the comic strips themselves, however after Good Grief, Charlie Brown! I’m aware of what I missed and the extent to which these were a massive part of many people’s childhood. The society of young children suggested to me that it is the up-coming generations that can really have an impact on today’s society and help to move thinking forward.

I have learnt that the more interactive a space is and the more vibrancy that is injected, such as colour, visuals and interesting use of space, the more engaging the experience will be, encouraging guests to remain longer.

Rachel

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