As always happens this time of year, my children become obsessed with the Peanuts Halloween Special, the Peanuts Thanksgiving Special, and the Peanuts Christmas Special. They come together in a special box, and the children can't seem to limit themselves to just the Halloween one upon seeing the other two. That is OK; Halloween being the gateway to the holiday season anyway. Target certainly seems to think so. My point is, I watch the Peanuts a lot this time of year and it got me thinking; which Peanut character am I? For simplicity, I will limit myself to the female characters. I, of course, want to be the Little Red-Haired Girl. Who doesn't want to be the unattainable, mysterious object of someone's affection? I am not. That is pretty obvious. I am not mean enough to be Lucy, although I can approach her level of bossy on a bad day, and Marcie always seemed so sure of herself. I don't think I have that yet, even at the advanced age of 35. I am not Sally; she always struck me as a bit stalkish with Linus and I'm frankly not that bold. No. I think it is pretty clear who I am. I am Peppermint Patty, in all her odd, awkward, freckled glory. That's cool with me; it really is. Ultimately, Peppermint Patty is a misunderstood go-getter who means well; I am proud to have her as my Peanut. But I am not here to talk about that. I am here to talk about Super Toddler. Super Toddler and her fictional film fellow-self. Now, as far as Peanuts go, she is about as Little Red-Haired Girl as you can get:
I may be a little biased, but come on,
the girl is a stunner.
I am not quite sure that film as caught up with Super Toddler and her generation of womanhood yet. Strong, soft, warm, cool, magical, realistic, magnetic, and totally touchable. Real with a million flaws and a million more skills that render them experts at navigating a tricky world by the age of nearly 2. A solid sisterhood in tiny pink Converse sneakers. Super Toddler is such a full person that no one really comes close to being her true celluloid sister. But they sure try out there in Hollywood, they sure do try.
See her enormous eyes gazing back at you from the gorgeously quiet depths of silent film. Watch her playfully wink at you, or feel her pain as she cries. It's all there; marvel at the magnificence she can convey without a single word, through those anime-huge eyes. She can throw Theda Bara's queenly sass, Janet Gaynor's gentle joy, Maria Falconetti's mysterious wealth of soul, and Clara Bow's magical it all at you with just one strong steady stare. She's as sweet and doll-like as Lillian Gish, but there is something lurking just within, reminding you that her Greta Garbo is getting ready to burst forth from the screen like a tornado. It's all in those eyes; luminous lakes both.
But then she speaks, and the ladies of the early talkies speak with her, and in prater just as zingy and fast as any Girl Friday. Her giggles are as adorable as Claudette Colbert, but don't underestimate her. The girl's got stuff to do and places to be, and she is gonna do it with all the vim and nerve of Bette Davis, Norma Shearer, and Joan Crawford. (Minus the wire hangers, of course.) Basically, the child is the entire cast of the Women wrapped up in one teeny tiny never-still body.
My tastes run old and slightly melodramatic, so I see Super Toddler more easily in the peek-a-boo shadows of early film, with those towering noir dames, true-blue farmer's daughters, pistol-fast molls, and cheerfully plucky waifs with hearts of gold. There is something larger than life in Super Toddler, so she reigns supreme in the sweeping expanse of Old Hollywood. Super Toddler can do it all. She'll keep the home fires burning, casually solve a few mysteries, do a bit of lawyering, whistle, become a business tycoon, go on a cruise, and protect the French Resistance. You know, all in a day's work. And she will do it all in high heels and a ridiculous dress because Super Toddler makes anything look good.
Just because I see her more easily in black and white doesn't mean that she does glow in glorious technicolor as well. Was there ever a child more Adventurously Alice or Daring Dorothy or Spirited Sarah or Spunky Sorsha or Defiant Dale? No, there was not. Super Toddler is bold and fearless; bring on your witches, evil spells, or goblins. She's not scared of you or your unfortunate tights. And Super Toddler isn't gonna wait in a tower for kisses or such nonsense either. She'll kiss you when she is good and ready, after the defeat of this here Orc army.
Yeah, I'll get to you in a minute.
I'll bringing order to the galaxy right now.
Super Toddler can rival any great modern actress for emotive ability. She just blooms from a mysterious, light-dappled place within herself, much like Meryl Streep. (Despite what Awkward Grandpa might think about overrated scenery chewing.) She is as unique and quirky as Diane Keaton, and just as captivating. She dazzles like Michelle Pfeiffer, but radiates with the grounded beauty of Viola Davis. She's as hilarious as Melissa McCarthy and as sassy as Jennifer Lawrence. She could out-princess Amy Adams, if she felt like it. She can be as coy as Angelica Huston and as earnest of Vanessa Redgrave and as boisterous as Loretta Devine; often in the same moment. She has the completely otherworldly and ageless wisdom of Judi Dench, and she is just as cute.
Just as cute.
Of course, she is so much much more. No one role or film or image, no matter how iconic or beautiful, could ever capture this little girl. I am fairly confident that nothing will ever capture her; she'll run as free and wild as she chooses, with periodic rests for snacks. When they finally do make a movie about Super Toddler (and know you this, they will) it will be an anemic and pale cousin to the Super Toddler that lived life fully, conquered the hearts of all she met, and was already braver and more fascinating at nearly 2 than most adults. And the movie will still be massively amazing and win every award in creation. Because that is what Little Red-Haired Girls do on their off days.
Well, of course, I'd like to thank the Academy.....