Unpopular Opinions: Franklin

For a moment, let’s talk about Franklin.

Franklin Show

No, not him…

Peanuts Franklin

Him.

Franklin (no last lame given) made his debut in Charles Schultz’s Peanuts comics strip on July 31st, 1968. His debut was heralded by some publications, siting that was good to see that Charlie Brown wasn’t colorblind. Indeed, Franklin was one of the first African-American characters in American comics that was an equal and wasn’t some tribal native or something similar, but there’s a trusim here and someone has to say it:

Franklin was a token!

Don’t boo me! It’s true! Listen, I respect that the addition of Franklin to the Peanuts cast was a noteworthy achievement for it’s time. America was just beginning to open it’s eyes to racial equality, and the addition of an ethnic cast member was definitely a step in the right direction. I have no real issues with Franklin personally, but the problem was (and still is) that Franklin has no personality. I challenge anyone to name one thing that they know about Franklin other than the fact that he’s black.

You can’t, because Franklin didn’t do anything. Among the Peanuts characters, he had no job whatsoever. What sort of person is Franklin? What does he like to do in his spare time? What are his likes? His dislikes? What are his relationships with the other kids?

Franklin’s biggest contribution to date was one direct-to-video special in which our boy raps at the start of a baseball game.

Wow, a black kid rapping. Never saw that before. Well, not before noon! Rap is an art form, to be sure, not denying that, but this was clearly given to Franklin solely because of his ethnicity. While it was good to see Franklin at last have something to do, at the same time, this moment was a tad jarring; it would have been like if a Latino kid suddenly jumped on to the screen, shouted “Andale!” and led the gang into doing a Mexican hat dance! To all of the budding young writers out there: when you have an idea for something that a person-of-color can or should do, if you can’t imagine a white character doing these same things, then maybe you need to re-evaluate your script.

Charles Schultz could’ve given him something to do in the strip.

He could have been obsessed with eating doughnuts…

Donuts

Dem doughnuts!

Wizard's Hat

…Or he could have fancied himself as being a suburban wizard, dabbled in the black arts and regularly went around wearing one of those stylin’ pointed hats!

I’m just pulling stuff out of thin air here, but any of those things or some similar could have worked. I would have preferred it if instead of just being a black kid, Franklin had been a fully rounded character who just happened to be black. As it was, Franklin was often overlooked, ignored or left out in subsequent years because he wasn’t an interesting character. However, he wasn’t interesting because his creator Charles Schultz didn’t make him interesting. You can’t blame that on anyone else.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a fictional character be a person-of-color, but it helps when said character actually has a character and possesses some distinguishing traits beyond the color of his/her skin. A character should be a character first and and ethnicity second. ¬†Unfortunately, beyond adding a “touch of color” to the place, Franklin’s actual contributions to the Peanuts franchise were minimal, at best.

Ironically, Franklin was more of a token black than the character who’s actually named Token Black.

Token Black

This kid is at least rich.

Oh, cruel irony!

Nerdvana: My Ever Changing Clothes

One of the most frequently asked question about Cartoon Country is “Why do cartoon characters always wear the same clothes?”. Basically, the process of animation and character design is complicated and time consuming enough without having to come up with different clothes for the characters to wear in every episode. Also, a character’s daily outfit can become iconic and make the character instantly recognizable. Can you imagine Charlie Brown not wearing his trademark yellow shirt with the jagged stripe?

Charlie_Brown
“Actually, I do have a pimp suit, but I left it at home.”
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However, there will be some cases in which some of the characters actually do change clothes. One of the more noteworthy examples of this would be Kimiko Tomoyo from Xiaolin Showdown, who sported a different hairstyle and outfit in almost every episode. Here are just some of Kimiko’s looks:

 
“What’s up with that last one? That hair looks ridiculous!”
 
Then there’s the curious case of Bart Simpson, who for the Simpsons merchandise is usually depicted wearing a light blue shirt instead of the orange one that he usually wears on the show.
 
Personally, I think that Bart should wear the light blue shirt all of the time. It contrasts better with the yellow skin.
 
“Hey, man, orange, blue, as long as FOX pays me, I’ll wear whatever they want. Well, maybe not plaid.”
 Then there’s one of my current favorite characters, Mabel Pines from Disney’s Gravity Falls, who sports a different decorative sweater in every episode (so far). Here are just some…
 
 
 
 
 
 
How many sweaters does that kid own, anyway?
 
 

“Honestly, I stopped counting after 83. It helps that my walk-in closet is a gateway to Hammerspace. True story.”

Fun Fact: Mabel’s sweaters were inspired by series creator Alex Hirsch’s real life twin sister Ariel, whom Mabel is based on.

Then there’s Barbie’s sisters from Barbie: Life in the Dream House. each of these characters has an outfit that she wears for seasons 1 and 2, and another that she wears for seasons 3 and 4.

Skipper

Stacie

Chelsea
 

Stylin’!

Then there’s Blythe Baxter from Littlest Pet Shop, who has sported several different costume changes throughout the series.

“Well, I am based on a doll line, after all. It kind of comes with the territory.”
 
There are some cases where a character’s outfit change makes a huge impact and other times when it’s not so much.
 
Red Shirt Shaggy
 
 
“Check it out. It’s like my regular shirt, but it’s RED! Like, I’m a fashion forward!”
 
Speaking of Scooby Doo, Freddy Jones’ daily outfit was changed for What’s New, Scooby Doo?
 
whats_new_scooby-doo.fred_freddy_jones
fred_jones-3
 
…only to switch back to the ascot look in Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated.
 
 
 
“What can I say? You can’t beat the classics. Also, hardcore fans resist change.”
 
Cartoon characters changing outfits doesn’t happen all of the time, and in my opinion, it doesn’t need to, because it makes the times when it does happen just that much more special.
 
 
“Changing clothes? Nah. Don’t see the fascination with it.”