The Case For Bisexual Peppermint Patty [Pride Week]
Between the new television cartoon, last year's remarkable CGI movie, the new comics put out by Kaboom and the themed strip collections put out by Fantagraphics to supplement the The Complete Peanuts series, it's been a good time to be a fan of the work of Charles M. Schulz. But in absorbing a lot of this stuff, something leaped out at me that I can't push aside: Peppermint Patty --- formally known as Patricia Reichardt --- should be bisexual.
Peppermint Patty & Marcie are one of two pairs of children's characters (the other being Bert & Ernie of Sesame Street) thought of as queer with varying degrees of seriousness. It's generally taken as read, just a tacit fact, and Melanie Gillman & Molly Ostertag wrote wonderful stories exploring the pair in last year's Peanuts: A Tribute To Charles M. Schulz.
Besides Marcie's constantly calling Patty "Sir," there's the fact that the two are almost never seen apart. They constantly bounce off each other, offering a unique outsider look at the goings-on of the Peanuts Gang (it's worth noting that they and Franklin go to a different school than the rest of the kids). Then there's the circumstances behind Peppermint Patty's creation, attitude and dress to consider.
Schulz said in several interviews that Peppermint Patty was created as his response to the women's lib movement of the 1960s, and reflected his desire to have a character that defied traditional gender norms. In a strip where the vast majority of female characters wear dresses, Patty always wore a t-shirt, shorts, and her ubiquitous sandals; the only character who does likewise is Marcie, introduced in 1971. The website SheKnows notes that she fought in a 1972 storyline to go to school dressed as she pleased --- with Snoopy as her lawyer, naturally --- and played all manner of team sports at a time when it wasn't common for girls to do so. Furthermore, she's easily the most outspoken character in the entire strip. More so than Lucy, even.
Besides that and her deep bond with Marcie, there's the matter of Patty's overt flirtation with "Chuck," as she calls him. This is often played for laughs --- there's a great gag in The Peanuts Movie where, when the two brush hands while turning tests in, Patty quips "Chuck! Are you trying to hold my hand?" --- but most of the time, it feels genuine. Charlie Brown, as is his wont, remains oblivious, even when Peppermint Patty drops some pretty obvious hints.
Both Patty's deep bond with Marcie and her unrequited love for ol' Chuck are ingrained tenets of the Peanuts world, so why not take the next logical step and just have both? In the next onscreen Peanuts project --- be it a traditional take or an All Grown Up-esque take where the gang is in middle school or high school, why not just have Patty be out and proud? She's not shy about anything else; why would she hide her sexuality?
It's pretty easy to imagine Patty organizing an LGBTQ+ club or an all-inclusive school dance --- and knocking out anyone who gets in her way. It's also pretty easy to imagine Patty showing up in a dashing suit to senior prom and dancing with both Marcie and Charlie Brown. The possibilities write themselves.
We're finally seeing the walls drop around including LGBT+ characters in children's programming, but there's still a long way to go. Making up for the silent exclusion of the past by making a character already known as a trailblazer into an even bigger one? That's just common sense.