Arts & Culture

A Very Dysfunctional Thanksgiving

“Isn’t it peculiar, Charlie Brown, how some traditions just slowly fade away?” said Lucy in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. The original context of this quote is lighthearted, but it proves to be true about Thanksgiving as a whole in pop culture–as told by the media, at least. Movies and songs about Thanksgiving are in short supply compared to those about Christmas, making the holiday primarily television-centric. Entertainment that is available presents the day as a time for dysfunctional dinners and bickering with extended family. While these make for good comedy – an opportunity commonly swallowed up for sitcom holiday specials– it’s not that easy to find something more substantial about Thanksgiving on television.

If asked to name five Christmas movies, I’m sure you could do it with ease. Naming five movies about Thanksgiving, however, proves to be more challenging. What did you think of? Home for the Holidays, in which Claudia Larson reluctantly visits her family for the holidays after her life all but falls apart? Or perhaps the scene in Addams Family Values in which Wednesday Addams interrupts a Thanksgiving play by ranting about the cruelties Native Americans face today? There are many more widely adored classic films for Christmas, such as How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Elf. Even Halloween has more movies dedicated to it, with films like Hocus Pocus and the Halloweentown series. A similar trend can be found in the decor aisle of almost every major store; jack-o-lanterns are on sale months before Halloween, and the second that’s over, LED snowflakes line the shelves with plenty of time to spare before Christmas.

A possible reason for this disparity is that Black Friday immediately follows Thanksgiving. Advertisers fill all available airtime with ads for the national day of sales, some of which even begin the day before Friday. Nowadays most stores aren’t even closed on Thanksgiving. As great as it is to find some bargains, focusing on the holiday at hand is more worthwhile by far. We should save the Black Friday sales for, well, Friday.

Another reason could be the lack of Thanksgiving-themed characters, which makes it more difficult to excite younger kids about the holiday. After all, we know that children playing in the snow didn’t magically bring a Frosty the Turkey to life. In fact, the traditional Thanksgiving turkey doesn’t even have a name. It’s much easier to create a Christmas pop cultural atmosphere for children with Santa Claus and Ebenezer Scrooge at writers’ disposal.

It’s relatively easy to picture the average Thanksgiving dinner as portrayed in movies and television: family members gather around a table to argue about politics or how much they dislike insert-name-here’s new spouse. Meanwhile, the turkey is probably burnt, or something else is wrong with the meal itself. The host family is overjoyed when their visiting family members get on their respective flights home. This mold fits most Thanksgiving-centric entertainment in at least one element. Sometimes it’s even worse; sitcoms show Turkey Day as a “Friendsgiving,” completely eliminating the family gathering and instead involving a feast with friends or roommates. In the absence of all media, however, wouldn’t we still celebrate Thanksgiving the same way as always? While real-life Thanksgivings may not be perfect, at least we can take comfort in the fact that our festivities are (probably) not as disorderly.

Regardless of what’s playing on T.V., we should all enjoy some family time this holiday season. At the end of the day, the true spirit of Thanksgiving still exists in our actual lives, so who cares what the television plays in the background? Let’s eat until our belts don’t fit, drink some hot chocolate, and, most importantly, give thanks to the Lord for all the blessings we’ve received this year. To close with one more Charlie Brown quote…

“But Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that’s what they mean by Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown.”

Well said, Marcy. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!




“Thanksgiving: The Ignored Holiday.” The Odyssey Online, 28 Aug. 2017,

Sneed, Tierney. “Is Thanksgiving Pop Culture’s Most Subversive Holiday?” U.S. News, 26 Nov. 2013,

Cruz, Lenika. “Where Are All the Thanksgiving Pop-Culture Classics?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 24 Nov. 2016,

All images are from Google unless otherwise noted.


  1. I love this article, Cassie! 🙂 Thanks for writing it.

  2. Very nice article!