It’s that time again to pay our annual homage to Charles M. Schulz’s classic 1966 Halloween cartoon, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”
Most feel empathy for Linus and Sally as they forgo trick-or-treating and Violet’s Halloween party to await the arrival of the Great Pumpkin in their pumpkin patch.
Most viewers also have a favorite memorable moment from this show such as Snoopy moving stealthily in the fields as a downed World War I flying ace; Charlie Brown saying, “I got a rock” instead of candy; or Lucy over-reacting when she exclaims, “I’ve been kissed by a dog! I have dog germs! Get hot water, get some disinfectant, get some iodine!”
My favorite moment is the one that never happens: the arrival of the Great Pumpkin. By building up the Great Pumpkin’s appearance with such confidence and excitement, Linus heightens the anticipation and adrenaline rush. It doesn’t matter that there is a no-show, we still get the thrill.
In the history of theater, film, television and online streaming, numerous no-shows or unseen characters are central to the plot of the stories being told.
For example, Rosaline, a love interest of Romeo, is an important character in William Shakespeare’s 1597 “Romeo and Juliet.” Romeo goes to the Capulet gathering to catch a glimpse of this woman he has described as spectacularly beautiful and “the all-seeing sun.” Neither Romeo nor the audience see Rosaline, but they do see Juliet who then becomes Romeo’s new muse.
Another famous theater no-show is Harvey the invisible, 6 foot, 3 ½ inch, Pooka that looks like a rabbit. Mary Chase won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1945 for this creation. In 1950, Harvey was brought to the big screen and starred James Stewart who was nominated for an Oscar and Josephine Hull who won the Oscar for best actress in a supporting role for her performance.
And just think about how many main characters never appear in the story named after them. In Samuel Beckett’s 1953 “Waiting for Godot,” the two main characters wait the entire play for Godot, who never appears. The very creepy “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968) treats audiences only to views of a crib and to incredible looks of dread on Mia Farrow’s face as she looks at the baby. In the 1999 first-person horror film, “The Blair Witch Project,” we don’t see the title character, but only home video close-ups of her terrified victims.
So why do invisible characters provide us with such exciting entertainment? The simple answer is that our imaginations are stronger and more vivid than anything a writer can produce. By letting the viewers fill in the blank characters, authors energize their works by tapping into the limitless mental power of the collective.
I believe this “Great Pumpkin Effect” works the same in politics as well, especially when they devolve into entertainment and not serious attempts at governing. There is absolutely no evidence that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Each time Mike Lindell, Kari Lake, Donald Trump or other election fraud peddlers say they have evidence and facts to substantiate their wild claims, they fail to produce anything.
Within hours of being indicted for the fourth time on Monday, Aug. 14, former President Trump announced he would hold a press conference the next Monday to release a 100-page report detailing election fraud from the 2020 election. He added that, “based on the results of this CONCLUSIVE Report, all charges should be dropped against me & others.” On Thursday, Aug. 17, Trump canceled this press conference.
Yes, America loves a good no-show. By getting voters to use their imagination at how widespread the fictitious voter fraud is, Trump seizes their unwavering support without evidence or facts. Like the Great Pumpkin, Donald Trump knows how to steal the show.
Dave Berger of Maple Grove, Minnesota, is a retired sociology professor, a freelance writer and author.