How Snoopy has become an icon for Gen Z

Charles Schulz in his office.
Cartoonist Charles Schulz displays a sketch of his beloved character "Snoopy" in his office in Santa Rosa, Calif., in 1997.
Ben Margo | AP 1997

The weather may not feel like it, but we’re creeping into the holiday season. Which for many, means Peanuts specials.

Maybe you watched the “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” over Halloween or are planning to watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Those specials may garner a certain kind of nostalgia for you, especially if you hail from Charles Schulz’s hometown of St. Paul.

But a recent trend is making one special Peanuts character very modern. One St. Paul native and assistant editor at The Atlantic, Elise Hannum, is dubbing Snoopy a Gen Z icon. She joined MPR News guest host Catharine Richert to talk about how he’s made a comeback on social media.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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Audio transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] KATHERINE RICHARD: The weather may not feel like it, but we are creeping into the holiday season, which for many means Peanuts Specials. Maybe you watch the Great Pumpkin over Halloween, or you're planning to watch Charlie Brown Christmas, those specials may garner a certain kind of nostalgia for you. Especially, if you hail from Charles Schulz's hometown of St. Paul.

But a recent trend is making one special Peanuts character very modern. One St. Paul native and Assistant Editor at The Atlantic, Elise Hannum, is dubbing Snoopy a Gen Z icon. She's here now to talk about how he's made a comeback on social media. Welcome Elise.

ELISE HANNUM: Hi. Thanks for having me.

KATHERINE RICHARD: OK. So St. Paul is your hometown. How much was Snoopy a part of your life when you were growing up?

ELISE HANNUM: Yeah. I mean, he was definitely a part of my life. Very similar to what you were just saying, watching those holiday specials with my family, but also going to Camp Snoopy at the Mall of America-- when that was still open-- as well as seeing those Snoopy statues all around town. So, definitely, saw him around a lot growing up.

KATHERINE RICHARD: So how did you first notice Snoopy in a very particular way that's really making a comeback? And can you describe it for the elder millennials, like me, who are really not on TikTok? What are you saying?

ELISE HANNUM: Yeah, definitely. So something that I noticed-- mostly, just like going through social media on my own time-- is that people were putting together these supercuts of different clips of Snoopy from those animated specials, and putting them over modern music, and sharing them all around. And they would get a lot of views. And a lot of comments that would be something along the lines of, he's so like me, or I feel that, or, kind of, being able to relate to him.

So it's this-- basically, resurgence of the Snoopy character specifically, but this version of him that is not as softened, as sanitized as we might have seen growing up as a corporate mascot or something-- but, kind of, with warts and all. As a bit of a drama queen, a little bit of an impish character that people are really embracing.

KATHERINE RICHARD: So why is it so remarkable that Snoopy is so popular among teens and twentysomethings?

ELISE HANNUM: I think it definitely speaks to the staying power. One of the Peanuts strip generally. Obviously, those first strips ran in the 1950s and to see people have so much affection for those characters and Snoopy now feels really remarkable, because that's a very long stretch of time. And I think there's something very special about new people discovering pieces of media, and discovering characters and finding something to relate to even though we've come so far or so much time has passed rather from its original release basically.

So being able to see all those different reactions from different people is interesting. And although the article focuses on Gen Z, what's something that I thought was really cool as well is that even though this is focusing on, kind of, how people in their late teens, early 20s are relating to Snoopy, so many people had a Snoopy story or had something to talk about in relation to the Peanuts. So that staying power is a really special.

KATHERINE RICHARD: And he's just a cute cartoon dog. I mean it's hard to not to find something relatable about that. Who doesn't like it? So tell me a little bit more about the most popular Snoopy TikTok account? It's called snoopy is cool. It was made by a teenager, right?

ELISE HANNUM: Yes, it was. Who only, kind of, goes by snoopy sister, because I believe her sister also has gone viral online a few times. Yeah, so, that's one of the bigger accounts online. And she will basically, again, make those supercuts over new music she likes. Or, I think, I'm trying to remember some of those TikToks specifically.

But I think it'll be one where it's Snoopy is in a clip of him crying in the shower or something over modern music, and the text at the bottom, like the description, would be like had a bad week this week. So very much influenced, it seems, by her own personal experiences, but also again resonating with a lot of people. But yeah just a teenager who really loves Snoopy and loves to cut together old animated clips of Snoopy.

And she went viral after she infamously was grounded and could not post Snoopy videos. But then she came back so--

KATHERINE RICHARD: Man, I love it. We talked so much about how challenging social media can be for teens in particular, but this is the good stuff, right? That's what we come here for. It's this kind of stuff. So what do you think? Do you think this is all a fad, or do you think that Snoopy is here to stay in whatever form that ends up looking like?

ELISE HANNUM: Yeah. I mean it's definitely hard to know how long a trend is going to last on the internet. Things move so fast. And what's up can be down within a matter of hours depending on a meme or something.

But, honestly, I do think that maybe this can stick just beyond, sort of, the cultural social media pieces. There's a lot of merchandise and other, sort of, more tangible things that people can buy to, sort of, represent their Snoopy fandom. And I do think that can give a trend more relevancy, kind of, off the internet and off TikTok, which can seem very expansive, but can also--

I could go up to somebody on the street right now and be like don't you know that the girls love Snoopy. And they might not know what I'm talking about. So that, kind of, commercial mainstreaming also could be helpful. So I think Snoopy will stick around. I hope Snoopy will stick around.

KATHERINE RICHARD: Gosh me too, me too. That was Elise Hannum. And she's the Assistant Editor of The Atlantic and also a St. Paul native who happens to know a thing or two about Snoopy having grown up there. Thank you so much Elise.

ELISE HANNUM: Thank you.

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