Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's a Wonderful Life

It is that time of year again when virtually every television channel that does not want to cough up the cash to produce new holiday programming airs It’s a Wonderful Life in every available timeslot. You know the drill. The beloved Jimmy Stewart is a beleaguered everyman, constantly put upon and feeling unappreciated until an angel shows him how terrible life would be without him. To top it all off, the town comes through for him in the end, thereby proving they do love and need him. It is all great, feel good holiday cheer, right?

Good heavens, no. It’s a Wonderful Life, more than just about any other film, has the greatest disparity between its actual message and the way people perceive it. How can anyone think this movie has any sort of positive message? There is no cheer. The movie is all about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, watching everyone else get what you want, seeing your father drive himself to an early grave, suffering at the hands of other, inconsiderate relatives, and languishing through all this mess in a town full of small minded bigots who exist to take advantage of you.

Believe me, the characters in the movie do. George Bailey’s brother, his uncle, his wife, Potter, and even Clarence, who essentially uses him to earn his wings. Do we discover in the end they all love George? Of course we do. They love him because he is a sucker. If you do not believe they are going to hang it over his head forever they sacrificed their Christmas for him, you are too na├»ve for your own good. If George felt downtrodden before, now he will never be able to say or do a thing without someone reminding him of the Christmas of ’45.

There are two real kickers to this. First, as it was shown, life without George was not that. Bedford Falls became Pottersville, a swinging town full of night clubs, loud music, and attractive women. Is that not the kind of excitement George wanted in the first place? Pottersville is a thriving resort town rather than the old, rusty, and poor manufacturing town of Bedford falls. Think of the future as theamerican economy shifted from manufacturing to the service industry which city has fared better, car manufacturing Detroit or resort town Orlando? Pottersville had a better chance of growing than Bedford falls, but since George was born, no such luck.

Second, George is in serious trouble. Even though the $ 8,000 is replaced by the townspeople, he has committed a federal crime—a class D felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. But you know what? I do not sympathize. George humiliates his wife continually to the point you have to wonder what she sees in him. He yells at his kids and tells his senile old uncle off. No wonder people do not mind taking advantage of him. He is a jerk as well as a sucker!

I have to think about that final scene, when George’s brother returns and toasts him as the richest man in town. See, everyone thinks that is because he knows he is now loved. Nah. George is happy because he knows that because he is around, everyone is going to be just as miserable as he is. Misery loves company. That is the reall message of It’s a Wonderful Life.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Rsating: * (out of 5)

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