Monday, December 22, 2008

It's A Horrible Life?

Last night David and I snuggled under a blanket for a viewing of "It's a Wonderful Life". This is an annual tradition normally reserved for Christmas Eve, but since we will have David's parents here and a lot going on that day, we thought we would watch it early. It is one of my very favorite movies, and one that I never tire of seeing.

Apparently, I'm not the only one. Wendell Jamieson, writing for The New York Times, declares his affection for the film, even going so far as to state that it still "chokes him up" each time he views it. Ah, how sweet. Me too. But wait...

Mr. Jamieson writes: "Lots of people love this movie of course. But I'm convinced it's for the wrong reasons... 'It’s a Wonderful Life' is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home renovation."

Say what? Were we watching the same movie?

He goes on to wax fondly about the George-less alternate universe "Pottersville", i.e., Bedford Falls under the thumb of black-hearted Henry F. Potter, saying that it would be a lot more fun and a lot more appealing to the adventure-craving George Bailey than the stagnant old town he longed to escape. And not only is Pottersville bigger and better, it would have had a stronger financial future. All those gambling halls and nightclubs would have brought in more money. All that sin would have helped the economy thrive! Mr. Jamieson concludes, "Had George Bailey never been born, the people in his town might very well be better off today."

Well, isn't that sweet? It turns out George should have jumped off that bridge after all. I'm so touched.

In fairness, I suppose Jamieson is right, if your definition of "better off" is exchanging virtue for vice, living a selfish life without concern for others, putting your own desires and dreams ahead of any greater good, and foregoing a family in favor of sowing your oats among the Violet Bicks of the universe.

I don't know about you, but I can just feel the holiday cheer.

Personally, I think we could use a lot more George Baileys and a lot fewer idiotic newspaper columnists.


Evil HR Lady said...

Wickedness always is happiness, always will be happiness and always was happiness. Do I have that right?


Anonymous said...

I read that article too. My first thought was, how stupid is this guy? He missed the point. The point of the movie is that life is made rich, whole, satisfying, and is only filled with happiness and joy when we look outside ourselves, put aside our selfish desires, and serve. George learned that his sacrifices made his life better, but also touched those around him, creating many more friends than he could have sailing the world. Anyway, It's a Wonderful Life, when you look beyond your personal pleasures to see how you can serve those around you.


MyDonkey Five said...

And here I was getting warm fuzzies from the movie. Dang! Thank goodness for people more intelligent than me who can let me know the "real meaning" behind such movies. I can't believe I had it all wrong. ;)

Stephanie Black said...

What a sad, cynical outlook!

How can you miss the joyful message of that movie?

Sara said...


And to think I was just thinking today that the conditions we're in now are eerily similar and could use a good dose of George Bailey.