Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Why I Despise "It's A Wonderful Life."

Since our home is mostly mercifully free of TV (except for Masterpiece Theater) I manage to avoid the flood of Christmas ktich that fills the airwaves at this time of year, and don't miss it a bit. OK, I always enjoy the orginal Boris Karloff narrated "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," with its wonderful score. I can stand "A Charlie Brown Christmas" about once every five years, if I happen to be where it's on. And I liked the orginal "Miracle on 34th St.", with Edmund Gwenn as "Kris Kringle," but I've seen it a couple times and don't need it again. All the rest range from shruggable sacharrine to utter dreck, but the one I really, really loathe is Frank Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life."

I'm sure every human being in America knows the plot: George Bailey, after a life of virtuous self-denial, suffers one last setback, and stands on a bridge contemplating suicide and wishing he'd never been born. Clarence, the trainee angel, appears to him to dissuade him by showing all the sorrow that would have occured if he hadn't been there.

It's not just that the happy ending is a cheat: even if George is able to replace the missing money from the donations of his grateful community, he's still due for a raking over the coals from whatever auditors or regulators existed at the time, at a minimum. And the fact that you put the money back is not a defense to a charge of embezzlement, although it may be a mitigation.

No, it's that if you have known someone who committed suicide, have attempted suicide, or have contemplated suicide, you know that angels don't appear to ordinary schmoes to lead them back from the brink. I'm sure that many people may have prayed, or sought religious guidance, or just been dissuaded by "feeling the love of Jesus" or some such, but that's not the same. Perhaps it's just that George Bailey is so damned saintly that he's worth a miraculous intercession, but that raises the same problem as happens with other "miraculous" rescues. Someone is saved from some disaster, and gives thanks that God saved them, totally ignoring that dozens equally innocent were not spared.

So George Bailey's a saint and was saved by a miracle, and the rest of you--aren't and won't be. Swell.

Oh, I get it that the message is supposed to be that we should look back on our own lives and take comfort in the good we've done. Well, what if you haven't got much? What I really, really want is for someone to do a no-holds-barred claws-out satire on this theme. The angel does a review for the "George" figure and finds that if his wife, who's loyally stuck with him through his rocky life, hadn't agreed to go out with him, she'd have had a really spectacular life with the guy she would have met five minutes later; his kids have all inherited genes for an incurable disease; people who relied on his bad advice had their lives really screwed up while he went obliviously on his way. (As a former lawyer, I understand the potential of this--.) And the angel ends up saying, "Oh, well, might as well jump, then."

Maybe in these days of "YouTube," someone will do it. Until then, I think I'll go home and rerun "Nightmare Before Christmas"--.
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