So I've just returned from a holiday gathering and, appropriately enough, It's a Wonderful Life is on. Despite the fact that the older I get, the more I cry at it, there are still a couple of things that I question every time I see it. Before I go off on a tangent, I would like to state right now that I do like this movie, and I love Jimmy Stewart; I like Jimmy even better in The Philadelphia Story but that's really besides the point. The point is, was George Bailey really all that wrong for wanting what he wanted out of life?
The movie would have you believe that George had to go through what he had to go through to learn to appreciate the life that he had. He was too much of a whiny crybaby, always going on about what he had missed out on and he didn't appreciate his wife and kids enough and therefore he must be taught a lesson by AIT (angel-in-training) Clarence, so that George could get his priorities straightened out. However, as someone who has probably sounded like pre-lesson George more than once, I have to say, I kind of understand where frustrated George is coming from.
Let's take a look at the facts:
Exhibit A- At 12 George saves his younger brother, Harry, and in return loses the hearing in one of his ears, rendered half-deaf the rest of his life.
Exhibit B-On the verge of finally reaching his dream of traveling to far off countries, perhaps in search of an adventure or two, George has to step in and take over the family business. He misses out on college, on those precious years where irresponsibility is allowed without the payback of consequences (at least in most cases) and he has to deal with a whole lot of things he isn't prepared to handle.
Exhibit C-not only does George have the curmudgeonly, bitter Potter on his back the whole time, but he also has to deal with an, essentially, useless Uncle Billy. This is the Uncle Billy who is unable to run the family business on his own; the Uncle Billy who ties strings around his fingers as reminders and all he gets is reduced circulation; the Uncle Billy who has a pet raven. If I was George Bailey, my lesson might have to be brought to me courtesy of the penal system because I might be in for my role in Uncle Billy's terrible "accident".
Exhibit D- George has a wife, 3 kids and a house that could at best be described as a "fixer-upper". Let's face it. George is 4 adopted kids away from an appearance on Extreme Home Makeover.
These are just the major things of the plot that I'm addressing. There's also the fact that younger bro Harry seems to get everything he ever wants and that some of George's classmates are rolling in so much dough they're practically rolling pins, but I'm just saying that I understand why George is angry and bitter. Clearly wishing he were never born is a little over-doing it, but I get it.
And here's where I'm going to get blasphemous. I wouldn't mind seeing a re-make of It's A Wonderful Life. I wouldn't mind seeing a version where, after the big to-do at the house, and the neighborhood saves him from debt, maybe George and Mary get to take a cruise to the Bahamas. Or maybe they decide to go on an archaeological dig in the Holy Land and maybe Uncle Harry has to look after the kids for a while. Or maybe Uncle Billy finally retires and Harry has to take over the business for a while and George gets a chance to finish college. I don't know, but something BETTER has to happen to George. Maybe it's just my generational sense of entitlement talking, but George really gets the short end of the stick and he deserves better.
And don't even get me started on the idea that when George is "erased" from the world, Mary is destined to become an "old" maid. I refuse to believe that Donna Reed would ever have looked as second-rate as non-George Mary is forced to look. I'm sure if there wasn't George, Mary could have been just as foxy as Violet, perhaps carrying on an illicit affair with Potter, who would, of course, be her sugar daddy. Reinforcing the idea that there's only one "mate" for all of us, otherwise we end up sad, ugly and alone is not a Christmas-y prospect! On that note, Happy Holidays all!
*poster photo courtesy of Wikipedia.