I hate It’s a Wonderful Life.
It’s not the bell ringing and the angel wings. I sort of expect things like that in Christmas movies. And you can’t help but like Clarence a little anyway. Who would begrudge him wings?
And it’s not even that the movie makes no sense. Although it doesn’t, since George wants to kill himself, so telling him what would happen if he hadn’t been born doesn’t really tell him anything about what might happen if he dies now (sure, he whines about wishing he’d never been born and all that, but it’s not like that’s a Christmas wish Clarence was going to magically grant or something). What George really needs is the spirit of Christmas future, but I guess he was busy in that other movie.
It’s really the whole beginning of the movie, before the missing money and the drunken uncle and the jumping off bridges that bothers me. And by bothers me, I mean it makes me irrationally angry to the point where I want to throw things at the screen. Is this really the message of the season, that we should give up all hopes and dreams and do only what everyone else wants? That we’re obligated to pick up the pieces when other people fuck up? And now that I think of it, maybe it’s not just the beginning. All that stuff about how everyone’s lives were better because of George? Way to absolve every single person in Bedford Falls of responsibility for their own lives and put all that weight on George. No wonder he wanted to kill himself. It’s one thing to make a difference in the lives of others, but is it really his fault is Mary becomes an old maid without him? Was George the only man in the entire town?
The idea of the ending is nice — you sometimes end up where you don’t expect, but don’t overlook the joy in the new destination. (Or something.) But I just can’t get over how he never really even tried doing what he wanted. Or, maybe he did do what he wanted, but it was the expense of something else he wanted and so he was a big mopey baby about it.
I realize I’m projecting onto George. I spent way too much time feeling responsible for everyone else and now I’m trying to figure out the delicate balancing act of being the right amount of selfish. It’s exhausting enough just to carry around the weight of your own life, after all. But when I think of It’s a Wonderful Life, I want to yell at young George to go see the world, already. Hire someone else to run the bank and get on the damn train. And I want to tell the rest of the town to get off their lazy asses and save themselves. Stop being such an albatross around George’s neck.
I’m tired right now just thinking about it. And apparently, I’ve somehow managed to take on the burden of the lives of fictional characters in a fictional movie that was filmed before the invention of technicolor. Maybe the first person I should yell at is myself.