I usually talk about horror, sci-fi and fantasy movies on this blog. But today being Christmas Eve, I think I will talk about how It's a Wonderful Life is the most Humanist Christmas Movie ever made.
For the three people out there who may be unfamiliar with the movie, It's a Wonderful Life is the story of George Bailey. George is a young man with big dreams who life seems determined to keep in his tiny town of Bedford Falls, despite his dreams of traveling the world. He ends up running his family's Building and Loan and when his absent-minded uncle misplaces some money just as a bank examiner comes to look over his operation, becomes distraught and suicidal. An angel (in training) named Clarence comes to his aid and shows George what life in Bedford Falls would be like if George had never existed. Eventually, George decides he wants to live and the whole town rallies to help him out of his predicament. Clarence gets his wings, the end, Roll credits
Now, some of you may be thinking "Humanist? It's a movie about an angel, sent by God to prevent a suicidal man from carrying through. It's as religious as hell," and on the surface, you would be right. But really, the angel and the God stuff, those are all plot devices and little else. Clarence could be a genie or a Time Lord, and it would only change the film on a superficial level.
What the film is really about is how George made the world a better place by his actions. George saved his brother's life when they were kids, and his brother went on to save the lives of others on a troop transport in WWII. Young George prevented the pharmacist he was working for (distracted because of the death of his son) from killing someone with the wrong medicine. George took risks with his Building and Loan to make sure that as many people as possible in Bedford Falls had a roof over their head. And so on. And he did these things not because of some vague cosmic reward for being good, not because he was inspired by God or the inherent goodness of the universe, but because he was just a good man and these were the things a good man should do.
And in the end, because he did these things and despite having no expectation of reward, when his own hour of need came, the many many people he had helped and befriended came to his aid. Happy endings for all, even the trainee angel who finally earned his wings.
Now, those among my readership who know me personally know that I am not an optimistic man. And I realize that the real world does not work out so nicely cut and dried as it does in a hopeful Christmas movie. But still, the idea of just being good, for goodness sake, is still a laudable goal, attainable or not. And if we all strove to do it, maybe life would be, if not wonderful, at least less shitty. And that my friends, is what Christmas should be all about.
Merry Christmas everyone, from all of us (ok, both of us) at 52 Bad Stories and more