Where are you, Clarence, now that we really need you?

It’s Not Such A Wonderful Life

3 minute read
Is George Bailey happy? Who really gives a damn?
Is George Bailey happy? Who really gives a damn?

If you are truly strong-willed and stout of spirit this holiday season, you’ll manage to avoid watching even a millisecond of one of the greatest and most popular movies ever made— a movie I'm sure you love and cherish: Frank Capra's 1946 classic, It's a Wonderful Life.

Frankly, you've seen this damn movie enough. Young or old, rich or poor, Jew or gentile, you've already spent enough time in Bedford Falls to qualify for residency status and a special parking permit in front of Mr. Potter's office.

A few years ago, when it was still in the public domain, It's a Wonderful Life was shown on virtually every TV channel on the viewing spectrum except the Whips and Chains Network. It was shown in black-and-white, color, upside down, with captions for people who like to brag about how much they read, and in a specially processed version in which George Bailey is rescued not by Clarence the Angel but by Michael Keaton as Batman.
It was actually possible to race It's a Wonderful Life by switching back and forth between different channels showing the movie. Which of the versions would end first— one of those on non-commercial cable or PBS, or one with commercials but with a good half hour to 45 minutes’ head start? And you could also watch befuddled Uncle Billy accidentally hand the money to evil Mr. Potter, then switch channels and watch the old drunk repeat his screw-up all over again.

Old maid librarian
But even if you missed that era, you've still seen It’s A Wonderful Life enough times to know all the words to "Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight," laugh about the names "Bert and Ernie," and do a fair to middling impression of George Bailey shouting out "Zuzu's Petals!"
You’re also, by now, painfully aware of the film’s logical fallacies:
—"Clarence, what's become of Mary?"
"You're not going to like it, George. She's an old maid; she's about to close up the library!"
The way Clarence says this, you'd think he was saying, "She's a crack whore, George; she's about to go down on Mr. Potter!" What's wrong with being an older single woman? What's wrong with being a librarian?
— "No man is a failure who has friends." Right. Hitler had friends. So did Al Capone and Boss Tweed.

If Capra hadn’t been born…

— More to the point: Suppose the Angel Clarence did for you or me what he does in the film for George Bailey— allow us to see what the world would be like if we’d never existed? Chances are we’d find the world pretty much the same without us, if not better. Maybe way better.
So now that It’s A Wonderful Life has fallen into the clutches of the 21st Century equivalent of Mr. Potter— aka Viacom— why keep watching a movie you deeply love but are so manifestly sick of?

Instead, why not imagine what your life would have been like if Frank Capra had never been born. Think of all the productive hours you would have saved by not watching It's a Wonderful Life. Maybe you would have opened a building and loan association, or rescued your brother when he fell through the ice, or prevented an alcoholic pharmacist from mixing the wrong prescription, or saved a pretty girl from spinsterhood. If you hadn’t been watching that damn movie day in and day out, you really could have had a wonderful life, couldn’t you?

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