Is It a Wonderful Life…Without Mary?

Personally, I’ve always felt that there had been too much, boo, hoo, over George!  Mary, whether…’just another housewife’, as we would current day say; kept her shit…and, her family together.

Why the Hero of “It’s a Wonderful Life” Isn’t George Bailey

Eric Teachout | December 20, 2018

Why the Hero of "It's a Wonderful Life" Isn't George Bailey

I think I’m not the only person that cries every time I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The movie pulls our heart strings because we can all relate to George Bailey: man has dreams to see the world and do big things, but is instead given a meager life of service. Many reduce the film’s central message to a dichotomy of  selfishness vs. selflessness, for good or ill. However, it’s not the greedy capitalists or the needs of others that George is struggling against, but something much deeper. Ultimately, George is wrestling with his own destiny, and often in the midst of life’s frustrations, so are we.

I try to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” every Christmas, and after watching it this year with a friend, we noticed something new. It wasn’t the dramatic change in the protagonist, but the steadiness of his wife: the ever faithful Mary Hatch Bailey.

Now we’ve all been taught—by middle school English teachers and film critics alike—that morally perfect characters are flat and boring. If this is true, then Mary Bailey should hold no sway over our hearts. Throughout the plot, Mary is seemingly flawless; about the only crime she could be said to have committed is breaking a perfectly good record album.

And yet, while it’s George we relate to, we can’t help but find Mary incredibly desirable. She stands iconicly as the devoted wife, and the movie is jam packed with these shining moments of Mary.

Take, for example, their wedding day.

George and Mary scraped together a honeymoon fund of $2,000 to wine and dine and see the world. But, when there is a run on the banks, the beloved Building & Loan is out of money, and George must attempt to dissuade a mob of people thirsty for cash. Beholding such a moment, it would have been perfectly natural for Mary—who insisted that George never get out of the car—to become very upset for the ruined day.

But when faced with crisis, Mary holds up their wad of cash (equivalent to about $35,000 in 2018) and yells to the crowd, “How much do you need?” She doesn’t even blink at the opportunity to rescue her husband and community. Later that night, Mary fixes up the old, rickety Granville house for the honeymoon they will never have.

As the film progresses, George’s ungratefulness only becomes more sharply contrasted with Mary’s devoted-ness. When George reels over the temptation of a lucrative job under Mr. Potter, Mary gleefully announces that she is carrying their first child. George spends his days toiling at Building & Loan and disparaging his beat-up car, but Mary faithfully fixes up the house and raises their children. While George contemplates suicide over the misplaced $8,000, Mary goes on the move and resourcefully mobilizes the town to come to their aid.

Over and over, the film belabors the point that Mary is the better person. Through poverty and obscurity, Mary remains contented, apparently because she got her life wish of marrying George Bailey, despite his feverish restlessness.

The central plot and driving force behind “It’s a Wonderful Life” isn’t the virtuosity of Mary, but George’s personal transformation. Yet, it is Mary’s incredible devotion that provides the foil for us to see and appreciate that change within George. And insofar as George is a stand-in for ourselves, Mary’s impossible example exists to confront our own ingratitude.

In talking about “It’s a Wonderful Life” with my friend, she pointed out that all of Mary’s actions stemmed from a deep love for George. She lived to please George, but not for her own validation. Instead, she simply did what that love directed her to do. As Mary so prophetically declared as a little girl “George Bailey, I’ll love you till the day I die.”

As you enter the Christmas week, may you appreciate the film’s message, expressed in its title: No matter what cards life has dealt you or how dark things seem, there is something wonderful in this life that you must hold gratefully.

eric teachout/intellectualtakeout.com

 

 

[Image Credit: Living Dead TV CC BY 2.0]

Dear Santa…About the Dogs

Dear Santa,

I come back every year with the same wish!  Have I been good?  Well, I suppose that is debatable.  Have I been nice?  Well, that leads me to my request.

The same request I have had for the last twelve years!

Yes, I believe that I’ve been fairly nice.  However, the ‘niceties’ are being pushed to the limit!

It is about the dogs.  Every year, every hour, every available moment…they seem to want to roll in ‘shit’.  Pardon the language…but it is what it is.

Realistically, it isn’t always ‘shit’.  Sometimes, more often than not, it is a dead animal.

I’ve done the research.  I’ve trained dogs…obviously, not well.  Dogs roll in ‘stuff’ to disguise their scent.  To make themselves somehow invisible to those lurking at the farm or hardened trail.

We walk in some ‘wild, wild, acreage.’  Therefore, I am almost as aware of my surroundings as, the out of control dogs.

Not once have I felt that a gopher or skunk had been out there in the thicket…awaiting for us to make one false mistake.

Do not get me wrong!  Obviously we, the dogs and I, are not alone.  Yet, unlike humans, whatever four-legged stranger, danger, animal, that is out there.  Wants to enjoy their walk.  And, wishes for us to do the same.

Please, Santa, could you talk to the dogs about their sub-par behavior?  My wife is beginning to think that I encourage the dogs to be gross.  It is putting a strain on the romance…if you get what I mean.

Yes, I have been nice.  But I am getting pushed to the limit!

Long May You Run,

Ruth

A Platform of Peace

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem

by

Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.”

In Other News…December

Christmas time can vengeful for some.  A month in which some memories are not cheery and bright.  And, a laugh or a smile…can be very hard to come by.

BOSTON (WTHR) – A Massachusetts firefighter channeled his inner “Buddy” to spread some holiday cheer in downtown Boston.

Brendan Edwards dressed up as Will Ferrell’s character from “Elf” and challenged passersby to pillow fights in front of the city’s historic Faneuil Hall. He went toe-to-toe with all comers, turning stunned faces into smiles as he played.

He posted video of his antics to Facebook, including a pillow fight with an older woman.

“I had her hit me with the pillow and I fell to the ground,” Edwards told WHDH-TV. “When she helped me up I came in with the sneak attack.”

He now hopes to hit the streets of Boston once a week until Christmas.

“We just wanted to spread holiday cheer, make people laugh, smile,” he said. “That’s what we’re out there for.”

Canterbury Stones

I cannot not carry such stoned, monumental devices with me.
And, believe they will avert the problems that breathe my air.

Thin line.

Town line.

Country store.

It is all the same.

I carry your tomb on my back.

And, provincial problems remain.

 

Dredging the dirt from my soul.

I find nothing is leftover but Christmas coal.

 

Still I shoulder your epitaph filled with Canterbury tales.

Where it is taught,

‘God’s only son…prevails.’

If only I understood what it is, you wanted me to stand for.

I could sustain your words…more easily.

 

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