James Howard Kunstler ponders It’s a Wonderful Life. From Kunstler at kunstler.com:
These are the long, dark hours when cis-hetero white patriarchs sit by the hearth chewing over their regrets for the fading year and expectations for the year waiting to be born. I confess, I like Christmas a lot, Hebrew that I am, perhaps the musical and sensual trappings more than the virgin birth business. Something in my mixed Teutonic blood stirs to the paganism of blazing Yule logs, fragrant fir trees, rousing carols, and snow on snow on snow. I hope we can keep these hearty ceremonies… that they are not banished to the same puritanical limbo where the Prairie Home Companion archives were sent to rot.
One surviving old chestnut of the season is the 1946 movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, a movie so thick with gooey holiday sentiment, it’s like bathing in egg nog. It’s larded with messages of good-will-to-all-mankind, of course, but some of the less obvious themes — almost certainly unintended — tell the more interesting story about where America has come from in recent history and where it went. One thing for sure: every year that goes by, the America of It’s a Wonderful Life seems utterly unlike the sordid circus we live in now.
The movie takes place in a town, called Bedford Falls, like many in my corner of the country, upstate New York, or at least the way they used to be: alive, bustling with activity, with several layers of working, middle, and commercial classes employed at real productive work making things, and a thin candy shell of “the rich,” portrayed as unambiguously greedy and wicked — but overwhelmed in numbers by all the other good-hearted townspeople.
The movie depicts an American social structure that no longer exists. It’s both democratic and firmly hierarchical — owing probably to the lingering influence of army life in the recently concluded Second World War. Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey, the head of an old-style family-owned Savings and Loan bank, a very modest institution dedicate to lending money for new homes. His competitor in town is the wicked old rich banker Henry Potter (Lionel Barrymore), a swindler and thief, who wants to put George out of business.
To continue reading: Christmas Story