It’s a Wonderful Life

Christmas-Tree-Wallpaper-christmas-8142630-1024-768It’s the most magical time of the year! My husband often calls me “The Christmas Queen” because this just so happens to be my favorite time of year. So I think my December posts will easily fall under the umbrella of holiday charm. I have always loved the story of It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart. It is a classic film based off of the short story, The Greatest Gift by Phillip Van Doren Stern. It has many meaningful messages that I hold dear. Amazingly very little of the movie actually takes place during Christmas, but it is an endearing holiday story with relevant lessons that we can continue to apply today.

Presently, we find ourselves in an economic recession leaving It-s-A-Wonderful-Life-its-a-wonderful-life-9644956-1920-1080..widea many depressed and desperate, similar to how George Bailey finds himself.
George, like his father, was a kind and generous man who always helped others when they were in need. This is in stark contrast to cranky old Mr. Potter who only wanted to benefit from others misfortunes. Biblically speaking our money and rewards are not ours. Society has been called upon to be generous and cheerful givers, and like George, we are encouraged to help our neighbors. We have often been taught that a man’s wealth is not measured by material things, but by his actions.

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George is at his lowest point and is considering suicide as his only way out when he meets Clarence, his guardian angel. Clarence reminds George “that no man is a failure who has friends.” George Bailey is a man who makes sacrifices his whole life. He had to give up his dreams in order to serve others and do what it is honorable. Sacrifice and service are two prominent themes throughout all religions.  Clarence, in order to show George his sacrifices and service had a significant impact on others (and in turn earn his wings), allows George to see how different the residents of Bedford Falls lives turn out just simply by wishing that he had never been born. In the end, George learns that life is not about money, materialistic objects, or achievements. Life is about friends, family and relationships. He discovers that through his kindness and honorable character he had touched and saved so many other lives that he does indeed have “a wonderful life.” It is a simple story, with a beautiful message based off of fictional interpretation and classic lessons from the bible.

Katniss-Prim-katniss-and-prim-29238915-480-416Where do you see similar themes of sacrifice and service in today’s fiction? Is Katniss Everdeen’s act of volunteering as tribute to save her sister Prim reflective of George Bailey’s actions?  Maybe more importantly where have these principles been abandoned? Is Bella Swan more concerned with her own personal happiness than with any other values? Where do you or don’t you see service and sacrifice in today’s popular fiction?

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Posted on December 7, 2012, in Movies and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I love it! It’s crazy but I only saw It’s A Wonderful Life for the first time last Christmas. I always seemed to catch it in the middle so I never watched it until I caught it from the beginning in 2011. It had a profound effect on me & I hope to make it a yearly tradition to watch with my family. Very important lessons in that film. And it definitely spoke to me at the time and made me feel even more grateful for all that I have, even if most of it is not in material wealth.

    I definitely see the similarity with Hunger Games and Katniss sacrificing herself for her sister. I haven’t read Twilight and have only seen the first film so I can’t say much about it. I’m very interested to see what others have to say about this topic. 🙂 Great blog!

    • I have only seen it once, and I was very young so barely remember it, but I do know that it also had a profound effect on me as well, Amy, and has always made me examine everything I do and say in hopes that I have a positive effect on others.
      Definitely a great post for the season, Jamie 🙂

    • It is funny how often people say that they have only seen parts of the movie for the longest time. I think that is because the networks used play it over and over again. I think they only show it once a year now, which is probably a good thing because once you sit down, enjoy, and absorb the message, it does have a profound effect.

    • I LOVE It’s a Wonderful Life! That scene when they sing “Dance by the Light of the Moon…” so corny yet so great!

      And that moment in the Hunger Games when Katniss volunteers…equal parts powerful and horrible.

      Bella does offer her life for Edward’s in New Moon. I never felt like she was more concerned with her own happiness over all else, but that what they had (her and Edward) was bigger than that…out of their control and almost dictating their choices…if that makes sense.

      I’m trying to think of another example…right now I’m reading Chaos Walking (I’m on book 2) by Patrick Ness (so so so good!). Definitely a lot of sacrifice/service going on and probably more Biblical themes than I’ll ever notice (I’m not super familiar with the Bible, but am loving this blog!).

      • I LOVED that scene! Sometimes I like corny 😉 I agree that when Katniss volunteers it’s both powerful & horrible. Im glad to hear that you don’t feel Bella is just selfish because a lot of times that’s what I hear. I do love a good love story so I might like Twilight after all. Especially if the love story is really more than about these two people, but a bigger message or story, if you know what i mean.

        I’ll have to check out Chaos Walking (so many books I’d love to read! So little time) I’m not very familiar w/ the Bible either but I love the idea of biblical themes, like what they do in Supernatural (the greatest TV show EVER in my totally biased opinion) I’m learning a lot from these blog posts already 🙂

      • I cried so hard in the Hunger games when Katniss volunteered. The movie did such an amazing job of capturing that moment.

        Yes, Bella, did offer her life for Edward’s in New Moon 🙂 Good point. In my opinion, in all of the books she seemed so focused on Edward, that she didn’t care who else in her life, including Edward, would be affected by her own choices and desires. I understand that was part of her character and their chemistry together, but at times I wanted her to be more selfless. I felt that Edward’s sacrifice of leaving her for her well-being and everyone else’s was so powerful. I remember how emotional it was when they reunited. I loved the Twilight series 🙂

        I have to read Chaos Walking. You mentioned it in a chat before and I wrote it down, but haven’t gotten to it yet. Can’t wait!!

  2. I love this post. It’s the perfect time of year to reflect on giving and most definitely it’s place in popular literature.

    I think more in Young Adult like the Hunger Games or Twilight, you see a stage where the majority of the characters are more involved with their personal happiness and I think this is definitely okay. Being a teen means figuring yourself and others out. It’s a huge turning point for self-discovery and I think things like Twilight are examples of that stage in life where we learn what relationships mean to us. I think there were definitely moments of self-sacrifice on Bella’s part, but they were different from the type of sacrifice we see with Katniss Everdeen which again are different than what Lyra must overcome in the Golden Compass. The list goes on.

    I think there’s a definitely distinction though between acts of self-sacrifice for others and self-sacrifice to fulfill oneself and therein lies the different between the acts of Bella and Katniss. Both are examples of one character giving of themselves for an expected result, but Bella does most of her actions for her own happiness while Katniss just wants to see her sister live. Not trying to say which is more important because, honestly, both are.

    I think it’s interesting to look at why characters sacrifice what they do and, when we relate to them, what that says about our ideas about the nature of sacrifice and giving in our own lives.

    I definitely want to check out Chaos Walking – sounds intriguing!

  3. Jamie…thinking back on Twilight (I read them so long ago and only because a friend of mine talked me into it, but flew through all 4 in 2 weeks (unheard of for me, slow reader I am!)), I’m not sure I ever found Bella very likable or relatable. She always felt a little wishy washy and weak to me. Though…she also ‘sacrifices’ herself for another in Breaking Dawn (don’t want to throw out any spoilers). And yes, I agree re:Edward’s sacrifice…very powerful.

  4. Jamie – I mispelled your name! *ducks under desk*!!!!

    Amy – Twilight (despite all of the criticism) is definitely a good read. As is Chaos Walking, which is slowly moving up my top books of all time list 😉

  5. Okay, I’m a little late to this party, but wanted to weigh in anyway… I’m a huge fan of both The Twilight Sage and The Hunger Games Series…

    I agree with a lot of what all of you have said so far, except about Bella and her motivations for sacrifice.

    I feel there are examples of times she was willing to sacrifice herself for others at the risk of her own happiness. One instance from the first book, Twilight, was when she willingly went to the ballet studio hoping to save her mom, even though she could have gotten on a plane and run off with Edward and lived happily ever after. She knew, by going to the studio, she was forfeiting her own life, but felt it was worth it to save her mom’s life.

    I don’t want to get long winded, so I’ll leave it at that.

    Thanks for post, Jamie… My mom’s all time favorite movies are It’s a Wonderful Life and Gone with the Wind. I’ve seen both over and over and over. 🙂 Wonderful memories of childhood.

  6. Kelley,

    You’re right that there were instances of Bella’s willingness to self-sacrifice. The ballet studio is one I completely forgot about and is kind of drowned in the negativity surrounding the character of Bella. I think those moments were so overshadowed by her selfish decisions that it’s hard to see beyond. But such is teenagerhood, too – most often, the selfish things they do are both highlighted in the memories of others and forefront in the minds of the teenager, too.

    I feel that Bella was a viewpoint, not a clear character. She did have some consistent behaviors and patterns and was a character, but kind of half-strength because the story was about those around her and her reactions to them. She didn’t have much of her own plot arc because she was so busy reacting to the arcs around her, as discussed above – she was out of control for most of her circumstances.

    Thanks for weighing in on the conversation – it’s never too late to this party! 😀

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