Tuesday, December 26, 2017

School Scope: It’s a Wonderful Life – Until it Isn’t: Is Pottersville Trumpville?

I submitted this for this week's publication but it probably didn't get there in time but I am posting it here the day after XMAS - we watched the entire movie once again even with all the commercial interruptions. There are a lot of possible messages in the movie but as I point out some are a bit fuzzy.

School Scope:  It’s a Wonderful Life – Until it Isn’t:  Is Pottersville Trumpville?
By Norm Scott

It’s that time of year again for one of my favorite movies, the Frank Capra Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. I’ve seen it twenty times and not only do I not get tired of it, but every year I gain new insights. Some view the movie as a battle between good and evil, especially due to the religious overtones with angels coming down to help certain mortals out of their pickle.  Politically minded people, like me, see the underlying politics as a struggle between the Roosevelt New Deal, and its opponents, in some sense the very same type of Republicans who vehemently opposed FDR in the 30s, a battle we see being played out today as the current people in power attempt to dismantle the benefits accrued from the programs instituted by FDR and followed up on by LBJ. Yes, the movie plays out an age-old political struggle.

The competing philosophies of the bad guy, Mr. Potter and the heroes, George Bailey and his family, can be brought down to these ideas. Potter would have supported the Republican tax plan – in fact, Potter expresses the standard Republican point of view going back a hundred years, while George might be considered a New Dealer Roosevelt Democrat, though he was also a banker. It is not totally inconceivable that an aging George today might even back Trump. I’ve seen a lot of FDR supporters flip as they aged.

Capra was viewed for many years as a Roosevelt backer when in reality he was a conservative and even had some good things to say about Mussolini and Hitler while making movies that reflected the practical depression era politics of the time.

Potter reflects an Ayn Rand dog eat dog point of view and remember Rand is beloved by Paul Ryan as she was by Ronald Reagan. What is funny is that for a decades after the film’s 1946 release, the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover’s called the film “Communist propaganda” because it portrayed banker Potter as a greedy villain. An FBI memo suggested he “represented a rather obvious attempt to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as ‘scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture.” Some people felt that Potter was correct in his criticism of the Baileys for not adhering to stricter banking rules.

In some ways Hoover was right, as some of the film’s writers were leftist and even connected to the Communist Party in the 1930s when it was at its height. The film can be interpreted as  demonizing capitalism in some ways but let’s not forget that the “working class” heroes besides George are restaurant owner Martini and cab driver and cop, Bert and Ernie.

The are a lot of memorable parts to the film – not the least being some of the racy scenes between Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart. I also noticed for the first time how younger brother Harry Bailey swats the black maid on the rear end as they horse around. But what everyone always talks about is the re-imagining Bedford Falls if George had never lived – the nightmare of seeing it devolved into Pottersville. That sequence, instead of a left view, actually affirms the power of the individual to influence people’s lives even if he still needed the help of an angel trying to get his wings.

Atta boy Clarence.

Norm has been working to get his wings at ednotesonline.com.

1 comment:

  1. Life is a struggle between good and evil. Hollywood is the latter


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