Everything you need to know about the Christian religion is found in this movie. For that matter, everything you need to know about American values is also found in this film…It’s such a wonderful film, simply because of the simplicity that Frank Capra was able to bring to this sweet story. Of course, the film could never have survived the charge of “Capracorn” (excessive hokey-ness and cornpone), without the brilliant acting of Jimmy Stewart.
Not only did Stewart portray the Everyman that was George Bailey to the point of perfection, he was also able to bring the audience with him in his epiphany that began and ended on the bridge where he contemplated taking his own life.
Everyone has suffered from failures and setbacks. It is the art of learning how to deal with life’s frus-trations and our own sorrows that sets us apart. The definition of “Success” is seen in this film as the person who learns to live in a community of fellow men, caring for others and sharing the opportuni-ties we create together. The struggles seen in this film are often overcome by the sheer will power and “can-do” spirit that was typically identified as part of the American persona.
One of the lessons learned from this film is that the collective “we” could triumph, as our country did in World War II, if only we stuck together. Sadly, we see this trait often lacking in the psyche of younger Americans these days. This film was about as basic as you can find regarding the idea of community and the ties that bind us together to form the modern society.
Here then is the short list from “It’s a Wonderful Life”- Christianity/Americana 101:
Community: George Bailey’s Savings & Loan has been the lodestar of salvation and largesse for a sizable portion of the working class men and women living in
Bedford Falls. Before George took over, his father had run the savings & loan
The Good Samaritan: Probably the most recognized story in the Christian
religion, is a parable, a fable told by Jesus to illustrate just who should be
considered our neighbor. the answer lies in the man who shows compassion to a fellow traveler, one who has been beaten, robbed, and abandoned by the road. the Good Samaritan is the one who cares for a stranger in need, regardless of his religious affiliations or the color of his skin.George epitomizes the Good Samaritan’s role as he takes Clarence under his “wing”.
Every person is equal in the eyes of God: George is a small-town banker, not a
rich man, but his pleas are heard.God hears our prayers: In the film, we see Him at work in “strange and sometimes mysterious” ways!
Angels are among us: Everyday we walk among those who protect and shelter the needy and the downtrodden. We see these ” better angels of our nature” all the time, and we sometimes ignore them. Yet they are working among us even now, as illustrated by the fumbling goodness of Clarence.
Everyday, ordinary lives matter: Our lives matter more than we know. There is a domino effect, a causal ripple in the fabric of time created by the void made if
we simply didn’t exist. That is a major theme of the film.No matter how mundane our lives feel.or how inconsequential we feel at times, our lives matter to God.
People are basically good: Even those people that we see behaving out of
character have some reason to be hardened or cynical. But we know these people for who they really are, and they are the best versions of themselves. Each of us has a dark side, and we choose to live lives that matter to others-for the most part…
Evil does exist in the world: Mr Potter knew exactly what happened, as we, the
audience, see him furtively glance at the money Uncle Billy accidentally gives
to him. He could have easily rectified the problem, but instead chose, by his
own free will, to act in a way that only helped himself and could very likely
have destroyed another man’s life. Such is the true nature of evil.
Finally, No Man is a Failure…in the eyes of God. we see this manifested not
only by the completion of Clarence’s final thoughts to George, but also with the
full circle of actions leading us to the same conclusion.
No Person is a failure when he or she is part of a community. No one is a
failure when they lead a full life, working and sharing in a community. and
finally, No Person is a failure where there is Love.
This was Christ’s message, short and simple. No one has managed to deliver this message on film in a fuller, or more complete way, (with just a hint of American Exceptionalism thrown in for good measure).
Long Live Capracorn! Mr Capra, No Man (or woman), ever feels like a failure
after seeing this classic film.