Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's a Wonderful Life (As Long as you are not an Old Maid)

 Don't get me wrong.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE "It's a Wonderful Life".  I watch it every year.  I know it by heart.  I just love the message of how every single person impacts their world.  As we get more and more into a culture that encourages people to just follow their dream, whatever the consequences, I like the message of learning to appreciate and love the life you are "stuck with" even if you never fulfill your dream of traveling the world.

But even when I was a kid, there was one scene that bugged me.  It's when, after discovering all the terrible things that happen in a world without George Bailey, Clarence has to break the news to George about the worst thing that happened to poor Mary.  And he can barely choke the words out..."She' OLD MAID" 

An OLD MAID? OH NO!  Worse than the town being ruined by Potter.  Worse than poor old Mr. Gower accidentally poisoning a child in his grief and going to prison.  Worse even than his own brother drowning because he wasn't there to save him.   Poor Mary has turned from a vibrant, happy, clever woman into a fearful, dried up old maid.  Who needs glasses now!

To be fair, perhaps it's just a way of making it clear to George, who always thought Mary could do better than him, that no, he was the one she loved and wanted.  But I see a more sinister message.

This is 1946.  Right after WW2  women dropped their children into daycare and went about the business of holding the country together without the menfolk just fine thank you very much.  Perhaps the women needed a not-so subtle message that they really did need the menfolk?

Or maybe I've just seen this movie too many times and am overthinking it.


  1. No, you are not over-thinking it. The world is filled with images of what it means for a woman to be "fulfilled" and "happy" and they usually mean married with children...If we were to rewrite that part for today she'd be a successful business woman but harried and unhappy underneath because she wasn't married with children.

    I have been married and we do have children, so I am not critiquing that, but I do find it objectionable to portray women as unsatisfied if life doles out other circumstances...or a woman makes other choices.

  2. On the other hand, when he says "I'm your husband" she shrieks and faints! So maybe being married doesn't look that good to her after all... (I'm watching the movie right now, her face in the glasses just appeared on my screen.)