I read Courtney's blog some months ago that mentioned how It's A Wonderful Life makes her sad. This reminded me that I don't like that movie any more either. Other movies that I used to love but I don't like any more are What about Bob? And Roxanne, and, as I have written earlier, I don't like the Sound of Music either.
Why I don't like It's a Wonderful Life: OK, the basic idea is nice: the world would be a lot worse if not for good people, and their influence can be more extensive than they ever realize. And I understand (and even subscribe to?) the ethic of "that beautiful world that you want to go see, well all the beauty is right before your eyes, right where you are!" But couldn't that be told while letting George get his non-destructive wishes? Underlying these messages is a conspiracy to undercut what George Bailey wants to do. It is essentially the opposite story of the Truman Show. In the Truman Show, everyone wants Truman to buy into this manufactured psuedo-life, but all he wants to do is get away. He finally does and we cheer him on. In It's a Wonderful Life, all George Bailey wants to do is get away, granted it's not manufactured in the way Truman's is, still he wants to get away, and justifiably so. For many dramatic reasons, he stays and comes to desparation and ultimately decides to buy into the other's view (that he could never understand) that Bedford Falls is a great place, and anything beyond it is not worth pursuing. Why should George be deprived of his obvious, persistent, non-destructive desire? George wants to throw rocks at Donna Reid's heart's desire (the house) but eventually he moves into it, though he never likes it until the end (supposedly--that wonderful drafty old house!). Through various ways (prayer, losing a wad of money, his father's death, manipulative timing on pregnancy announcements, panic, etc.) the citizens have fought to undermine what George Bailey wants. At the end, he resigns himself to go along with the others' desires for him. And we are supposed to cheer, but isn't this sad? I deeply hope that those of you who still love this movie and find tremendous joy out of it will not any longer.
What about Bob? used to be one of my favorite movies, and probably because I've watched it like 5000 times I don't like it anymore. I've tried to watch it again and just laugh like in old days, but it's always an uncomfortable, whiny, fake laugh. My feeling is that the message is too serious to be treated by that sort of comedy, and it ends up making light of troubling circumstances in an uncomfortable, but ultimately not funny way. And the humor is mostly centered on crazy people doing crazy things, or disturbing people doing disturbing things. There are no heroes, little growth, and the "growth" that happens comes at the expense of a family, and the destruction of the family has no legitimate resolve. I even want to feel touched that this family accepts Bob and Bob can be a contributing citizen because he has friends, but the movie keeps getting in the way. It is also of course, the story of a man (Dr. Marvin)coming to terms with his manipulative, authoritative stance in life, and the result is tragic, but we can't really be sad for him because he is the butt of the joke. I can still laugh at individual scenes, but I find the overall movie disturbing. As with It's a Wonderful Life, I deeply hope that those of you who still love this movie and find tremendous joy out of it will not any longer.
Roxanne: This movie now strikes me as a snobby-intellectual snubbing of less educated people. Steve Martin comes up with better (more intellectual) put-downs, and Roxanne falls in love with the fireman because he (supposedly) recites nice poetry, or has a way with words, and buys books like Being and Nothingness (nice!). (Really he is just a puppet for other smart people when he does these things). He (the stupid fireman) finally leaves Roxanne to go after the other uneducated, stupid lady. Why doesn't Roxanne like this guy in the end? Because he is too stupid. Why does she ultimately like Steve Martin? Because he is intellectual. And what is the overall message: stupid (uneducated) people are stupid. Really interesting people listen to operas, and discuss poetry, art criticism, philosophy, and astronomy. Maybe I would have liked it more if she preferred Steve Martin because he was more spiritual? I don't know. Well, maybe it is just a clever way to encourage education? Perhaps, but not as much as a manipulative way to look down on stupid people. But, I guess they are stupid, so why am I making a big deal about it?
I still hold, more emphatically now than ever before, with my critique of Maria. Burn in Hell Maria! Burn in Hell!