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It’s a pathetic life

This article on It’s a Wonderful Life is really good. Here’s a summary, with a representative offhand observation:

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home renovation.

The overarching theme is George’s anger, and as I think of what I would be like if I had stayed in Flint, or stayed in the Nazarene church to try to save it as some do, I would probably be pretty angry too. I wouldn’t have as large a role in the community as George — at most, I’m assuming I would’ve been a high school teacher — so the effects of my staying likely wouldn’t have been as great. If I’m currently living in the “bizarro world,” though, I wonder what the “real” world in which I’d stayed would look like.

Or perhaps I’m actually George’s brother, and my sister is George, dutifully staying in the area while I swoop in increasingly rarely, generously taking time off from my exciting city life. This Thanksgiving I invited her to come to Chicago, but she pulled out — or actually claimed to have been “joking” about accepting the invitation in the first place — because she felt it would be hard on my family to have us both gone. Reportedly, Thanksgiving dinner was very peaceful this year, my absence having apparently removed any pretext for my uncle to start opining about controversial subjects, which he seems to do in order to goad me into an argument.

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December 20, 2008 - Posted by | family values, film

7 Comments

  1. Reportedly, Thanksgiving dinner was very peaceful this year, my absence having apparently removed any pretext for my uncle to start opining about controversial subjects, which he seems to do in order to goad me into an argument.

    I feel this.

    Comment by strasmangelo jones | December 20, 2008

  2. There are lots of those brother-brother stories around here. One brother keeps the farm and the other gets an education. In one case, the next to last brother has settled in Japan and translated Japanese to English, while the other three or four are small town guys.

    There’s an upside to being here too, but anyone ambitious or curious has to leave. I can only think of three exceptions — a craftsman, a horticulturist, and a wildlife photographer. None of them are rich, but they all have more rewarding lives than the average PhD.

    Comment by John Emerson | December 21, 2008

  3. but you are so angry and disgruntled anyway. Does it really make adifference where you live?

    Comment by Phil | December 21, 2008

  4. I mainly only get disgruntled when somebody posts a lot of stupid comments about how bad a person I am, under multiple pseudonyms.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | December 21, 2008

  5. Maybe he was talking to me.

    Comment by John Emerson | December 21, 2008

  6. But you wouldn’t have been staying in Flint to stave off Mr. Potter.

    I think It’s a Wonderful Life is pitch perfect. I just saw it in the State Theater in downtown Traverse City that Michael Moore restored a few years back … and I got in for free as a peace worker. Highlight of my Christmas season.

    Comment by old | December 21, 2008

  7. I really hate that movie.

    Comment by bitchphd | December 22, 2008


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