Why It's A Wonderful Life Isn't Actually A Christmas Film

Why It's A Wonderful Life Isn't Actually A Christmas Film

Every time a bell rings, this film is misclassified.
717
views

It’s A Wonderful Life, the 1946 Frank Capra film, has become wildly hailed by people as one of the greatest Christmas films out there, and despite its initial poor reception at the box office, it has become a staple of the season.

Because nothing says Christmas like Marxist sociopolitical commentary.

George Bailey’s introspective tale has become a hallmark of American cinematic storytelling, widely recognized, parodied, and revered. So, what if I were to tell you that despite the film’s dramatic rise to popularity, it’s not actually a Christmas film.

And this is the part where I suspect the rioting will begin.

Now, let me make one thing perfectly clear before I begin: I’m not challenging this film’s position as an American classic. No, I just think that it’s been mislabeled as a film. It’s A Wonderful Life is no more a Christmas film than is Die Hard.

’Tis the season to be jolly. Unless you’re John McClane, then you just get another lame sequel.

Take a closer look at the film’s narrative structure for example. The film begins on Christmas Eve in 1945, but it promptly flashes back to about thirty years earlier, when George saves his brother from drowning in an ice pond. The film proceeds to spend the next significant portion of the film outlining George’s life, ranging from his graduation in 1928 to his inability to serve in WWII.

Holy exposition-dump, Batman!

Note that in this entire sequence, Christmas is never mentioned. In fact, Christmas isn’t particularly relevant in the narrative until the third act, when George considers committing suicide. Even then, it appears to be mostly set dressing, a background element to the action.

But let’s delve even deeper, shall we?

Really rack your brain with me here. At what point in the film is the fact that it is set at Christmas truly crucial? Would anything in the film play out differently if the setting wasn’t Christmas? There’s nothing that happens in the film that would play out differently if the film were set at, say, Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. At the end of the day, the flashback still happens, and all of George’s friends lead miserable existences in his absence.

Nothing like a fresh dose of misery to get you in the holiday spirit.

This isn’t a A Christmas Carol (You know, the other holiday, non-Doctor Who classic involving time travel and alternate timelines?) scenario, where Christmas is used as a theme and a byline which motivates character behavior; Christmas is in no way crucial to It’s A Wonderful Life. Instead, it’s strictly a thematic backdrop, informing our reading of the film without redirecting the events of the narrative.

Now, before you have a George Bailey-esque breakdown at this revelation, it’s pretty easy to see why people watch this film at Christmas time. Aside from the setting, It’s A Wonderful Life really does encapsulate the sentiment of the season. Even if it’s not necessarily a Christmas film, it certainly represents the ideal holiday attitude.

George is what all of us aspire to be, especially during the Christmas season. His compassion for others at his own expense is noble to us as viewers, and we live vicariously through him. He symbolically represents everything that we laud about the ideal of the holiday season, from his anti-consumerism to his deep concern for those less fortunate than himself.

Pictured: The holiday spirit personified.

In many ways, I think George is the reason that people view this as a Christmas film. He just that good at heart. It’s A Wonderful Life isn’t a Christmas film, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not the perfect film for Christmas.

Cover Image Credit: http://clv.h-cdn.co/assets/15/50/1449598927-lastscene.jpg

Popular Right Now

8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
53657
views

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.

597
views

Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.


I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.


I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.


As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

Related Content

Facebook Comments