It never fails to amaze me how ingesting the red pill alters one’s perceptions, not just of the present but of the past. A case in point is the classic holiday movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, sometimes referred to as director Frank Capra’s masterpiece.
Just in case there are a few readers who haven’t seen this 1946 film, let’s start with a brief synopsis of what has sometimes been called the American counterpart of Dickens’ Christmas Carol. In short, the film swaps out Christmas Past, Present, and Future for Christmas What If…. This time around, however, the Scrooge figure is the antagonist, and the protagonist is reminiscent of Bob Cratchit .
Like the Dickens tale, the story takes place entirely on Christmas Eve with flashbacks and flash forwards. The protagonist, George Bailey (James Stewart), has spent his entire life in Bedford Falls, a small town in upstate New York. After a lifetime of being a good citizen and family man, he is at his wit’s end and contemplating suicide.
George’s plight is brought to the attention of higher forces who assign a guardian angel, Clarence Oddbody, to prevent George from killing himself. Clarence is a second-class angel on a mission to earn his wings and thus become a first-class angel. “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings” is a repeated line in the film – and perhaps the most quoted line even today.
Clarence succeeds in preventing George’s suicide, but when George tells him he wishes he’d never been born, Clarence takes him on a “what if” journey and shows him what a dump Bedford Falls would have been if he’d never existed. “Strange, isn’t it?” observes Clarence. “Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” George gets it, gets a new lease on life, and comes to the realization that…it’s a wonderful life!
I realize the above paragraph makes Santa Claus Conquers the Martians sound like hard-boiled realism. In truth, Frank Capra’s movies were sometimes referred to as Capra Corn. Nevertheless, if one has never seen It’s a Wonderful Life, trust me, it taps a very deep well in human experience and is so well crafted it would be difficult for the most hardened cynic not to respond to it at some level.
But this time around – my first red-pill viewing – I had a new perspective. When George wishes he’d never been born, it is tantamount to wishing he’d gone MGTOW.
In the flashbacks, George is a young man of promise. “He is an intelligent, smart and ambitious young man,” observes Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), George’s skinflint nemesis. “A young man who’s been dying to get out on his own ever since he was born…the smartest one in the crowd…a young man who has to sit by and watch his friends go places because he’s trapped.”
George himself had said, “I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world….And then I’m gonna build things. I’m gonna build airfields. I’m gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I’m gonna build bridges a mile long!”
Unfortunately, circumstances conspire to keep George mired in Bedford Falls. Michael Corleone’s famous Godfather III declaration, “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in,” could just as easily have been uttered by George Bailey.
What really cements George’s fate is marriage. He succumbs to Mary Hatch, a girl who has had designs on him since they were children. Here the casting of Donna Reed to play the mature version of Mary is spot on. If any actress was ever capable of responding to male mother need, it was Donna Reed, who exudes wamrth and understanding in every scene. Seven years later, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as a tender chippie who comforts the troubled Montgomery Clift in From Here to Eternity. Shifting to television, she played the wise, warm materfamilias on The Donna Reed Show from 1958 to 1966. If that was before your time, suffice to say it was another of those tradcon sitcoms that feminists are still denigrating.
I’m tempted to classify Donna Reed as a NAWALT, but then I remind myself…it’s only a movie…it’s only a movie…it’s only a movie.
Predictably, Mary reels in George, even though he has asserted “I don’t want to get married…ever – to anyone! You understand that? I want to do what I want to do.” After he utters those words, you know his fate is sealed.
So George gets married, but at least he has a whirlwind honeymoon to look forward to…until an economic crisis forces him to postpone it…forever. Then come the children…one, two, three, four (most famously, daughter ZuZu, played by Karolyn Grimes). Everything comes to a head when George’s drunken uncle, who works for the family business, misplaces some funds, a whoopsy which could bring down the business and land George in jail. Hence his Christmas Eve despair.
Now let’s look at the above from the MGTOW point of view. George gave up his dreams in favor of a wife, a family, a mortgage, and a dreary job in a dull little town. George is a classic blue-pill man. In effect, he downs the red pill on Christmas Eve and looks back on his life as one big boondoggle. Then along comes his guardian angel to force-feed him a blue pill and jerk him back to the plantation – but the plantation welcomes him back!
As tradcon-biased as this ending sounds, one must remember that the film came out in 1946, just after World War II, when it was hard to ignore the huge sacrifices men had made for their respective countries (George, by the way, was 4F, thanks to a childhood injury he suffered while saving his brother’s life). The first step in coaxing the mustered-out GI to take on the post-war tradcon role was to recognize him for his military service.
While Mary Hatch may have thwarted George’s ambitions, at least she shows appreciation for his sacrifices. Interesting to note that when George encounters Mary in his red-pill what-if fantasy, she is an old maid, as though that was the worst fate that could befall a young woman in Bedford Falls. Still, listening to the lamentations of contemporary women who hit the wall before landing a husband…maybe, things haven’t changed that much. (Apparently, there was a cock carousel in Bedford Falls, as Mary’s friend Violet Bick, played by Gloria Grahame, has graduated from boy-crazy to man-crazy.)
Also, the town of Bedford Falls may have hobbled George, but at least at the end of the movie, the people of the town, realizing what he’s done for them over the years, come together to bail him out of his troubles. “Remember, George, no man is a failure who has friends,” asserts Clarence at the end of the movie when a bell rings and he gets his wings.
The one friendless man in the movie is Mr. Potter, the tightwad banker, who says, “Most people hate me. But I don’t like them either so that makes it all even.” Spoken like a true MGTOW! While not a sympathetic individual, he never gets his comeuppance at the end of the film. That truly goes against the standard Hollywood narrative.
In a sense, It’s a Wonderful Life is a protracted infomercial promoting the joys of collectivism over individualism. As is the case with most screenplays authored during the golden age of Hollywood studios, the shooting script had more fingerprints on it than Madonnna’s ass.
It started out as a short story called “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern. The first draft of the screenplay was done by Dalton Trumbo (he of the current biopic). Of the subsequent writers (Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett credited; Jo Swerling, Michael Wilson, and Dorothy Parker uncredited), a majority were persons of interest during the subsequent blacklist era. So I think it’s fair to say their politics skewed to the left.
Frank Capra, who also received screenplay credit, knew you couldn’t sell collectivism to the American public unless you cloaked it in populism. Consequently, the end result is closer to Norman Rockwell than Karl Marx. Even so, the film was not a hit on its release, though it was certainly an “A” picture. The film did get five Oscar nominations (best picture, best actor, best director, best editing, best sound recording) but won none.
Ah, but how would George Bailey fare in 2015?
In 1946 or 2015, we could say that the blue-pill man’s value is totally based on his utility to the collective, whether the microcosm (his family) or the macrocosm (his community, his country). Put another way, his value is based on the money he earns and the taxes he pays. And from time to time, he may draw the black bean and be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice.
But what about the blue-pill man’s own needs and wants? Well, that would be another movie entirely. So what would a MGTOW version of It’s a Wonderful Life be like?
My guess is Mary, though typically hypergamous, settles for George, knowing that she can always dump him if a better catch comes along. If not, she can divorce him anyway and saddle him with alimony and child support payments, even though the increased expenditures would likely bankrupt him and the family business. Today, if Clarence is truly a guardian angel, he would steer George away from Mary in the first place. George would get to travel the world, build his airfields, skyscrapers and bridges – and play video games in his spare time.
I can just hear it now: “Every time a bell rings, a MGTOW gets his freedom.”
That’ll be the day.