It Hurts to Watch

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That's Going to Hurt! - Fails of the Week - January 2019 AFV

Even George and Mary's planned honeymoon, financed by their hard earned rainy day money, is too risky to the fabric of the community. George Bailey is Capra's consummate peoples' hero using his money and his business only as a way of helping family, friends, and community. Herein lie the essence of Capra's Americanism and his model for generating a wonderful life--a people's capitalism.

Such a capitalism exists when one's commitment to giving takes priority over self; when the well being of the self is rooted in the well being of the community, and when the profit motive is employed to meet societal needs, rather than stock dividends. Like many Depression era Americans, Capra had little faith left in the promises of laissez-faire i.

What is good for Potter is emphatically not good for Bedford Falls. The humane capitalism of Capra's film was not inevitable. A possible alternative is glimpsed, should the"true American" succumb to the temptations of unbridled individualism. It is"Pottersville," a place marred by divorce, broken families, pornography, shootings and police chases; an existence that"makes men want to get drunk fast," according to Nick the bartender. Pottersville turns the innocent flirtations of Violet Bicks, easily accommodated in the nurturing environment of Bedford Falls, into prostitution and self-destruction.

It is an all against all, spiritually unrewarding society where the entrails of misery and alienation are easy to find--kind of like L. Judging from the film's ending, Capra did not think Pottersville was likely. There were far too many George and Mary Baileys dedicated to the well being of others. Moreover, Capra saw the values of a people's capitalism enduring since they were consistent with the ethics of the heavens. After all, George's guardian angel, Clarence, had to help others before he could earn his wings. No, once committed to the core values of a people's capitalism, the U.

Without a people's government, a people's capitalism seems inconceivable.

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Capra also looked too optimistically at suburbia as a location where his core values could prosper, and off the mark in assuming"Bailey Park" would protect Americans from the Henry Potter's of the world. Suburbia has proven to be quite accessible to the corrosive influences of corporate interests.

The post World War II suburbanization of the working class eroded much of what remained of community values. With its porchless houses, lack of significant social space, suburbia fostered not community, but runaway consumerism.

The results?

Such an existence made it easy for Americans to turn inward and ignore all but self. Instead of community identity flowing smoothly from the interaction of people and personalities, as in Bedford Falls, suburbia took on the identity imposed from without, enveloping all under the now familiar signs of the Wal Marts, Starbucks, Best Buys, and Costco's.

So complete is the corporate takeover of the culture, teachers of our time can either identify their students either by name or corporate logos. Finally, Capra's ideal America is sexist and racist to a degree. From all indications, he had a hard time envisioning women outside the role of housewife.

After all, Mary, a college graduate, only finds fulfillment in"turning a house into a home" and being"on the nest.

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Annie, the Baileys' maid, makes a number of references to her desire for a husband and family, but we can't like her chances. She is the only black in Bedford Falls, and, for all the warmth and comfort found in the Bailey home, I'm not sure even they are ready to accept inter-racial marriage. Capra's critique of big money capitalists is all but lost in today's mainstream culture. Instead of people's heroes, our culture displays a steady menu of the"greed is good" ethos of ABC's John Stossel, the Social Darwinism of"Survivor"and the mean spirited, though now somewhat blemished conservatism, of Rush Limbaugh and Bill"one armed bandit" Bennett.

America seems to have lost its stomach for a sustained critique of the rampant pursuit of personal wealth over civic responsibility.


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This is as much so politically as culturally. Our current president gives huge tax breaks to the wealthiest 1 percent under the cynical banner of"fairness" to all taxpayers. Indeed, the most visible"George" of our time has come a long way from Bedford Falls. Democrats currently lined up to challenge Bush seem equally reluctant to campaign against America Inc.

So too the words of Eugene V. Debs, who insisted that"money constitutes no proper basis for civilization. I want Capra's civic mindedness, and critique of the rich and wellborn worked back into the fabric of the culture. Perhaps then we can revitalize our struggle for all to have a wonderful life. Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus. I am a republican, and pleased to laearn that Capra was also. This article aided me in compiling my research paper, to be turned in to a TA who neveer saw the movie I didn't have to worry about the seemingly contradictory theme of "pro-socialism and Capra's conservativeness: Anyway, I love this movie.

Are you saying his book is false? If so, please cite examples. It always translates into a cheap police state run by murders and thugs. Capitalism isn't perfect far from it as a matter of fact John, My interpretation of the article had little to do with the author advocating stricter controls over the market.

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Patterville is not an economic system, it is a frame of mind. It can exist whether you live in a highly regulated economy or a totally free market. The point is how welath is percieved and what people will do to get it, not a lamentration against capitalism. Sorry, I just saw this article today, and I feel compelled to comment. If what Professor Nobile is saying is true, we might expect to find our Pottersvilles in those parts of the world where there markets are freest, and our idyllic Bedford Fallses in those places where businesses are most highly taxed and most heavily regulated.

But when I think of Pottersville, large cities come to mind, and it is in these cities where the most liberal politicians are elected think of Detroit, San Francisco, Cleveland, Chicago, New York, etc. On the other hand, there are plenty of Bedford Fallses still around--but you'll find them in the so-called Blue states which went for Bush in , which have a solid record of electing Republicans, and which are known for having low taxes and relatively few regulations on business.

Please, don't recommend Charlie Sykes. That guy is nothing but a wind-up conservative whining automaton. If you're ever in Southeast Wisconsin, avoid his radio program. The Wizard of Oz, the book, was written as political allegory. So, it's hardly a shock or much of a stretch to see the film that way. There was a time when Republicans were the "Trust Busters. However, it wasn't "anti-business" nearly as much as it was clearly, anti-trust.

He wasn't advocating a cradle-to-grave socialist heaven, he was advocating a level playing ground where each man women's place being in the home, not agreeing, just reading the film could rise to his own level through his own efforts. I have to agree with the article. I don't think either political party or most members of each would identify with the morals of Bedford Falls. By the way, drunkeness and laziness are not confined to the unwashed.

As I recall, the current occupant of the Oval Office--a creature of no small privilege--was in fact a drunk and, by most reports, is still quite lazy. Steve, There is no quote I can cite, no program I can offer, or particular think tank I can refer to. All I can say is that the general atmosphere of this country has become one of pure and total capitalism over everything.

There are TV shows that get people to eat insects and do other foolish things, people being asked to marry strangers, and all for money, our generations gladitorial games. Of course we still have welfare programs, and of course there are lazy poor people and generous right people Bill Gates and Ted Turner come to mind, among many, many others. My post refferred to my perception of how certain classes of people are viewed by mainstream culture, not any one magazine, politician, or TV show. Get rich quike is all I see, on TV, in college students, and other places.

This is not a condemnation of every person, place, and think in the year It is a personal observation of how the concept of wealth has changed between IAWL, and today. I would recommend the book "Nickel and Dimed" as an excellent book that illustartes the fallacy of "work hard and it will pay off" mentaility that, while might once have been true, is hard to really find. Of course, if you don't work hard, you are sure to fail, but working hard is no longer any guarentee of a decent standard of living, let alone success. Anyone who comes to a completely different conclusion is free to think they way they do.

I, like all people, am a product of my background and environment, and that is going to effect my judgements. You may agree with them or you may not. I guess we all see what we want to in any movie, including IAWL. I always thought it was a beautiful tribute to the importance of each individual and how our lives are inter-related. Sometimes in ways that are not clear to us. Some see it as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unbridled capitalism. Sort of like Ebenezer Scrooge without the redemptive Ghost of Christmas. Both Parties respond to campaign contributions and there are more rich Democrats in Congress than rich Republicans.

People are fond of bringing up Enron and Global Crossing without acknowledging that both companies gave money to both Parties and in the case of Global Crossing much more to the Democrats. People also gloss over the fact that both companies engaged in their illegalities under Clinton and were exposed and are being prosecuted under Bush.

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