It’s time once again to gather the family together and watch that beloved holiday classic “It’s A Wonderful Life.” I was reminding Aunt Verlie of this at Thanksgiving dinner and she said the same thing she always says around this time of year: “You know, I always thought that George Bailey was an a–hole.”
Yep. Eighty-eight years young and still spittin’ vinegar. At least when it comes to that a–hole George Bailey.
Because I am a fan of the movie (well, the last half, anyway; the first act does drag a bit) I feel compelled to recite all the reasons Verlie is wrong. This is like our Christmas tradition. Some families sing carols while they trim the tree together. I eat too many rum balls and scream at an octogenarian because she hates a movie character. Now who’s the a–hole?
“Don’t you get it, Aunt Verlie?” I say. “George thinks that he is a failure on every front until Clarence the angel shows him how things would’ve been if he’d never been born…”
“World would’ve been a better place…”
And then begins the tradition of naming the reasons she dislikes George Bailey.
For starters, she hates the way he yells at doddering Uncle Billy for losing the bank deposit AND he screams at a schoolteacher when his daughter comes home from school with a bad cold.
“Aunt Verlie, he was feeling pushed to the limits,” I say. “Haven’t you ever lashed out at someone because you thought they were incompetent or uncaring?”
“I believe I’m doing that right now,” she says.
“That George Bailey is one mean…”
“OK, first of all, he’s not and second of all, he’s just a character in a movie.”
“I know that,” Aunt Verlie snapped. “I’m not an idiot. Like him. And why can’t he just get out some tools and fix that newel post? It’s not rocket science. Crap on a cracker, he can’t even use a hammer and nail?”
And then there’s the floozy.
“He’s got that nice, sweet wife and he’s out there making goo-goo eyes at the town strumpet.”
“HE GAVE VIOLET A LOAN SO SHE COULD BETTER HERSELF!”
“Uh-huh. If he wasn’t handing out free money to the floozy, he’d be able to afford some real piano lessons for his kid. That kid doesn’t watch out, he’s going to turn out to be just as big a…”
At this point in our annual bickering, I point out that George Bailey is the only reason the town stays afloat. He’s not a heartless, greedy banker like the thieving Henry Potter.
(To be honest, I actually think that Pottertown looks much more festive and fun than – yawn – Bedford Falls but I won’t ever admit that to Aunt Verlie.)
Finally, she tells me that there is one thing she really likes about the movie: “I like the part where every time someone thinks George Bailey is an a–hole an angel gets her wings.”
And you wonder where I get it.