Shorter John Wharton, The American Supergenius
It Was ‘A Wonderful Life’
Contrary to what liberals think, Mr. Potter is the real hero, and George Bailey the true villain, of “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
It’s been a standing joke for ages to claim that some free-market Randroid was so clueless that he or she would watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” and cheer for Mr. Potter while hissing at George Bailey. It would be the equivalent, say, of someone hoping that Scrooge would tell the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future to sod off or that Spielberg would leave E.T. to die alone in a ditch in Southern California or that Dorothy would be stranded in Oz for the rest of her life as the Wizard’s concubine.
But, of course, this, or so everyone thought, was all just cute and snarky hyperbole. No one, not even the High Priestess Ayn Rand herself, could possibly actually watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” and come away not sobbing like a child but instead thinking that George Bailey was a social parasite spouting vile commie propaganda against the heroic Mr. Potter, the job creator who knew what was really best for the people of Bedford Falls.
Well, meet John Wharton, if that really is his name:
There is probably no more iconic piece of cinematic Americana than Frank Capra’s 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life. Even today, families enjoy the folksy warmth of small-town America at Christmas as seen in the golly-gee world of the Bailey family, living their all-American lives in Bedford Falls, NY. And indeed, Americans should watch this timeless classic often but, I suggest, more to remind themselves of just how our modern-day financial problems were born and what cavalier habits bred them.
Uh oh. You can see this coming from miles away: because banks were forced by PBS-watching liberals infatuated with the Capra film to act like George Bailey and give home loans to shiftless, lie-about Negroes instead of acting like Mr. Potter and throwing them homeless onto the streets where they belong, the entire U.S. economy collapsed. Thanks, again, to Hollywood, of course.
Most viewers see George Bailey as naive but likeable, a bit like themselves. But American Genius Wharton naturally sees the sinister truth.
His idea of a date is to take his future wife, Mary (played in the film by the virginal Donna Reed), to an abandoned house she adores. He persuades Mary to help him vandalize it by explaining that “with deserted houses, you make a wish and then try to bust a window.” … Such is our story’s hero.
While we are on shady characters in film, let me point out that Dorothy Gale was a juvenile delinquent who ran away from home with her vicious dog only to wind up murdering a wealthy landowner in order to deprive her of her rightful inheritance of her dead sister’s estate.
When George’s father dies, the board of the Bailey Building and Loan Association (BBLA), a co-op owned by its members, meets to consider the institution’s future. … Potter argues convincingly that the BBLA should be closed because George’s father was an incompetent administrator, citing a loan given to Ernie the taxi driver after it was declined at Potter’s bank. The bank’s wisdom in rejecting Ernie is shown clearly when, in fact, he is soon unable to make payments on the mortgage he holds with the BBLA and attempts to return his home’s deed.
Ernie the taxi driver should have “moved back in with the missus’ folks” as he wanted to do until he could retrain to afford the nice home he wanted for his family. Ernie intrinsically knew that he was in over his head; George likely helped him drown.
And while we are in the business of rewriting classic movies and consigning Ernie to the bottom of the pond to fulfill a right-wing ideological bias, let’s not forget Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird who, by defending that no-count Negro, wound up embarrassing Scout to death, causing her to lose all her friends and, ultimately, hang herself from the back porch ceiling fan.
Obviously, old man Potter’s business sense was exactly right when he told the BBLA board: “High ideals without common sense can ruin a town” — or a nation — as easy credit creates “a discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty working class. All because starry-eyed dreamers like Bailey put impossible ideas into their heads.”
Our current mortgage meltdown crisis shows us that, indeed, 70 years of Bailey-style undisciplined credit growth has brought us to tears as we had ignored common lending standards and let crony capitalism favor personal connections over objective analysis. A bit more cold-hearted caution in the ’40s might have helped us avoid the civil unrest and plummeting living standards we almost certainly will experience as Potter’s reality bites and the FOGs [Friends of George Bailey] adjust to a new world of painful limits, correcting for decades of living an unearned high life.
It’s apparent I must have fallen asleep when I watched “It’s A Wondeful Life.” Did I miss the part where George invents the credit default swap and resold all his bank loans as derivative instruments?