Wednesday, December 27, 2006
George Bailey vs. Howard Roark in the Circle of Doom
The name of the blog, "Evangelical Outpost," made me suspicious. Normally, when I see that something is from an "evangelical worldview," I anticipate something that sounds more like modern political and social conservatism equated with Christian evangelism, and I get a bit antsy.
But this entry has got to be one of the best write-ups I've seen about the subversive nature of Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.
In fact, I think it's one of the only write ups I've seen about the subversive nature of Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. So there. Here's a quote.
But what makes George Bailey one of the most inspiring, emotionally complex characters in film is that he continually chooses the needs of his family and community over his own self-interested ambitions and desires – and suffers immensely for his efforts.
Although sentimental, Capra’s movie is not a simplistic morality play. In the end, George is saved from ruin but the rest of life remains essentially the same. By December 26 he’ll wake to find that he's still a frustrated artist scraping out a meager living in a drafty old house in a one-stoplight town. In fact, all that he has gained is recognition of the value of faith, friends, and community and that this is worth more than anything else he might achieve. Capra’s underlying message is thus radically subversive: it is by serving our fellow man, even to the point of subordinating our dreams and ambitions, that we achieve true greatness.
This theme makes Wonderful Life one of the most counter-cultural films in the history of cinema. Almost every movie about the individual in society—from Easy Rider to Happy Feet—is based on the premise that self-actualization is the primary purpose of existence. To a society that accepts radical individualism as the norm, a film about the individual subordinating his desires for the good of others sounds anti-American, if not downright communistic. Surely, the only reason the film has become a “Christmas classic” is because so few people grasp this core message.
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At any rate, it seems that you react to "evangelical worldview" a bit like I react to "missional," deconstruct," and "inclusive"--as possibly indicating a point of view that carries a whole lot of baggage with it.