I recently showed my Film and Literature students the film It’s A Wonderful Life. We first read an excerpt of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and as we were watching, we compared and contrasted the Dickens’ work with Frank Capra’s film. It was so refreshing how much they enjoyed the film. What is even more interesting is many of my students do not even celebrate Christmas. One young man who is quite polite and enjoys the class usually comes only four days a week. When he entered the class on Friday, I was quite happy to see him. I said “Joe*, amazing you were here every day this week.” He replied, “Miss, I knew you were going to catch that, but this is the best movie you showed all year.” Day made, week made, year made. This young man’s comment led to a class discussion about how all of them are enjoying the film.
Of course, as a New York City school teacher and knowing I teach many diverse backgrounds and religions, I specifically spoke about the religious aspect of the film. The beginning of the film has many Bedford Falls residents praying for George so he does not go to jail. The film also ends with the song “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” But I also asked them about the message that Frank Capra was sending to his viewers. The ideas they came up with were excellent. Here are just a few: everyone matters in life; appreciate what you have; success and wealth can be defined in other terms besides money.
Last week, the New York Post published an article about a few holiday films that people have issues with. The issues with It’s A Wonderful Life are interesting. The Post mentioned complaints about the film (but did not say where the quotes came from), that George Bailey, who to me is up in reverence with Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird, is a misogynist. George is allegedly a misogynist because he aggressively kisses his wife and yells at Mary.
Other fan favorites that people have issues with are The Santa Cause, Love Actually, The Holiday, and Jingle All the Way. I do not want to tell you why each one is offensive. Try to guess! Fun game: watch them and try to see what would offend people!
The good news is each year, new Christmas films are being made. They are being made for The Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, Amazon, Netflix and many others. So while I myself love the classics, I also enjoy new films as well. It also makes me happy that the films are actually categorized as Christmas movies. At least we are not cancelling the word Christmas. Not yet at least.
I hope that people like me continue to fight the good fight and try to keep classics alive. I love modern films and books, but I cannot forget the classics. Next up for my class: Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn. I should have shown that one first as Capra’s film is a tough act to follow.
(*Names have been changed even though my student loved that I was using him as a quote).
By Beth Hanning