Institutionalization. Intoxication. Attempted suicide. It’s a feel good Christmas classic!
I never really looked at It’s a Wonderful Life through a mental health lens before but Good Lord… This beloved film is simply the story of a man who has a mental breakdown rooted in desperation, loss, grief, fear and renewed hope. Sure, these themes are common in holiday films but this is rooted in realism (at least to an extent.) We have a drunken and distraught protagonist giving up on life, ready to jump from a bridge only to save another so they too wouldn’t face pain and then gets to see life as if he hadn’t been born. Umm, Merry Christmas? Those are some dark and dramatic themes. Seriously, give me the ostracized reindeer who faced discrimination and ended up with hanging with a bunch of fellow outcast elves and toys any day. Or the story of the neglectful parents who head off to Paris leaving there, let’s be honest, sociopath son to battle two of the worst thieves in history. (Man, Christmas films are really twisted.)
Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if you never existed? It’s both strange and scary to think about one’s legacy. Audiences had the privilege of watching George Bailey’s entire life without him in it and even the tiniest things, made his world so different. It made me think what kind of impact I have on this planet. While we tend to believe we don’t have much influence, we don’t know that to be exactly true. I’d like to think that each of us has a part in this world for a very specific reason. Like it’s says in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” Our roles, for whatever reason, are necessary and deliberate.
Which brings me back to George Bailey, standing on the bridge, in the freezing cold, drunk and distraught. Had he ended his “performance” there, who knows where his story would have gone or anyone else in his world. His story continued for a reason and that’s because he realized the value of everything around him, including himself. Sometimes, it’s hard for people like us to have that “George Bailey” moment. Many us may never have that “a ha” moment and that’s okay. It doesn’t make our story any less. It doesn’t mean our legacy won’t matter. George Bailey is our every man; an ordinary person with an ordinary life who hit a few bumps here and there but for the most part is relatable for pretty much anyone. His story mirrors much of my own and I must agree, it’s a wonderful life.
If you haven’t seen my TEDx Presentation, you can check it out HERE.