Tell George Bailey to Leave Me Alone by Christy Lambertson

[This article first appeared in the December 2010 issue of Next-Wave. You can browse the other articles from that issue here: http://www.the-next-wave.info/archives/issue132/index.cfm.html ]

I hate It’s a Wonderful Life. There – I said it. I work very hard this time of year to avoid seeing it. This year, I had a close call on Thanksgiving Day, but managed to talk the group into watching The Bourne Identity and The Blues Brothers instead.

I love Jimmy Stewart as much as the next person, but George Bailey gets on my nerves. I guess I just don’t find unnecessary martyrdom all that heartwarming. He doesn’t get to go to Europe, to college, on his honeymoon, or to a job he likes (although I suppose he does get the girl) and his big payoff is that he doesn’t have to go to jail for a crime he didn’t commit.

And really – what are the odds of the board deciding that the best person to run a financial institution was an 18 year old that didn’t want to do it? Was there really NO ONE ELSE in the entire town or elsewhere they could have hired to run the savings and loan? And if he cared so freaking much about his dad’s business, why didn’t he fire Uncle Billy (or at least not give him large amounts of cash)? And somehow I doubt that Mary’s life choices were limited to George Bailey or becoming a timid, lonely, spinster librarian. And it’s not enough that he has to bear the responsibility for the fate of his entire darn town, he has to help an intellectually limited angel earn a promotion.

Maybe you and your family gather in love and food and harmony every year, and watching It’s a Wonderful Life is a cherished tradition. If you do, that’s wonderful. For a lot of people, though, Christmas can be a bitch. American culture has all these stories that we tell ourselves about Christmas, and it can feel lonely not to find myself in any of them.

It's a Wonderful Life

Given my current religious and spiritual location, it doesn’t feel like I can fully participate in Christmas as a religious celebration, so there are no “Jesus is the reason for the season” bumper stickers for me. I don’t give or receive tons of gifts, and what gift exchanging I do tends to be fairly modest. As for buying into the anti-consumerism narrative, I already give money to non-profits every month, volunteer, try to be mindful about my shopping habits, and shoot for ethically-sourced gifts, so doing that at Christmas time doesn’t feel any more meaningful than it does the rest of the year.

It’s not that my life or way of celebrating Christmas is bad or wrong. It isn’t, and I know that I’m a heck of a lot less stressed out than a lot of people whose lives conform more closely to the dominant narratives. I just sometimes wish there was a little more space to say, “You know what? This doesn’t work for me, and I need to construct a different kind of tradition – even if it seems weird or out of step or even misanthropic.”

Maybe this year I’ll throw a “Thank God the Holidays are Over” party, and invite everyone who didn’t spend it with family (or wishes they didn’t). We can tell stories about the ways we created our own traditions or get rid of all the baggage we’re carrying from the 137th iteration of the exact same family argument and the regret from all the ways we reverted to being 15 again. We can celebrate a late Winter Solstice or create a bonfire out of Santa hats, cheesy Christmas music, family secrets, and way too many Christmas cookies.

While I plan my party, feel free to contemplate the following questions:

1. What is your least favorite Christmas movie and/or most disturbing Christmas album?
2. What part of the holiday season is hardest for you?
3. Why is eggnog considered a Christmas-y sort of drink? Am I the only one who thinks it’s more than a little disgusting? I think we need a better seasonal drink. I vote for mojitos, but feel free to share your ideas for a replacement seasonal alcoholic beverage.

Christy Lambertson lives in Los Angeles, where she makes rather good mojitos and refuses to root for the Lakers. This article is republished from Christy’s blog.

COMMENTS

Christy, I have no problem with you hating the movie or a lot of things about traditional Christmas celebrations. They are not for everyone. “It’s a Wonderful Life” touches me because there have been times when I’ve felt like George Bailey. I also agree with Tom about being reminded of the importance of relationships. In the past couple of years, the whole Christmas thing has changed for me, in that I focus more on the idea of Advent, and the coming of the King. I find that the holidays are less stressful for me that way.1. I don’t really have a least favorite movie or album. I like the above mentioned movie as well as “White Christmas” and Christmas Story.” The rest I just ignore. I do hate Christmas music played on the radio before Thanksgiving. 2. The hardest part for me now is when the family gets together, and my parents and mother-in-law aren’t there because they have passed on. 3. I think a good winter ale makes a nice holiday beverage.

Posted by Fred Shope | Posted at 01/06/2010 8:10 AM

The point that I’m always reminded of when I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” is that relationships trump all. All of the “look at the things I didn’t get to do…. waaaa” Hoping we can all nurture these relationships in the coming year.
Posted by Tom | Posted at 12/28/2009 7:08 AM

Christy, Here’s some sound advice: GET OVER YOURSELF.
Posted by Mike Smith | Posted at 12/27/2009 5:27 PM

Bad Santa has to be the most revolting Christmas movie made. Intentionally crude, even seeing the trailer annoys me exceedingly. I think you’re a bit too picky about It’s a Wonderful Life – or maybe you’ve seen just once too often. :)
Posted by Mike Crowl | Posted at 12/22/2009 8:00 PM

Post to Twitter