From: Rochester, MN
I am a long time reader and have been enjoying your "Questionable Moments from 'It's a Wonderful Life'" series, as this beloved Christmas movie has some problems.
But this segment seems now to be over, and I am wondering how it is you missed the most hilarious moment in that movie, where we discover what happened to Mary?
Towards the end of George's lesson, when he's realizing how truly awful everything would be if he'd never been born, he has a horrible thought. Mary! What's happened to Mary?! He demands to know from Clarence, who doesn't want to tell him. "You're-you're not going to like it George!"
And the suspense is killing us. What could have happened? I mean, we've already seen the entire town go to hell. His brother is dead, so are all the people his brother saved in WWII. The pharmacist he worked for is a criminal and a drunk, and Clarence doesn't want to say what happened to Mary? Why? Is she dead? A destitute alcoholic? Married to a horrible abusive man?
But no! It is a fate much worse than all of those put together! Because George was never born, Mary never married! She-she became a librarian! The horror!!!
*screams and faints*
And that, that is the most questionable moment from "It's a Wonderful Life."
Marisa, you are awesome. That's very funny.
LOL! But was she a virtuous librarian? That's truly the question to ponder. o_O Frightening!
I highly enjoyed this series of comics, because I do like the movie, but agree that it has it eye-rolling moments. As a single, female, library staffer, this is definitely one of those for me. Thanks, Marisa, for mentioning this one!
What I found most amusing about Mary's transformation into the dreaded spinster librarian is that she is an amazingly BUTCH spinster librarian.
Of course, this amusement is enhanced by the fact that all the ads beside this forum discussion are for lesbian dating services and other LGBT service providers.
Yeah, this was always the biggest eyebrow-raiser for me. You could make a case that the horror stems from his wife, in essence, becoming a completely different person, and his family never existing, but it's definitely couched in a decidedly anti-librarian spirit.
I'm so glad that we've evolved as a society to the point that anti-librarianism is very nearly a thing of the past. I'd like to think that we've reached the point that even a librarian could become President!
This always confused me.
1) Was she so horrible that nobody else would have her?
2) George should love it - she loves him or nobody.
The horror to me would be her marrying my worst enemy and having a better life...
As an unwed librarian - I scare myself. I am growing my hair long so I can get it into a bun...and I wear glasses and oh yeah, I own a cat too! Oh the shame of it all...Please someone put me out of my misery and marry me....make me an honest librarian.
Okay, now. With all genuine respect to the original poster, this meme has been floating around a bit this year (the New York Times even touched on it) and while it IS funny, it neglects a few things in the interest of a punch-line.
1) Mary wanted George. Mary wanted George even before George knew what he wanted in a personal life. The movie makes this explicitly clear at a couple of points.
Thus, a world where George doesn't exist is plausible as a tragedy for Mary. Not because she doesn't have a husband, but because she _never met the man she would have chosen for a husband_.
To look closer to home: it's fairly obvious that Dave Kellett adores his wife in a way that you don't typically see often. In a world where she did not exist, it's very possible that missing that potential "soul mate" level of connection, Dave could've become a "grey little man" too.
To reference another holiday classic -- the Alistair Sim Scrooge -- remember when Scrooge's nephew says "My marriage was the making of me"? I hear a lot of guys confess to this in private.
So, it's not what Mary missed (marriage) so much as who (marriage to George).
2) You've got to remember that this is a sixty-some-odd year old movie, and you really do have to allow for _historical social context_ folks.
As goofy as it seems now, the general social consensus back when It's A Wonderful Life was made was that the highest acheivement a woman could aim for in life was a happy marriage of her own choosing.
Sexist? Yup. But IAWL was reflective of its times in this. Following on this widely-held belief was the idea that if you did not marry as a woman, it was because no one wanted you -- that you were somehow unloveable.
The librarian thing? Back then, the idea persisted that most spinsters (never-married old ladies)became librarians. I don't know where the cliche started, but it was strong enough to be reflected here as a kind of "short form" for unhappy spinster.
So ... in context, when Clarence announces, "She never married!" it's supposed to be taken as "She never got what she wanted. She lived a life lonely and unloved!"
The idea is, Mary went from having what she really wanted for herself, to being essentially a social outcast and alone (in the context of the times) never realizing _anything_ she wanted for herself.
If they were to remake IAWL (please, God, no), the Pottersville Mary might be a housewife trapped in an unhappy marriage (to Potter?) while in Bedford Falls she would doubtless be some sort of career woman who also had the man she loves as her husband.
The unmarried librarian thing is just a form of social short-forming whose context has been lost over time.
Again, not trying to pee on anyone's parade, but when even the NYT forgets to factor in these details, I hadda vent somewhere.
There is another strong stereotype of that same period and even before. That of the single "schoolmarm". Bun hairdo, pencil in it like "Miz Prunelly" in the Snuffy Smith comic strips. Remember the movie Good Morning, Miss Dove?
Even in Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, Katherine Ross's characted said "I'm 26, and I'm single, and a school teacher, and that's the bottom of the pit. And the only excitement I've known is here with me now."
The school teacher is an even older stereotype as there were single schoolmarms before there were public libraries.
Of course, in both cases, the librarian and schoolmarm stereotype is often reversed (as it was in Butch and Sundance). Once you get their glasses off and their hair down, they're HOT. They suddenly become vamps.
Having dated a librarian, that is more accurate then the butch old maid. Laura Bush was a librarian and she was and still is a pretty snappy number.
Well, not sure if it was the same for librarians, but as for school teachers, they were expected to be unmarried in the 19th and early 20th century, at least over here in Europe. Heck, watch a movie playing in the 1950s and you probably won't find a married teacher. Even when I visited high school, there were still a few female teachers (approaching retirement) of the old type who were all unmarried. Of course that still doesn't explain why being single is considered such a horrid state ;).
Singledom, then as now, is only a horrid state if it's something you must resign yourself to, rather than choosing for yourself.
As above, the tragedy for Mary's character is that, in a world without George, she can't choose what she desires. The inference is that she doesn't choose to be single in the world of Pottersville, she's resigned or consigned to it for lack of personally-preferable options.
I know people like this, even today, and I'm sure you do too. Some people are happier single, but others do better as part of a relationship. Singledom for the latter folks is sometimes a burden to bear, because they feel an entire aspect of their nature is being denied, suppressed or ignored.
That's all I'm sayin' here. Thanks for commenting!