We may all claim to be cynics most of the year, but where Christmas is concerned, we all become as soft and sentimental as a plate of sugar cookies. Case in point: our favorite holiday movie. The List recently polled more than 600 people on this very topic, and the overwhelming favorite was It’s a Wonderful Life, the 1946 Frank Capra classic starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.
The film endures after all these years because it pushes all the right buttons: a likeable hero who sacrifices his own dreams to help his family and his hometown; a boo-able villain in Mr. Potter, the town tycoon; an underdog angel who shows George what the world would be like without him; and most of all, the uplifting message that each of us has an impact on the world, even if we don’t realize it on a daily basis. As Clarence’s final message to George Bailey goes, “No man is a failure who has friends.”
As of now, there are no plans to create an updated version of Life (why mess with success?), but if there were, some things about the film would have to be changed in order to make it authentically 2020.
George and Mary might have different jobs
Of course, the happy ending of the film would be retained: George would realize his worth, his business would be saved, and Christmas would be merry. But considering the public sentiment over certain famous hard-hearted millionaires who shall remain nameless, the plot might have the Potter character getting his just desserts for stealing the building and loan’s deposit money.
Come to think of it, perhaps George would be written as an Amazon warehouse clerk or a supermarket manager instead of a banker. As historian Carla Valderrama recently told CNN, “Right now, a lot of us are like George Bailey in a sense because he’s trapped in Bedford Falls and he feels like he’s a failure as a result of that. Right now, being in this state of lockdown since March, I’ve reevaluated what it means to be successful in my life.” She added that front-line workers have become George Bailey-like heroes for working behind the scenes to make other people’s lives easier.
The character of Mary Bailey would probably be tweaked, too. In the original, she marries George right out of school and settles happily into 1940s housewifery, and in George’s alternate reality, she’s an unmarried librarian (oh horrors!). A 2020 version would make it clear that she’s not defined solely by her marital status. She’d probably run a successful home-based crafting business on Etsy in between chauffeuring the kids to soccer and music classes.
The film would have to reflect the pandemic
Finally, a 2020 remake of this classic would have to acknowledge the lifestyle changes we’ve all had to make in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone from George to cab driver Ernie would be shown wearing face masks. Martini’s tavern would have outdoor seating and plastic tents around each table. Due to his age, Potter would be doing his business from home to avoid unnecessary exposure to the public – or maybe he’d be an anti-masker heckling everyone else about being “brainwashed sheeple.”
George’s children would either be going to school in socially distanced classrooms or learning remotely in the dining room — in which case, little Zuzu’s teacher wouldn’t be sending her home from school with an unbuttoned coat. If by chance Zuzu did come down with a fever, Mary would be frantically calling the pediatrician to ask about testing and quarantining.
And that famous final scene where the entire town crowds into the Bailey house to offer their good wishes? Not happening this year. More likely, brother Harry would set up a GoFundMe account to help pay George’s debt, and Mary would host a Zoom session where all of Bedford Falls would sing “Auld Lang Syne” (totally out of sync, but it’s the thought that counts). So an updated Life might not look exactly like the Capra version, but as long as Clarence gets his wings in the end, it’s all good.
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