What is it that makes the holiday movie classic It’s a Wonderful Lifefeel so ancient? It’s the relationships, but which ones?
Not George Bailey’s warm and loving family. We have close families today. It’s not the far-off relationships, as with long-lost school friends. We have more of them than ever, thanks to Facebook and other digital communities.
The relationships they had in Bedford Falls that are often missing today are those between the very intimate and the quite distant. Townspeople like Gower the druggist, Ernie the cabdriver, Bert the cop — George knew them all by name, and he knew their stories.
George’s family, owners of a building and loan, was fairly prosperous. But the Baileys remained tightly woven with people of varying incomes, education and ethnicity. Each of them was an individual, not just a useful provider of a good or service.
This is society’s middle ring, so strong in the Main Street America of 70 years ago but much weakened since by several forces. One is the clustering of like-minded people from similar backgrounds in the same neighborhood. Another is the migration of social life and shopping to the Internet.