7 Reasons Mary From “It’s A Wonderful Life” Is A Worthy Heroine

I have told you that The Polar Express is my favorite Christmas movie. But now I am going to confess that it was difficult to write… because I love It’s A Wonderful Life so much. I wasn’t quite sure which I loved more.

Of course, Jimmy Stewart is the heart and soul of the movie. But this year, something else jumped out at me as I watched the film for the millionth time.

Mary.

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Talk about an unsung hero.

There are funnier characters. There are prettier women. There are better actors, to be honest. But as a character, there is something appealing about Mary.

So I’ve identified a list of qualities in Mary that I admire.

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1. Knows what she wants

Right from the start, Mary is the one who knows what she wants. In contrast to Violet, who selfishly wants everything, Mary has set her sights on George Bailey.

That’s quite a bit of vision for a seven-year-old girl, isn’t it?

Not only that, but she holds onto this dream all the way into her teen years. And when she sees that old abandoned house, she knows that’s where she wants to live.

I admire Mary’s decision, determination, and goals. And that she lets herself dream.

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2. Doesn’t make herself ridiculous in pursuit of it

Again, there is such a contrast between Mary and Violet. Violet truly does make a fool out of herself in pursuit of George. And though he perhaps a bit distracted by Violet on occasion, I like to believe that he is never stupid enough to fall for her act.

Mary mentions at the dance that George “passes her in the street every day.” The implication is that he never noticed her. And that doesn’t exactly seem complimentary, does it? But if you think about it, it is. Tacitly, this implies that Mary was not like Violet – not trying to catch anyone’s eye, not trying so hard to impress that she looks silly in the process, not trying to flaunt herself.

Personally, I think that’s something to be proud of.

Something else that stands out is that Mary is dating Sam Wainwright when George and Mary get engaged. Now, we do get the impression that Mary’s mother is pushing for this, but you have to admire the fact that Mary isn’t “conveniently single” whenever George is around.

3. Has a sense of adventure

Living in a shabby house in your small, boring hometown doesn’t sound particularly exciting. At least, not to a person like me. Like George, I want to do things, go places. So I can’t say that I relate to Mary’s contentment.

But she does have a sense of adventure.

That house is seriously spooky. She has the spunk to be willing to fix it up and turn into a livable home. And she seems completely happy about touring Europe.

Maybe I can relate to this woman, after all.

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4. Is generous with her own money

When the bank crashes and the people are in a panic, it’s Mary who holds up her wad of cash – money that was to be spent on a luxurious honeymoon – and offers it to the scared citizens of Bedford Falls.

Every time I see this scene, I am struck by how sweet this gesture is. How many wives would be angry with their husband of only a few hours running off and leaving her on their way to their honeymoon? I’m gonna venture a guess that most of us in Mary’s shoes wouldn’t react the way she does.

5. Is not afraid of poverty

This might be the most obvious of Mary’s admirable traits.

Mary honestly believes that as long as she has George, she doesn’t need anything else. She’s happy to live in an old house someone else abandoned, in a sleepy little town she has lived in her whole life.

She doesn’t aspire to see the world, the way George does. She doesn’t dream of changing the world, the way George does. He is all she wants.

She’s not scared of a hard life. George cannot comprehend this.

6. Has a sense of humor

There’s this one scene where George comes home, feeling like a failure. Mary wakes up and George asks her point-blank, “Why did you Mary a guy like me?”

I adore her response. It makes me laugh.

She says, “To keep from being an old maid.”

She’s got spunk!

7. Protects her children

At the end of the movie, George is distraught and is taking out his frustration on his wife, his children, and his daughter’s teacher. And his daughter’s teacher’s husband.

I’m always impressed by how Mary is willing to absorb his anger toward her – but she refuses to let him scare her kids.

I can’t help but think, “Good for her.”

She understands that he is scared and frustrated, but she has to protect her children.

What say you? Who is your favorite character in It’s A Wonderful Life? Anybody for Mary? Anybody for Violet? Are there any other admirable traits I missed? What is your favorite Christmas movie?

Who Is The Hobo From “The Polar Express”?

The Polar Express is my favorite Christmas movie. So I hope you have seen it. The animation is slightly horrifying and the main character is never actually given a name, but there is one all-redeeming feature. The hobo.

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That’s right.

There’s a hobo in this movie. If you didn’t want to watch it before, you surely do now.

Now, if you have already watched The Polar Express, you have probably wondered who the heck the hobo actually is.

This post is dedicated to that question. We’ll take a vote at the end.

1. Santa

This has always been the thought lingering in the back of my mind when I am watching this movie.

I mean, he does a spot-on Santa-laugh impression. And whips a random Santa hat out of his coat. And wears bright red fingerless mittens. And calls himself “the King of the North Pole!”

All good reasons to believe that he is Santa, to my way of thinking.

2. The Boy’s Guardian Angel

You would have to admit that this dude is always conveniently present when the boy’s life is in danger. Not to mention that no one else ever seem to see him.

Definitely seems personal to that particular boy.

3. A Fallen Angel

On the other hand, he is awfully dirty. And generally fits the image I’ve always had of a fallen angel trying to redeem himself.

Kind of like Clarence?

4. The Voice Of Doubt

This hobo seems just a tad cynical? So perhaps he is supposed to represent the more practical, realistic side of the boy’s mind. The side that doesn’t want to believe in Santa, or the Polar Express, or magic.

But that would make him the bad guy in this story… And that just doesn’t seem right.

5. The Boy’s Subconscious

You ever notice how the hobo always seems to be saying the exact same thing that the boy has just said?

Almost like… the hobo is a visible representation of how our brains work?

In which case, I would like to see what my personal Hobo looks like.

6. The Ghost Of Someone Who Died On The Train Or Was Hit By The Train

This story needs a retelling, don’t you think? So much possibility!

I mean, I’m still confused why the story is about the boy when the hobo so clearly has more story potential?

Oh, well. Not everyone possesses my creative genius.

7. Homeless Guy

I know. How boring.

And how many homeless guys do you know who can also disintegrate into mist? That’s what I thought.

So can we just agree that this idea is preposterous? Good.

Who do you think the hobo is? What would your Hobo look like? And most importantly, how many homeless guys do you know?

My Thoughts On The Hobbit Trilogy

For those of you who have not had the pleasure, I will quickly summarize the trilogy.

In the first movie we have narration, Bilbo being used as a Kleenex, and goblins who look nothing like their orc counterparts, not to mention the fact that they speak English… with a British accent.

In the second, we learn that Mirkwood is confusing – unless you climb the trees, and then it’s amazing, with a nice breeze and autumn-colored leaves that turn into these cute blue butterflies –

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that a morgul  shaft will render you sweaty and several shades paler than normal – and, who knows, may even induce childbirth,

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that liquid gold has absolutely no ill affects on dragons, and lastly, that Bard is a man of many talents.

In the last movie we begin to doubt Bard’s parenting,

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Azog and Bolg’s mortality,

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to wonder why dwarves who have miraculously survived the first two movies are now dropping like flies and if Legolas will ever get it through his thick skull that Tauriel is not interested.

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So. Now that we’ve established the basic principles…

Let the list begin.

1. To The Nerds

I hear a lot of people whining about how The Hobbit movies do not stay true to the book.

Before you join this group, make sure you’ve gotten your facts right. Jackson seems to have gotten his material straight from Tolkien himself. Check the Appendices in your copy of The Lord of the Rings, or read The Silmarillion. It’s in there.

Some of this stuff will surprise you, I think.

Some of it surprised me, and I’m one of the biggest nerds there is.

Like Azog. He’s in there.

Bolg, his son? He’s in there.

Dol Guldur? Yep. This was a real fortress.

The Necromancer? Absolutely.

Gandalf and Thorin’s  meeting at the Prancing Pony in Bree? You bet.

Thrain wandering around in the wilderness? That, too.

Gundabad? Mmm-hmm.

Satisfied yet?

Besides, you have to remember that Tolkien wrote The Hobbit for children. He hadn’t done any of the intensive research and worldbuilding he had done by the time he wrote The Lord of the Rings.

Some gaps obviously had to be filled.

Now, to be fair, Jackson did make a few unprecedented changes.

2. Tauriel

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Tauriel was the topic of much debate.

Personally, I have no problem with her. Mirkwood, and the elf kingdom that the dwarves were held in there, came straight from the book. I thought it was a great idea to pick out a representative of the Mirkwood elves as a supporting character.

The trouble starts when a love triangle looms in sight – a love triangle Tolkien didn’t so much as hint at.

3. Legolas

If you have read The Hobbit, you know that a guy named Thranduil is not in it.

But the King of the Woodland Realm is. And in The Lord of the Rings, the King of the Woodland Realm is named Thranduil.

And the messenger he sends to the Council of Elrond happens to be his son. That would be Legolas.

So it absolutely makes sense that he would appear in The Hobbit movies.

However, I’m not a fan of Legolas myself, so I wasn’t thrilled to see him. And his whole, “Hey, Tauriel, let’s go off on our own to singlehandedly take on the forces of evil!” is ridiculous.

And, don’t quote me on this, but he seems to have changed eye color?

4. The Dwarves

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They did not get the hood-and-hair colors right! 

Come on, Jackson. Where are your priorities, my man?

But let’s be serious for a moment. There were some things about the dwarves I didn’t like. The innuendo was new and eye-roll-worthy at best.

Bofur is annoying.

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I want to murder Ori.

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Bombur was supposed to be fat, not obese and his supposedly comedic scenes are sickening.

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Dori, Oin, Nori, and Bifur are useless, unlikable characters.

And Fili and Kili are too darn good-looking!

 

On the other hand, I fell wholeheartedly in love with sweet old Balin.

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Dwalin is my spirit animal.

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Thorin is glorious perfection.

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And Fili and Kili’s bromance is awfully cute.

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5. Martin Freeman

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The Lord of the Rings movies have sported some truly gifted actors over the years – Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Andy Serkus, and Elijah Wood among them. Martin Freeman is instantly admitted into this elite group. Not only admitted, but in a league all his own. He is fantastic!

Richard Armitage, who played Thorin, also had quite an impressive performance.

6. Three Movies

I actually agree with this complaint. I don’t see why the story had to be dragged out so long.

Not that I’m smart enough to tell you what should have been left out.

It just seems like the second half of the first movie is “Let’s run away from orcs!” and the second half of the second movie is “Let’s run away from this dragon!” and not much gets accomplished.

Ultimately…

Jackson’s commitment to accuracy and quality is admirable, and in his hands, the story behind the simple children’s book takes on the texture and emotion it wanted all along. These movies are on a level with the original trilogy.

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So tell me, friends! What are your thoughts on The Hobbit trilogy? Do you like it? Hate it? Was it as good as the original trilogy? Better? Are you a Legolas fan? What did you think of Tauriel? The love-triangle? The hot dwarves?

Pride And Prejudice And (Sea)Zombies, Basically

The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest has all the essential elements of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – with a few important additions: Elizabeth has abandoned the corsets for a more Peter Pan Live! approach, the zombies are back, but are going for a beach theme this time, and, wait a minute, is that – Mr. Collins?

Things get a bit more complicated in this movie, so bear with me. I will try to make this easy to follow. We have finally arrived at that time in every story where the girl must decide who she is going to choose – the wild guy, or the nice guy? In this case, Will or Jack. Honestly, I was surprised they didn’t plunge into this in The Curse of the Black Pearl, but better late than never, I suppose. Of course, the girl never does make up her mind. Elizabeth is going to waffle back and forth between the two guys for the next seven installments until we get so sick of our emotions being toyed with that we threaten to stop watching.

1. If Jack Represents Freedom, Elizabeth Represents… What, Exactly?

In Dead Man’s Chest, it becomes apparent that in addition to the surface level, there is also an allegorical level to this story. Jack Sparrow has come to mean, specifically to Elizabeth, freedom and adventure. And Elizabeth, I’m guessing, is supposed to represent the opposite, to Jack: being a good person, or choosing to do the right thing, or maybe sacrifice… I’m not really sure yet.

2. The Person, Or The Ideal?

In this movie, it is revealed that Jack’s compass, the one that supposedly “does not work,” actually points the bearer in the direction of whatever it is they want most. So, as opposed to a “moral compass,” I guess you could consider this an “immoral compass.”  So now we know what guides Jack through life: his own selfish desires.

As soon as it is made clear what exactly Jack’s compass does, it is obvious that the whole idea of “what you want most” is going to be a central theme for this movie. In the beginning of the movie, Jack, weirdly enough, appears to be feeling insecure because his compass is pointing in all different directions; he does not know what he wants. Later, Elizabeth struggles with the fact that the compass keeps pointing her to Jack. While part of her knows it is true, she refuses to believe that she is falling for him. When Jack is holding the compass and it points at Elizabeth, he concludes that the treasure he is seeking is buried beneath her. Strangely enough, the treasure actually does end up being buried there, but Jack knows the truth when the compass points him back to the ship he is abandoning because Elizabeth is on board it. But the question is, does Elizabeth want Jack most – or does she simply want the freedom and adventure he embodies? Does Jack want Elizabeth – or… whatever it is she stands for?

3. Prophecies

There is this one all-important moment in Dead Man’s Chest where Jack and Elizabeth make these predictions about each other. Jack prophesies that Elizabeth will realize that he is right: she is just like him, soon, she is going to want to see what it is like to do what she wants to do, to live life for herself. Elizabeth’s return shot is that one of these times, Jack will do the right thing, because, deep down inside, he is a good man. More on this later.

4. What Just Happened?

Jack has just propositioned Elizabeth and she, disgusted, has turned him down – but she’s disturbed by the fact that she knows Jack is right: she is more like him than she would like to admit. They both have black hearts and desire freedom and adventure above everything. But then she abruptly changes course and – attempts to seduce Jack? She seems to offer him herself if he becomes a good man and makes the decision to do the right thing in a crucial moment. She is leading him on, but why? If it was just to test him, to see if he would “do the right thing,” she certainly does not act the least bit alarmed that he is totally ignoring the speech she just made and is about to kiss her. On the other hand, she doesn’t seem terribly disappointed when he has a sudden change of heart and does not kiss her, even though it was pretty obvious that that was exactly what she wanted him to do.

5. Prophecies Fulfilled

Jack’s prophecy actually does come true… sort of. When Elizabeth chains him to The Black Pearl, she is looking out only for herself – similar to something Jack would do. But… arguably, sentencing Jack to a grisly death is not what Elizabeth wants to do because she wants to do it – the thing she would like to do is see what it would be like to do is to leave Will… for Jack. This is what Jack was referring to when he said that she would do what she wanted to because she wanted to do it. So… his prophecy kind of backfired on him.

Ironically, Elizabeth prevents her prophecy from coming true because she doesn’t give Jack the chance to do what she said he would. I’m inclined to think that Jack was already planning to stay behind on The Black Pearl to meet the kraken face-to-face – contradictory to his usual style, Jack wasn’t rushing to be the first to get away, instead he was lingering on the ship, looking forlorn. His line, “It’s only a ship, love,” is not only the most serious thing he has ever said, but it’s also totally out of character. But now we’ll never know – thanks a lot, Elizabeth!

The Curse of the Black Pearl was better. Dead Man’s Chest has even more far-fetched action scenes – the see-saw and rafter combo notably makes another appearance, as well as pretty much the exact same undead crew from The Curse of the Black Pearl with a few aquatic features slapped on, not to mention the dumb-pirate duo from the last movie. However, some elements of the plot I found vastly more interesting than the plot of the first movie. Because The Curse of the Black Pearl is introducing the characters and story for the first time there is no intricate plot. The idea of falling for the “wrong girl” or the “wrong guy,” though overused, I still find intriguing – especially when Jack Sparrow is the guy. Another interesting idea is Jack’s being “marked,” hunted by the kraken – and that his desire for Elizabeth is somehow intrinsically linked to the appearance of the mark.

Captive: A Pleasant Surprise

Captive, a recently-released film directed by Jerry Jameson, is based off of the true events that occurred in 2005 – alleged rapist Brian Nichols escaped from the county jail and held Ashley Smith hostage in her own home for seven hours.

I was enormously pleased to find that Captive was a good-quality, well-made movie. It is so common, at least in my experience, for Christian films to be low-budget and to prominently feature poor acting, cheesy lines, unrealistic sermonizing, and in-your-face preachiness.

Captive, fortunately, was something different in the way of Christian films.

Other Christian filmmakers could learn a thing or two from it.

Kate Mara and David Oyelowo – who virtually make up the entire cast of this film – steal the show. Obviously seasoned actors in their own right, it is even more enjoyable to watch them interact. Their on-screen chemistry is simply fantastic.

Can I just that I love the idea of hostage situation stories?

Because I do. So much.

The tension is fabulous, for one thing. Another thing I like is that it presents a unique opportunity for the audience to get to know the characters in a way they normally can’t.

Most movies cover a period of months or even years. Hostage situations usually only last a day or two – which means that the audience gets to see almost every detail of that time. This allows them to bond to the characters in an intimate way that most movies don’t create.

Not to mention that it forces the characters themselves to bond intensely, which is always fun to watch. I, for one, love watching close relationships develop between characters.

The only thing that messed up this movie for me was the ending.

It felt abrupt and left me wanting something. Closure… or more resolution, perhaps.

And it made it out like Nichols was the bad guy. Which, of course, he was.

But isn’t that the whole point of the movie? Or did I miss something?

I thought that the whole point was that two broken people collided and found a measure of healing by spending that seven hours with one another.

That Nichols was, in some ways, just as much of a captive as Ashley was. I mean, where could he go? He was trapped. Every bit as trapped as she was.

It seemed almost like Ashley was betraying him, by leaving.

In reality, Ashley did an incredibly brave thing. Something that is to be applauded. She did the right thing.

But Nichols, in the movie at least, is a vulnerable, slightly unstable man. And it feels like a betrayal to use his trust in Ashley against him that way. A bit of a slap in the face to their so-called “friendship.”

Toward the end of the movie, it seems like the makers lost sight of the fact that Ashley Smith was not the only who found healing, redemption, and hope that night.