I’ve often turned to film for great illustrations of embracing failure. As it happens, this blog is the third highest Google entry for the search “Land of the Misfit Toys”. That post always gets a bit of a spike of hits during the holidays, but this year it has rocketed with the appearance of the Verizon advert which uses the characters. Over 90% of the visits to my blog in the past month have been for this post. Misfit toys indeed!
This year’s yuletide inspiration comes from one of the all time season classics, It’s A Wonderful Life. The film is one of my favourites, second only to Miracle on 34th Street as the best Christmas movie, but it was my online soul mate Failuremag.com which featured a superb post on the film which couldn’t be more apropos this season with the continued economic woes and community businesses facing the exact same issues as George in the film…
“At its core, It’s a Wonderful Life is a parable of a good, honest man who, after years of struggling to do the right thing, questions his life and the choices he’s made. Teetering on the brink of despair, the protagonist, George Bailey, finally concludes that his life has been a failure. Surmising that it might have been better if he had never been born, he contemplates suicide, only to be rescued by an angel determined to get his wings.
“While It’s a Wonderful Life is often referred to as a sentimental movie, the issues it presents—questioning what makes a man a failure or a success—are hardly lighthearted. Perhaps that accounts for the strong reactions it evokes. As the year ends, we tend to take stock of our own lives, questioning our worth and our place in a world that often doesn’t behave as we expect. Like George Bailey, things didn’t go as expected for It’s a Wonderful Life, the movie. But its story would have a happy ending too, emerging to become synonymous with Christmas and one of the most popular films of all time.”
“That’s the great thing—the film is about a whole life. Good things happen and bad things happen and a bank run happens and someone nearly drowns. The great thing about Wonderful Life is that it’s ambivalent. Failure is in the eye of the beholder. It depends on your expectations, your goals, and what your value system is.”
Curiously the piece goes on to describe art imitating life as the film itself struggled with failure through its creation and release. The film is full of overtones of the ‘Death of Dreams’. It takes an angel to show him the ‘success’ behind the veil of ‘failure’ as he celebrates in the final scene (video above), “A warrant for my arrest…isn’t it wonderful? I’m going to jail!…Look at this wonderful drafty old house…”