For the columnist in the NY Times, however, his view is drastically different:
Not only is Pottersville cooler and more fun than Bedford Falls, it also would have had a much, much stronger future. Think about it: In one scene George helps bring manufacturing to Bedford Falls. But since the era of “It’s a Wonderful Life” manufacturing in upstate New York has suffered terribly.
On the other hand, Pottersville, with its nightclubs and gambling halls, would almost certainly be in much better financial shape today. It might well be thriving.
He also references an ealier column in Slate, which "rightly pointed out how much fun Pottersville appears to be, and how awful and dull Bedford Falls is."
He even noticed that the only entertainment in the real town, glimpsed on the marquee of the movie theater after George emerges from the alternate universe, is “The Bells of St. Mary’s.”
Now that’s scary.
There are many contrasts that one could make between the world of Pottersville and that of Bedford Falls. I notice that the NY Times writer skips the big one that I always see: there are no children in Pottersville. No wonder he finds a town so full of families as Bedford Falls to be so unnerving; for a guy who would prefer to spend his time drinking, while trying to get lucky with the dames as well as the dice, children would be a resented intrusion indeed upon this “thriving” paradise.
When George Bailey comes home to a sick child fretting over her dying flower, he improvises some parental medicine by pocketing his daughter Zuzu’s flower petals without her noticing. His life is a mess, but he still makes the time, and summons the ingenuity, to try and help his beloved daughter in her time of need. It’s likely that she never would have found about such a small gesture of kindness, just as it’s likely that while we’re alive we’ll never learn about all the small kindnesses, all the sacrifices that have been made on our behalf, by those who love us. Once we start sacrificing for others, however, the gestures made earlier for us become far more possible to imagine.
Isn’t it interesting that the “benefactor” who helped attract the nightclubs and “dance halls” in the alternative town of Pottersville has his name smack in the forefront of it all, so that everyone can know the “good” that he’s done for them... another contrast left unmentioned in the article.
Maybe someone who sees a better life to be had in a Pottersville instead of a Bedford Falls is someone who has yet to see how they are loved, and the many forms in which that love has been demonstrated. If I thought that nobody loved me I don’t think I would have a problem spending all my money on drinking binges with one-night stands, either.
Not everyone is ready at the same time for the humility required to give of ourselves selflessly; some are blessed with having been raised upon so much bedrock stability in their own Bedford Falls that they can easily see the value in, and the sense behind, sacrificial love. Others, like George Bailey (and me), needed a far longer perspective, even a great shock, in order to learn the same lesson:
Good doesn’t just happen, it’s made. And when you make a lot of it in your life, then it’s a wonderful life.