There are many movies this time of year that my family enjoys watching. Home Alone, Die Hard, A Christmas Story, and many others. I always watch It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Wizard of Oz. There is an underlying theme in these films that we may not fully comprehend. Each deal with facing fear, standing down bullies, and fighting the abuse of power.
In Home Alone, the young Kevin is accidentally left on his own, and now he must face his fears and defend the house against invaders. Die Hard finds the innocent bystander, John McClain, in the wrong place at the wrong time when a group of terrorists take over the building. Rising to the occasion, he uses all of his skills and wit to survive against great odds and save his wife and other hostages.
We love these films for reasons that touch us to the core. It may be in our fight or flight instinct or just seeing the forces of good overcome the forces of evil.
The Wizard of Oz came out in 1939, a time when the United States was just coming out of the Great Depression and the world was dealing with the rise of totalitarian leaders. Dorothy, played by Judy Garland, is a young girl who falls into a foreign land. Her only goal is to get back home to Kansas and she gathers a team to help her fulfill that mission. Their adventure is full of opportunity to face fears and find courage, plus a little bit of luck. The real message comes near the end.
Having done their duty, they return to the all-powerful Wizard for reward. To Dorothy and her team, the Wizard is quite scary. He reneges on their deal and tries to frighten them away. It is only when the little dog Toto pulls back the curtain, that we see the Wizard is nothing more than a little man. The Emperor has no clothes!
In It’s A Wonderful Life, you have two banks in business; one focuses on profit, while the other is focused on community. Mr. Potter pretends to be helpful when in reality he is a thief and tries to drive the competition out of business. George Bailey, played by the wonderful Jimmy Stewart, explains to the shareholders at his bank how their deposits help each other build and prosper and so on. Some of them don’t get it and take their money and go, afraid to lose everything. But most of them stay, and the bank survives.
In the end, George and the bank live life anew when the community comes to his aid. Clarence the angel gets his wings and George realizes that no matter the circumstances, he is blessed with family and friends.
So what are the lessons from such films? Many times in life, we are afraid to challenge what we see, or we live in fear of things we don’t see. We don’t ask enough questions and we stay in our lane. Abuse of power is more common to some, and when good people stand aside and do nothing, bad things happen. But we can make a difference if we rise above our own selves and do what we are capable of, facing life with an honest and courageous heart.
Daniel Parker is an author, educator, and public servant. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org