Who is your favorite fictional character? Is it a villain or a hero? Protagonist or antagonist? Well written characters, whether they are good or evil, are worth rooting for. Some may even have traits that can inspire you. I rarely have a “favorite” anything since I love so many various and complex characters for different reasons but I’m going to talk about a character that I aspire to. My fictional hero.
George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. Enough said, right? No? Well, then *cracks knuckles* where do I even start with this amazing character?
He is inherently kind from the start. For example, George covers for a grieving old man who almost accidentally poisons a child when George himself is only a young boy. He saves his kid brother from drowning. So, to begin with, a likeable guy. As he grows older, he dreams of traveling the world and seeing all the sights. Most of us can relate to being stuck in a sleepy town and wanting to get out, stretch your legs, and find some freedom. Unfortunately, George never gets that opportunity. His father dies and leaves him the company. His younger brother goes to war. He feels stuck, but he also doesn’t want to let his old man down and let the family business die. He falls in love, gets married, and continues to fight the good fight.
The good fight in this story is why I love this character. His family business is the Building and Loan in his home town of Bedford Falls. Through this small company, George and his associates help poor families living in the slums afford to own their own houses. This is a great benefit to the community: some of these families are foreigners who have been scraping by paying rent. They have next to nothing and have been living in horrible conditions. George gives them loans and eventually they move to nicer homes and some even become well off enough to start their own businesses in town.
Now, the Building and Loan continues to remain poor because they are constantly giving their money away to people who can’t really pay them back. But that isn’t important to George. As long as he can help others, and at least keep the business open, he knows that is good enough to honor his father’s memory.
He goes through rough patches, as we all do. He often becomes angry and is sick and tired of being stuck in his small town. But his guardian angel shows up and reveals how important his life really is. Later, he basically realizes that he is the heart and soul of the town. He has gone out of his way for years to help everyone he knows in one way or another. When he is in serious trouble, almost the entire population of Bedford Falls shows up at his house to help.
Ah, to be that loved. To be that important. And all he had to do was show kindness. His biggest competition represents capitalism at its finest, or should I say worst. Even before credit scores, banks were stingy about giving loans. Potter is the Scrooge of this story. He is an old rich white man who lords over everyone in town. He basically just sits on his wealth and relishes the power it gives him. He lives for making everyone around him miserable by keeping them in debt.
Sounds familiar, huh? Seems like much hasn’t changed since this story was first written. Billionaires and trillionaires are controlling the population by keeping everyone in debt. Using the media to point fingers at others to keep us lowly poor folk fighting amongst ourselves instead of challenging the true evildoers. Slipping money into politicians pockets so they can avoid taxes and stay rich and powerful. Sadly, nothing has changed. If anything, things have gotten worse in old ‘merica.
That’s why George Bailey is so inspiring. A fictional character, sure, but one I love and admire. He was never afraid to go up against Potter. He never hesitated to tell him what he really thought about him. He would chance losing his company over doing the wrong thing and hurting others. We need more George Baileys in this world. That man is my hero.