Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Favorite Female Movie Characters: Mary Hatch (It's a Wonderful Life)

    Mary Hatch is something of an anomaly on this list. While it seems that I tend to favor crazy people, backstabbers and spitfires, Mary is a ‘good girl’ in the black-and-white-movie-era meaning of the word: she’s a homemaker, a lover, a mother, a doting wife, and the backbone of a very good man who leans heavily on a very good woman to love him and help him.
       ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is mostly the story of George Bailey, the hero, a man whose daydreams of life and grand ambitions have little reality in his day-to-day struggle. Determined, clever, and enterprising, George starts his life as a young man full of vision and enthusiasm, who wants to travel the world, have grand adventures, see the pyramids, and live the high life. This is in stark contrast to his small-town, middle class upbringing. His father runs a small Building and Loan, a business George detests, though he loves his father dearly. At the untimely death of his father, George takes over the Building and Loan to keep it from falling into the hands of Mr. Potter, the veritable Ebenezer Scrooge of the town who hates everyone and owns everything. Thus, the stage is set for George to become the Everyman. He lives a life he finds shameful, but keeps selflessly pushing through, never realizing how many lives he has touched with his devotion to everyone’s dreams but his own.
        Mary grows up with George as the little sister of one of his childhood friends. She has loved him for years, and when they are reacquainted as young adults, he begins to return her affection. Mary is bubbly, smart, deeply goodhearted, and not without a clever streak. Though she is in most ways the definition of a proper lady, she has a lighthearted spirit around her that occasionally enjoys being shocking. At first, George doesn’t want Mary’s affections, though he cares for her deeply. He has never wanted the married life, and has always snobbishly seen it as best fit for those with no other ambition. However, he can’t stay away from her, so in one very famous scene, he walks into Mary’s mother’s home to visit her, but won’t admit that he desperately wanted to see her, and so shuffles around her house aimlessly, grumbling in disgust of his own weakness. Mary is currently being courted by a wealthy suiter named Sam, someone her mother loves, and when her mother demands to know what George Bailey is doing in the house, Mary calls out, “He’s making violent love to me, Mother!” and enjoys the look of embarrassment on George’s face.
        Mary’s main ambition in life is to marry George and have a family with him. This definitely wouldn't fly as the leading lady’s main goal today, but it was considered highly acceptable at the time of the movie’s release. Therefore, Mary is a homemaker. George works, and Mary has children and keeps house, but also takes time to volunteer for the war effort and make as many contributions to the community she loves as she can. She is the solid rock that George leans on as he shoves through a life he hates, and while she understand that this isn’t the life he would have chosen for himself, I don’t believe she understands until the crucial moment just how disappointed George is with the lot he’s been given. However, there is nothing more fierce than the love of a loyal woman, and at the end,  George finally appreciates the treasure that Mary is, and the great joy she has given him. The movie is rife with heavy sentiment and is known one of the sappiest films of all time, but we revisit it for a reason: there is no one in this world who wants to feel that their life has been worth nothing, and we all want to realize that we have indeed had a wonderful life, even if only because of the great people we have been fortunate enough to love.

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