War Compelled the Dashing of Dreams for WWII Gen Youth – It’s a Not-So Wonderful Life
Sixties Youth Ideals of Freedom –
So at Odds with Their Parents Lives of Heavy Responsibilities
The paramount theme in “Pleasantville”—which is that thinking for oneself and following one’s own unique path and being open to the change that comes with that brings “color,” truth, and aliveness to one’s life—is truly a Sixties Generation idea. Again, it is not that it has never been thought of before. All great ideas have been thought before, but that does not mean they have been implemented on a sociocultural, macrocosmic level. Many ideas have remained in the realm of the solitary pursuits of philosophers and mystics and been exemplified only in individual lives. But the Sixties was such a time of turmoil because the values of individual freedom, personal passion, feeling and experience, questioning authority, and thinking for oneself were shared by so many Baby-Boomers and were so contrary to the values of the generation in power.
It’s a (Not So) Wonderful Life
An excellent example of how opposed the Sixties values are to those of the WWII Generation is found in that beloved movie of all time, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring Jimmy Stewart. In that film, the main character is prevented by circumstances from following his dreams. One event after another keeps him from leaving his home town. His story might be called “The Truman Show” in reverse for he comes to accept the loss of his dreams. He is rewarded for giving up his yearning for adventure with the warmth of a loving family and friends.
Nonetheless, he has been reduced to someone who simply follows a script or role and when it appears that he might fail in that role he considers killing himself.
Reassures a Generation
The movie is beloved and timeless, no doubt, because it reassures an entire generation and all those who have had to give up their dreams for whatever reason that their sacrifices were for a higher good and that it is a wonderful life after all.
Will never know what might have been
It provides a rationalization against the painful feelings of knowing that one will never know “what might have been” by pointing out the truth that one’s life affects others and has meaning regardless of whether or not one has been fortunate enough to actualize one’s deepest desires, talents, aspirations, and dreams.
War Compels Dashing of Dreams
As mentioned, “It’s a Wonderful Life” calls out to and epitomizes the experiences and attitudes of the World War Two Generation in particular. They were called upon to fight a war, after all, which no doubt would derail many a young man’s (and woman’s) dreams. As in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the circumstances that arise to prevent their following through on their dreams are imposed from the outside–the state of being at war and being called upon by a draft to enlist or else be enlisted. For the women, as well as the men who stayed behind, the war’s influence on their lives and the carrying out of idealistic schemes and dreams are only a little less pronounced. For, as in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the war created a society heaving with needs and pain, which only the truly heartless (who wouldn’t have any dreams anyway) could not help but feel compelled to respond to.
Growing Up Too Fast
In one way or another, the situation in the Forties, with the war effort and afterwards, created a generation who, except for the rare individual or one of unusual circumstances, was called upon to step up into mature responsible tasks long before the idealism of their youth would have preferred that they do so. And their generation is scarred for having missed this opportunity. They are individuals deserving of our sympathy; yet crippled they are nonetheless.
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