In honor of this gloriously lazy holiday season, I present to you: Mary, the old maid librarian from 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life‘s kooky alternative universe. In the true reality in which her husband George exists, Mary is a loving, doting, perfect housewife with a few precious kids. Without George in her life, she is matronly, alone, and apparently visually challenged. (Seriously, where did those glasses come from? Is that the only way they could make Donna Reed look homely?) The bulky coat, the glasses, the lack of makeup: these symbols signify alternate!Mary’s lack of worth. Without George, she is nothing; a woman reduced to the worst possible designation ever: unwed.
Furthermore, it’s made absolutely clear that being a librarian is the worst thing ever that could have happened to George’s lovely wife. Here’s a clip of his shocking discovery, when he asks Clarence “where’s Mary?”
Oh, Mary. You deserve better. She cowers and cries and faints when George (still not “getting it”, obviously) chases after her and makes a scene:
Husbandless Mary is wearing glasses. Her dress is less feminine and has a higher neckline. Her hair is pulled back into a bun (how very stereotypical) and covered up with a hat. She looks incredibly worried. And the trees casting shadows across the scene don’t make her alternate identity any brighter.
This character certainly reflects societal beliefs about librarians in 1946: that librarians were single, unhappy women.
Now that we’re all depressed, I hope you had a very merry Christmas indeed, and that your 2013 is a great one!