It's a Wonderful Life is one of my favorite Christmas movies. If you haven't seen it, you've probably been living under a rock for the past 70 years. It's classic, iconic, blahblahblah and pretty much every other Christmas movie made after it plays on it or borrows from it in some way. George Bailey is the quintessential good guy down on his luck. However, there's one guy I always feel sorry for when I watch that movie, and he isn't a Bailey. He's Mr. Potter's Wheelchair-Pusher.
|Yeah, he pretty much looks like this the entire movie|
George Bailey seems to consider this silent, old dude to be in league with Potter and his various nefarious schemes (say that three times fast), and at one point calls Potter "a scurvy little spider" and then yells at Wheelchair-Pusher guy (who is actually credited as "Potter's Bodyguard", but he never seems to do much of anything but push Mr. Potter's wheelchair and look solemn), "and that goes for you, too."
Think about it, though. Bedford Falls is a small town without many job prospects. The Baileys own the Building & Loan and Potter owns everything else. The Baileys don't seem much for hiring anyone who isn't related to them (I have no doubt anyone from Ernie the taxi driver to Violet the town strumpet could do a better job than cotton-headed Uncle Billy), so that leaves most of the town working for Potter in some respect. Wheelchair-Pusher is one of many.
Also, his job can't be easy. I imagine it's kind of like working at Downton Abbey, you know, if the Earl of Grantham was Satan. Potter is forever barking at him to hurry up and push him faster. Mr. Potter is not a small man and have you seen that chair? Ornate carving and high, solid back and all? That thing has to weigh 50 or 60 lbs.! And do you think Prince of Darkness Potter pays a fair wage? Ha! I bet Wheelchair-Pusher makes less than Martini's bartender, Nick (the only guy who's actually better off in alternate Universe Bedford Falls AKA Pottersville, by the way - he owns the bar in Pottersville).
Notice also, that Wheelchair Pusher doesn't utter a single word in the entire film. This to me says one of three things:
1. He's mute, in which case finding any sort of employment has probably been pretty rough for him and he's probably been teased and marginalized his whole life given the time he's living in.
2. He's been forbidden to talk by Potter while he's on the job. Maybe he wants to speak up and say, "Hey, Mr. Potter, what you're doing stinks" but he's afraid of getting fired or having cigar ashes thrown in his face.
3. Potter has had his tongue removed to ensure his silence since he is witness to all of Potter's foulest deeds.
You have to agree that none of these options sounds particularly appealing. To make matters worse for Mr. Wheelchair-Pusher, he probably has no friends since the people of Bedford Falls (being the hypocritical bastards they are since half of them are employed by Potter, too) associate him with Potter even though Potter probably keeps him chained in a basement somewhere when he's not on duty.
So, let's sum up. The Wheelchair-Pusher dude has a tough job making peanuts working for a mean guy. He's mute, either by birth, by financial necessity, or by force, and all of the other folks in town are rotten to him because of his boss. He's not even allowed to sit down but has to stand behind Mr. Potter the entire film, and he's no spring chicken, either. Surely he'd like to have a seat and rest his old bones from time to time. Yes, folks, George Bailey may have it bad, but at least he has friends who will lend him $8000 when his dumbass uncle accidentally hands it to the one man who's been trying to destroy their family for years. Wheelchair-Pusher has nothing but a rockin' hat.
So remember Mr. Potter's Wheelchair-Pusher this holiday season and think: George Bailey was saved in the end, but Wheelchair-Pusher has to keep working for that monstrous jerk Mr. Potter and can you imagine how grouchy he's going to be when he learns George Bailey was born after all?