Sunday, January 6, 2013

Violet Bick and the Bible Bad Girls

Who is Violet Bick?  She’s the sassy blond that the character George Bailey gave a few dollars so she could start a new life in Frank Capra’s 1946 film; It’s A Wonderful Life.  We don’t know much about Violet. In fact, most people probably don’t even recall her name.  All that is really known about her is that the movie’s hero took a few moments of his time to show her a little kindness.

We are introduced to Violet as a little girl in one of the opening scenes of the movie when she makes no secret that she has a crush on George.  Of course Violet doesn’t end up with George.  When we are reintroduced to Violet later in the movie, we learn that the little girl, who when she candidly admitted to liking George her friend Mary replied, “You like every boy”, grew up to be the town trollop. That’s what they called “bad girls” in 1946.   George grows up and marries the quiet and demure Mary who kept her feelings veiled in carefully worded innuendos. In reality Mary wanted George just as much as Violet, Mary just went about things very differently.  Audiences love and remember Mary, they barely remember Violet.  In the film we know very little about Violet because her character was not central to the storyline and therefore never fully developed.  Audiences in 1946 just had to use their imaginations.  If the film were remade today, someone would surely call Violet a “Ho”.

Who was Violet Bick?  I have always been curious. Did the little girl who tried to get George Bailey’s attention at the ice cream fountain grow up to be a prostitute or just a woman who dated one too many men and word got around. 

Throughout the course of history the role of women in society has changed and so has the definition of the word “whore.”  At present Merriam Webster defines the word whore as meaning: a woman who engages in sexual acts for money: prostitute; also: a promiscuous or immoral woman.  Definitions like that bother me because they are subjective, arbitrary and surely written by a man. 

By today’s standards, if a woman conducts a business transaction with a man to whom she is not married by performing a sexual act in exchange for a set amount of money she is called a prostitute aka “whore”.  On the other hand if a single woman has sex with a man after they have been to several movies, dinners and social events together, she is just dating.  Thirdly, if a woman marries a man based on his net worth and his ability to pay the bills and then some, she is free to give or withhold sex in the relationship and have the privilege of being referred to as a wife.  I’m sure that you see the irony in this.  Don’t misunderstand me, I am certainly not promoting prostitution nor am I bashing marriage. I am just pointing out in each case the woman is being judged not by her motives but by her relationship to the man. When we look at marriage in a historical perspective it has always been about money and financial security. In fact, it wasn’t until recent centuries that the concept of marrying for love became a popular notion.  For much of history parents for the mutual benefit of the families involved arranged marriage contracts.  Makes you rethink the term “pimp” doesn’t it?

And that leads to me the “bad girls” pf the Bible.

Whenever I am asked which of the women in the Bible that I most identify with, my answer normally shocks people.  Most Christian women identify with the bible heroines like Esther, Sarah, Rachel, Ruth, Deborah or the Queen of Sheba. Amazing women, all.  Some relate closely to the story of Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha.  A few jokingly say that they identify with Jezebel, Bathsheba or Delilah. There is even a very small and interesting group who relate to Mary the mother of Jesus.  I worry about them and feel sorry for their sons.  I personally happen to relate to the stories of Tamar, Rahab, Mary Magdalene and that nameless, “woman at the well”.  

No, I have never been a prostitute or had sex in exchange for money. I have not had six husbands nor am I living with anyone now. And thank God I have not buried several husbands and had to sleep with their father to get pregnant J However, over the past year, I will admit to have moments of temporary insanity.  What I relate to in these women’s lives is the fact that they were outcasts on whom God showed compassion. 

Tamar, through no fault of her own, found herself widowed, childless and trying to get justice in an era when women were only valued by the number of children they bore.  She took matters into her own hands and was falsely accused of being a whore.  Things worked out in the end but she had to practice a little deception. 

Rahab was a prostitute who played a pivotal role in a military invasion.  When strangers, who would have probably shunned her under any other circumstances, need a place to hide, Rahab risked her life to help them. Why she took this chance the Bible doesn’t really say.  My guess is it was a little payback for how the “good town folks” had treated her over the years. 

The un-named, “woman at the well”, became one of the first preachers of the gospel after Jesus took the time to talk to her. 

And of course most of you know Mary Magdalene’s story or at least think you do.  Bible scholars are still debating whether she was a prostitute or a lunatic before she met Jesus.  She was only one of his two friends who stuck with him until the end.  She was also the first person to witness his resurrection.  I have serious doubts that their relationship was anything more than friendship. But Mary was a friend that was there at what for awhile appeared to be the end.  Of these four women, Mary Mags is definitely my heroine.  She never got married, had any children, or accumulated great wealth but oh did she have a story to tell.  Bad girls who’ve been forgiven usually do.

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