During this season of Advent I have been reflecting on the rapid changes in our culture as they seem to be moving us toward what Richard Rorty called "nihilism with a happy face."
The philosophical canyon between two 20th century films seems to exemplify this ghastly movement: It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and Pleasantville (1998). If you have some free hours, watch them back to back. The first presents true human flourishing as communal and teleological. In It's a Wonderful Life, the hero, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart), finds his "true self" in a rightly-ordered relationship to others: wife, family, friends, God. Pleasantville presents true human flourishing as the liberation of the self from the communal and the teleological. It is the willful self-discovering dissenter, unencumbered by family, community, or church, who is the hero of Pleasantville. When you watch both films, compare Pleasantville with George Bailey's alternative universe, Pottersville, the city that had once been the real Bailey's Bedford Falls. (For an analysis of Pleasantville's relativism, see Greg Koukl's review).