How It’s a Wonderful Life Seized on an Urbanizing America’s Nostalgia for the Small Town

As Mid-Century Americans Moved to Cities, Capra's Film Helped to Idealize Isolated White Communities

It’s a Wonderful Life can be read through multiple prisms—as a Christmas movie, a family movie, a love story, an existential journey, and a celebration of the everyman. But Frank Capra’s movie invites audiences to consider it, first and foremost, as a small-town film.

The first image seen is a sign welcoming audiences: “YOU ARE NOW IN BEDFORD FALLS.” Even if initial audiences don’t know anything about this specific town, they “know” the community they about to enter: the American small town.

While we think of the small town as a …

How Traffic Circles Became Ground Zero for the French Middle Class

Garrisoned in Roundabouts, ‘Yellow Vest’ Protesters Want Urban Elites to Respect Their Suburban Dream

Just over 50 years ago, Jacques Tati’s Playtime opened in French movie theaters. In the comedy, Tati once again features his iconic character, Monsieur Hulot, the confused but courtly Parisian …

The Surprisingly Modest Start to McMansion Sprawl

Builders Like the Campanelli Brothers Helped Fuel Midcentury Suburban Desire, from Massachusetts to Moscow

After V-J Day—August 14, 1945—millions of World War II veterans came home and began to look for a place to live. New highways, cars, and government-sponsored mortgages encouraged them to …

How California Got Broken to Pieces

The State’s Problem Is Not Big Government, but Too Many Small and Stupid Governments

Wherever you live in California, your county probably doesn’t fit you.

In mountainous and rural areas, your county may be too small to do the big things you need; 24 of …

You Can Thank the Suburbs for the Trendy Ramen Burritos Downtown

Growing Up on the Outskirts of L.A. and Marrying a Guy From the Outskirts of São Paulo Taught Me How the Urban Fringes Can Spice Up a City's Core

After I married a Brazilian, I learned the Brazilian concept of vira-lata: flipping over the can. Vira-lata (trash-can tipper) is the name for mixed-breed dogs without owners who knock over …

I Heart N.J.

Call It Smelly. Call It Sleazy. Call It the Armpit of America. To Me, It's Home.

I’m sitting in a circle during the second week of my freshman year of college, listening to everyone perform the introductions that have become comically commonplace: name, hometown, dorm. It’s …