Not that kind of happy ending you pervs…
Think about it though, is there such a thing as the happy ending any more or have stories matured to the point where they’re not afraid to show us that life isn’t always rainbows and unicorn glitter? I know, for me any way, I’m not a big fan of the text book happy ending. I’m talking about those Disney/Full House/Romantic Comedy type happy ending. The ones that make you feel good but don’t really hold any realism in them or depth. The endings that are designed to make the viewer/reader feel good about themselves and ignore the fact that life doesn’t necisarrily work that way. I feel that those type of endings are misguiding to a degree. Not everything should wrap itself in a tight little bow while a group of pixies dance and sing around your head. It’s not how life works and it feels misleading. I think in order to appreciate a happy ending you need to have that realism that the term “happy ending” is a bit ambiguous.
I was having this thought yesterday and was too tired to articulate well enough here. Sometimes my fingers just weigh entirely too much to move back and forth on my keyboard which is a really swell way of me saying I was being pretty lazy. I think a lot of this is stemming off of Sunday’s Walking Dead and the horrific/bleak nature of that episode. There really was no silver lining or even a glimpse of happiness, there was just one horrible thing after and another to the point where you had to wonder is this narrative torture. Which got me thinking are all the stories I throw myself into like this? The short answer is no they’re not, although I do love bleak/horrific stories, but above that I appreciate stories that aren’t afraid to cut the shit. A story that can say “yeah this sucks, but it doesn’t all suck” and you can pull the elements from it that make you happy or provide the proper happy ending to your characters.
Look at it this way, some of my all time favorite stories are LOST, Breaking Bad, The Dark Tower, Y the Last Man, Game of Thrones, and The Shield. For those of you who have completed these stories I don’t think any of you would classify them as having happy endings, but I would argue that their endings are just and fair to the narrative they’ve provided. Which raises the question, if the ending is true to the story does that make it a happy ending? Not everyone gets to ride off into the sunset and the characters that do you celebrate but sometimes it’s that tragic ending that could bring it all together. Think about it from the A Tale of Two Cities standpoint (that’s right I’m referencing Dickens) which might be the first time I realized how much I love an ending that isn’t traditionally happy. In this story a character willing switches places with the main character to be executed so the main character can live the rest of his life with his woman pal. It’s brutal and beautiful at the same time. On one hand this character displays such immense bravery and selflessness and allows these two characters to live happily ever after, but on the other hand he dies because of it. It’s such a noble act that while it breaks your heart it also leaves you feeling fulfilled because of the ripple effects it has on the story. This wouldn’t be classified as a traditional happy ending but I would argue that it is a happy ending.
I get it though because I know the cookie cutter rainbow ending serves a purpose. People turn to stories as a form of escapism and don’t want to have to deal with the negatives of life in their fiction. Sometimes it’s okay to just turn all that crap off and see the guy get the girl or watch the bad guy get his. And that’s okay I’m not knocking you for enjoying that or wanting that from your fiction. For me though, I’m a story junkie, and I expect more from my narratives. I don’t want everything tied up neatly and all pretty like in the end, I want some open ended things that leave the room for discussion. Where you can pick at the story and pull the elements that are happy and the ones that aren’t and what events make certain things happy. I want to discuss and the cookie cutter ending takes away discussion and that cheapens the story for me.
Look at Empire Strikes Back. That’s not a happy ending but is without a doubt the best film in the Star Wars trilogy. The Dark Tower series doesn’t have a happy ending by any means but it leaves you with the hope that one is possible. The Godfather II wouldn’t be classified as a happy ending but it’s one of the greatest films ever made. Rocky doesn’t have a traditional happy ending but Rocko overcomes the odds and that makes it happy. Hell, Braveheart, the greatest movie ever made, doesn’t have a happy ending but again leaves you with the feeling of hope that it was all worth it. Those are the endings that I find important. The endings that make you think. The endings that force you to dive deeper into the story.
I don’t know Geeklings, I think the term happy ending is super relative and I find that people get upset when their fiction doesn’t have what is the stereotypical Hollywood ending. To those people I think you need to start asking more from your fiction. The best endings are the ones that make you feel something whether it’s happiness or sadness, and as a story junkie that’s my happy ending. When a work of fiction can make me think or feel once it’s concluded then it’s done it’s job correctly. Or maybe I’m just someone who prefers grey area stories. What does that say about me? I don’t have a clue but I do know I wouldn’t want to approach fiction any other way.