The other day a group of us started chatting about the endings to stories and what we prefer. We quickly discovered that we all like something a little different, and decided to make a debate out of it.
Lisa Hall-Wilson started us out with her point of view. For her, a realistic ending, even if it means people die or things don’t work out, is the way to go. If you haven’t read her take, please check it out. Different points of view is what makes a debate fun!
As for me, I’m a sucker for a happy ending. You know, the boy gets the girl (or boy gets the boy, or girl gets the girl, if that’s what you’re into), love conquers all, the bad guy gets it, all problems are solved, they ride off into the sunset and you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that things are not only okay, they are amazingly wonderful.
My friends tease me about it. “That’s not a you movie” they’ll tell me. They know. If it doesn’t end well, I’m not a happy girl.
Take, for example, the movie Up Close and Personal. I was so upset when I left that movie that I literally shouted at everyone. I felt cheated, robbed, and pissed off beyond belief. I wasn’t the only one, judging by the tears and answering angst from the women near me. My husband started laughing about ten minutes from the end because he saw it coming and knew what my reaction would be. It would have been a great movie if the last ten minutes had been left on the cutting room floor. I will never understand their need to include them. It was mean, and a cheap cop-out. A stunt done deliberately to pull on heart strings. I felt manipulated, and betrayed. That is not how I want to feel when I leave a theater.
Another one that hit me completely wrong was Up! Yes, the animated feel-good whatever. I didn’t feel good. I left that movie, sat in my car in the parking lot, and cried. I’ve never seen an animated comedy that opened with a funeral. I wasn’t expecting it. All I focused on was that poor man and the fact that he lost his wife.
I pictured myself in the same situation and life felt useless, futile, and above all I was terrified that it would happen to me. I would grow old, my husband would die, and I’d have nothing to show for it. After that, I didn’t care what happened. Nothing was going to cheer me up. Not even the talking dog. The worst part was I went into that movie expecting a pure comedy and what I got was depression, followed by silly bits. Talk about a betrayal! If it’s going to be depressing I want to know up front. I can handle it better if I’m prepared. But in general, that’s not what I’m looking for in a story.
What I’m looking for is something like Ever After (yes, fairy tale, but it makes my point). If you haven’t seen it, you really should. It’s an example of a revamped fairy tale done right, as opposed to Snow White (I won’t start ranting again, really). Of course we know that the prince is going to end up with Cinderella. But the way it’s done makes my heart sing. There’s at least ten minutes of sticking it to the evil stepmother, then life for Cinderella as she moves into the castle and the arms of her Prince Charming. As the movie closed, I felt peace and contentment. They were, indeed, going to live happily ever after. Ahhhhh.
Does that mean I thought they didn’t have the odd squabble or that the toast is never burnt? Of course not. But they had each other, evil was vanquished, the sun was shining and the birds were singing. It made me happy. Even one of the evil stepsisters had her own happily ever after. I smiled from ear to ear when I left the theater, all seven times.
I hear this argument a lot. Yes, there will always be bad along with good. Yes, life is hard and messy and unfair and all those things. But I don’t pay to see a movie or read a book for “real life.” You might guess I”m not a huge fan of war movies. You’d be right. There’s no happiness in war. No, not even that scene where the guy hugs his girl at the airport when he comes home. It’s not enough. That scene right before where all his friends died in an explosion just did me in and I didn’t even notice that blip with the girl. I will feel that horror for the rest of the week. I take it with me where it lives in my soul and festers. No, that doesn’t inspire me to go volunteer with refugees or do something to help the homeless. It inspires me to sit in a dark room, eat a gallon of ice cream, and maybe yell at the cat.
If I wanted real life, I’d look around me, for free. Every day, real life happens to real people I know and love. I read, and watch movies, to escape and to dream of something different. Something better. Preferably with magic and unicorns and fairies and maybe some psychic abilities, although I do enjoy a good mystery or thriller without those things as well. Anything that allows me to leave my own world and enter one that makes sense works for me. In my dream world, there are struggles, yes, but in the end the bad guy gets it, the good guys win, the guy gets the girl, and you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are happy, and will be happy, and that life is full of good things worth living and fighting for.
No, it’s not real life. And that’s exactly why I like it.
The blog debate continues all week. On Friday, all 4 of us are hosting a Twitter chat at 5pm EST on The Ending Debate. Come hang out with us at #storyend and join the discussion!
Monday – Lisa Hall-Wilson – The Ending Debate: Make Mine Realistic
Tuesday – Melinda VanLone – The Ending Debate: Make Mine Happy
Wednesday – Marcy Kennedy – The Ending Debate: Make Mine Hopeful
Thursday – Diane Capri – The Ending Debate: Make Mine Open
Friday – Twitter Debate 5pmEST #storyend