I’m in a blog debate this week: the ending debate. How do you like your stories to end? Make mine realistic.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post inspired by the movie Snow White and the Huntsman. My post on Twitter sparked a flurry of amicable controversy between myself and 3 fellow bloggers. Without giving anything away about the movie let’s just say this Snow White doesn’t have the fairy tale ending the Disney version does. This time there’s no blatant HEA (happily ever after), and that’s bothered people.
Movies and books that use the last few minutes or pages to tie up all the loose ends and stick a happy bow on the story Drives. Me. Insane!! Immediately I feel like I’ve wasted my time. The only caveat for me are romantic comedies. Happily Ever After is what romantic storylines are about – the guy and the girl realize they’re madly in love and their love will overcome any previous obstacles and they live happily ever after. I have enjoyed my fair share of rom coms and overlook this irritating quirk of the genre.
Romantic stories aside, I watch movies and read books to be entertained primarily – but I’m always looking for the deeper truth in everything. What can I learn about myself, about others, about the world from this story. “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” Stephen King. Writers – always tell the truth. Granted, sometimes we have to style reality to make it palatable, make it plausible, make it entertaining – but there should always be truth inside the lie.
Sometimes love wins – and if that ending fits the story I’m happy. Faramir should have ended up with Eowyn in Lord of the Rings. I saw it coming, they were a perfect match for each other – and I got to see their relationship build and grow in a believable way.
But there had to be a different ending for Frodo. Frodo who had suffered so much, endured, but was left scarred and broken. “How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on… when in your heart you begin to understand… there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend… some hurts that go too deep… that have taken hold.” For anyone who’s endured the kind of spiritual, life and death struggle Frodo has – you get this. You know the kind of hurt he speaks of. He survived, but he’s not whole – can never be whole.
Beowulf had to die. How else could that epic tale have ended? Can you imagine if King Leonidas had lived? What would that happy ending have looked like? What if the 300 had not died? Would they have still been Spartans? Would you have learned what bravery looked like? What the price of honor and duty is? Would that movie have struck such a deep chord if you didn’t mourn their loss? Did you examine, in some small way, the value of a life sacrificed?
Would you have felt such a deep ache at the loss of the Mohican people if Uncas hadn’t been killed trying to save Alice? Would you have cared about Alice’s sacrifice if Uncas hadn’t died trying to save her? Did you wonder if you’d have made the same choice Alice did when she jumped from the cliff knowing that with Uncas’ death her last chance of rescue died? She faced life as a slave to a foreign people, a girl who had seemed so weak and fragile the entire movie found her courage. Did you feel a greater loss than that of a father for a lost son, but for a people forever lost?
Mystic River: “Jimmy, when was the last time you saw Dave?” Dave, Jimmy and Sean were boyhood friends, 11 years old, playing in the street when two pedophiles stopped and tricked Dave into getting into the car. They held him captive for 5 days. 25 years later Dave is a broken shell, Sean is a cop, and Jimmy’s a shark, a gangster – a wise guy. When he believes that Dave killed his oldest daughter, he takes Dave out back (refusing to believe Dave’s story) and shoots him before Sean can find the real killer. For Jimmy to have done anything else but take the law into his own hands, something the movie establishes he’s already done – would have undermined the entire story and Jimmy’s character. When was the last time you saw Dave? “It was 25 years ago going down this street in the back of that car.” Sean and Jimmy realize that they all died with Dave that day.
Bad things happen to good people. Sometimes the bad guy wins. Sometimes the victim never sees justice, only more pain. Realistic endings give us permission to weep, to grieve, to mourn, to find hope. I want an honest reflection of life. I want to see how others face hardship, see how it shapes them, defines them, beats them – how they overcome it. When all you ever see are happy endings I believe it gives the false perception that somehow you’re missing out if you don’t have one yourself, that you’re inadequate if you can’t make this happen for you, you’re a failure. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the majority of us feel trapped in some way, we’re sad, frustrated, angry – and feel like we must wear a ‘happy’ mask everywhere we go. Ever have a relationship you wanted to last break apart? Ever been hurt by someone else – and it seems like they continue to get ahead anyway? Does someone owe you a debt that can never be repaid? Of course. It should be OK to struggle.
Life is hard, it’s messy, it’s ugly, it’s unfair. But if it wasn’t, would we really understand the treasure to be had in joy and love? Without the bad, would we recognize the good when we saw it?
We need to give each other permission to be sad, to hurt, to be frustrated, to mourn, to be angry. Let these movies teach you how to grieve alongside someone who’s suffered a tragedy, grieve with them – help them laugh, but not take it on as your own burden to bear. Get mad, shake your fist at the injustice, cry for those who have lost everything, because it’s OK. It’s part of life. There is a time and a season for everything under the sun.
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
So – how do you like your stories to end? Do you like realistic endings? What story’s ending made you mad? Left you feeling cheated?
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