“You were everything, everything that I wanted. We were meant to be, supposed to be, but we lost it… All of our memories so close to me just fade away; all this time you were pretending, so much for my happy ending….”-Avril Lavigne, My Happy Ending
TO&E’s been rather downcast lately, and this title doesn’t seem much brighter…. My apologies- I promise this post won’t be too sad.
Turn on your television or computer for a while and it’ll hit you- people love a happy ending. Open a book: another happy ending?
*Spoiler alert: Dorothy is home. Baby gets out of the corner. The Empire is defeated. Katniss marries Peeta. Harry conquers Voldemort. Elizabeth marries Darcy. Winn Dixie is found. *Temporary end to spoilers.
There are some pretty common themes to these feel-good conclusions: The boy (or prince) gets the girl (or princess), Omnia amor vincit. Good conquers evil. And so on and so on….
What about the not so happy endings? Sometimes they’re even part of the overall happy ending.
*Spoiler alert once again: Rose lets go. Dumbledore, Lupin, Hedwig, Fred, Dobby, etc.. Rhett doesn’t give a damn. Christine leaves Erik. Jean Valjean dies. George kills Lennie. Catherine Barkley dies. Gatsby…. *End of spoilers for real.
This post was inspired by my finishing “Gone With the Wind” last weekend. From an overall perspective, the ending’s not completely tragic, because, well, Tara (I’m going to avoid further details, for the sake of anyone who doesn’t know the movie). I was admittedly distraught as the movie finished- “Wait, that’s it???” While I understand the movie’s status as a classic, I couldn’t understand the ending’s appeal, aside from making that strange monologue from Mr. O’Hara make sense.
Why, then, do these less-than-happy endings still appeal to us? In my opinion, it has a lot to do with our perceptions of real life. A 2013 survey revealed that 50% of those surveyed identified themselves as optimists while 46% claimed to be in between the two extremes or refused to answer; while this doesn’t point to an overwhelming level of pessimism, it also doesn’t count for those such as self-identified “realists.” From these perspectives, happy endings are for fairy tales, less relatable than those that show tragedy or irresolution. Perhaps we see our own lives reflected in these imperfect endings, where not everyone is a blissfully happy as the rescued princess.