Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy endings are all alike

This I can really understand-- The Tyranny of the Happy Ending-- why Dickens outsells Hardy. What do you think? Have we been so addicted to happy endings, we don't want to read books that end unhappily?

Click on that link to see a great graphic-- Olivier as Hamlet. Very clever.



Reina M. Williams said...

I think it speaks to the times. These days are difficult economically (and often personally) for many, and, as with the popularity of Shirley Temple during the depression, people turn more to escapism for entertainment. I will still read "tragic" books or those without a happy ending, but I perfer light happy ending fare right now. Like most else, trends go in cycles, imo.

Chepri said...

I hate hearing the "times are tough" excuse used so much. Times have always been tough for the average Joe. But they're far better now than they were when most of those tragedies were written and enjoyed far more popularity. Tragedies were more popular when life was much crappier, it turns out.

According the source article, British librarians were asked to tally up classic book check-outs from the last 20 years. The study showed that overall, tragic stories are steadily declining in popularity versus happy ones. So it's not a matter of trends and happy endings simply being on an upswing; there's permanence in the shift.

The article suggests that it's the result of being spoiled with happy endings in books and movies for too many decades. People don't want to invest in a character for 250 pages or 2 hours only for that character to die without realizing all they struggled to achieve. The consumer wants to feel satisfied when they turn that final page or walk out of the movie theater.

I agree with many points made in the Salon article. People want to be spoon-fed satisfaction. The consumption of fast food has gone up steadily over the last 20 years too, it'll continue to do so, and it has little to do with "the times." Humans just can't seem to resist indulgence.

Nonna said...

Not sure we are all that addicted to happy endings. What we want is justice, a sense that the good will survive and prosper and the evil, or not so good will be dealt with, paid back for their evil deeds. I think this has always been a function of story telling. In a sense most stories including fairy tales have been meant to teach moral or social values. An exception was the "Naturalism" of the early 20th century where fate, not human decisions and retribution or consequences of actions were seen to determine the outcome. (Prime example of this is An American Tragedy--made into "A Place in the Sun.") Noir contains a bit of this although usually there's evil on all sides as well as fate. I just saw Gone With the Wind, an example of an unhappy ending that satisfies because it seems just. We may admire Scarlett's courage and determination and even like her, but we would not want those around us to adopt her moral code.

Julie Harrington said...

If I want "real" or sad, tragic, unhappy endings I can watch the news or look at the lives of friends and family or heck, even my own. I don't watch movies or pick up books to see heartbreak, broken dreams, lost love, death, illness, or unhappy endings. I read for escape and for enjoyment. If I spend time with characters and grow to care about them, I want to know that - in the end - they're going to overcome and be happy.