I don’t like happy endings. (I’m not taking about those “happy endings”, get your mind out of the gutter!) It’s not due to some morbid sense of emotional turmoil or Satan worshiping masochism. I just think they’re feel good copouts that do a disservice to their story.
Let me rephrase, I don’t like complete happy endings. You know, the stories where the hero gets absolutely everything he/she wants, the villain is thoroughly vanquished – until it shows back up for the sequel – and everything goes back to the way it was before the story began plus a few perks the hero picks up along the way. Those kinds of endings sicken me.
First of all they’re usually carried out poorly. It seems like at least 90% of the time those endings rely on some improbable convenience, i.e. a dues ex machina, to have everything work out in the end. That’s just lazy writing/storytelling. “Oh, time to wrap things up. How can I make sure everything works out okay? I know! A spaceship can come out of nowhere and land on the bad guys. Then the cowboys will live happily ever after.” Endings like that are vomit inducing.
I don’t understand why so many people love them too. A complete happy ending rends the entire story you just witnessed meaningless. If everything works out in the end perfectly then what was the point? Why did you have your character go through a bunch of trials and tribulations just to end up exactly the same on the other side? These kinds of endings are impractical and ruin what would otherwise be a great story.
There are exceptions to the rule though. For instance, complete happy endings are the bread and butter of comedic stories. The ridiculous way the character makes it through everything can even be used as a great comedic device. Just pick a random Pink Panther story and you’ll see what I mean. Stories that are meant to be “feel good” pieces from the onset can get away with complete happy endings scot-free. You know it’s coming, but that’s okay because it facilitates the point of the story which is to brighten your spirits.
I’m not saying dramatic pieces can’t have happy endings. A wonderful modern example of an appropriate happy ending can be seen in the Hunger Games series. (WARNING: HUNGER GAMES SPOILERS AHEAD!)
A lot of people were upset with how the series ends and contend that the third book is their least favorite because of it. If anything it was my favorite part of the entire trilogy.
You have this character who’s lost her entire family, watched her sister die at the hands of a device the person she trusted most created, watched friend after friend die in front of her, repeatedly skirts death herself, commits high treason, and yet at the end of it all she’s able to live out her life with someone she cares about and even start a family of her own. She’s scarred mentally and physically, forever a shell of who she once was and doesn’t really end up with the person she always cared the most about, but she ends up with a family despite it all and lives out the rest of her days in peace.
It was brilliant on the part of Susan Collins, who could’ve easily had her killed for treason or wrote that she found it in her heart to forgive Gale, get over everything she’d experienced and live happily ever after. The ending could’ve easily made the story a tragedy or given Katniss a fairy tale ending, but instead it lets the gravity of what has transpired over an entire trilogy of novels hold weight.
Of course, books aren’t really the biggest culprits of ridiculous happy endings. Movies and television are the worst. Although shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead have proven that people really respond to the more realistic, not so happy, stories.
It keeps you guessing when characters aren’t untouchable. I think it also allows people to relate a bit better and gives the story that bit of believability that so many are lacking nowadays. After you haven’t seen the dragon swoop in to the rescue on multiple occasions you can better appreciate the moment when it does.
I’m not saying make every story a tragedy. I’m just petitioning for storytellers to be held more accountable for the weight of their stories. If you’re going to go through the trouble of creating a fantastical well-thought-out journey, don’t cheapen it with a bullshit happy ending just to make sensitive people happy. I think it’s pretty clear by now that people can handle and appreciate the realer side of storytelling.