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Old November 30 2013, 05:30 AM   #1
Miss Chicken
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Sad/happy/bittersweet endings

This morning I finished reading Burial Rites which is a historical novel about Agnes Magnusdottir, the last person to be executed in Iceland. After I finished it I looked up reviews of the book at several different sites and was quite amused when I came across one review in which the reviewer said she was hoping for a happier ending and because it had a sad ending (i.e. they chopped off Agnes's head) she only gave the book one star. I don't know how she thought such a book could possibly have a happy ending.

Why do so many people want happy endings for books or movies even when that happy ending is unrealistic or forced?

For example, I think War of the Worlds (2005) would have been a better movie with a bittersweet ending in which the character played by Tom Cruise had turned up at his in-laws' place to break the news that he had managed to save his daughter but the son had died.

It seems that American movies are the ones that have more happy endings than movies from elsewhere. Do you think this is what most Americans want or not? If Americans do prefer happy endings, why do you think they do?

Can you think of any book or movie that would have been improved by having a sadder ending (or vice versa)?

Last edited by Miss Chicken; November 30 2013 at 05:43 AM.
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Old November 30 2013, 09:04 AM   #2
teacake
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Re: Sad/happy/bittersweet endings

I like ambiguous endings. Where you don't know what happened.
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Old November 30 2013, 10:42 AM   #3
Miss Chicken
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Re: Sad/happy/bittersweet endings

teacake wrote: View Post
I like ambiguous endings. Where you don't know what happened.
I also like ambiguous endings but I think that people like us are a minority.
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Old November 30 2013, 12:22 PM   #4
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Re: Sad/happy/bittersweet endings

The ending of Dances with Wolves always kind of tugged at my heartstrings ...

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Old November 30 2013, 02:04 PM   #5
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Re: Sad/happy/bittersweet endings

Miss Chicken wrote: View Post
For example, I think War of the Worlds (2005) would have been a better movie with a bittersweet ending in which the character played by Tom Cruise had turned up at his in-laws' place to break the news that he had managed to save his daughter but the son had died.
Well, if you go by the events of the film, you are inevitably left with the conclusion that:

A) The aliens are either able to open up instantaneous space/time portals to Earth to deposit their shock troops onto the planet through the "lightning bolts," so even though their first wave was defeated by disease, they can easily just send a second wave equipped with environment suits like they should have the first time, or more likely, since the planet is clearly uninhabitable for them, just deposit some alien weapons of mass destruction on the surface to wipe us out completely in revenge.

B) The shock troops were deposited into the tripods through the lightning bolts from an undetectable orbiting space fleet, in which case the same scenario as above repeats itself but with spaceships blowing everything up instead.

So, either way, Tom Cruise's obnoxious son, his endlessly screaming and hyperventilating daughter, and Cruise himself are most likely screwed just as soon as Morgan Freeman finishes his monologue (not even evil genocidal aliens will interrupt that golden voice).

Unless Cruise can somehow summon Lord Xenu and the Galactic Confederacy and convince them to use their fleet of DC-8-like spacecraft and hydrogen bombs to defend Earth despite being kind of a destructive douchbag before...

Or, Eowyn can save her ex-husband and kids and destroy the alien fleet by exploiting a little known loophole in their attack strategy, in that "no MAN can defeat them"...

... It seems pretty likely that Earth is fucked. So there you go, not a happy ending after all.

2takesfrakes wrote: View Post
The ending of Dances with Wolves always kind of tugged at my heartstrings ...

The Native Americans though, everything worked out great for them in the end.
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Old November 30 2013, 07:24 PM   #6
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Re: Sad/happy/bittersweet endings

I prefer poignant endings. Whether happy, sad, funny, or just thought-provoking, the ending needs to be poignant and meaningful.

Many times, however, I do want a happy ending. I'm not sure why Americans seem to more than other nationalities, but I can certainly understand why someone would exclusively want happy endings. Real life is often sad, depressing, unfortunate, in other words, no happy ending. If I want to see sadness I can just turn on the evening news or look out my window. Most of the time, I want my entertainment to help me escape from that sadness, not remind me of it.

I definitely do not like ambiguous endings, or "non-endings" as I would call them. It makes me feel like I just wasted two hours of my life. I need closure.
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Old November 30 2013, 07:49 PM   #7
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Re: Sad/happy/bittersweet endings

I want the story to make sense and have a point.

If the film's basic story is "guy has to fight against death" and then dies, what is the fucking point? Don't give me that "it's all about the journey" crap. The journey is absolutely pointless if the outcome is "he did not overcome the obstacles". Just imagine how absolutely pointless Lord of the Rings would be if, at the very end, Sauron kills Frodo, gets the ring and destroys all humans. Yay! What a waste of paper, ink and eventually celluloid. Now imagine Sauron actually manages to do all that, but the story continues with a new set of characters that finally manage to defeat him. Now that's would be better.

Defeat is the beginning or middle of a story, not the end.

And I'm not Amurican.
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Old November 30 2013, 08:06 PM   #8
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Re: Sad/happy/bittersweet endings

I read a lot of nonfiction books. And this usually means that the ending is predetermined by the circumstances of the story. However, I like a book to have a context: what was the author trying to say, or what did they take away from this story.

An example:

Under the Banner of Heaven:
"There is a dark side to religious devotions that is too often ignored or denied. As a means of motivating people to be cruel of inhumane--as a means of inciting evil, to borrow the vocabulary of the devout--there may be no more potent force than religion. When the subject of religious inspired bloodshed comes up, many Americans immediately think of Islamic Fundamentalism, which is to be expected in the wake of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. But men have been committing heinous acts in the name of God ever since mankind began believing in deities, and extremists exist within all religions.
Another example:

The Art of a Beautiful Game:
"This book is about passionate players. It is not about one season or the inner workings of a team or the "genius" of a coach, but rather about the beauty of basketball, because even the "ugly" aspects--like say, defense and rebounding--became beautiful in the hands of the masters.
Each time the nonfiction writer had something they wished to say with their story and that served better to be in the introduction. They have no control over the ending, but they can shape how you read their book.

Because of that, I find that the story has an 'angle' to borrow a phrase from journalism.

As for fiction, I would like to see an ending that is not cheesy, but rather one that speaks to the characters and the themes. So I can see what they were trying to say with their piece of fiction. It's the same goal, but the artistry of fiction makes it more complex than a reporter telling you his goals upfront. It must be an ending that says something. For instance, the death of Michael Corleone's daughter and trying to get out of the business to save his soul, is poignant to the character. He loves his family and his actions killed his daughter. He got into this fight to save his father, to avenge his father, because someone might kill him. And the result? He has to bury a daughter. He is disappointed and tortured by the end of Godfather III. He was the guy who wasn't like his family and he betrayed himself to keep his father's legacy alive. That's a poignant ending.

Since Michael is a complex character, you could see that as either a good or a bad thing. I think it has a message--that a man can destroy himself faster than he can be destroyed. It proves Michael has a conscience. He tries to redeem himself, but it isn't possible. That's tragic if you care about a mob boss, and it's not if you look at Michael as a bad man. I savor the story and it tinges the rest of his decisions in II. It's not just another Scarface. This has a meaning behind it. He's got consequences and that's why I think III is misunderstood.

So an ending that fits the story, not one that is forced or overly happy because we want to feel "good." That's for the holidays. The rest of the year, I want and ending that fits.
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Old November 30 2013, 08:48 PM   #9
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Re: Sad/happy/bittersweet endings

On a similar note, Hollywood also tends to overdramatize everything with stupid characters and contrivances. Had Apollo 13 been fictional, they would have tried to kill each other, one would have had to sacrifice himself due to a technical malfunction and eventually, only one would have survived, but with an outlook to a terrible trauma.
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Old November 30 2013, 09:03 PM   #10
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Re: Sad/happy/bittersweet endings

JarodRussell wrote: View Post
On a similar note, Hollywood also tends to overdramatize everything with stupid characters and contrivances. Had Apollo 13 been fictional, they would have tried to kill each other, one would have had to sacrifice himself due to a technical malfunction and eventually, only one would have survived, but with an outlook to a terrible trauma.
Well...not quite that bad, but did you ever see “Marooned”? It was a film that came out, coincidentally, about the time of Apollo 13’s flight. I believe it didn’t get great reviews (“not believable” or something), but my Dad (who worked at JPL at the time) considered it very believable.
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Old November 30 2013, 09:23 PM   #11
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Re: Sad/happy/bittersweet endings

I like happy endings in my entertainment. I like happy things in general and seek out positive people and experiences.
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Old November 30 2013, 09:26 PM   #12
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Re: Sad/happy/bittersweet endings

^ Me too.

(This is why, for example, I usually don't like horror movies, since - almost by definition - a horror movie CAN'T have a happy ending.)

And thus you can pretty much guess my attitude towards something like nuBSG. Although its ending at least was somewhat uplifting. Can you imagine "Revelations" as the actual ending to the show (which I believe was originally going to happen)?
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Old November 30 2013, 10:01 PM   #13
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Re: Sad/happy/bittersweet endings

If everything isn't happy I don't care, there is happiness to be found in the struggle. In NuBSG I thought the romance between Roslin and Adama was one of the most touching romances I've ever seen. There were other characters that had healing as they went along, sure they didn't get fixed into perfect people but it was a difficult world.

I like ambiguous because it seems there a lot of possibilities still. This doesn't happen too often though.
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Old November 30 2013, 10:08 PM   #14
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Re: Sad/happy/bittersweet endings

Since this tends to be a message board with threads about sci-fi, I'll mention that the theatrical release of Blade Runner had a tacked-on happy ending. As if any place on Earth with trees could be expected to look that pristine any more.
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Old November 30 2013, 10:09 PM   #15
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Re: Sad/happy/bittersweet endings

teacake wrote: View Post
If everything isn't happy I don't care, there is happiness to be found in the struggle.
Perhaps, but the struggle should actually END at some point.
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