People often complain to me about the profusion of happy endings in films, television and books. According to them, there shouldn't be so many happy endings because they aren't realistic; people don't have happy endings in real life.
I don't get it. I mean, sure, most people aren't so fortunate as to have all their endings tied up nice and neatly like the end of a feel-good movie. But then again, our lives aren't lived in half-hour, hour, or hour and a half segments, with time for commercial breaks, and appropriately dramatic music. It is my firm belief that people don't watch TV or movies to see their reality reflected back at them, in all of its "realistic" ugliness. They want something else, something foreign to what they experience every day. Do most doctors tune in to ER (other than to grumble about its unreality)? Does the president watch The West Wing? If he did, I bet his first thought would be to wonder how Martin Sheen manages to sound so damn eloquent every week.
Then there was "reality TV". Yes, it bore a marked resemblance to reality, didn't it? Take Survivor, for example: I mean, come on, who hasn't been stranded on a desert island and forced to live off the fat of the land? It's not reality, it's real people in a foreign environment. A step closer, certainly, then most television, but still far from a true mirror of everyday life. If we took away music, editing, actors, and writers, what would we have left? We'd have the most boring show on television: we'd have hours of me doing my English literature homework (tune in next week when Dan gets up to grab a snack from the kitchen!). I guarantee you that the only people watching would be my mother. And even then, she might just tell me she was watching.
The arts and the media do not reflect reality; they give us a window into our dreams and our fantasies (and sometimes our nightmares, but that's another topic for another time). Maybe I will never be a vampire slayer, but hey, I can get as close as anybody else can for an hour every week. If I want reality, I'll go outside and take a walk; or better yet, I'll go hang out with my friends. But if I want a change of pace, I'm gonna watch a movie, turn on the television, or pick up a book. But when I say this, I'm accused of fostering escapism. Yes, it is escapism: what's wrong with that? Everybody needs to escape the pressures of reality sometime, or we run the risk of exploding. And I refuse to believe that the fact that I will sit in a darkened theater for two hours to escape reality is worse than someone who will find his/her escapism in a bottle.
In some cases, this window onto our fantasies has the potential to become a door. Who's to say that watching Finding Forrester won't give me the energy and drive to become a writer myself? Much is made of the film, television, and publishing industries as being destructive to the population's psyches by presenting us with an unrealistic picture of "how things are". But not enough credit is given to them as a place where people's dreams come to life, and take on an existence that is decidedly not of this reality.
Now, I don't advocate giving in entirely to escapism. If you spend all your time escaping reality, escapism tends to lose its appeal. How can you escape reality when you don't experience reality any more? Reality is just as essential as escapism; you can't have one without the other. But those who say we should get rid of escapist fare are just as bad as those who want to escape reality permanently.
Happy endings may not always happen in real life, but are they really such a bad thing for which to hope? If so, then perhaps we need to reconsider reading fairy tales to our kids; they may spend all their life waiting for their Prince(ss) Charming to come and sweep them off our feet, and we wouldn't want them to expect to be happy in life? Some may claim that they're just ripe for disappointment, but I say they're prepared to be happy. They will endeavor to make their lives happy. And people who try to make themselves happy deserve to be happy.
Disagree with me? I welcome your emails and forum postings.