Sunday, May 6, 2012

I Want My Happy Ending

Last week my husband and I watched three movies in which the protagonist died at the end. (No titles, so no spoilers.) In one of these nameless movies, the heroine, a brilliant astronomer in ancient Egypt, got caught up in political turmoil. She was saved from being stoned to death by the kindness of her former slave, who strangled her instead.

I still haven’t recovered.

She was the heroine! Call me shallow, but I don’t like seeing a character I’ve come to know and love die horribly. I can hear the filmmakers’ arguments: It was based on a true story. It was an important moment in history. It illustrates the insanity of judging people based on their beliefs, and of using people as pawns in political power struggles.

Yes, yes, I know, and I agree with all that. But do you have to bludgeon me over the head with it?

Here’s my version. Brilliant astronomer gets caught up in political turmoil and frees her slave so he can pursue his own religious beliefs. In return, he saves her from a rabid mob of stone-throwers and they fall in love and escape to the desert, where they live happily ever after.

I suppose that’s why I’m a romance writer. Yes, I know terrible things happen. I see it all the time, whether in the past or in the news. But that doesn’t mean I want to watch it in a movie. Or read it in a book. Yes, put your characters through hell. Make them suffer. But for the love of Nora, give me some light at the end of the tunnel! And sorry, getting strangled to death rather than stoned doesn’t count.

So I’d like to take this moment to offer my heartfelt thanks to the romance genre.

When I pick up a romance, I don’t have to worry about the hero or the heroine dying at the end. Thank you!

When I finish a romance, I’m likely to feel better about the world, not worse. Thank you!

When I read a romance, I know that however bad things get in the middle, at the end, there’s hope. Thank you!

Happy endings get a bad rap. Here’s my philosophy. A happy ending isn’t really an ending. It’s an acknowledgement that moments of pure happiness are possible in this world – that there’s hope. And without hope, what’s the point?

Happy ending (self)

What about you? How do you feel about happy endings? Do you find them trite, or do you love them as I do?

Juniper Bell's latest release is BEAUTIFUL OBSESSION from Ellora's Cave. Click the cover for more.



Michelle V said...

Every once in a while I can handle (sort of) a book where it doesn't end in happily ever after, but I prefer to have a hint that it's going to be a tear-jerker before I dive in. Most of the time, though, I want a happy ending because quite frankly, my life as a single mom is tough and can be really ugly sometimes, so I don't need to read sad stuff. I want my reading to be an escape.

Michelle V

SusieJ said...

I so is hard enough as it is without being dragged down by "reality"...:(
I do love a HEA ...I read books/watch films to escape...I can get enough reality from the news.
Hugs xx

Mindy said...

I agree with EVERYTHING all of you have said. when people give me a hard time about reading "smut" (my 9th grade English teacher called my books that) I tell them that I LIVE a real life I want to read about/watch the fantasy! And I'm sorry, this may cause frowns but I don't even like Gone with the Wind, really the best romance ever does NOT end with the Hero leaving...
Thanks for validating that I am not the only one who feels this way about movies and books :-)

Unknown said...

Hi Juniper,
thank you for the great post.

truthfully i don't see why you would want to read a book that didn't have a hea/hfn. that is why we read,to escape reality for awhile and get away from all of the crazyness going on in the world.

tammy ramey