Not “if” but “how”: Thoughts on HEA

HEA: Happily Ever After

I’m going to preface this by saying: not every story needs or will have a happy ending. Sometimes it’s not in the story. And that’s fine. I have a few of those up my sleeve and I’ve read some exquisite stories with sad/tragic endings. Buffy springs to mind. Love that show* and Joss Whedon is a genius.

However.

I’ve been watching a lot of TV and movies from the 80s** and 90s this holiday and I’ve noticed something. The stories they tell are fun***. At the end of the day your favourite characters survive. At the end of the day the good guys win and the bad guys lose. At the end of the day, the guy gets the girl/the girl gets the guy and they get to live happily ever after. And you get to just feel good when you switch off the telly****.

And I love that.

And yet it seems that since then, there’s been a shift in how we tell stories. Optimism has been given backseat to gritty realism with endings that are darker and maybe not completely happy. For example, the original Star Wars trilogy was wonderful – everybody lived and lived happily ever after. The James Bond films of the 90s***** are over-the-top fun while Brosnan still brings depth to the character. Contrast this with the newer Bond films which, while I do enjoy them, are much darker and it’s questionable as to whether or not anyone except Bond will actually survive.

And it came to me that I’m not interested in if my favourite characters will survive. I’m interested in how they survive. I’m interested in how they get through sh*t and how they live after the dust has settled (and yes, I’m still bitter about Remus and Tonks in Harry Potter).

Which brings me to a sub-point. I’m tired of stories that bring the couple together only to tear them apart for some reason later on down the road. I assume it’s meant to add tension, but to me it falls flat. Show me a love story where the characters have each other’s backs and work through sh*t together. Show me characters who argue and make up. It might take them awhile to get there, but once they’ve got there for the love of all things stop breaking them up. Show me how they stay together. Show me how they fight for each other. See REMINGTON STEELE and CASTLE.

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I’m a believer in hope. And those are the stories I write. Bad stuff will inevitably happen (current novel is very dark and very twisted and my characters hate me so much right now…), but I believe in hope and happily ever after. And I’m reminded of the very last line from EVER AFTER******:

 

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So on that note, have a wonderful new year. May it be one of hope.

 

Slàinte!

 

 

 

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*Team Spike, yo.

**REMINGTON STEELE FTW. And if you have never seen this show you need to rethink your life. Stephanie Zimbalist. Pierce Brosnan. She’s a P.I. He’s an ex-con. They solve cases. There’s romance with insane chemistry. Hijinks. Comedy. Heart. Drama. And lots of kissing.

***There are exceptions. I’m just talking generally. And yes, the academic in me is screaming. But I’m on holiday so I’ve gagged it. 😉

****I have been known to channel British expressions. Just fyi. Also, pun not intended.

*****Aaaaaand haters to the left. Brosnan is my Bond.

The name is Bond. James Bond.
              The name is Bond. James Bond.

******Drew Barrymore. Dougray Scott. Anjelica Huston. 1998. A Cinderella Story. Funny. Romantic. Feel good. Timeless. You want to watch this.

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You remind me of the babe

…in which I talk about my love for Labyrinth. With footnotes.

Ever seen Jim Henson’s Labyrinth? If not, you need to rethink your life. Just sayin’.

I love this movie. Not only is the music fantastic (all songs by David Bowie, need I say more), but it has this girl:

Jennifer Connelly is gorgeous at any age.
Jennifer Connelly is gorgeous at any age.

and this guy:

Sparkling like a boss since 1986.
Sparkling like a boss since 1986.

There are a lot of reasons I adore it: it’s wildly imaginative; the music is brilliant; there are muppets, and Jennifer Connelly; and David Bowie sporting a mullet that would put MacGyver* to shame. But more than that, the strength of the story and characters, specifically Sarah, is what resonates with me.

Why?

Because it’s the story of a girl who says No. And wins.

Briefly:

Jareth, the sparkly, devious, goblin king, has stolen Sarah’s brother and whisked him away to the Labyrinth, giving Sarah 13 hours to solve said maze**. Or else he will turn Toby into a goblin.  Rather than risk losing, he throws various wrenches into the works and eventually attempts to seduce her. Keep in mind this a family film*** so said seduction involves a ballroom and music and a gorgeous puffy, sparkly dress. And a dance with a handsome king. Watch the video, you’ll see what I mean. And yes this is possibly my favourite song in the film.

Up until this point, Sarah has been running around dressed like a teenager. Suddenly, she is dressed like a woman and in a very adult environment. And someone – a man not a boy – notices****. Keep in mind she’s fifteen. And if you watch her face (go ahead, watch the video again. You know you want to 😛 ), you can see she’s trying to figure out if she’s comfortable with this whole scenario. She’s at an age where you’re not a girl and not a woman, but something in between, and she’s trying to navigate her way through that in-between stage. Been there. Not easy.

So there she is, on the king’s arm. And he’s singing to her and treating her like one of his adult courtiers. (Take note of said adult courtiers in the vid) For a while she seems to go along with it, but eventually remembers what she’s looking for and breaks free from the illusion.

Fast forward to the end of the film. She’s practically won. And then Jareth appears with his final offer:

“Fear me, love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave.”

And her response?

“You have no power over me.”

BOO-YA.

In doing so, she comes into adulthood and acknowledges her sexuality on her own terms. Not on somebody else’s. She learns, early, how to say No to something that isn’t right.

And Jareth? He’s defeated. Her refusal is seen as a definite thing. It doesn’t covertly mean “yes”. “No” means “No”. End of story.

As it should be.

 

I promised you footnotes:

*And if you have no idea who MacGyver is, you need to rethink your life again. 80s/90s TV shows FTW.

**Technically a maze and a labyrinth aren’t the same thing, but that’s neither here nor there at the moment. Carry on.

***Debatable.

****Personally, I think Jareth does actually fall in love with Sarah, but it’s moot because he still acts like a skeeze. That’s also a whole other blog post. Maybe.