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Why Happily Ever After Deserves Our Respect

“You always get more respect when you don’t have a happy ending.”

― Julia Quinn

What a true statement! Think about it: The Great Gatsby, Game of Thrones, Hamlet, and A Tale of Two Cities all versus the happily ever after tales in literature and film. What is it about a tragedy that makes a happy ending deserve less respect? Why can’t we appreciate both? What is wrong with a romantic comedy or even a fairy tale? I know I appreciate both ‘types’ of stories because they are a type, a category.

RELATED In Memoriam: The Top 20 Shirley Temple Movies

When I go to the movies to watch something like Sleepless in Seattle (a type of film difficult to find these days), I know why I am there: to enjoy a good old-fashioned, feel-good romance. Sometimes, I WANT a happy ending, sometimes I need one in a day and age when death and tragedy already surround me on a daily basis. What is wrong with leaving the theater with a secret smile on your face all the way home? Why does filling someone’s soul with cheer deserve less respect than one that fills you with despair?

The Trend of Unhappy Endings

Whether it’s found in literature, film, or television, the trend of “realism” or unhappy endings has consumed the media. We often praise cynicism and then go on to criticize optimism in our stories. Nowadays, we expect death and destruction on our favorite shows. Writers are constantly killing popular characters to prove they should be taken seriously (Sheriff Graham from Once Upon A Time comes to mind).

But why should a television show kill popular characters merely to prove that any character could die at any time? What about that is original? If we know a character can die (i.e. 24, Lost, Game of Thrones, The Vampire Diaries) because they do it often, then isn’t it predictable to keep killing them merely for shock value? Haven’t we become desensitized enough? And wouldn’t it be more surprising to let a character live?

We Need Happy Endings

So I say, feel free to respect happy endings because we need them. There’s a reason why folk tales stick around from one generation to the next. Why it is that certain stories never leave us like Jane Austen’s happy endings or even the stereotypical happily ever after found in a fairy tale? What would the Great Depression have been like without the optimistic singing and dancing of Shirley Temple on the silver screen to cheer the masses?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing unhappy endings (Casablanca still stands as one of my favorites) or all deaths in stories (some ARE necessary). Nevertheless, a happy ending does deserve more respect while some contrived unhappy endings do not deserve our praise merely for being ‘edgy.’

And on that note, I am going to pop Anne of Green Gables into my DVD player.

What do you think, should happy endings be just as respected as tragic ones? Do you think television has become too predictable with the constant offing of popular characters? Sound off below…

By on August 11th, 2013

About Autumn Topping

In second grade, Autumn wrote her first story, “The Spinach Monster,” and hasn't stopped writing since. Intrigued by the tales her grandmother told of vampires, witches, and ghosts as a girl, she's always been drawn to the fantastic. Later, Autumn studied English and Creative Writing (continuing her love for classic literature and everything old-fashioned) and graduated with an MA in Children’s Literature and an MS in Library & Information Science from Simmons College. Currently, she co-runs this lovely site and works as a YA Librarian.

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8 thoughts on “Why Happily Ever After Deserves Our Respect”

  1. Amen! While I do enjoy a good dramatic tragedy every now and then, I really gravitate toward happier things. Life is hard enough, we need more sunshine. Especially in the entertainment realm.

    • We definitely need more sunshine, I agree! It would be nice to see more optimistic entertainment out there. I think people really do want more of it.

  2. Bring on Shirley Temple! I’m all for happy endings.

    There was a time in my life when I became jaded for a while. I can remember going to weddings and feeling sorry for the bride and groom, for the ensuing misery and hard work they were about to experience in their lives.

    When I saw a movie that felt like a fairytale I would sarcastically think, “Ya right, Happily Ever After!” It felt like the phrase, “Ba Humbug” would quickly come at the heels of that thought if the “blessed event” was during the Christmas Season.

    However something wonderful began to enter my heart and soul. I actually started picturing, feeling and believing that I and the world could experience something far, far better.

    I allowed that sweet seed of a feeling to be planted within my heart. I then let it spout in me and grow. It started producing sweet fruit that was so much more delicious and satisfying to my soul. It began taking the place of that bitter, pithy, shriveled belief that had previously soured my disposition and blinded my view of the happiness that had always been at my fingertips.

    I didn’t realize how completely transforming that change had become in my reality until one evening when I was sitting in a theater with my husband and family surrounding me. We went to see the movie, “Everafter” a type of Cinderella story…one that usually reminded me of my very harsh personal life as a child.

    However, at the end of the movie I suddenly realized that there really is a “Happily Ever After” and I was living that life right now!

    My eyes filled with moving emotional tears of happiness and appreciation for all the beautiful blessings I have been given…especially that of a husband that loves me along with throngs of genuinely loving friends and family members.

    So I say a hardy, “YES!” to happy endings because I now know that they are not the mere dreamy notions found only in fairy tales. They are my reality!


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