Growing up, humans quickly learn that the ‘happily ever after’ in fairytales is not the finale of the real world. With suicide rates on the rise, alarming sexual assault statistics, fundamentally unstable institutions, and anxious leaders, a happy ending isn’t always necessary or possible. So, why do we continue to teach children false fairytale conclusions? Why do we continue to look for sources that show a happy close when it isn’t possible in our own lives? Is it hopeful wishing or a harmful downfall?
One of the most common stories we are taught as children is the story of Cinderella. Told in many ways, Cinderella finds her ‘happily ever after’ with her Prince Charming when she sneaks away from her life of misery and proves that the shoe fits. Teaching children the values of perseverance, love, and hope, tales such as this give children and adults alike the hope that may be lacking in much of their world. Despite the difficulty of loss and control of evil leaders, Cinderella provides a reminder that everyone has some guardian angel and happiness can prevail. Similarly, Tangled, another children's movie centered on hope, describes the struggles of being locked away from society. In the last two years, many were able to relate to the difficulties of isolation while locked in quarantine. Rapunzel ultimately finds freedom in her connection with her family. Showing that family and love endure, this ending allowed for audiences to find refuge despite being alone.
Movies, tv shows, and books that present a clear prosperous end allow people to recognize the possibility of true achievable happiness in the future. As struggles continue to pile up with political, economical, and social hardships persisting throughout human existence, many can feel drained in the never-ending battle of life. Thus, allowing people to relate an optimistic, fantasy story to their troubling lives, promising that narratives can create a meaningful purpose for the future.
Romance stories present a specific type of happy ending that presents the trials of understanding and finding love. Often portrayed as a concept that goes hand-in-hand, these endings often allow a person to reflect in a new way. A classic example is Romeo and Juliet. Described as the pinnacle love story, Romeo and Juliet defy all definitions of joyful endings. With death and love intertwined, this type of story is meant to confuse. Should you be celebratory at their freedom together or sad about their death? Another similar story is The Titanic. Despite the known horrors of the Titanic, the romance of the movie comes into the spotlight to portray what is known as the ultimate love story. With yet another model of love concluding in death, these movies provide unanswerable questions to give their audiences the best of both worlds.
These stories that pull away from reality can be frustrating as what is displayed drastically differs from the actuality of life. Avoiding reality doesn't make it go away and can be damaging as hopefulness exhausts the search for an impossibly happy ending. This style seems to be fleeting as more recent narratives would rather focus on finding a true sense of self rather than true love.
One true account of this can be found in The Pursuit of Happyness. Finding an astounding portrayal of happiness, this movie captures the difficulty of life and the discovery of joy. Along the way, however, the audience experiences the hardships of the characters which can remind them of their present struggles. This balance between reality and fantasy becomes blurred, but the movie truly highlights that no story ever ends. Humanity persists.
Happy endings may not be achievable at the moment, but their possibility can always come into existence. Whether we need them or not, happy endings remind humanity of the possibility of great achievement. Getting caught in the false daydream can be necessary as society finds itself constantly searching for better. Sometimes, everything we need is right in front of us. But, who knows, I could just be saying that to give you a happy ending.
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