literary fashions

unhappy endings

I’m not a dense person, really, but I would like it if someone could explain to me in simple terms why the Literati see the unhappy ending as a badge of high-mindedness and good taste in fiction and film. Take for example the discussion here, at a fairly new blog called The Reading Experience (via Bookslut), and this quote:

Maybe more people are now prepared to accept unhappy endings, but as usual it probably has more to do with commercial formulas and market research and temporary trendiness. Or perhaps a few talented filmmakers decided to tackle somewhat more challenging subjects and just got lucky.

For the record: I don’t always have to have a happy ending (or even an ambiguous one), but I don’t like being force fed unhappy endings because they are supposedly good for me. And I reject out of hand the assumption that an unhappy ending is somehow more challenging to write than a happy one.

A critic (and somebody tell me who it is, please, if you remember) called this preoccupation with doom and gloom The Culture of Ugly. I suppose I could take some comfort in that idea, because if that’s all this no-pain-no-gain approach to storytelling is — a cultural phase — then eventually it will pass. Like acne.

And before you ask, I do have better things to do than be irritated by this. I’ll go do some of them now.

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