One of my esteemed colleagues popped up on Instant Messenger last night and said, “Give me some romance novels that were made into movies”. Google queen that I am, I googled. Ask and you shall receive. After pawing through the many lists of romance novels turned into movies, and disagreeing with quite of few of them because they were not romances in my mind, I started thinking about movies, and their endings.
Some of the most successful movies, both recently and historically, by no means had happy ever after (HEA) endings. Maybe I’ve been trained to see things differently. Working with independent romance publishers, an HEA, or at least an HFN (happy for now) is a requirement for many small press romance publishers and for many readers. In fact, it’s a deal breaker for many pubs.
So why does Hollywood and the movie-going public flock to movies that leave the characters and the viewers without a happy ending? I wish I knew. What I do know is that while watching “I am Legend” with Will Smith, I kept waiting for his HEA. I even IMd my friend mid-movie and said “Please tell me this has a happy ending.” Of course, he couldn’t. Recently I watched “Knowing” with Nicolas Cage. They set us up for a romance between him and the female lead. Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen it… things do not end well, for anyone.
My coworker and I joked last night that we have to write a book where our characters are miserable, or even better dead at the end, then we can sell it to Hollywood and maybe even win an Oscar. Honestly, if we look at the stories that defy time (Romeo and Juliet, King Arthur and Marian) things again, don’t end well. So why do they touch us so? Why do we seek out and share the characters’ pain?
Perhaps because real life happy ever afters are few and far between. Maybe misery simply wants company.