books, rants

The Emotional Honesty of a Happy Ending

Originally written on Friday, May 4, 2018.

It’s 8 AM, and I’m just about to go to work, but I wanted to post something here after reading too many things in the newspaper and on social media that have been irritating me.

What has spurred me to write this is a review of Love, Simon that ends with this sentence: “Just remember, it’s not like this for everyone.” Now, I haven’t seen the movie or read the books yet, but I’m aware that there’s some issues with how it doesn’t support the reality of queer teens around the world.

And yet, my reaction to this is, “We know.

It all goes back to what we have been talking about in the romance sphere about happy endings being a must in this genre, and why non-readers look at it as “unrealistic.” And, as a self-confessed sucker for happy endings, I can be quite intense about this, because it’s part of the reason why I read.

I’m not saying that I won’t read a book (or watch a movie) that doesn’t have a happy ending. What I am saying is that happy endings are not always the “emotionally dishonest”* cop-outs that some people make them out to be.

(*No, I’m not naming the respected writing blogger who used this to refer to happy endings in more than one tweet. But, y’know.)

It’s only now that romance writers like me are discovering that our words have power over our readers. Escapism, while still not a bad thing, is no longer the only goal. In my case, I’m discovering an audience that wants to see more people like themselves falling in love. I’m not saying that they all want shiny cars and big houses and the perfect guy to have babies with, but they want to see that there’s hope for them, that they can ask for more of what they want out of their lives.

The point is, all marginalized folks—regardless of ethnicity, gender, or disability—deserve stories where they don’t have to die to serve the so-called “emotionally honest” ending. This is a movement that I’m seeing in YA, and I’m seeing this in romance, too. We’re tired of being told by media that we’re just plot devices that need to die in order to fulfill a destiny. We’re tired of being told that the only stories that need to be told are the ones about our suffering. We’re tired of suffering nobly, period.

Seriously, now: What is wrong with our happiness? What is wrong with celebrating our joy? What is wrong with living long enough to slay the dragon and be the hero, for a change?

Let’s face it: Joy is subversive. Joy means that we don’t have to bend backwards and accept the status quo if it means bearing yet another burden on your back. Joy pisses off people in power, because—unlike propaganda—it challenges privilege and the pecking order of what’s already there.

Yes, it’s not like this for everyone. But just because it isn’t, doesn’t mean you can’t strive for it.

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