There’s a whole list of “life lessons” that Hollywood tries to communicate through movies and television; I’m sorry to have to break it to you, but a lot of them are either falsely positive or truly negative. If only these Hollywood endings were a bit more realistic, maybe a lot of us would be better adjusted in life. Saying “woulda, shoulda, coulda” a lot less often. (That’s your cue. Go get your popcorn, your Milk Duds, your BonBons.)
Okay, first up. No, not every family is the Waltons. Not even close. Yes, blood may be thicker than water, but, really, who wants their water thick? A family of seven kids, two parents, and two grandparents and no one gets on each other’s nerves? I don’t think so. You mean every big brother (John-Boy Walton) isn’t his little sister’s (Elizabeth’s) hero? Not always. Not off Walton’s Mountain. Not even off the studio set.
Here’s another one. You and your wife agree to let her spend one night with a zillionaire — who looks just like Robert Redford in his prime (and is, in fact, played by Robert Redford) — for a million dollars, thinking it won’t tear your marriage apart. It does. That’s not the hard-to-believe part. It’s the fact that the couple (Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson) actually stay together at the end that tests our suspension of disbelief. What kind of husband agrees to that arrangement? What kind of wife does that and thinks, “It will all work out in the end. We just won’t talk about it”? More than an indecent proposal, it’s just indefensible. And not how life works.
Or how about this? Good news: Rose and Jack discover each other and fall passionately in love, despite their class differences. Bad news: They’re on the Titanic.
Good news: They escape her dastardly fiance who is hellbent on seeing Jack dead after discovering the sketch Jack drew of the nude Rose (actually, the sketch is beautiful, making that a piece of good news). Bad news: They jump from the sinking ship and end up in the freezing sea.
Good news: They find a piece of floating wreckage — a door — to hold on to. Rose gets on it, while Jack hangs off the edge, his body mostly submerged in the icy water. Bad news: Waaah! Buzzer sound! Sorry, you lose a turn. Here’s where Rose really needs to use one of her “I insists” (unfortunately, she can’t use a life line) to make Jack climb up next to her. Really, Rose? This man has changed your life and given you hope; he thinks you’re beautiful even when you look like a wet rat; and he would have jumped after you to save you when you thought about killing yourself. Move over! (Sigh.) Rose survives to have a rich, full life, living until she’s past 100. Sure, her heart goes on. But Jack’s? Not so much. Bad news. Very bad.
And lastly, Sex and the City (the show, not the movies). At the end of the series, we find Carrie swept off her feet by her Russian artist (Mikhail Baryshnikov) and relocated to Paris. The sights! The clothes! The shoes! The romance! The being totally ignored by her Russian except when he needs her to calm his anxiety about his gallery showing! And what happens when Carrie realizes she has lost Carrie? (Not just her sense of self but also her nameplate necklace?) Big, her on-again, off-again boyfriend and eternal soul mate, zooms across the Atlantic to scoop her up and bring her back to New York. To a shared future. Two SATC movies. And, one supposes, a very fashionable happily every after. Just one thing — that’s not how life plays out. Prince Charming does not just show up on a white horse (or in a black limo) to carry the heroine away. And no woman has that kind of couture wardrobe on Carrie’s salary.
But you know, maybe we don’t want our entertainment to reflect back real life too, too much. Maybe part of the fun is to be taken out of the everyday world to places where things are more dramatic, more fairytale, more unlikely, more home-sweet-home. Maybe the Hollywood Ending is a concession to the “life is tough, let’s escape for a while” way of thinking.
Speaking of concessions, let’s all go to the lobby.
ⓒ 2016 Claudia Grossman