Friday, June 17, 2011

The Best Happy Endings That [SPOILER ALERT!] Aren't Happy At All.

It's a SemiDaily List!

Americans love a happy ending -- so much so that we just assume that an ending is happy if it kind of seems happy. We walk out of the movie theater, laughing and talking and wondering if maybe tonight she'll invite us in, and never stop to think about the ending of the movie we just saw, and specifically never stop to think "Wait, was that really a happy ending, or should I be kind of bummed out right about now?"

This, I think, is an offshoot of a more common problem with movies, but one I've touched on before: The Happy-Ending-That-Isn't-Really is part of the overall way that Hollywood (most likely at the behest of the Trilateral Commission*)

*I've only just realized that all my life I've heard that the Trilateral Commission is a bad thing and/or that it's feared by people who used to be mocked for being insane but who now appear to have the ability to actually elect Michele Bachmann president... and yet I have no idea what the Trilateral Commission is.**

**Maybe someday I'll do a post about The Best Threats You Thought Were Fictional But Maybe Aren't.***

***I kind of feel like doing that one right now. But I won't.

The Trilateral Commission, along with Steven Spielberg and maybe that one guy right... over... there. (The one in the hat. Do you see him?)*4

*4: Don't look directly at him! Are you nuts?!
The Trilateral Commission, et al, are intent on making Americans settle for less: They want us not to reach for the brass ring anymore, but to settle for looking up at the brass ring while we eat our cotton candy and go around and around. They want us not to strive for riches and prosperity and happiness, but be content with what we've got and not try to ever get more. If we, as a middle- and lower-class group decide "Eh, we're fine with the house we've got and that 10 year old car and maybe now and then a trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee" then we'll sit idly by while they get richer and richer and richer.

That's my theory, at least, and while everyone focuses on politics and government and things like that, groups that seem to be actively transferring wealth and the finer things in life from us to them (them being Rich Folk, and John Boehner), they've lost focus on the myriad ways that life is teaching us to just settle and accept what we've got and not rock the boat.

One obvious way -- the way I've discussed before because I took the blue pill*5

*5 Or was it the red one? I haven't watched that movie in, like, 12 years.

and so I see the reality that you do not see-- one obvious way that The Powers That Be (as Roger Waters would call them 20 years ago) are indoctrinating us to just take what we've got and never want more is through "Christmas Movies." I've talked about this before, in a post I can't find right now, but the basic point is this: In all Christmas movies, the protagonist has a pretty good life but doesn't realize it and is unhappy. Then something bad happens and his life gets way worse, and then he works his way back up to the life he started out with, through the help of Christmas Magic or something, and at the end he's happy -- even though he's exactly the same as he was at the outset.

So why is he happy? Ever stop to question that? No, you didn't, because The Hollywood Conspiracy To Keep You From Wanting A Better Life has indoctrinated you to just accept it.

So, too, with Happy-Endings-That-Aren't: We've been told over and over that we love Happy Endings, and so movies come along and give us what appears to be a Happy Ending, and because it seems to finish with an upbeat style and people laugh or parade across the screen or whatever, so we assume it's happy even though it's not really.

Why would someone want us to think something is a Happy Ending when it's not? Because they want us to settle for less-than-happiness. And you've been falling for it - -but no more, because I'm not afraid of them*6
*6 I am, a little

and so I'm going to help you see the truth, to be the truth, Danny, by giving you this SemiDaily List of The Best Happy Endings That [SPOILER ALERT!] Aren't Happy At All, and for each I'll point out just what it is that Our Secretive Overlords Get Out Of Tricking Us This Way.

1. The Lincoln Lawyer:

This was the movie that set me off thinking about this -- because I am a lawyer who frequently engages in law-ing or whatever it is lawyers who don't spend their days photographing Twinkies do all day.

The Plot: Matthew However-you-spell-his-last-name is a lawyer who drives around in a Lincoln all day. He gets hired by the son of a rich realtor to defend the son against charges of beating up a prostitute and nearly killing her. Soon, though, Matthew Etc. realizes that the son, played by the guy Reese Witherspoon was too famous to be married to, actually committed an earlier murder -- a murder that a different client of Matthew's is in prison for, because Matthew pressured the earlier client into taking a plea to avoid the death penalty.

The So-Called Happy Ending: Matthew gets a different client of his to trick a con man into lying on the stand, framing Not Mr. Reese for the earlier murder, so that after charges of nearly killing the prostitute are dropped against Not Mr. Reese, he's arrested for the earlier murder, with those charges supported not just by a falsified confession from a con man, but... a parking ticket issued to Not Mr. Reese years ago.

Also, for good measure, Matthew has Not Mr. Reese beaten up by some biker friends of his.

Why It's Not A Happy Ending At All: Let's leave aside some obvious factors, such as Matthew's best friend was shot during the course of the movie and is dead, and also that Not Mr. Reese was acquitted of a crime he actually committed. Let's also ignore the fact that Matthew's earlier client was pressured into serving time in prison for a crime he didn't commit, leaving quite a track record for The Lincoln Lawyer, and instead focus on the presumed Happy Ending: Justice will be served! Not Mr. Reese will get the chair for killing that person years ago!

Except... except that there's a confession from another guy that'll muck up the works in trying Not Mr. Reese, and except that all the evidence is old and stale, and the only real link between that murder and Not Mr. Reese is a parking ticket showing he was around the area at the time. And what will Not Mr. Reese's new lawyers do when they get around to questioning the witness Matthew got to commit perjury -- with the help of another client who broke the rules at the rehab facility she was in?

I'd say it's pretty likely Not Mr. Reese goes free, the Lincoln Lawyer is disbarred, one client might be freed but has lost most of his life to an undeserved sentence, another client will be kicked out of her rehab, and the perjurer goes back to jail. Plus, now there's nobody to protect Marisa Tomei, Matthew's ex-wife, or support Matthew's daughter!

What Our Secret Overlords Get Out of Convincing You This Ending Is Happy: The message is: The justice system is broken. Only by resorting to private measures can we ever achieve safety and security. The government is letting killers go, but if you can arm yourself and align yourself with the right private groups, you'll be safe.

2. There's Something About Mary:

The second-funniest movie I ever saw -- and yet, it ends on a sad note.

The Plot: Ben Stiller loves Mary, but things keep going awry, not least because everyone who meets Mary loves her and is constantly plotting to keep other would-be suitors away from her. Ben tracks her down in Miami and tries one last time to form a relationship with her.

The So-Called Happy Ending: After an epic showdown involving Woogie, Brett Favre, and a bunch of other people whose names I didn't catch, Ben Stiller cedes his claim to all the others, and leaves Mary's house, thinking that she will go off with Brett Favre -- only to have Mary come running after him and decide that she loves him!

Why It's Not A Happy Ending At All: Mary has been being stalked by guys all her life -- including pro football players and a guy so dangerous he created a fake identity to follow her, and a guy who crippled himself just to be able to visit Mary at her medical practice. And those guys are still out there, leaving Mary to live a life of constant fear. Along the way, they have abandoned families and hurt charitable causes and otherwise wreaked havoc.

Also, a hitchhiking serial killer is still on the loose.

What Our Secret Overlords Get Out of Convincing You This Ending Is Happy: The message is: If there's a hot chick nearby, you don't need to worry about what's going on around you. When you let that sink in, this happens:

I'm not kidding: The same week that the Patriot Act was renewed, a porn company offered to buy Charlie Sheen's house. Which of those stories did you read?

3. Fatal Attraction:

The movie that first really brought to light how The People Who Populate Every Conspiracy Theory are changing things to appease us with PseudoHappy Endings: The original movie ending involved Glenn Close committing suicide, framing Michael Douglas, with a sop to the audience thrown in by having Michael's wife find a tape that might free him. Sort of the opposite of Shaq's life at this moment.

The Plot: Michael Douglas has an affair with Glenn Close, who in movies is somehow deemed to be hotter than Ann Archer. Glenn Close goes nuts with love for Michael, which seemed slightly less implausible than "Catherine Zeta Jones marries Michael Douglas," so there you go.

The So-Called Happy Ending: Instead, Glenn Close arrives at the country house Michael's family owns, tries to kill him, and is shot dead by Ann Archer. Yay! Hugs all around.

Why It's Not A Happy Ending At All: Okay, Michael Douglas' marriage is such a sham that when his wife is gone for a few hours, he starts an affair. Or, he's so self-involved that Ann Archer's not having sex with him the night before is justification for cheating on her; either way, it's divorce city for this couple -- with that cute little girl getting hit by a double whammy of my rabbit's dead/why do I have to have two Thanksgivings?

Assuming that Ann Archer is cleared of murder charges -- with the expense of lawyers and an investigation, it's still not an easy thing to have your marriage break down and kill someone, and even cops sometimes need therapy for years after stuff like that.

Then, too, there's the fact that this would certainly make headlines, meaning that the family will be hounded by media and Michael might just lose his job, making it even harder for the family to afford that nice Manhattan lifestyle. At the very least, that little girl can look forward to years of her friends googling her parents until she becomes a terrorist.

What Our Secret Overlords Get Out of Convincing You This Ending Is Happy: It's actually about the same message as The Lincoln Lawyer: don't trust authorities; taking matters into your own hands is never a bad idea. Michael is told that lawyers and the courts can't help him, and there is (in the movie, at least) absolutely no penalty for shooting a woman in a bathtub when you could simply have locked her in the room and called 911.

Added bonus measure: Aren't guns a necessary thing to have in the house? We should all have as many guns around as possible, even if we have cute little daughters who might pick them up and accidentally shoot themselves. That's a necessary risk for all this freedom/guns.

And that message comes courtesy of a hot chick:

4. Tangled.

This Disney movie resulted in a lengthy discussion between Sweetie and me about whether the ending was happy, or not. I say it's not, but she claimed victory anyway because that's what wives do, and I had to buy her a t-shirt.

The Plot: Rapunzel's mom is about to die during childbirth, until a magic flower is found that heals her, but only after the flower is made into soup. Mom lives, Rapunzel lives, and the flower's magic is transferred to Rapunzel's hair, where it will reside until Rapunzel cuts her hair. A witch who wants to live forever and was using the flower kidnaps Rapunzel and raises her in a tower as her own daughter -- but a handsome would-be thief springs Rapunzel just shy of her 18th birthday and ultimately reunites her with her parents.

The So-Called Happy Ending: Midway through the rescue, the thief (Eugene) is stabbed and dying. Rapunzel vows that if the witch lets her use her hair to cure Eugene, she will never leave the tower and let the witch use her hair to stay alive forever, and Rapunzel never breaks a promise. Before she can heal Eugene, though, Eugene cuts her hair, depriving it of her magic, and thereby making her useless to the witch, who falls out a window and dies -- and then, Rapunzel, crying, lets loose a tiny tear that cures Eugene anyway.

Why It's Not A Happy Ending At All: Where Sweetie and I diverged was in my belief that Rapunzel could no longer cure people after her hair was cut. I think the teardrop was a one-time deal. Sweetie says that Rapunzel could cure people via her tears even if she didn't have her hair anymore, which is only a moderately less-happy ending: Now-Queen Rapunzel would have to cry to cure people, but she could cure people. I'm not convinced that's the case but there's another reason this ending isn't happy: The plant is gone.

That magic plant that could cure people? Soldiers dug it up and made it into soup for the former queen. So instead of cultivating the one plant that can cure any disease, or at least replanting it near the town, they killed it and let the Queen get the only benefit from it. And then, if... if ...Rapunzel can still cure people, she's the one who gets to make the decisions on who lives and who dies.

What Our Secret Overlords Get Out of Convincing You This Ending Is Happy: That ought to be obvious: The government is the only group that should decide who lives and who dies. Socialized medicine? Freely available cures? Posh! Bah! Give the healing power to an unelected head of state and let her decide how to use it. Who could possibly object to that?

It should not be forgotten, either, that the message is delivered by a hot chick:

Starting to see my point, here?

5. Return of The Jedi:

It's your Mandatory Star Wars Reference!

The Plot: In what turns out to be the sixth movie in a series, a war that started because the people of Naboo had something they wanted to sell and the Trade Federation didn't want them to sell, drags on, with the Rebel Alliance (who actually aren't so much rebels as they were pretty much the government just 20 years before, but let's not dwell on that) mounting a last attack on the Empire's newest weapon -- with a brief sidetrip to a desert planet to rescue a loved one, in a parallel that's too obvious to miss: Anakin's trip back to Tatooine to rescue his mom set him further down the path to the Dark Side, while Luke's trip to the same planet to rescue Han poses no moral dilemmas at all (Then again, it's not surprising that a guy who made out with his sister doesn't have many ethical qualms.)

The So-Called Happy Ending:
Longtime pirate Han Solo joins the rebels officially, Luke rescues his father and converts him to good mid-battle, the Death Star is blown up, and fireworks light up the Endor skies. Party on, Ewoks!

Why It's Not A Happy Ending At All: Remember how Star Wars ended? George Lucas didn't: In Star Wars, Han joined the rebels, Luke blew up the Death Star, and everyone got medals. Not long after that, things went all to hell because here's the thing about Empires:

They have more than one weapon.

The Empire wasn't called "the Empire" because it was small: It was the entire galaxy. So when the rebels blew up the Death Star, that was a setback but not much of one because not long after that, the Empire tracked down what apparently was the Rebels' only base, and nearly beat them all.

The Battle of Endor didn't destroy all those other clones on all those other planets, and the Rebels are an almost embarrassingly small force that now has to try to govern a galaxy -- a galaxy they were pretty much terrible at governing before.

Also: There is only one Jedi left in the Universe, a Jedi who didn't begin his training until he was almost 20, and what happens to Jedis who aren't trained from birth? (See: Vader, Darth.)

Also: Is it really that easy to bring someone back from the Dark Side? Luke conquered Darth Vader not with midichlorians, and not with lightning bolts, but with the same exact thing that Marty McFly used to make out with his mom, and then get his parents to fall in love with each other:

If it is that easy, kind of makes it seem silly that the Jedis from the first three movies kept on fighting the Sith instead of just loving them, doesn't it? Maybe we could've avoided this whole little mess if someone had given Darth Sidious a Father's Day card?

What Our Secret Overlords Get Out of Convincing You This Ending Is Happy: Wars are quick and easy, and it's important to focus on how we just keep winning. Look at how many times we've won in Iraq! Two or three, at least, and sometimes we win the same war more than once!


This feels strangely familiar...

Let's not forget that even in the middle of a terrible galaxy-wide war (that was quickly and easily won with no messy decades-long clean-up to worry about), we still had something to distract us, namely this:

I imagine that's exactly the image we'll be seeing on every flat surface, oh, about 5 years from now.

1 comment:

Rogue Mutt said...

It seems like the message from "Tangled" conflicts with those of "The Lincoln Lawyer" and "Fatal Attraction." We can't trust authority but we should trust them to kill people? Maybe the Trilaterate Commission needs to work on its mission statement.

Of course the Expanded Universe, aka the series of overpriced largely poorly-written novels, deals with how the Rebels finally drive the Empire out and form the New Republic. In those too Han and Leia get married and have three kids, Luke meets a chick with Jedi powers and has a kid, Chewie gets crushed by a moon (no shit), and the Jedi is restored because it turns out those medi-dealies are still around in people, just no one knew it until Luke found a medi-dealie detector somewhere. The first three novels from the early 90s by Timothy Zahn were pretty good but most of the rest are pretty lame.