When did stories that end happily become the literary (or cinematic) equivalent of drinking wine from a box?
I really love stories; I am in awe of great storytellers, regardless of the medium, and I respect a storyteller's right to have that story take whatever direction suits his or her fancy. I count many stories that end sadly among my favorites, but to be perfectly clear, I completely prefer happy endings. I like the couple to get together, the sick person to recover, the goal to be reached. Good stories can and do end this way. So, why is it that stories that don't end in sadness, heartbreak, or confusion (as in "wait, what just happened?") are often dismissed as commercial (although I still don't totally understand what is wrong with appealing to consumers) or worse, as unrealistic? Nice things DO happen you know.
Here is an example: I was lucky enough to be able to see an incredible film that just played at Sundance at a special screening (I won't spoil the film in any way by naming it). Afterwards there was a Q&A session with one of the writers and the director. An audience member asked if any drafts of the screenplay had the lead characters ending up together and the writer explained that no, the ending was the first scene written and it never changed. He said he and his co-writer felt that this ending was more realistic. The other people in the theater loudly applauded. I was so confused- why were they applauding? Yes, this was the best ending for these writers, but why were people applauding that the sad ending was more realistic? The crowd was an artsy one and I could feel the judgment oozing out of our neighbors as my sister and I discussed that we liked the film but still wished the ending had been a happier one (and you should have seen the sneers that question-asker was getting- brutal!).
I don't think all films or all books should have feel-good endings, but I also don't see why stories that end nicely attract so much automatic derision as if they could never be as good as their gloomy counterparts. Readers, what do you think?