Do me a favor. Go through in your head the chick flicks you like. Now try and come up with one where the ending doesn’t involve someone getting engaged, married or into a relationship. I’m guessing you’re going to come up close to empty.
I can think of exactly one movie I’ve seen that ended this way, and it’s a movie I hated precisely because it ended this way. It was Becoming Jane, and I remember leaving the theater in an actual rage, because how dare I pay money to go see a romantic comedy that didn’t end with the girl and the guy getting together? It did not matter to me that the moral of the movie was that she was Jane Austen, writer of amazing chick lit before that was even a term. Nope, because she didn’t have a Darcy of her own, I wasn’t interested in her story. I believed that movies were for escapism, and that they should all have happy endings.
The thing is, the movies that have a happy ending have just that – an ending. The story finishes when everything’s looking great – two people are just about to embark on some great adventure together and we can believe that nothing but the best will happen to them. There’s no need for the movie to show the day-to-day tedium of being in a relationship, or any of the inevitable and possibly relationship-ending changes people go through. No, the movies get to end things on a high note, and we as an audience get to suspend our disbelief and think that everything really will be happily ever after.
It’s a great trick that they can play in movies, this ending just when everything’s looking great. Let me tell you, it works much, much less well in real life. In fact, it doesn’t work at all in real life because you can’t just press pause the moment everything works out as you’d hoped. Life goes on, and those perfect moments aren’t glorified with credits rolling while an inspiring pop song plays, they become mere moments that get lost in all the other things we have going on in our lives.
I’m a victim of trying to use romantic comedy plotting in my own life. Sophomore year of college, I started dating this guy, but we both knew it wasn’t going to last because he was going to grad school on the other side of the country and I was headed off to a study abroad program. So of course, I, the cold, heartless cynic, fell hard for him, but of course, I couldn’t admit my own feelings. We went our separate ways and I tried to move on, but couldn’t, and just as I thought I might admit how I felt, I found out he was dating some girl in grad school. Fast forward a few months and I decided to dramatically declare my feelings anyway, and of course the day I chose to do so was the day after he’d gotten dumped by his girlfriend, of course he felt the same way, and of course we were going to make it work long distance.
It sounds like the plot of a movie, and if it were a movie, that’s when the story would have ended. Frankly, it’s when the story should have ended in real life, too, but instead, I had this one perfect moment that I had to try and turn into a whole perfect relationship. Needless to say, this was easier said than done, and the relationship ended up dragging on longer than I should have let it, mostly because I believed that if it had begun in such a perfect way, surely it was meant to be. It took me a long, long time to realize that just because your life has started to resemble the plot of a romcom does not mean you are making correct choices.
In real life, there are no fairy tale endings, and even fairy tales have started to acknowledge that happily ever after might not look as dreamy as imagined. For now, I’m going to stop worrying about the happy endings and focus on the happy right nows. The too-good-to-be-true movie moments are something I’ll savor in the moment, not something I’ll try and build an entire life around. If I’m really lucky, I’ll fictionalize those moments and turn them into bestselling literature, but I suppose we can’t all become Jane.
Image via The Optimistic Muse