Why does every story have a happy ending?
Most wide release films and popular novels in America are traditional melodramas. Stories that promote the idea that as individuals we have control over our lives. This is played out with a hero overcoming difficult circumstances for ultimate success. This is the happy ending, or "up ending" as they say in Hollywood.Tragedies on the other hand, while popular in other eras, are far less today. Though they may be referred to as "down endings" in Hollywood, tragedies are actually meant to be uplifting, but by a different dramatic mechanism.Tragedies are stories that promote the idea that we do not have control over our destinies. This is played out by the tragic hero struggling against circumstances repeatedly but ultimately failing to overcome them. Succumbing to the powers of the Gods or to fate. However, the goal of the tragedy is not to bum people out with a down ending, but to make a more sophisticated point: That if none of us truly have control over our destinies, we can gain strength from the knowledge that we’re all in the same boat. That as human beings we strive against the omnipotent forces of the universe anyway. We "Rage, rage against the dying of the light!"The goal of the melodrama is escapism. To help you forget for a little while, to experience wish fulfillment, to fantasize about more control than we have in our real lives.The goal of the tragedy is catharsis. Collective appreciation for our lives as they are and a reminder not to waste them and to keep striving. This more sophisticated point brings the stark reality of our powerlessness into focus and so is less popular in the storytelling of our era.Which is higher art? Who's to say? But think about this-- which films do you forget once you leave the movie theater? And which films stay with you?