Lately I’ve realized something in my reading and writing habits: I like happy endings. This is not a new realization, really, but I started thinking about it recently in a new and deeper way.
As a kid, I loved Disney movies and similar stories, where everything was tied up in a neat little bow and they all lived happily ever after. I didn’t like feeling sad, and so I sought out happy stories with happy endings.
As an adult, I still like happy stories with happy endings—but there’s more to it than that. It’s not as much about everything ending on a perfect tidy note, but more about ending on a strong or redemptive note.
So many stories today (books, movies, shows, etc.), are grim, negative, and just plain depressing. I totally understand that not every story should be kittens and rainbows all the way through, but I do believe that negative or unpleasant stories should have a positive ending. Or at least, have something positive in the ending.
A happy ending isn’t appropriate for every story—but I believe that a redemptive ending is. Humans inherently desire peace, comfort, and love. We want to believe that the world can somehow be better than it is. We want to believe that life is worth living, and that there is still hope left in the world.
The most memorable and impactful protagonists or even anti-heroes in stories are the ones who speak to hope in some way. Even a grisly, traumatic, hopeless story needs to have some element of hope or joy or a promise of something better—otherwise, what’s the point?
A redemptive element I believe is present in some way in every good story. Not every story needs to have a Disney princess ending. But I believe that every story, in one way or another, should leave you feeling a little bit better about yourself or your world for having read or watched it.
Happy, positive, or redemptive endings do matter. Because we all want to believe in hope.