Are you living a happy ending?
I see my life as existing on a sort of neutral plane of existence. I have never truly wanted for anything, have never suffered from or seen an extravagant amount of sickness, death has generally stayed clear of the close circle of people I love, and war has always stayed overseas. I’m educated, have had a boyfriend for five years, and have generally always known what I wanted to do in my life, minus a few details…such as how to make money at it.
I say this because I think it might have something to do with the types of stories I’m drawn to – that is to say, stories with a humbling, tragic, or depressing ending. Stories in which people make sacrifices and sometimes cataclysmic mistakes. Case in point: Little Shop of Horrors.
Basically a rock-sci fi retelling of Faust, Little Shop of Horrors (the musical version…as I’ve yet to watch the Roger Corman original film) is about an alien plant who has come to take over the world by eating people – and the hapless flower shop employee, Seymour, who helps feed the thing in exchange for fortune, fame and the girl. Everyone dies in the end. Including Seymour.
(The Frank Oz movie version of the musical, however, changed the ending to a happier version – where Seymour and Audrey marry and move to a nice ticky tacky house in the suburbs – when the original ending did poorly with test audiences.)
The musical is of course ridiculous and funny in all the right ways – but when you get down to it, it’s completely sad and depressing. And I can’t get enough of it.
My mother has always been obsessed with romantic comedies. She likes happy endings, and happy endings only – and I’ve made fun of her for this since I was able to comprehend what it meant. But she’s also an ER nurse and has seen her share of the horrible, the sad and the depressing (thus the calls I got late at night when I was in high school – my mother crying on the other end because she had just seen a sixteen year old die on a gurney because of a drunk driver – and she just wanted to hear my voice.) So while I still tease her for it, I understand her desire to fill her non-working days with happy endings with ridiculously perfect people falling in love and tying the knot.
My most recent musical depression indulgences? Sweeny Todd, Nightmare Alley, Moulin Rouge, Rent and of course Little Shop of Horrors. (In my musical marathon I also watched Hairspray – which has so much pep and happy in it that it almost cancels out the rest, but it still has its sobering themes if you think too hard about it.) What I like about these stories is not that they are sad, per se, but that they make me feel something, they make me think (yes – even musicals can make you think!) and they do not let you assume that everything works out in the end…because most of the time, someone in the story will fuck it up. And yet, there’s still something hopeful in them as well.
I would be a terrible goddess. When I create characters in my stories, I make them go through a lot. I mean, a lot. They suffer. And not always for the betterment of themselves. I like the moments when you, as an audience, wonder why you’re laughing at something so terrible, why you’re rooting for someone when they’re basically murdering people (re: Seymour), and what this means about yourself, as a human.
If my heart breaks, it’s a good fucking story. And if it makes me laugh even when I’m crying – then its a really good fucking story.
And while I have my indulgences of fairy tales (The Princess Bride, Hairspray, While You Were Sleeping, It’s a Wonderful Life...I could go on), I will never truly enjoy writing the bow tie at the end of a story. I like the feeling of the Great Wide Open. I like leaving with a question, hope with a twinge of doubt, a flaw in the landscape…because to me, that’s where the truth lies. In the wondering of NEXT.