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In defence of happy endings

For as long as I can remember, when I was trying to fall asleep at night as a kid, I would lie in bed and try to imagine the future for characters from my favourite books and movies and TV shows. And those futures were always to do with romantic relationships.

I’ve always loved a happy ending. An well-earned, will-they-or-won’t-they-then-they-do happy ending. I’ll read romance novels, when you know the girl is going to get the boy in the end, but they’ve never been as satisfying as the moment when all that hope and tension pays off and two characters you love finally realise they love each other.

In internet parlance, I am a ‘shipper, and I have been since decades before I ever heard the term. But reducing optimism, hope and romance in fiction to “shipping” and “fan service” belittles the power and the importance of a good, well-written love story.

Sincerity and optimism is highly underrated in art.

And that’s why I loved the Mad Men finale. Because the Peggy and Stan story was lovely and earned and dammit if it didn’t just make me grin. I understand not everyone likes their art so optimistic and hopeful and a tiny bit gushy, but I do. Weiner never made the show saccharine sweet and there was plenty of darkness, but the fact it ended with the best character (in every possibly meaning of the word “best”) ending happy and with something new and good in her life was such a gratifying ending.

When I was sitting, grinning at my iPad as I replayed the scene at 1am this morning, I realised it’s been a while since I felt this way about a new story I had spent a fair bit of time invested in, especially on screen. Novels have been a blessed relief (part of the reason Americanah was so great is because it is such a powerful and optimistic love story), but on screen, well, there have been few good romances on film and television recently.

Enough with the complaints of fan service. It’s ok to give characters a happy ending, or a happy moment in time. Peggy and Stan was brilliant because it was earned and it made sense. The culmination of the moment was a little rushed, in the context of the 90-plus hours of the series. But I wish more shows and movies and books were brave enough to tell a story with a happy ending. Especially a happy ending where the girl gets the boy. Or the girl.

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