Endings are always hard.  Not just in the “can’t say goodbye to yesterday boo hoo hoo love song” sense, but also in the sense that a great story can still end with the giant squid exploding in NYC and undermining the whole narrative.  More difficult than the bad ending, though, is the happy ending, where everything turns out great.  Bill & Ted got two such endings: The first one works, the second one fails, for reasons that aren’t easy to understand.  (Especially since, in many ways, it’s the exact same scene each time.)  A story that chooses to undermine the happy ending can be even more effective than wrapping everything up with a big happy bow, as Dante Hicks correctly remarked, as it resembles real life more, leading to today’s bittersweet query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) wonders whether the ending of ‘Doctor Horrible’ was a happy ending or not, and still can’t decide, asking: What’s your favorite tale that doesn’t have a happy ending?

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  1. J_Michael_T
    September 30, 2016 at 11:43 am — Reply

    My marriage ;)

  2. September 30, 2016 at 11:46 am — Reply

    Can’t beat the guy before me, but I’d say Fight Club. One of the biggest plot twists I never saw coming.

  3. Daniel Langsdale
    September 30, 2016 at 4:20 pm — Reply

    12 Monkeys, showing the hard way that you can’t change the past, you can only learn from it to try and make a better future.

  4. September 30, 2016 at 4:58 pm — Reply

    Chinatown- the ultimate bummer ending, no contest!

  5. September 30, 2016 at 7:36 pm — Reply

    Planet of the Apes, I & II. Dr. Strangelove too. Hmm might be a plot theme here…

  6. September 30, 2016 at 8:37 pm — Reply

    Does my time with my late ex count? Because looking back on it, I swear it would make a great bittersweet geeky rom-com (with a little sci-fi thrown in because… Honestly, if it had not happened to me, I probably wouldn’t believe it).

    But for pop culture… It is a bit subjective to interpretation, but “Let the Right One In”. Most people I know think it is creepy and the cycle begins anew, but I thought it was kinda sweet that the kid and the vampire girl ran off together. But I’m a bit of a weird one, so I’m probably in the minority here.

    I also think any vampire movie where all the vampires are killed is kinda an unhappy ending. Not “Twilight” (I REALLY wanted that to be the ending when I was forced to watch those films), but more traditional vampires, not “sparkly diamond people who happen to drink blood”. Still love ’em, though (the vampire films, not Twilight, just so there is no confusion).

  7. October 1, 2016 at 6:27 am — Reply

    Neon Genesis Evangelion. Actually, much of Anime and Manga. It is part of their charm.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.