Way back in April I wrote a post about why I believe we enjoy dark and gruesome things in our fiction. Today I want to share with you my completely opposing thoughts on that. You should know, I’m a paradox. As in, I somehow manage to be two totally contradictory things at the same time and have utterly contradictory thoughts on basically any subject. Seriously, I could make an argument for both sides for almost anything. It’s ridiculous. And confusing. (But also sometimes useful because I often can serve as a mediator.)
Anyway, you might want to read that first post before this one because I’ll be referencing it a lot and telling you why I think we should have both dark and fluffy stories.
We all know the line. . . “And they lived happily ever after.” Disney has pounded this in our heads since we were wee things dancing around to their happy little songs. (Okay, sometimes we still do that, don’t deny it.) Something about a happy ending is satisfactory. There’s nothing like that blissful feeling of reading the last page of a book where everything has been all tidied up and we can close the cover knowing our beloved characters are now off living happy lives beyond the pages.
But why? Aren’t those “happily ever afters” unrealistic? I mean, just because you married a handsome prince doesn’t mean your life is going to be perfect paradise to the end of your days. As I said in the previous post, life isn’t fluffy.
BUT, and this is a big but here, life is NOT all darkness and horror and grittiness either. I know sometimes it feels that way, trust me, I know very well. Sometimes life is just downright awful and those happily ever afters seem more unrealistic than ever. But I think that’s the very reason we need them.
Why do we read books or watch TV? Escapism. We want to escape the real world for a little while. We want to laugh with the hobbits in the Shire, dance with the fauns in Narnia, search for treasure with Peter Pan in Neverland. We want to reawaken that child-like wonder inside all of us within the beauty and magic of words. Fiction can be a wonderful thing. And as unrealistic as it may often seem, it can teach us so much about the very real lives we’re living. It can inspire. Who isn’t inspired by the jolly, simple life of a hobbit? Of Lucy Pevensie’s faith? Or Captain America’s deep sense of justice? Fiction teaches us and inspires us and helps us in this crazy and often scary place we call life.
Sometimes we need something lighthearted to remind us that no matter how dark things are, light can always be found.
My mom and little sister aren’t big on dark fiction. They much prefer the cheeriness of Anne of Green Gables or Andy Griffith, and I think that’s fantastic. I love how they expose themselves to lighter, happier things. Not to say there’s anything wrong with dark fiction (I made a whole post about why it’s important after all), I personally love it! And that’s the point right there. We should expose ourselves to things that make us happy (ya know, as long as they’re not sinful), not things that depress us or tear us down. I’ve watched the Lord of the Rings movies around 23849 times, but it’d be insane for my mom to watch them over and over again, because she doesn’t like them. Mirram Neal fairly recently did a wonderful post on focusing on the things in life that make us better mentally, not worse. It’s something that’s on my mind a lot. I encourage you to read it!
There are a lot of people out there who don’t want to deal with dark fiction, and that’s OKAY. Happy stories are good! And having hard issues in fiction is good, too. VARIETY is good. The Hunger Games is one of my favorite books, yet so is Howl’s Moving Castle. The first one is very dark and depressing, the second makes me laugh and grin from the first sentence to the last. But what if we only had one or the other type? Just dark stuff or just fluffy? That wouldn’t be very useful.
We need fiction that brings up the hard issues and helps us face the “dragons” of our lives. To learn how to be brave and deal with the hardships of life. But we also need happy stories. Why? (Yes, I’m finally getting to my main point. I’ve gone around the world to get there, I know.) This is why I believe we need happy stories. . .
Because we need to be reminded there is always HOPE.
Maybe marrying a handsome prince won’t bring us a happily ever after, but clinging to Jesus, our Prince of Peace, will assure us eternal hope. No, life isn’t easy, but God has promised His children a Perfect Paradise after this life. We really do have a happily ever after to look forward to. And right now we have joy in Him no matter the hardships pounding on us.
Fluffy stories, happy endings, they provide a break from the weariness of life. They show us light and joy can be found. They remind us of HOPE. Someday our Prince WILL come. Someday we will have a happily ever after.
So whether you like the dark stories that help us face our dragons, or the happy ones that remind us we have hope, that’s okay. Either way, fiction is a powerful thing. And if we use it right, it can be a wonderful thing.