If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.

Orson Welles

When doing five minutes of research, I realized that I probably shouldn’t title my post happy endings, but essentially my thoughts and queries revolve around the term happy ending as it applies to books, movies, and life.

How do you define the words happy ending or positive outcome?

Much of fiction ends “happy”. Good guy wins out, the couple fall in love, the moral dilemma is resolved. But just because things end where the audience thinks they should, does it necessarily mean that it’s happy?

I’m going to give you a spoiler alert about Friends- the on again off again relationship between Ross and Rachel appears to be on for good as the show takes its final bow. There are many that think this is the ultimate relationship and this is the ending they wanted all along. However, Rachel gives up a dream job in Paris to stay with Ross. Is it happy or settling?

I recently watched a TV movie with my daughter- one of those Netflix things about a twenty something that does something stupid. What made this movie different was that many people would not consider it to conclude on a positive note. While some of the things said are a step forward, the viewer is left wondering how the protagonist will fare in the future. Of course, the warning label before the movie said “drug use, sexual situations and unlikeable female character” so apparently the American public needs to know when it might not be happy ever after and they need to be prepared… (I guess I could write a whole blog just about that phenomena…)

How do you define happy ending/positive outcome?

Can you give an example about an ending that was positive that you thought was good?

Can you give an example of an ending that was not “happy” and why it did or did not work?

What do you think of the Welles quote?

Happy ending: Yes or No?

79 thoughts on “Positive Outcome

  1. Well it goes back to the quote, in that the ending is dependent on whether the story continues. If Rachel gave up a job to stay with Ross it may signify an ending to that part of the story, an end to a chapter, if you will. They’re happy because they’re together. For now. But now, a new chapter begins and a new ending will present itself.

    Movies and shows want viewers to return to watch more, so the feel-good hormones must be released to ensure their return. So, a happy ending is oftentimes a foregone conclusion.

    But I’m a cynic. Happy endings in real life are temporary and subjective. 🥴

    Liked by 8 people

  2. An apt observation. Definitely depends where you stop your story. Yesterday I finished a book with a terribly bleak ending, with only the smallest glimmer of hope. I had not expected it to be that way and was upset for a couple hours after I finished. But the truth is there are no 100% happy endings, it’s all a mix of decisions, sacrifices and unexpected events. This is coming from an upbeat and positive person, btw! Great discussion.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you! I just like my endings to be logical as to how the book is written. I finished a book recently where the ending was so off the rails it completely disappointed me

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Those damn unlikeable female characters…

    Seriously, though, they’re usually my favorite. What movie, can I ask?

    Art imitates life. Some of us really don’t like our lives, it seems…

    I will say, my daughter talked me into watching La La Land with her several years back. I have often said I don’t love musicals, but more specifically I don’t love Disney musicals!

    I HATED the ending of La La Land because of the hard turn in the story line! And yet, I can respect it too, and recognize that it more accurately depicts reality than most movies and almost all musicals.

    C’est la vie!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Many, if not most, people use movies and streaming shows as a form of escape from “real life”. The more fantastical, the better. Hence people’s love for sci-fi, gore, anime, chick flicks, fright flicks, etc. And we know “happy endings” are not reality, but people prefer them over “real endings” because they are still the escape and the departure we often seek.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. I’m chortling about your 5 minutes of research about happy endings. That gave me a happy beginning to my day. I think humans are meaning makers and for me, the Welles quote sparks the thought that given enough time, it might be likely we can turn anything into something that has meaning.

    I just met a mom who lost her 6-year-old daughter in a car accident 10 years ago. Now she’s opened a petting farm for families going through grief in her daughter’s honor. A happy ending? I’d say not really but in its own way, it’s a positive outcome

    However, I like my movies to have happy endings because I don’t want to work that hard. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I admit I like a happy ending in books. But as to the petting zoo, it’s like making the best of a lousy situation. If we can manage to do that, it is a positive outcome

      Liked by 3 people

  6. I once read that in the original ending of the movie “Pretty Woman”, the two main characters part ways, Richard Gere going back to NYC, and Julia Roberts going to college with the money she got. Happy ending? It turns out that in the test screenings the audience did not appreciate that ending and they re-filmed it to the Cinderella ending that it was released with.

    I guess this is what we prefer?

    Liked by 4 people

      1. And are “we” all one homogenous “we” of a single mind?

        It’s a great question why we prefer the HAPPY (in caps) endings, is happy (lower case) not enough? Most of the stories we’ve heard from the Disney studios have been modified from their originals to be the all caps version vs the sometimes lower cap, sometimes sad ending. Why is that, indeed?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We have a problem with sadness and emotion. But to look at the rate of suicide and depression and addiction issues, we can show that maybe we should be concentrating on real instead of HAPPY

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Why do we like happy endings? Probably because of all the Disney movies we saw. The princess marries the prince and they live happily ever after. So we learned early on to expect happy endings. Barbie had a dream house. Princesses wore pretty gowns etc. it was appealing to little girls.
        Then again, there was something irresistible about James Dean in rebel without a cause, and the cool gang members in West Side story. For a while it was the thing to be the anti-hero. Films often reveal a lot about the political climate of the day.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. The question of whether or not Rachel settled depends on what she prioritizes most in life. If she wants the great career above all else, then yes, she settled. But if true love is what she’s after, then she didn’t settle at all. She got her happy ending.

    I’m struggling with the Welles quote. Is he addressing the reader or the writer? I can’t decide, and that is going to make a difference.

    Titling your post “Happy Endings” would have been a master click bait move…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True… but would I want the attention?! Apparently they filmed an ending of friends where she doesn’t get off the plane. I think it got rejected by viewers. Personally their relationship was too tumultuous so I don’t think she should have gotten off…but like Casablanca I could debate this for hours…as to the Welles…I assume he meant the writer, but now you’ve got me thinking

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I was kind of thinking about something like this just this morning. I have an older sister, truly a horrible person unfortunately. She takes great delight in other people’s misery and is only happier when she can cause it. But is she happy? I doubt it.
    So, look to some movies. The end of Casablanca. Was Bogart happy when Bergman left him? Probably not for himself, but he was happy for her. This is true in so many films. On tv though, they have to leave you hanging just in case a sequel comes along.
    Now, in real life, the easiest way to be happy is also the toughest. Somebody will always have more, get better grades, win the game or be better looking. If you can look inside yourself, know that you are as good as you can be, you can be satisfied. This doesn’t mean mediocre. It means you are your own personal best.
    “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.” George Benson ( he sang the original. Whitney Houston sang it later)

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Well, you’ve got me thinking… I guess I’d say the definition of a happy ending can sometimes be defined by our outlook. That said, there are so many happy/sad/everything-in-between endings in life. Which, I suppose, was a long way of saying I agree with the Welles quote. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I can’t begin to address your question as I am stuck on “unlikeable female character.” What have we come to in this crazy world that there would need to be a warning if there are unlikeable characters in movie? Why does likeability rate as an attribute that might offend people in the same way explicit sex, language, violence, or drug use does? Are there also warnings about “unlikeable MALE characters?” Who decides this? How does Cruella De Vil, certainly a villainess that we all love to hate, rate on this scale?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’ve never seen a warning for an unlikable male character. If they said warning unlikable characters I’d be ok with it. But to break likability down by gender is absurd. In every story you have characters you like or dislike. It’s not a gender issue. That comment was sexist.

        Liked by 3 people

  11. Happy endings? I tend to prefer happy endings just because I like to escape and feel good inside. Real life has enough sickness and heartache etc. so if I’m going to invest my time reading or watching something I generally want to be entertained. I don’t like violence or tragedies. (Well, I’ll forever love anything by Shakespeare),but I’m not going to be self destructive and purposely read or watch anything that will upset me to the core. I like intrigue, not brutality or sadness.
    The classic love story, Pride and Prejudice had a happy ending. On film it’s been depicted a variety of ways. But, in the end end Lizzy and Darcy and Jane and Bingly get married and you assume “alls well that ends well.”
    Quite honestly, it was hard to take Rachel and Ross seriously. The ensemble work of the cast was brilliant but it wasn’t like they ever became real people.
    When you read a book, you can go right into the mind of the characters. I’ve read novels and watched movies that had me thinking about certain characters long after the film ended or I put the book down. I wasn’t that invested in friends.
    To this day, every time I see Romeo and Juliet performed I want to stop Benvolio from getting to Romeo first. I know how it ends yet I want to change the ending. My heart breaks every single time. That’s the power of brilliant writing. The plot is in motion and nothing can change fate. I’ll always cry at the end of Hamlet.
    A happy ending to me is one where everyone survives and learns something from their journey. Writing a believable happy ending is far more difficult to do.
    Everyone seems to adore the holiday movie Love Actually. But it always bugged me that it didn’t end happily for Emma Thompson’s character. It gave off the message that everyone but middle aged women can find happiness. So that annoyed me. Her character coped. She survived. But the other characters all got happiness. Perhaps happiness is dependent on the times we live in.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. There are times I want a happy ending…it’s why I am a big fan of the traditional rom com, and why I usually have a “light” book in my arsenal. But, I want the ending to fit the story that was told. If it doesn’t I will be disappointed…

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Please tell me you were kidding about the “unlikeable female character” trigger warning.

    I remember when I was younger and believed in fairy tails, movies that didn’t end with the main character couple getting together didn’t feel right. Now I realize that happy endings or positive outcomes can mean different things… and sometimes, just like in real life, things aren’t always tied up in a neat bow.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes Janis love the phrase you used here “Things are not always tied in a neat bow” meaning things don’t always happen according to your plan, tragic events happen without us knowing and life in itself is a mystery, we don’t know what tomorrow brings👏

      Liked by 2 people

  13. The Welles quote is great. For me a happy ending is a realistic ending. I read a book a couple years back about a dysfunctional family saga which was really relatable until the end. By the end of the book all of the characters were functional and on speaking terms even friendly towards each other. Not very realistic from my experience. I want an ending about how they were able to carry on with their lives anyway despite the difficult people and relationship issues.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I agree with the Welles quote. I like a happy ending and if it’s not happy I try to find something happy about it. I just finished the book “Eleni” it was a rough read and very tragic but I looked for the positives in it and feel it is one of the best books I have read. Mostly because of how it made me feel gratitude for my life and heartfelt compassion for the books namesake and admiration and hope for other characters. So I guess there were positive outcomes that came from the unhappy storyline.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I think happy ending means that the reader will feel happy about it . The ending should be “right”, as in it should feel satisfying or at least logical even if it’s sad. I hate unresolved endings that leave me hanging or endings that don’t go along with the rest of the book. So happy endings aren’t always positive for the characters, but they make sense .

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Warning about an unlikeable character? Doesn’t every movie have someone you don’t particularly care for???

    Really like the quote because it truly does depend. Things can appear to end happily and then PLOT TWIST and everything is upside down. That is Real Life!

    I like a lot of my blog stories to have happy endings for.the simple reason that its something I can control. Not as easy to do in real life. I like the books I read to have happy endings but sometimes there is still pain in the ending amidst the happiness. Its okay for that is real life. Our sad times and happy times can intermix.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your happy endings make sense! And I live happy endings! I read a ton of rom coms specifically because of the happy ending. But I hate when they force the ending! FYI, I wrote about unlikable for Friday…


  17. Good blog post LA. An interesting and stellar post about happiness or positive outcomes as the title states.

    My example of a happy ending it is this: I start a small business today, I am enthusiastic about it and want it to succeed, I put in the work and 5 years later it is booming now a franchise I can say, so I am happy with the outcome.

    An example of a “NOT” happy ending it is this: “I start a business with my own capital or savings, I hire 2 -3 people but after some months my business gets looted, thieves break in and embezzle what is inside the store, I lose stock and money forcing me to close and the business goes bankrupt, that is not a good ending.

    Nice post and I for one don’t believe in happy ever after in relationships it is just movies are a fiction but in real life you experience sadness at times and happiness other days💯💯

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I want to think more on your questions before I give a full answer, but I had to say – I never saw Ross & Rachel as a good match so, for me, them together is not a happy ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. What a loaded topic. I like happy endings. I do. Casablanca killed me and so did The Way We Were and Marley and Me. Maybe it’s time I stretch myself and end a post on a sour note? As in all of life, it depends on when you stop the damn roller coaster, you could find yourself upside down, or coasting into the platform, laughing and holding hands…Hugs, C

    Liked by 2 people

  20. “unlikeable female character” was an actual warning?

    I think readers and movie-goers like closure, not necessarily happy endings. Did you see The Breakup? (Vince Vaughn/Jennifer Anniston) I hated the ending. It seemed like they were still broken up, with a possibility of getting back together. For years, my husband has tried to convince me that I misinterpreted the ending because the movie is called The Breakup lol but my point is…then ending isn’t satisfying. I think that’s what most of us want.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes. I want closure and I want it to end in a way that seems reasonable given the story. I saw the breakup but as I remember I thought they were broken up. And to the first part…yes. I’m blogging about it tomorrow with a pic of the warning

      Liked by 2 people

  21. I find the Welles quote is perfect, because he’s absolutely correct.

    The end of La La Land wasn’t a traditional happy ending, yet I thought was both positive and ‘good’ for the characters and the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. It really is a matter of perspective. Though one can argue that there are some endings that everyone would consider “happy” there is far more ambiguity in the concept happy. What does it even mean to be happy, or to conclude something with a “happy ending”, and why are we so obsessed with happiness anyway. It’s a major problem in this country. We must realize that all emotions are valid, all of them, not just the “happy” ones, the ones that feel “good.” If we can accept this truth, we are on our way to a more subtly aware consciousness. Wow, I had a lot to say. Excellent post and question, LA.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve hit on a great point…all emotions are good, and if we focus on happy we’re going to miss out on things. To be happy all the time would really mean never being in a relationship, or being a parent, or having a job, or going to school…because crap happens…

      Liked by 1 person

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