How the 90’s screwed up HEA’s for me.
- HEA /n; acronym/ aka “Happily Ever After:” Describes an ending in a work of fiction, generally consistent in the romance genre, in which all major conflicts have resolved in such a way that will allow the Hero and the Heroine to continue their amicable relationship into the indefinite future. SEE: most Disney animated movies, most romantic comedies, and the final episode of Friends.
Happily Ever Afters – I’ve always questioned them. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I enjoy a bubbly, gooey, fairy tale ending as much as the next girl. But nowadays, when I see such an ending I find myself experiencing an outbreak of CERS, Chronic Eye-Rolling Syndrome.
What the hell is wrong with me? I’m a romance writer, damn it! I’m supposed to not only revel in, but generate these damn things! Am I defective? Others have no trouble letting go reality and assuming a life-long relationship can be built in a 90 minute film. After much rumination, however, I think I’ve figured it out: the 1990’s screwed up my brain.
From the time I was a pre-teen until my early 20’s, the film industry took my concepts of riding off in the sunset in a horse-drawn carriage, and stationed a katana-wielding assassin on the side of the road. Looking back on some of these films now, I understand why HEA’s wrinkle my jockeys. The last decade of the millennium sliced up my heroines and heroes and made them in to love sushi.
Don’t believe me? Look at these examples.
MEET JOE BLACK (1998)
After a spoon-licking scene I still can’t get out of my head after 15 years, Death Brad Pitt learns that, no matter how much he loves Susan, it would be selfish of him to claim her. Instead, he brings back to life the Hunky Human Brad Pitt character whose body he stole and who charmed Susan at the start of the film. Even though Susan loves Death Brad Pit, the implication is that this is the man she’s actually supposed to be with, and will give her her HEA. Aw… How sweet. EXCEPT THINK ABOUT IT. Susan is going to spend the rest of her life plagued by self-doubt. Sure, she’ll fall for Hunky Human, but every time they kiss, dance, or make love, she’s going to be thinking about Death. In the end, she’ll question if she actually loves Hunky Human, or if their whole relationship is based on her nostalgia. Don’t forget the biggest mindfuck: At the end of her life, guess who she has to look in the eye again? Oh, the anxiety…
FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (1994)
This movie basically taught me that Cupid is a prankster-playing prick who will show you your perfect mate, then marry her off to someone else. Then you’ll settle for someone else, and at your wedding to Good-Enough, Perfect Mate will tell you she just got divorced. Then you’ll become the world’s biggest prick and run out on your bride to be with Perfect Mate, and, yay!, finally you’re together, but oops, your best friend dies of a massive coronary. Happy Nuptials!
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998)
Surely Billy Shakespeare, the preeminent love poet of his era, can woo a woman and keep her? Sure he can. Only: 1. He’s already married WITH KIDS; and 2. She’s a noble, and can’t be in an open relationship with him because of the restraints of Elizabethan societal structures. Not only are they not together at the end, but the heroine moves out of the country. Of course, this is based very loosely on the historical figure that gave us Romeo & Juliet, the ultimate non-HEA couple, so…
FORREST GUMP (1994)
After decades of being the only thing grounding Jenny and giving her a reason to live, and Forrest patiently waiting for Jenny to realize he’s the best thing for her, she and Forrest are finally together. Better yet, they have a son. AND THEN SHE FUCKING DIES.
IN FACT, the 1990’s included WAY TOO MANY couples where he, she or they DIE. Like, not end up missing a limb or working poor, but FUCKING DEAD. Don’t believe me? Just look at this scorecard:
- BRAM STROKER’S DRACULA – She dies. Then he’s undead. Then she’s reborn. Then he dies. Wax on, wax off…
- TITANIC – JACK! ROSE! I’ll never let go! *glub glub* Jack? Soo….. When I said “never,” I meant….