There are many things I love in this world: food, sleep, books, breathing… (to name a few). But nothing at all can compare with laughing, and making people laugh.
Now before I begin, I should probably warn you that most of this is straight off my twitter account, from a stream of tweets that I wrote in a fit of desperation (AKA needing season three of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency like I need air in my lungs). So if you’ve already read some of that content, my apologies. But hopefully it’s worth another read.
To clarify, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is an absolutely legendary show with several main ingredients: Elijah Wood, a corgi, a cast of wonderfully well-written characters, a kittenshark, and a liberal dose of utter insanity.
I’m sure you can see why it appeals to me.
Naturally, because BBC America are idiots and have no concept of true entertainment, they decided to cancel this glorious show soon after it aired its second season (to my intense disgust and disappointment). If you like mad adventures, witty humour, GORGEOUS plotlines and bad guys who just want their kitten back, then go ahead and watch Dirk Gently! I’m serious! You won’t regret it!
Ok, so now that my shameless advertising is over, let us get down into the crux of the matter.
One of the main problems with current television and films, I find, is that the creators seem to be hell-bent on making these shows as figuratively and literally dark as possible. With no happy end in sight and shot in so much monochrome that the actors are barely distinguishable from each other, they’re just an endless exercise in what I like to call “misery porn”: showcasing so little writing talent that the screenwriters, when faced with an issue, avoid confronting it by writing in yet more tragedy, so they don’t have to write a happy ending.
I’m sure you know the type of media I’m talking about. Let me reiterate. BAD LIGHTING DOES NOT MASK YOUR PLOT ERRORS, IT JUST MAKES IT MORE DIFFICULT TO SEE WHICH WHITE DUDE IS WHICH.
That aside, let’s continue.
Here are some examples of shows/films that don’t do this: Dirk Gently, Brooklyn 99, Sense8, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Star Wars.
I’m willing to bet that you’ve heard of (or seen) at least a few of these. And you want to know why? MONEY.
Want to know why Guardians, Ragnarok, Star Wars and Black Panther are so successful? Because they are colourful! And fun! And didn’t just demonstrate another fruitless exercise in futility! They gave their audiences adventure and meaning, not just endless sadness and bitterness!
Brooklyn 99 is the same. So is the inimitable Dirk Gently (cancelled before its time). So is the glorious gay masterpiece that was Sense8, which told a tale of love, courage, human connections and diversity (may you never be forgotten). Hell, even Mad Max: Fury Road managed to give us not only a wonderful, diverse female cast, an electric guitar that shoots FIRE and a nail-biting plotline, but ON TOP OF THAT gave Furiosa and Max the happy ending they deserved!
Happy endings aren’t unpopular. Happy endings don’t have to be twee and crap. Happy endings SELL. Did Harry Potter suffer for having a happy ending? I think the fuck not. Did Thor: Ragnarok do badly for being colourful and fun? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of its $853,153,832 box office gross.
If a writer tells you that gritty, edgy dramas are the only things that sell, I want you to take A New Hope’s billion-dollar profit margin, and shove it right up their arse. If a galaxy where Darth Vader exists can happy ending, then so can you.
Think about it: needlessly depressing films exist so that society can effectively say, “Well, at least you don’t live in a dystopia!”. Which only serves to mask the fact THAT YOU LIVE IN A DYSTOPIA.
Look. You don’t have to agree with me on this. But I think that stories are like life: you can’t have only happiness or only sadness, or you’d go mad. If you’re writing a funny story, it needs some thrills, some sad parts, some tear-the-stars-down-cause-it-hurts-too-much parts. If you’re writing an angsty story, that’s cool, but it needs some humour (and not just witty one-liners, Mr. Whedon) or quite frankly, your story’s going to fucking suck.
We all fear that which we do not understand. Humour helps us to understand the world by making us to relate to it, and really, it allows us to absorb concepts that are far beyond our comprehension.
My conclusion: you can take your weepy plot-lines and tragic backstories, take them and shove them into the darkest recesses of your digestive system along with “gritty realism” and misery porn. Keep your crappy lighting and hyper-masculinity. Laughter, in the end, is without a doubt the most magical plot device of them all.
I hope you guys all had a great Valentine’s Day – at the bus stop this morning there was a couple snogging right over my head… I think they might have drooled on me…
However you spent it, enjoy the aftermath. In the meantime, I will continue to toil away at my keyboard… and on that note, stay tuned: next week, I’ll be giving you an exclusive peek at the opening chapter of my first novel, as well as a somewhat more disturbing glimpse inside my brain.