On Endings, Both Years and Other Things

2014 is nearly gone. Good riddance.

I wonder if this year was good for anybody at all, apart from a certain status quo in the halls of power. For me, it wasn’t so great on either a personal level or a national level. I’ve been dragging myself through the weeds most of this year, getting out of some toxic relationships and trying to find my muse again.

Oh, writer’s block? “Blocked” doesn’t begin to cover it. More like “buried under the debris of that tunnel you saw the light at the end of.” That’s another story.

But it’s a new year soon, and it brings a fresh start. I’ll be pressing ahead with Emptiness, trying to sell Red Flood, and dabbling in other writerly things. I’m also shifting the focus of this blog, tugging it away from solely writing-based topics to general fandom, personal musings, and of course writing.

Speaking of fandoms:

(Spoilers ahead) Legend of Korra recently came to a close after four seasons. I enjoyed its mature take on the Avatar cartoon universe, a hybrid of Miyazaki, wuxia martial arts films, and steampunk. I was especially pleased with a certain romantic development between two characters of the same sex, hinted at for two seasons and finally embraced. In children’s shows, it’s almost unheard of (though more common in YA literature).

Well, not everyone was happy. Some were upset, even. And not for the reasons you’d expect.

See, the creators, bound by the network, could never flat-out state that these two women were in love. They resorted to compliments, blushes, the occasional hand-holding, and a vacation for two to the spirit world where the consummation could take place off-camera. I get it. You push boundaries, but if you break them your story’s shut down, or worse, someone else at the network takes over for you.

It wasn’t enough for some. I’ve read rants that called the finale “queer-baiting,” that there needed to be no other viable explanation for how these characters ended up, that this resolution could ruin the entire series unless they chose to ignore it.

I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it.

My level of of investment in any story must be pretty low, because I’ve enjoyed plenty of series/books/movies that had awful, awful endings. Heroes was fun … for about 1.5 seasons. Battlestar Galactica should have ended five minutes before it did. Spiderman 3 doesn’t ruin my enjoyment of the first two films.

Maybe it’s age. I’m a couple weeks away from 30. Ten years ago, I might have been more emotionally invested than I can be nowadays. I remember watching the original Neon Genesis Evangelion, flipping out over how … odd those last two episodes were. But I still enjoy that show, even with the knowledge that they had to reboot it to get it right.

Maybe it’s projection. I don’t see a lot of myself in the character Korra, although Bolin is a little too close for comfort in some ways. I think young people who see a lot of themselves in Korra want the perfect ending, because it’s essentially a resolution not just for the character, but for themselves.

But maybe it’s this: stories aren’t “investments,” not in the traditional sense. I say “emotional investment,” but I’ve also heard people complain about investing time into stories and wanting some kind of ROI. “I sat through nine hours of The Hobbit, so there’d better be something good at the end!” I won’t say that it’s wrong to think like that, but it’s a setup for failure. Stories aren’t always best at the end; sometimes the middle’s the best part, and you just have to live with the consequences of the story.

I was thinking about Into the Woods this weekend, in particular the pragmatic film adaptation. There’s a version of the musical that’s performed in elementary schools that leaves out the dark, existential second act. Some people prefer that. Me? I want the messy resolution, characters fumbling for answers, finding that they have to come up with those answers themselves.

Endings are special, don’t get me wrong. But endings aren’t some emotional ROI.