(this post has been rolling around in my head all day so hopefully it translates from my head to the screen well enough for you to understand)
Every now and then a series comes along that everyone rants and raves about. Another new adult drama that gets 5 star reviews, best-show-ever blah blah blah. And then I watch it and I feel…nothing.
Well, that’s not true. I watch and episode or two and I agree that the show has quality – it’s well acted, well written, beautifully shot. But it just doesn’t do it for me. After years of trying to figure out why that is, I know what a story needs to keep me engaged.
I have to believe that there is hope for the characters. They will be redeemed or survive whatever trauma the series is putting them through. By the end of their story, things will be better.
Star Wars (OT), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings — these are a few of my favorite
things stories and they all are full of hope. They do all have their fair share of darkness, but while evil may triumph every now and then, the characters manage to stay strong and be true to themselves.
But, you say, you have read and enjoyed all of the Hunger Games books! You watch American Horror Story – surely those are full of hopelessness. And you would be right.
But, then again, by the ending of Hunger Games, even though life is kinda shit, Katniss has survived. She has learned things from fighting against the Capital, alongside the rebellion. There is enough hope inside of her, even though she would deny it, to keep on living and to care for her fellow survivors.
American Horror Story was the real conundrum for me. The entire premise of the show is that someone is going to be in HORROR for a whole season. Except, how can you have horror without hope? It’s not scary if there is no hope, you would just give up and die (which I think was the problem with Season 2 for me, the people in the Asylum had nothing to hope for after awhile). In Season 1 and 3, the families in that show hoped to survive, so every scary monster, ghost or demon that attacked them was that much worse. Horror cannot exist without hope, which is why the seasons have to end where they do because you cannot sustain that sort of emotion beyond 13 episodes.
Walking Dead and Breaking Bad were the two shows that made me realize this need for Hope. I had been watching Walking Dead since day 1 as I had read a few of the trade collections of the comics and wanted to see how it translated on the screen. I liked the first season well enough. I got through most of the second season. But once we had the whole Sophie thing, I realized this was not going to end well. Things just kept getting worse. Everyone was going to die, sooner or later. Carl was going to grow up to be a mess and one by one every person in the group was either horribly killed or turned into someone that I *wish* would be eaten. The zombies are not going away, there is no hope for anyone.
Breaking Bad I watched the entire first season in a matter of days but I never felt compelled to pick up the next season. Again, I think that is because it is clear from the beginning that there is no hope for Walt or Jesse. This will not be a show where things turn out alright in the end, or even sorta okay. It was all going to end in blue meth stained tears. Even in that first season I knew that no single character was going to make it out of that show a good person.
I watch tv and movies and read books to escape the harsh realities of life. These stories are very personal for me. I don’t just watch and then move on, I tend to connect with characters and become attached to them. And I know that stories with no hope will not make me happy. I’m not denying that they are quality stories, but they are not for me.