Positive Outcomes in Media

bright-future-ahead
I’d really like to think this was true in entertainment media.

Believe it or not, I’m a die-hard optimist.  I know it might not seem that way to read some of the things I write, but I want people to generally succeed, I want the situation to generally improve and I want people to overcome obstacles and become better people for it.  In fact, that’s one major reason I want to do away with religion because I don’t think the human species can really improve while it’s so weighted down with irrational beliefs.  I want a better world.

Perhaps nowhere is this more clear than in the entertainment media that I consume.  I want to watch generally hopeful stories about a future world that I’d actually want to live in, where the people can and do overcome their problems and generally end up in a better situation than they started in.  Yes, I understand this isn’t necessarily always realistic, but it’s my enjoyment, I can make whatever requirements I wish.

That’s why I generally dislike dystopian futures, where mankind generally fares badly.  I want a story where the “heroes” have issues, and they can be truly horrific issues to overcome, but they succeed in the end and the future looks, if not bright, than at least brighter than it had previously.

This applies to all forms of entertainment: television, movies and books.  It also applies to all genres of entertainment, including, and this might surprise people, horror movies.  I love good horror movies, I’ve talked about it before, but a lot of things that go on in the modern horror genre really are a turn-off for me.  I want humans to win in the end.  I want the monster to be defeated.  That is  very, very important to me. There’s been an unfortunate trend in recent years where the people are doomed, the zombies are going to win and the only point to the movie or the TV show or the book is to put off the inevitable extinction of the human species for a few more days.  Why would I want to read that?

It doesn’t necessarily mean that the heroes in the story have to survive at the end though.  I watched John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of The Thing the other night and I think that’s one of the top 10 best horror films I’ve ever seen.  It hits all of the bases.  It’s got a moderately realistic monster, it sets up the situation well and in the end, while we’re supposed to be left wondering if the monster really died, both MacReady and Childs sit in the snow waiting to freeze to death, with the understanding that they’ve saved the world from alien takeover.  It’s very dark, it’s very depressing, nobody survives and you’re not even positive that the alien isn’t going to go dormant in the snow and still take over the world when the rescue crew shows up in the spring, but there’s a certain hope that these twelve men have, through their sacrifice, saved the world, even if you never know for certain that it’s so.  Take that and compare it to a movie like Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, where the characters spend the whole movie fighting the zombies, finally getting to an island where they’re supposedly safe, only to find that the island is overrun with zombies and they all die.  The end.  Um… what?  Why did I just waste two hours of my life on that depressing crap?

Every book I read, every movie I watch, I want to feel like the people are going to win in the end, that they are going to improve their situation, that they are going to be better off than they were when they started.  It might not be a huge improvement and I certainly don’t want any utopias, but moving forward, even incrementally, is what I’m looking for.  It’s such a shame that so many movies today, especially in the horror genre, but in most genres to a certain degree, only want to show the most dark, dank, awful future possible, one where people are destined to fail, where everyone is going to die and where the bad guys, be it a criminal or a monster, is going to win in the end.

Someone please explain where the positive outcome is in that!

1 thought on “Positive Outcomes in Media

  1. I think the trend in horror to show evil winning, everyone dying at the end, etc. might be a reflection of our shared fears and growing pessimism. Evil does often win in real life. Our economy crashed, people we love are out of work, poverty is rising, and we've been unwilling to make the sort of sacrifices that might have once helped us avoid global warming. It is probably too late now. We're looking an the sort of future often depicted in these films. Severe weather, water shortages, famine, civil unrest, and the rise of authoritarian police states all seem imminent. I suspect that the pessimistic themes seen in some of these films at least partially reflect our attitudes about the future we've made for ourselves.

    Then again, maybe I'm just projecting here. I'm far more pessimistic today than I was in 2008, and I was fairly pessimistic then.
    My recent post Why Do You Hate My God? Oversimplification and Irrationality

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