We like an ending, don’t we?
We all love our stories to end with a classic hero-kills-villain or a girl-gets-boy or a mutant-horse-overthrows-government ending. It’s human nature. Even though the lives of the fictional characters don’t necessarily end when a book finishes, the implication is that their struggles do. Happily ever after.
Life isn’t like that, though, is it?
If you’ve read No Country For Old Men (or seen the film, if you’re a loathesome pleb) then you’ll know that one of the protagonists (Llewelyn Moss) dies, the other (Sheriff Ed Tom Bell) fails to catch the antagonist, and that the antagonist (Anton Chigurh) escapes justice.
If you’ve not read it then you probably shouldn’t read that previous sentence as it is something of a spoiler.
Anyway, the point is that there is no definitive end point to the narrative. Whilst most novels end at the resolution of the major plot driver, this one literally just stops with a number of issues completely unresolved.
It’s quite unusual in that, I think, and the fact that many of my friends have said that they didn’t like how the film (loathesome plebs that they are) “just stopped like that” demonstrates how many of us need the comfort of a sense of closure, even though life doesn’t ever end in the way that a narrative ends.
The News understood this, and tried to shoehorn life into a portrayal that we could relate to. Fire at warehouse > attended by fire brigade > under control. Unrest in Syria > demonstrations in Damascus > Foreign Secretary condemns violence. Horse mutates > leads rebellion > overthrows government. That kind of thing – even if there was no actual ending, there was a sense of an ending of sorts. The end of a paragraph, or the end of a chapter. Then the social media sites popped up and the news carried on happening long after The News had finished, so The News flopped around helplessly for a while and then decided to run perpetually, meaning that we now have 24 hour news.
24 hour news! It’s grotesque.
I watched one of the 24 hour news channels the other day (the BBC, in case you’re interested, which you’re not) and it struck me that The News needs closure. The programme that I watched was like reading a novel whilst the writer is still writing it, and that writer doesn’t believe in paragraphs or chapters or sometimes even full stops. It was disorienting, unfocused and eventually quite dull (and it’s quite a feat to make riots boring), and afterwards I had a bit of a headache – so rather like going to watch a Michael Bay film.
So I think there’s an argument for going back to plain old-fashioned nightly news, and packaging stories as trimmed-down narratives with defined starts, middles and ends. It just works better that way.