There’s no such thing as closure.
You don't know why it has to end. You were happy with the way things were. You're not ready to be alone.
Your brain is reacting like you're going through a break-up. In reality, your favorite show just ended, whether it was the latest season or the entire series just came to a close. April and May is the time for season finales, from CW's niche favorite, Supernatural, wrapping up its 14th season to Game of Thrones breaking up with America with the equivalent of a text message. But it seems that audiences are increasingly dissatisfied with endings.
With directors and showrunners now live-streaming Q&As with fans and more TV shows prioritizing fan service over quality story-telling to boost ratings, the entangled relationships between creators and cult followings challenge how we view art and whether a franchise ever truly ends. After all, the lively world of online fandom never ends, so how are fans expected to accept a show's finality? In the age of on-demand streaming, actors sharing behind-the-scenes glimpses on social media, and immersive fan experiences (have you visited your local Game of Thrones pop-up bar yet?), there's no such thing as closure.
Full Joe Russo Avengers Q&A From Duello www.youtube.com
Creators like J.K. Rowling clearly don't believe so, as the author uses her social media presence to controversially add details and socially woke spins to her
Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter series ad finitum. Similarly, when a fan favorite show is finally put to rest, few writers and producers are able to rise to the challenge and kill their darlings with grace. More often than not, season finales—especially series finales— stutter to a grinding stop with dissatisfying or bizarre endings. With outspoken online fan communities (not to mention fan entitlement) at an extreme these days, bad finales go down in Internet infamy.
But viewers' responses can turn surprisingly emotional when it's time to say goodbye to their favorite series. Part of that is due to the strange body chemistry involved in emotions. The human brain can't differentiate between bonds with real people and fictional characters. Danielle Forshee, psychologist, and LLC says, "When there's a character that you feel emotionally connected to...your brain recognizes the human emotion they are portraying and starts to feel connected to those characters." Since we're wired to feel empathy, "a bond begins to form."
With Game of Thrones unfolding its final season and CW's teen hits Arrow and Supernatural slated to end next year, TV history has illustrated a pattern of highs and lows when it comes to finales. From the convoluted ending of Lost to The Sopranos slamming a door in the viewer's face, endings are nearly impossible to ace. Here's a look at the most successful, most devastating, and most chaotic series finales that fans have healed from after their favorite shows broke up with them.
How I Met Your Mother
The eight agonizing seasons of How I Met Your Mother culminated in the most predictable ending possible, yet it still managed to shock and disappoint. We jump forward in time and see that the protagonist, Ted, does indeed meet and build a life with his children's mother. Then in the final minutes, it's revealed that she's already died of cancer, Ted is telling this incredibly long and boring story to his teenage children, and now they end up encouraging him to date "Aunt Robin," his best friend with whom a relationship had been teased since season 1.
SERIOUSLY IF THEY END THIS WITH ROBIN AND TED ENDING UP TOGETHER I WILL PUNCH A HOLE IN THE UNIVERSE. DONT DO IT. #HIMYMFinale— Courtney White (@Courtney White)1396312055.0
Just finished watching the How I Met Your Finale.. 9 years of character development destroyed in one 40 min episode. 😩 #HIMYM #HIMYMFinale— Feroze Ali (@Feroze Ali)1396355613.0
THEY DID NOT PUT ME THROUGH AN ENTIRE SEASON OF ONE FREAKING WEDDING WEEKEND FOR THAT. NO. #HIMYMFinale— Valerie Anne (@Valerie Anne)1396311560.0
Suspect Robin involved in the mother's death. Followup series "How I Murdered Your Mother & Made It Look Like Natural Causes." #HIMYMFinale— Jamie Kenney (@Jamie Kenney)1396359798.0
ABC's Lost disappointed and confused fans with a two-episode finale that questioned whether or not the entirety of the series took place in purgatory and the stranded were dead all along. Co-creator and showrunner, Damon Lindelof, has since panned that theory, saying, "No, no, no. They were not dead the whole time." Still, fans mourned the promising show's demise, with outcry on Twitter even driving Lindelof to delete his Twitter account. His final Tweet riffed on the cut off ending of Sopranos, posting, "After much thought and deliberation, I've decided t-."
watched lost finale.. i think. i rewinded it on tivo and it made slightly more sense. i get they were on an island, other than that ...?— David Spade (@David Spade)1274729424.0
LOST finale!!! Oh Sawyer, you hotass. Ok, so was Ben in purgatory or is that just me projecting my fallen Catholic upbringing?— Kathy Griffin (@Kathy Griffin)1274693746.0
I emailed Damon Lindelof to ask about his quitting Twitter; he doesn't want to discuss it. RIP, @DamonLindelof— Kate Aurthur (@Kate Aurthur)1381947917.0
Breaking Bad is arguably the best series finale to date (although the end of Game of Thrones may dethrone it soon). Season 5's final episode ranked as the third best-rated finale in cable TV history. Walter White's demise ends a victorious character arc, as he admits to his wife, "I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really...I was alive."
Thank you, Vince Gilligan, for conceiving & executing the most bizarre love story I've ever seen. #GoodbyeBreakingBad— Patton Oswalt (@Patton Oswalt)1380509488.0
“Breaking Bad” was basically about what happens if you underpay your teachers and don’t allow healthcare reform. #BreakingObama— Alan Spencer (@Alan Spencer)1380508813.0
The Sopranos' infamous series finale left the viewer to decide whether or not Tony was dead. Ultimately, the finale's sudden cut to black was a divisive move that invited audience's interpretation into the series' canon. Earlier this year, in honor of the show's 20th anniversary, reporter T.J. Quinn posted a radical theory that there was a death in the final scene: ours. At the very least, the end of the show signified that the exchange between creators and fans was over. The Sopranos broke up with us.
It doesn't matter if Tony is dead or alive. That wasn't the point. And, yes, Chase seemed to slip when he said in a… https://t.co/eUmj4oIwJg— T.J. Quinn (@T.J. Quinn)1547064669.0
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Breaking down the bias of comfort films.
With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.
Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.
Rivera's "Glee" character was not just important, she was groundbreaking.
As a young queer girl growing up in the south, I was lucky that my parents weren't homophobes.
My parents believed that people were sometimes born gay, and while they wouldn't "wish that harder life" on their children, they certainly made me and my sister believe that gay people were just as worthy of love as anyone else. I was lucky.
Still, in my relatively sheltered world of Northern Virginia (a rich suburb near Washington D.C.), homophobia wasn't as blatant as hate crimes or shouted slurs, but it was generally accepted that being straight was, simply, better.
In high school, it wasn't uncommon to use "gay" as an insult or for girls to tease each other about being "lez." While many of us, if asked, would have said we were in support of gay marriage and loved The Ellen Show, being gay remained an undesirable affliction.
Even more insidious, I was instilled with the belief—by my church and my peers—that if gay and lesbian people could be straight, they would. But since they were simply incapable of attraction to the opposite sex or fitting into traditional gender roles, we should accept them as they are as an act of mercy. At the time, this kind of pity seemed progressive and noble. Those in my close circle of family and friends weren't openly dismissive or condemning of gay people, but we saw homosexuality as a clear predisposition with no gray areas.
Specifically: Gay men talked with a lilt, giggled femininely, and were interested in things that weren't traditionally "masculine." Meanwhile, gay women dressed like men, had no interest in makeup or other traditionally female interests, and probably had masculine bodies and features. In my mind, before someone came out as gay, they did everything in their power to "try to be straight" but were eventually forced to confront the difficult reality that they felt no attraction at all to the opposite sex. I viewed homosexuality not as a spectrum, but as a black and white biological predisposition that meant you were thoroughly, completely, and pitiably gay.
As a child, when I began to experience stirrings of attraction for other girls, I would reassure myself that not only had I definitely felt attraction for men in the past, but I also liked being pretty. I was a tomboy as a child, sure, but as I got older I recognized that my value was increased in the eyes of society if I tried to be a pretty girl. As it turned out, I even liked putting on clothes that made me feel good, I liked applying makeup, and I liked some traditionally "feminine" things. In my mind, this meant that I couldn't be gay, because gay women didn't like "girl" stuff.
As a teenager, I began to learn more about the difference between gender and sexuality, and the fluidity of both. I began to let myself feel some of the long-suppressed feelings of queer desire I still harbored.
Still, in the back of my mind, the instilled certainty of sexuality as an extremely rigid thing sometimes kept me up at night. What if I was gay? Would I have to change the way I looked? Would I have to give up some of the things I liked? In my mind, being gay meant your sexuality was your whole identity, and everything else about you disappeared beneath the weight of it.
But then, Santana came out as gay on Glee.
GLEE - The Santana 'Coming Out Scene' www.youtube.com
If you didn't watch Glee, than you might not know the importance of Naya Rivera's character to so many queer young women like myself. Santana was beautiful, she was popular, she had dated boys, she was feminine, she was sexy, and she was gay. There's even evidence that Santana had previously enjoyed relationships with men.
But the character came out anyways, not because she had to or because it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gay, but because her attraction to women was an aspect of her identity she was proud of. It wasn't an unfortunate reality she simply had to make the best of; it was an exciting, beautiful, aspect of her identity worth celebrating.
Before Santana, it had never really come home for me that being gay wasn't an entire identity—that it wasn't an affliction or disorder, but just another part of a person. She also didn't suddenly start wearing flannels or cutting her hair after coming out. She was the same feminine person she had always been. I had never realized that being a gay woman didn't have to look a certain way. Santana and Brittany's gay storyline showed two femme-presenting women in love, and for me, that was a revolution.
If it wasn't for Naya Rivera, we may never have had that important story line.
"It's up to writers, but I would love to represent [the LGBTQ community] because we know that there are tons of people who experience something like that and it's not comical for them in their lives," Rivera told E! News in 2011. "So I hope that maybe we can shed some light on that."
While Rivera herself wasn't gay (the importance of casting gay actors in gay roles is a separate conversation), she understood how important her character was to the queer community. "There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them," Rivera told Latina magazine in 2013. "I love supporting this cause, but it's a big responsibility, and sometimes it's a lot of pressure on me."
Rivera wasn't just a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community on screen. In 2017, she wrote a "Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community" for Billboard's Pride Month. In it, she wrote, "We are all put on this earth to be a service to others and I am grateful that for some, my Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays may have given a little light to someone somewhere, who may have needed it. To everyone whose heartfelt stories I have heard, or read I thank you for truly enriching my life."
Now, as we mourn the loss of Naya Rivera, at least we can take comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on—that the light her Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays gave us won't go out any time soon.
Excuse me, I have to go weep-sing-along to Rivera's cover of landslide now.
Glee - Landslide (Full Performance + Scene) 2x15 youtu.be
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