As I was browsing WWII movies for my homeschool kid to watch, I ended up down a rabbit trail and saw a movie that looked like a cute romance with a feel good ending.
The reason I believed this movie was a romance is that it was branded as a romance. It had a cute cover with a man and a woman on it. The trailer made you think there’s going to be a happy ending. At first, the trailer presents a man who is bitter due to his paralysis, but later in the trailer, you see him laughing because the woman has come into his life and cheered him up. I get that trailers aren’t there to give away the ending, but the entire way this trailer and the movie cover were presented screamed “this is a romance where the couple ends up together”. This is part of branding. Other movie trailers have been like that. Other movies have used covers like that. In other words, this particular movie followed all of the tropes that actual romance movies do. This sets up the expectation that this movie would be a romance as well.
A part of branding comes in with customer expectation. The marketing department is responsible for tying in key ingredients to alert the right audience that THIS is the movie for them. (The same thing happens with books.) If you promise something you don’t deliver on, you’re going to upset people, and those people won’t want to watch/read anything else because you will have lost your credibility.
Anyway… I scrolled through the reviews because I happen to be the person who wants to know what I’m getting myself into before I read a book or watch a movie. (Since I have a husband and four kids, homeschool one kid, and write books, I have a very limited amount of free time on my hands. That being the case, I don’t want to waste that free time on something I won’t enjoy.)
I saw a review that said something along the lines of, “Terrific movie. Get your tissues ready. He’s going to do the best thing for her and let her live a life with a man who is normal. He’s making the ultimate sacrifice just for her. How touching!” I’m paraphrasing, but that was pretty much the gist of the review, and it told me this is NOT a romance. How can it be? The main characters don’t end up together.
My original thought was that the man, who is bound to a wheelchair, decided to tell the woman it would never work. I thought that was why they didn’t end up together. That, in itself, would have been a bummer. But it’s actually worse than I thought because as I continued scrolling through the reviews, it turns out he ends up committing suicide so that the woman he loves (who happens to love him back) will be free to be with a man who can walk. (Or, in the words of the reviewer, “Give her a normal relationship.”)
I can’t tell you how much that ending upset me. One reviewer basically said that the movie missed the potential to show how a disabled man could find redemption and hope despite his circumstances. I wholeheartedly agree. I know people who have loved ones who are disabled. They’ll never live “normal” lives. But does that mean their lives have less value? I understand not all disabled people can fall in love and get married (as is the case with my friend’s grown son who has low-functioning autism). But the character in this movie is paralyzed and in a wheelchair. He has the mental and emotional capacity to love and be loved in a romantic sense. So why shouldn’t he be allowed that? Just because he can’t have sex or have children, he’s not deserving of love? There’s more to love than the physical intimacy side of things. There’s companionship. If my husband ever ends up being unable to be intimate with me, I’m staying with him. You don’t flush love down the toilet because things aren’t perfect. But that is, in essence, the message in this movie.
Also, I was floored by how many reviewers thought this movie was a romance. It was a tragedy, not a romance. Is it any wonder why there are authors out there who think their books are romances when the couple does not end up together due to separation or death? It’s movies like this that make the romance genre difficult to explain to new writers who want to place their books in the romance category when their books don’t belong there. These are authors who want to give a tragic ending to the story, but they want to label it as a romance because romance is popular and they want the book to be in a popular category. They do this in hopes of increasing sales, not because they understand the romance genre or even care to understand it. Readers like romance because the couple ends up together. That’s the whole point of romance.
I don’t know if any writers are reading this, but when you are working on your cover and book description, make sure you focus in on what the book is really about. Don’t promise something that’s not there. If you have a serious story, have the cover and book description reflect that. Don’t make the reader think they’re getting themselves into one thing when you deliver on something entirely different.
I’m so glad people leave reviews, esp. the spoiler ones. If it hadn’t been for those reviews, I would have wasted my time on that movie, and I would have been depressed for the rest of the day. I want happy endings. I’m not a sad ending kind of girl. I know people out there who love sad endings. I have a friend whose favorite movies involve people and pets dying because they’re “emotionally touching”. I’m not the same way. I hate endings like that.
I live in real life. I’m aware that bad things happen in the world. All the news does is tell me the sky is falling and that we’re all doomed. I swear, social media has only made things worse. It’s why I limit myself to what I do online. I don’t need more of this negative stuff in my life. When I pick up a book or sit down to watch a movie, I want to escape. I don’t care if bad things happen during the course of the book or movie, but I want there to be a happy ending. Happy endings are about hope. They give out the message that even though something bad happened, it doesn’t mean you have to stay in a pit for the rest of your life. Happy endings are really about overcoming obstacles. You can’t control everything that happens around you, but you can control whether or not you let it break your spirit. To me, happy endings emphasize that. That’s why I prefer them to the sad endings.
What about you? Are you a happy or sad ending kind of person?