too bad so sad

There was a time when it was virtually impossible to find a story featuring gay characters that didn’t end tragically. Like there was no other option – loss and unhappiness was the inevitable outcome in fiction, as in life. Well of course, that’s bullshit; has always been bullshit. Life is not an endless stream of placidity, but that’s true for everyone. Nature, left to her own devices, shows no discrimination in doling out good fortune and tragedy.

brokeback mountain

proulx’s sad story

No matter what the time period, location or common condition, there have been happy, fulfilled, well supported gay people. Perhaps high on the fortunate scale, some might say – yes, very true, there’s no question that overwhelmingly, circumstances have been difficult, even dangerous. But it’s also dangerous to have the scales so constantly tipped on the side of tragedy. Think about it: if every story of the girl’s handsome prince was like that of The Little Mermaid (I’m talking about the original Hans Christian Andersen story wherein the little mermaid lives in excruciating mute pain in order to win her prince, and when she fails, dies alone in sadness, transformed into sea foam – not the sanitized Disney version) do you think for one moment that little girls would have the happily ever after princess fantasy?

the mudge boy

just kill me now

That’s changing, of course. Gay boys and girls of all ages deserve and need their happy stories. There are more positive stories available, more celebrations and triumphs, and more situations presented in which characters go through the everyday trials and tribulations we all face, their sexuality in no way a cause or effect, or even significant to the story. Still, there seems to linger that propensity to err on the side of misfortune. Perhaps it’s a matter of following the well traveled route laid out before us; perhaps it’s laziness or pessimism or a love of tragic romance.
a single man

tragic or beautiful?

And yes, there are still unfortunate stories to be told – will always be, due to the human condition. We can’t just sweep that under the rug and hope for the best. Reminders of this serve an important function in keeping society on the forward move, and we do need constant prodding. We take an awfully long time to learn lessons, and even so, there will always remain pockets of the uninformed, or holdouts who refuse to accept what should be common knowledge: the Earth is round, disease is caused by bacteria not demons, sexuality is naturally varied.

brideshead revisited

tragic story. gay story?

We need these stories to remind us, motivate us, share solace and support. There are many people to tell these stories much better and more deservedly than I.

I also can’t tell fairytales – neither Grimm nor jolly (though I think jollity in fairytales is a rarity). I must leave that to others more qualified as well. My focus is more on the everyday aspects of life. They’re not always positive, but that’s most often due to circumstance, not sexuality. Ultimately, I want to tell stories of human experience. Our tenacity, our successes and failures, the things we contemplate, the things we encounter as we go along our singular ways. To be human is divine, and that’s something we all share in.

4 thoughts on “too bad so sad

  1. Tragic love stories are a primal part of our storytelling makeup – I was talking more about the overwhelming tragic bent in gay lit that has historically been the go-to format. I’m very thrilled that it is changing, which I think is directly tied to societal changes to evolving attitudes and depiction of gays, real and fictional. Punishment can come in many forms, and it’s the more subtle punishments that are the most dangerous in my view, because they are absorbed less noticeably. If gay men typically don’t find enduring happy partnerships, then we tend to think that’s a reflection of reality. It’s a similar stereotype to “American Indians are drunkards” – not true, and not helpful.

    Wow, I can’t even pretend to predict what people will remember in 100 years. Our memories seem to expand as technology expands and gives us nearly instant access to just about anything that’s out there. I would never advocate shutting off to certain things, though we have a tendency to gravitate to the things we most love. I’m happy that there’s more variety in things to love now than there has been in the past.


  2. I just found your blog (through your Goodreads profile page) and eyeballed a couple of entries.

    I’ve had this argument about a million times over the past eight years that I’ve been online, but I’m game to have one more go at it (even though I should know better by now)…tragic love stories resonate with people that’s why they’re popular and enduring. It’s not a gay thing. I mean the novels you refer to are hardly “The Children’s Hour” (where the lesbians are shamed and “punished” simply by virtue of the fact that their sexual preferences considered unacceptable). I mean think of “Romeo and Juliet” how does it compare, as a piece of art, to “Sleepless in Seattle?” Or “Twilight,” for that matter. Do you really, honestly think people will care at all about all those interchangeable rom-coms or weird quasi-religious genre stories in 100 years? What about “Casablanca?” “The English Patient?” “Madame Bovary?” “Tristan and Isolde?” “Anna Karenina?” I could probably go on.

    Although I agree that, at one time, gay characters in films, theatre and books had to “suffer the consequences” of their wayward ways, I just don’t think that’s largely true anymore. And I think people who shut themselves off from books like “Brokeback Mountain” in favor of badly written self-published pablum just because it delivers a happy ending are cheating themselves.


    • I think gay marriage sohlud be voted on by people of the states. It is a moral issue, not a religious one. There are Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and atheists who oppose gay marriage. It is not like telling someone to pray to Allah 5 x a day or take communion. It is not a central tenet of any one faith, so it does not constitute enforcing one religion on the rest of society, as England did 200 plus years ago. No state ever voted for gay marriage


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