09 Jun Guardians of the Galaxy II and Alien Invasion – Why we need sadness in fiction
As I left the theater after sitting through the rollercoaster that was GGII, I felt…satisfied. I felt worn out, emotionally drained, grounded, and realized I’d cried at least three times during the last half of the movie. Breaking down the plot later over pie and coffee, I realized that nearly every character had a story arc, filled with real grief: loss of family, loss of friends, and facing who they really were deep inside.
In this day and age, putting out a blockbuster like that takes guts. Most people are looking for escapism in their entertainment, and ‘sad’ movies don’t particularly do well for repeat viewings.
But life is not always happy, is it? And if we don’t have some movies like GGII where we see characters grappling with – dare I say it? – being human, having real problems when faced with supernatural difficulties, then where do we draw inspiration? How do we get the courage to carry on when everything is going wrong, and we’re faced with life’s myriad problems and relationship difficulties?
As I was writing the first two episodes of my Alien Invasion series, I remember my critique group and beta readers muttering under their breath that the series was ‘gloomy’ and ‘sad’. It was at about the end of episode II when I realized that the first five episodes of the series were going to be sad all the way through.
Perhaps it was my fault, I started the series with an invasion and from there on out it was going to be…pretty dark. And of course, they couldn’t be victorious until the end of episode V.
But my argument went something like this: What’s wrong with being sad?
Sure, there are times when we want lighthearted comedy, when we want everything to end up as a Happily Ever After and we watch our favorite characters ride off into the sunset. Let’s call them “Indiana Jones” moments.
But there are other times, days when you’re not looking for a tickle and a giggle. Times when you’re looking for something with more depth, more meaning. Times when you’re faced with real suffering: cancer, natural disasters, war, or even our own death.
At those times in my life, happy, sappy stories seemed out-of-place, and I was looking for something… more real. And that used to be hard to find in science fiction and fantasy. But that’s what I tried to do with Alien Invasion.
Alien Invasion isn’t GGII; there isn’t a dancing baby Groot to take away from the fact that my villians are a species that simply kills all mammals on every planet they encounter. But it is real. It’s dark, it’s scary, and you will see grown men cry. And depending on your context, your life at this moment… that could be just what you are looking for.