Angst Aversion

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

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    "Hey, Let me tell you something. I just finished this show/movie/book, and it's awesome! You'll totally love it! It's so artistic! You'll fall in love with all the characters, and when you see what happens to them it will just break your heart! If the last part doesn't make you cry for weeks, then man, you have no soul!... Hey, where are you going?"

    Art is often seen as a reflection of life, for good or for bad. Thus, it is not surprising that much of art contains elements that may be considered, well, downright depressing. Everyone agrees that artistic creators should have access to the wide range of human emotions in the characters and events depicted within their works, and no one blames them for attempting to inspire the same range within their audience. Indeed, one of the things most disquieting about Plato's Republic is how Socrates bans any emotional art from his supposed Utopia. Without the influence of the tragic, we would not be able to experience some of the most critically-lauded works that have ever been created.

    However, art is also seen as escapism, and rightfully so. Everyone agrees (or perhaps should agree) that people are allowed to have their own tastes in the media they consume, and to have their own particular limits in how much fictional sadness they are willing to put up with, simply because how everyone has their own real life problems to consider. It is not too much to ask for entertainment to be entertaining! If someone prefers a Warm and Fuzzy Feeling over the allegedly "better-for-you" catharsis of tragedy, then more power to them. No one wants a world where the only True Art Is Angsty, and anyone who thinks happy art cannot be good art is certainly not trying hard enough.

    Angst Aversion then is the situation occurring when these two conceptions collide: The personal tendency for a person to avoid a work once they hear it has an unhappy ending, or is generally filled with sympathetic characters that will be put through hell.

    Something of a Subjective Trope, as while the definition is consistent, where the line is drawn is a personal matter for each viewer:

    Some are fine with every level of angst, to the extent of even seeking out that which jerks the most multitudes of tears.

    Some call Fanon Discontinuity when they feel that their time has been wasted after a pointlessly tragic or improperly set-up Shoot the Shaggy Dog or Downer Ending that relies on Character Derailment, Diabolus Ex Machina, or a Cruel Twist Ending to pull off. If the Snicket Warning Label offers them a way out, they'll take it. This group will readily admit that art is free to be emotional, even depressing, but only if it is done sufficiently well. After all, while realistic emotion can make a good work great, needless angst makes a mediocre work terrible: It's pretty much generally agreed that cheaply won tears are annoying, and all too often it's a cute dog that needlessly suffers so the author can make a point.

    Some are content with seeking out spoilers beforehand, when it is thought probable that likable characters will have to deal with amazingly depressing situations, and the viewer wants to be ready when it happens. It helps that the depressing spoilers (concerning who dies etc.) are often the first to come out and are the most widespread: If you know anything about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince it's that one guy kills another guy. Joss Whedon may be the patron saint of inspiring this particular segment, so much so that it is responsible for almost 100% of the Hatedom directed towards him.

    Some will avoid a work entirely when they hear particularly depressing spoilers, or even general claims that the work is a particularly big downer, no matter what the supposed quality. These people find it grating when Failure Is the Only Option. There is nothing wrong about this, as everyone has the right to their own preferences, but it can often lead to Complaining About The Angst Level Of A Show You Haven't Watched on the one hand, and cause members of the Fan Dumb of a tragic work to lambaste the adverse as immature.

    Viewers at the logical furthest end of the scale will shut themselves off from all art that has any chance of being depressing at all, to the particular extreme of refusing, at a certain point, to view anything they haven't seen before. This usually requires a mental disorder of some sort, but is no less an example.

    Angst Aversion is likely the number two reason for Executive Meddling, behind the belief that Viewers are Morons. People like (and will pay for) happy endings, and executives know it.

    This should not be confused with Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy, though both can be caused by the same general issue.