Paul Harvey Knew What We Wanted
I watched Serenity again tonight (my 153rd movie for the year and my fourth time total seeing it, for those keeping track), and it struck me why I like it so much: it finishes the story Firefly began. I like the characters and the world they inhabit, but knowing what the deal was is even bigger for me.
For the two of you who don’t know: Firefly was a television series that Fox canceled too quickly. The complete series was put out on DVD, which is where I learned about it, watched it, and loved it. Last year the movie Serenity, a movie based on the show, was released. It didn’t do very well in theaters and it’s probably the last we’ll see of the Firefly universe.
The series had an overarching storyline about a girl named River Tam with a mysterious past. Hints and pieces of the puzzle were given in the series, but they were little more than “the Alliance did things to her brain and now she’s just not quite right” sorts of things. The movie, though, answered the questions and put a period at the end of the sentence. Sure, there were some loose ends (Shepherd Book? What about him?!?), and there are certainly more stories that could be told, but the main mystery was answered. Done. Finished. End of story.
I can’t understand how writers can do this kind of thing. It’s hard enough telling a story, but telling a story over several episodes, only giving hints here and there – man, I couldn’t do it. The X-Files did it for nine seasons. Lost has been at it for two. If I hadn’t fallen into The X-Files a couple seasons in, I don’t think I would have had the patience to watch it until the end. I don’t watch Lost and you can’t make me.
I need to know the whole story. I want to know why the things that happened happened. Smallville’s okay for me, because even though I might not know what’s going to happen in the current “what’s going on?!?” storyline, I know that Clark ends up being Superman and Lex ends up being his worst enemy.
Oh, uh, spoiler alert, I guess. I hope I didn’t ruin the upcoming Superman Returns for you.
I don’t think I’m alone in my desire to know the full story. Why do people read newspapers and news websites and watch “Behind the Scenes” specials? There’s a special feeling you get when you know something someone else doesn’t. I can spend hours reading the trivia on IMDB. I find those little details so very interesting.
I think “desire to know” is what spawns conspiracy theories. There’s got to be more than just one guy shooting JFK. There have to be UFOs. The government can barely handle getting laws passed, but they have to be hiding all sorts of secret agendas from us.
All of this “knowledge,” though… how much of it is worthwhile? I think maybe we’ve been sold a counterfeit product. Instead of seeking wisdom, we look for knowledge and facts.
Alexander Pope said, “People who know only a little do not understand how little they know and are therefore prone to error.” Or, put plainly, “a little learning is a dangerous thing.” And in the grand scheme of things – life, love, happiness, pain – doesn’t any amount of learning end up being “a little”?
I think that’s why it’s so satisfying to know the end of a thing, to know the full story: it gives us a little foothold on the huge cliff of “Everything,” something we can deal with.
Sometimes that’s all we need to get us through a rough patch.