While Yoshiyuki Tomino is the man whom is named "Kill 'em All Tomino" for good reason, Tomino's idea of art being angsty is sometimes more about trying to show the beauty of humanity in spite of the blood and carnage. Case in point, Tomino surprisingly gave Be Invoked a somewhat optimistic epilogue as the now deceased spirits of the cast prepare to celebrate the rebirth of the universe. Dunbine's message was one of enviromentalism as the Aura Machines were dangerous Emotion Eater mecha in their hyper state and they had to make sure every last Aura Machine was destroyed to prevent the same cycle happening to Earth. Likewise, Gundam ZZ and ∀ Gundam had more or less happy endings, and the Zeta Gundam compilation movies have an alternate Bittersweet Ending, instead of the Downer one of the original series. Even taking the ending to Zeta into account, Kamille got better by the end of Double Zeta.
Studio Ghibli almost always consistently proves this trope to be false. There is angst present, but not by much. Key word: almost. Grave of the Fireflies, a Ghibli work, is easily the most depressing Ghibli films ever made.
A prevalent part of the works of CLAMP is the angst. Their still unfinished series X is particularly known for this, and every single other series they've written. Even the adorably sparkly shoujo ones, like Cardcaptor Sakura, have some form of soul-wrenching angst in them to some degree.
Mai-HiME is, oddly, bashed for this trope. Not because it avoids angst (it doesn't, by a long shot), but because the end of series enables Mashiro to press the Reset Button and restore all the HiME harmed by the Festival. Fan reaction was apparently intensely negative because they saw this as betraying the emotional intensity of rest of the series.
One complaint lodged against Overman King Gainer was that characters didn't angst enough. The trouble with this is that the anime itself shows that angsting is nothing more than closing yourself off from people.
CLANNAD. Some people complain that hitting the reset button and making it a happy ending ruined the message of "accepting your losses and making the best of what you have" (basically that Tomoya learned to come to terms with Nagisa's death and decides that being there for their daughter is what he should be doing). Others feel that they were cheated out of their tears only to have it become a happy ending.
Barefoot Gen. Thumbs up for it being based on a real story, and biographical at that.
Urobuchi Gen is all about angsty sad stories. He is also definitely on the side of those who consider happy stories to be unrealistic, to the point where he has suggested that Lighter and Softer stories, by definition, contradict the laws of nature and are therefore difficult to write and impossible to believe.
"I have nothing but contempt for the deceitful thing men call 'happiness', and find myself with no choice but to push my characters, whom I pour my heart and soul out to create, into the abyss of tragedy."
Even then he is merely poking at the threads of angst and tragedy, despite Puella Magi Madoka Magica being an extremely dark Mahou Shoujo series. It is Gen's way of trying to redo his other most famous work Fate Zero in his own image— a tale about how in other to have true absolute hope, there would despair that is equal to it.
Judging from his newest work, Suisei no Gargantia which he's says in interviews was created to inspire hope, he may be getting over this.
Jewelpet Twinkle, the second season of Jewelpet, is so far the angstiest season the anime has produced, and it is decidedly the most well-known one. The heroine is one of the most insecure magical girls ever, there's a broken up family seperated by dimensions, the main villain is a not particularly evil woobie whose magic is taxing and every human character has family issues of some sort.
Watchmen. A dark, cynical Cold War drama dealing with some the inherent flaws of leadership. All of the main characters are flawed, and only one has true superpowers. It is a deconstruction of the superhero genre, and often cited as one of the first instances of comic books growing up. It received unanimous praise from critics both inside and outside of the comics industry. It was the only graphic novel to be included in Time magazine's 100 Best Novels list. Not only do our heroes arrive too late to stop the "villain's" plans, but most of the main characters in the end agree with the "villain", including the godlike Dr. Manhattan. It's the "villain" of the novel who ends up "saving" the world. This however countered by Tales of the Black Freighter, a comic within the comic where the protagonist commits a deepening series of atrocities to save his family and hometown from the titular ship. By the time he reaches home, he's well down the road to madness and almost beats his wife to death by mistake. He runs out of town, realizing the freighter was never headed to the town where his family lived, and the only person the ship wanted was himself.
The Batman comic Fortunate Son seems to espouse this attitude as a rock musician complains that his music isn't "real" because he came from a normal household and had a normal upbringing, compared to an Elvis Expy who grew up in a shack and "knew real pain". Linkara mocks the attitude as moronic and unrealistic.
Discussed in Flex Mentallo. The villain of the story states that happy endings are for children, but the Hoaxer retorts by saying its just as childish to want everything to be dark for the sake of seeming "realistic" and deep.
Writer Grant Morrison also discussed it in the final issue of his Animal Man run, when the title character ask that he bring his family back to life Morrison refuses due to this trope, although ultimately does.
This is now a DC Comicsmandate. According to Dan Didio, superheroes can't have normal lives, that they must be 100% committed to their heroic work and that anything else is doomed to fail. A very good example of this is Batgirl2011: in the span of 25 issues, Batgirl has: had her returned mother mutilated by the madman who mutilated her, her psychotic brother attack and seemingly killed by her hand, her father going nuts and organizing a manhunt for her, abandoning her identity, watching her "surrogate family" crumble apart, her surrogate brother killed and her boyfriend in a coma. This is on top of the fact that Batgirl just cannot win at all.
This explains why the first Lantern Corps to be decimated to such a degree as to be effectively wiped out was the one powered by Hope.
Nightwing in particular seems to be a target of Di Dio's wrath, with the character getting, in order: Betrayed by his love interest and having his circus destroyed, having it destroyed again by the Joker, being responsible for a super villain causing chaos in Chicago, losing his adopted brother, and having his Secret Identity revealed to the world. The character is the nicest guy in the DC universe, so of course, he must be broken down Daredevil: Born Again-style.
The Dark Knight: A noble, heroic man is twisted via Deus Angst Machina into a psychotic murderer, while the villain who's responsible for it tries to systematically prove that all morality is a joke; though he doesn't entirely succeed, his efforts still lead to an extremely Bittersweet Ending (Batman saves the day...the cost being that damn near all of Gotham HATES him now). The critical praise for the bleakest live-action Batman movie yet, though, was near-unanimous, garnering it eight Oscar nominations and two wins.
The film's actual Aesop, that people can be principled and noble (which is precisely what the Joker wants to disprove), is idealistic and heartwarming. Sure, the movie itself was dark, but it had an uplifting message.
Part of it also has to do with the stigma against comic books and superhero narratives in general. A lot of the positive reviews for The Dark Knight referred to it along the lines of "a superhero film for adults" or "a crime drama that just happens to have a masked protagonist."
While we're on the topic, Batman: The Movie (the campy 1966 Batman: The Movie starring Adam West) is often treated as inferior to the later Batman movies because it is not sufficiently dark and gritty.
The spectacular failure of Speed Racer was blamed on the film being "too campy" and colorful. WB decided that in light of the film's failure and the massive success of The Dark Knight, the Lighter and SofterShazam film that was in the works at the time was scrapped. Though it never got off the ground, WB intended to do a Darker and EdgierShazam movie more in line with the popular, darker superhero films being put out.
It looks like producers and creators of the Spider-Man Trilogy think that way. Movies are full of angst, especially if you compare them with comics (Though, starting in the mid-80s, more angst was added into the Spider-Man comics, most of them are now deep in Dork Age). Spider-Man doesn't even make his trademark wisecracks in the movies.
Brian Michael Bendis, writer of Ultimate Spider-Man and New Avengers tells an anecdote about how he and Stan Lee were asked to write some lines for first movie. He agreed and was wondering why Stan didn't. He found out when he wrote a few jokes about Green Goblin's costume and one of the producers looked at him like he should be burned alive at the stake. None of his lines were made into the movie, of course.
Ironically, the director, Sam Raimi, may be one of the few involved to not hold this view, as he is fond of adding a lot of comic relief in the movies (Bruce Campbell, anyone?) In fact, many criticized him for not making Spider-Man 3 (the film with the black costume) dark and serious enough.
Then again, the Spider-Man movies do have so moments that are pretty goofy if you think about it (Doctor Octopus' tentacles talking to him in the second one, the over-the-top evil voice of the Green Goblin in the first one and the part where he sings "itsy-bitsy spider") and these didn't seem to stop critics from liking the first two.
While still talking about the genre of superhero movies: Bruce Banner was more angsty than angry in the 2003 film Hulk. It was well-received by critics, but its box office records plummeted as audiences shunned it.
Stan Lee has publicly stated that he disliked Daredevil precisely because of how gritty and devoid of optimism it was.
There's the WALL•E example mentioned down below, some people believe that Andy's toysshould have died in the incinerator, there's even a few who think that Up should have ended with Carl dying of old age. Look, we all want the Animation Age Ghetto to go away, but we have to set boundaries somewhere.
Casablanca makes a point of having a main character who grapples with angst... then does the right thing, inspires another character to find a hidden reserve of human decency, and gets away with shooting the bad guy. Proponents of True Art Is Angsty would have shot all of them, or at least have forced Blaine to sacrifice his life.
Rick throws away his one chance at true love, although a critic notes that it's a "flaw" in the ending that he doesn't seem terribly torn up about it.
Singin' in the Rain. The Wizard of Oz. To a lesser degree, even Lawrence of Arabia averts this trope, in spite of beginning with the protagonist's funeral. And, like Casablanca, all three are on the American Film Institute's top ten list. And while Singin' in the Rain wasn't nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in its year, unlike the others, that was an issue of Academy politics — the filmmakers' previous effort, An American in Paris, had been the big winner the previous year.
The trope is also lampshaded in Singin, when R. F. announces that Monumental Pictures is being retooled for sound:
Cosmo: Talking pictures, that means I'm out of a job. At last I can start suffering and write that symphony. R.F.: You're not out of job, we're putting you in as head of our new music department. Cosmo: Oh, thanks, R.F.! At last I can stop suffering and write that symphony.
A common complaint about WALL•E was that the second half was somehow inferior to the first. This quickly becomes a bit of a misnomer when everyone refers to their favorite scene as either "Define Dancing" or the art history credits, which both occur in the final third of the film. But you see, there is an obvious reason for this hypocritical set of circumstances. These people aren't allowed to admit they liked the second half of the film because it is ... colorful, and it has a — gasp — happy ending. Pixar just didn't keep up the angst level enough for the True Art Is Angsty crowd.
There have also been complaints specifically about the ending. Some people think WALL-E should've lost his memory for good, which would of course subvert the entire message of the film.
Subverted when Agatha Christie revised the ending to And Then There Were None so that not everybody dies in the end. This was subsequently used for all film adaptations, except one. Played very straight when modern fans of the book tend not to be at all impressed.
Many of the professional critical reviews for the latter Harry Potter films praise them for being "Darker" as though this were an automatic virtue. Roger Ebert is a notable holdout, rating the earlier films higher and questioning this view. Aside from him, very few critics seem to be able to wrap their minds around the idea that just maybe the early installments were light-hearted children's adventures for any reason beyond making lots of money. What's that, you say? It's supposed to get darker as it goes along? No way! It should have been grim and mature from the start! The early ones only weren't because they were directed by that hack Chris Columbus. How dare he make kids' films which appeal to kids! He should have skipped that whole wondrous new world thing and divided straight into the deep, meaningful angst! The quality of the earlier movies versus the latter ones is a legitimate issue which has divided fans, but it's a lot more complicated than the critics are willing to make it.
Having four directors, three during the development and introduction of the magical world to the characters and audience, making for inconsistent art direction and narrative, haven't helped.
Subverted with All That Jazz, in which the main character Joe Gideon suffers a deteriorating heart throughout the movie due to his lifestyle. In the end, his heart finally gives out, and the film ends with Gideon's Dying Dream in the form of... an upbeat (and kick-ass) musical number.
Out of universe as well, as some viewers felt the ending would have been stronger if Harold had actually died.
The Spanish film Biutiful, a film about a man who is separated from his bipolar wife, struggles with raising their two children (particularly their troubled son), makes money off of desperate illegal immigrants in the underworld, and to top it all off, can see the souls of the recently deceased, who are incapable of moving on. Oh yeah, and he has terminal cancer. And he accidentally kills a warehouse full of illegal workers by buying cut-rate heaters for them. Became subverted when some critics and viewers called it out for being too depressing.
Not only Biutiful but also the other movies directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Such as Babel or 21 Grams )tend to be incredibly depressing, and most of them were highly praised by the critics.
"I don't know about you, but I was big into happily ever afters, which doesn't tend to happen a lot if a film is trying to make a statement in the way that Edward Scissorhands was."
Many people have criticized Schindler's List, despite its vivid depictions the depravity of the Nazis and the horrors of the death camps, for ending on a triumphant and optimistic tone.
Stanley Kubrick: "Think that's about the Holocaust? That was about success, wasn't it? The Holocaust is about 6 million people who get killed. Schindler's List is about 600 who don't."
Lars von Trier was working on treating his depression before making Melancholia, and it shows. While there is some happiness in the beginning, it is very short lived, and there's not an ounce of hope afterwards. The main character, Justine, has a major case of depression, and talks about how life is so short, the earth is evil, how we're all alone in the universe. Though the surviving characters do spend their final moments together, everyone on Earth still dies when the planet hits Earth.
Some viewers criticized La Piel Que Habito for its ending, where Vicente/Vera gets even with Ledgard for having surgically transformed his body into a woman's and kills both him and his maid/mother/accomplice, then managing to return home and prove to his mother and friend that despite the physical appearance, it's actually him invoking an ending where Vicente actually becomes Vera psychologically as well, which is the ending of the book the movie is based on, missing the point of the movie.
Two of Martin Scorsese's films, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, are regularly included in lists of the best films of all time, especially the latter. Both of them are among the darkest and bleakest films in Scorsese's oeuvre, if not in cinema in general.
The Dutch thriller The Vanishing was released in 1988 and was a surprise international hit, with critics worldwide praising its innovative structure and dark storyline. The film was remade for an American audience five years later, and was greeted with critical derision and outrage. The two films were practically identical (as one might expect, considering they were made by the same director) except that the ending was changed from the original's bleak, horrific Downer Ending to a much happier, upbeat one. Many critics (including Roger Ebert) wrote that this not only made no sense in the context of the film, but was also a massive insult to the American audience the remake was aimed at.
The Great Gatsby provides both a straight and a meta example of this trope, being that it's a crushing refutation of the American Dream, and has been called by many critics "the definitive American novel".
The first line of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina — "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." — says something similar to Whedon's quote, with the observation that conflict equals drama, and that unhappiness tends to breed conflict. Of course, Anna Karenina, like much of Tolstoy's work, is not entirely a happy work itself.
The Cold Equations is esteemed as one of the most important science fiction stories ever written, despite the fact that its central dilemma makes very little to no sense from an engineering standpoint and the author's editor basically forced him to make a Downer Ending happen. But since an innocent young woman dies horribly at the end, it's a well-regarded classic.
Parodied oddly in C. S. Lewis' The Pilgrim's Regress: Victoriana's poetry is not particularly angsty, except perhaps in a "the good times are over" nostalgic way. Victoriana, however, is angsty; she assumes everyone is persecuting her (which therefore makes her a great artist, because all great artists are persecuted) and slaps, then whines at, anyone who isn't effusively complimentary about her work.
The final chapter of A Clockwork Orange (the original Anthony Burgess novel) ends with Alex contemplating how he has outgrown the urge to be a delinquent, but he worries that if he has a child in the future, the child will be like he was at that age. Burgess' American publisher insisted the final chapter be left out, because the book would be better if ended "on a note of bleak despair".
This is why the film adaptation ends on a decidedly bleak note, as Kubrick was basing his screenplay on the American edition. Even when the existence of the British ending was brought to Kubrick's attention, he disregarded it, as he preferred the "tougher" American ending.
Paradise Lost manages an upbeat ending, and it ends with Adam and Eve being expelled from Eden! Of course, a lot of people consider the first third, crammed with Satan angst, to be the best part.
This may vary a bit depending on who you are rooting for. Satan has some upbeat parts, and genuinely seeks to find happiness and purpose without the grace of God, but in the end he is shown failing miserably — for those who identify with him, it's a bleak ending indeed. Meanwhile Adam and Eve are so shallow characters that it's much harder to appreciate their hopeful ending.
Played straight by Alan Dean Foster (even as he subverts Most Writers Are Human), each time his pre-Amalgamation thranx poets, Wuuzelansem of Nor Crystal Tears and Desvendapur of Phylogenesis, seek out contact with the "alien monsters" — i.e. humans — because such a disturbing encounter will provide morbid inspiration for their poems. Writing about day-to-day life doesn't do it for either: they want to creep their audiences out, with accounts of freakish soft-skinned mammals. The Downer Ending in one of these two novels suggests the author is subject to True Art Is Angsty, too.
Most recently, all you have to do is look at the various web forums for the Wheel of Time. In the wake of the release of The Gathering Storm, you will see a sizable minority who insist the book is now juvenile and childish because after about five books of spiralling angst by Rand and in the most recent book him turning into an outright sociopath, the end shows him reintegrating his personality and laughing and crying on Dragonmount as he realizes there are things to live for. Only pain and angst and darkness are adult, you see.
Although many object out of the valid view that a series about a youthful Chosen One breaking under stress and responsibility would have been more interesting than a purely magical personality change.
Les Misérables. It's right there in the title but the ending is ultimately happy and uplifting.
Gently played with by Agatha Christie in her Miss Marple novels, in which the title character's nephew Raymond West is a cosmopolitan, avant-garde novelist with this attitude... only to have dear old Aunt Jane repeatedly show him up by solving brutal murders using insight gained from life in her bucolic small country village.
Well known Russian and Eastern Europe authors usually wrote rather dark/depressing stories, especially in the field of science fiction.
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger, about a F-to-M transgender teen named Grady who transitions during high school, recieves some criticism because it avoids this trope. Grady receives a lot of support from his family, and some reviewers felt that was unrealistic.
The classic Taiwanese novel, Orphan of Asia, detailing the protagonist's failing attempts to struggle against the colonial regime in Taiwan and lead a peaceful life before he went completely insane, fits into this category extremely well.
Man's Fate is a French novel detailing the Chinese Communists' failed attempt to assassinate Chiang Kai-Shek in Shanghai in 1927, leading to the Shanghai Massacre.
Many critics consider The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to be a dull-ish predecessor to Mark Twain's full display of literary chops in the sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Never mind that Tom Sawyer is clever, tackles deep characters and themes and has a far tighter plot—Huckleberry Finn has slave angst!
Literary Fiction as a genre has been perceived to have taken this stance in modern years with many of the stories (especially the short stories) being horridly depressing. The full-length novels tend to have some uplifting moments and are more likely to have a Bittersweet Ending as opposed to an all-out Downer Ending or No Ending.
One book in The First Law series has who initially believes this trope but changes their mind. In a Lampshade Hanging, this character (a washed up actor) comments toward the end that while he used to think that only tragedies were serious works of merit, he can now see the benefits of a work with a happy ending.
Live Action TV
Joss Whedon is well-known for saying "Happy people make for boring televison." While this assertion is not without merit, some fans think he has an unfortunate tendency to go a bittoofar with it.
This started happening in the new Doctor Who sometime around the end of the first season and has gotten worse since. If an episode isn't intended as a comedy romp, it'll probably be plumbing the depths of Wangst. And even some of the later comedy romps will often have something angsty happen just for good measure.
It's also perhaps worth noting that the old series of Doctor Who, which was relatively free of angst when compared to its twenty-first century incarnation (and certainly didn't stress the Doctor's lonelyimmortality, self-hatred and romantic heartaches quite as frequently or enthusiastically as the new series), ran for some twenty-six years without winning a Hugo or BAFTA or any similar kind of award. Then, the new series comes along with a brand spanking new angsty Last of His Kindbackstory for the Doctor - and immediately started being showered with awards.
In "Blink" Sally says she likes the sad ambience of the derelict house:
Kathy: What's so good about being sad? Sally: It's like happy for deep people.
The above, it perhaps should be noted, is said in a rather cheerful tone, and Sally is in many ways a rather happy-go-lucky and light-hearted character (albeit one in a rather dark episode) who ultimately gets a happy ending with the man she loves, thus suggesting a certain amount of irony is in play here. Word Of God is that this is not Steven Moffat's own view of life.
The Doctor: I just wondered, between you and me, in about 100 words, where do you think Van Gogh rates in the history of art?
Art Expert: *flabbergasted* Well... Um... Big question, but... to me, Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular of the great painters, the most beloved, his command of colour was magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world... No-one had ever done it before. Perhaps no-one ever will again. To my mind, that strange wild man of Provence was not only the world's greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men to have ever lived.
Kids in the Hall's Bruce McCulloch enjoys playing the 'tortured artist' in sketches such as "My Art" (dramatically agonizing over his decision to lend his art to an insensitive friend) and "The Art Collector" (selling his Velvet Elvis to an extremely frugal art collector).
One In Living Color! sketch has a punk rocker paying a street performer to teach him about The Blues. The punk makes various assumptions about the blues musician's hard life, which the musician corrects until the punk hands him another wad of cash, at which point he invents tales of being dirt-poor and drug-addicted. At the end, he "informs" the punk that his girlfriend cheated on him with Axl Rose, so that the punk can now go make angsty blues songs of his own.
Kamen Rider Black had one of the darkest plots of Kamen Rider, needless to say, it was well received. Faiz also had its angsty moments. But what was the most angstiest was perhaps Kamen Rider Ryuki where the Evil Riders are not one dimensional lackeys for some big bad but more like horrible humans with a Rider belt serving their own agendas.
One of the reasons Masked Rider tanked was because Saban turned it into a fluffy, vapid sitcom. The parent series Kamen Rider is fairly dark. Although Kamen Rider Black RX, the show it was adapted from, was comparatively light as far as Kamen Rider went, and one of the lightest and most comedic Kamen Rider series ever, Kamen Rider Den-O, is also one of its most enduring and well-liked. As for Masked Rider, it was disliked for not being good rather than simply not being angsty.
Black RX, in fact, is one of the least-liked KR series ever, and it is not coincidence that there wasn't another full series until 2000. The sitcom elements were very much in the original and were similarly not liked. Throw in Kotaro himself getting in on the comic relief and often coming off as quite Out of Character if you liked him in Black. You'd think Saban would have seen the writing on the wall instead of doing exactly what didn't work. Again, though, Den-O is quite funny and quite popular, so there's a right way to do it and a wrong way.
On the Super Sentai side, it seems that the love there is for a series is directly proportional to the darkness. It's also seen in Power Rangers fandom due to the distate for the censorshipimposed by the networks - what started as a desire to not see good storylines nerfed by the inability to have anything too dark happen has grown into a series only being as good as the number of times we hear "die" as opposed to "destroyed" or "lost," see bullets as opposed to lasers, or have death-death as opposed to Disney Death - nothing else matters. More humorous series like Power Rangers Ninja Storm don't have a chance in hell with the adult fans from day one.
Brian from Spaced, a caricature of the angsty artist, and therefore a spoof of this trope. When asked what his work is about, he always answers, "Anger. Fear. Pain. Aggression." When he starts dating and becomes happy, he can't paint anymore. His landlady Marsha reduces him to tears by explaining this in a way that seems mean-spirited and crowing, but she's doing him a kindness: his despair over the cruel irony makes him paint again, which was what he wanted.
Supernatural. Very much so. Though it is immensely hilarious very often, and there is plenty of heartfelt discussions between the main characters on how much they mean to each other, you know teary eyed chick flick crap. "Im all out of love"
Mash couldn't stop winning Emmys after it became a serious war drama. And, yes, it won them in the comedy category. Apparently, you win comedy Emmys by doing hard-edged drama.
Torchwood: Children of Earth just about epitomizes this trope. On the bright side, 10% of the Earth's children aren't taken by aliens to feed a drug habit, and Gwen is having a baby with Rhys. On the darker side of things... just about everything else.
The Wire, merciless in its depiction of the futility of the war on drugs and the endless self-perpetuation of crime and corruption inherent in society. Considered by many to be the greatest show in the history of television.
Totally averted by The West Wing. Once John Wells got his claws on the show and started to make it in the model of ER by forcing the characters to be unhappy, introducing lots of personal conflict and dislike, making the tone more cynical, and trying to be "real" by making sure that real victories were rarely achieved without loads of nastiness, the show was almost universally panned by fans and critics alike. This in contrast to the seasons before Wells, when the cast was a cheery, tight-knit group of True Companions whose squabbles were almost familial, the tone was principled and idealistic (which made the rare drops into bleakness and gloom that much more powerful), all tragedies were buffered by the strength of the characters' friendships, and human decency and common sense never completely failed — and The West Wing swept the Emmys for best show, best writing, best acting, and best directing while being hailed as one of the best shows ever written.
This article discusses ways in which Farscape could be brought back successfully, basically by making it dark and angsty like Battlestar Galactica (as if darkness and angstiness were unquestionably, objectively better).
At the end of the last episode of Dinosaurs (a light hearted comedy throughout), EVERYONE DIES. They also die in a way that we as an audience can relate to, sort of like nuclear winter except with exploding volcanoes. Sort of a FantasticGreen Aesop.
Some contestants on Work of Art, a reality game show, have fallen into this; sometimes the angsty art works, but sometimes it doesn't, for reasons varying from not fitting the challenge to being cliche or showing the artist has little range.
Both averted and played straight by How I Met Your Mother: on one hand, the show is unafraid to utterly obliterate a lot of tension and suspense or undercut dramatic plotlines by showing (and allowing Future!Ted to cavalierly drop spoilers on the viewers about) how tightly-knit and happy the gang is years and decades into the future — and in doing so, attracted enormous amounts of critical acclaim for its unapologetically optimistic tone and ballsy approach to television-typical narrative structures, and vastly strengthened audiences' emotional investment in the characters. On the other hand, some of its best episodes and most memorable moments are its saddest and most painful — which they are allowed to get away with despite being a sitcom partly because the audience knows for a fact that everything will be fine in the end.
On The George Lopez Show, Carmen gets advice on her poetry from a friend, who tells her the poetry needs to be more angsty and she needs to draw from her Mexican heritage of being raped and pillaged.
That said, in the end, Walter dies with a smile on his face. Take that as you will.
On soundtracks of TV shows/movies/video games/etc., the darker and more dramatic/angsty songs tend to be better-received by those who have listened to them than the more light-hearted ones.
Parodied in "This Song Would Be Better" by Mike Aaron James. It is sung from the perspective of a straight-edge and well-adjusted musician with a good upbringing lamenting the fact that his good environment and mental state prevent him from making great music.
Comedian/Musician Bill Bailey's does a similar thing with his song How Can I Feel Pain, a quick parody of a rebelling teenager that has such a pleasant life he has nothing to complain about.
Paul McCartney in some ways is a perfect reflection of this trope. As an artist, he is for the most part a notably optimistic, light-hearted performer who writes cheerful, good-natured love songs (see "Silly Love Songs" for what is essentially McCartney's mission statement with these songs). A lot of these songs get dismissed as light-hearted fluff, enjoyable maybe but nothing special. However, every so often, he'll have a Creator Breakdown, such as his first solo album McCartney (written after the break-up of The Beatles) or Chaos and Creation in the Back Yard (written during his bitter break-up and divorce from Heather Mills). These albums get critically lauded.
Averted however, by The Beatles; almost universally highly praised and held in high critical regard, the list of their most popular and highly regarded albums and songs contain just as many (if not more) optimistic and life-affirming love songs and ballads as dark, brooding and / or angsty songs.
Conversely, John Lennon generally gets a great deal more critical regard than McCartney, generally due to the wide-held perception that Lennon wrote all the angsty 'deep' songs and McCartney wrote all the light and fluffy ones. Which not only does a disservice to the 'light and fluffy' songs, but is something of a myth; whilst Lennon did frequently mine his not-untortured psyche for inspiration, he was just as capable of writing sweet love songs as McCartney was; similarly, not everything McCartney wrote for the Beatles was smiles and sunshine. For just one example from each, Lennon wrote "All You Need Is Love", a song about how beautiful and wonderful love is, while McCartney's responsible for "Eleanor Rigby", the song about the lonely old spinster who dies alone, sad and miserable.
Many Heavy Metal fans hold a similar mindset: Anything that might be considered upbeat or positive is immediately dismissed as commercial tripe. Nevermind that bands like Dream Theater and Helloween have written more than their fair share of "happy songs."
Kareeminal, a high school Welsh rap artist, invokes this trope for the under-18s. His music highlights the insecurities and troubles of the average teenage boy as can be seem here.
David Bowie's 1995 Rock Opera1.Outside takes place in a 1999 where performance artists take this trope to an extreme and combine it with True Art Is Incomprehensible via self-mutilation, etc. The result is the new craze of "art-crime", a term encompassing such things as "concept-muggings" and, as the story opens, a murder performed and presented as a work of art.
As for Bowie's work itself, it manages to have a lot of angst, but it isn't the only reason it's acclaimed. Yes, it generally runs from 4 to 8 on Mohs Scale of Lyrical Hardness — even in his Let's Dance mainstream stretch in The Eighties, which tends to be regarded as his big Dork Age — and the prospect of the apocalypse is part of his Creator Thumbprint. Yet, due in part to his sense of humor, love of Spectacle and Camp, and his empathy for and eagerness to celebrate outsiders of all stripes, even his darkest work feels cleansing/cathartic rather than needlessly angsty. As well, sunny numbers like "Changes" and especially "Rebel Rebel" are among his most beloved, as is the merely bittersweet ""Heroes"".
Swedish progressive metal band Pain Of Salvation embodies this trope, as do quite a few other prog bands.
This trope as applied to rock music is directly targeted by Bowling for Soup's "I'm Gay," which treats the happy sort of gay as akin to the other sort of gay, and encourages the listener to be open about being happy even if other people disapprove.
Christina Aguilera 's Stripped record features a lot of this trope. (Minus one or two loves songs, which also feature some angst)
Knorkator's rather atypical "Warum" (why) seems to build up to lampshade this trope in their typical nonsensical fashion, only to redeem it and showing that Tropes Are Not Bad. Asking such questions like "Why travels and endless stream of pilgrims to the prophet who never speaks?", "Why is the lamb born just to be eaten by a wolf?", "Why is the sword drawn where no enemy is left", and "Why did I leave you when we were happy together?", while playing appropriately dramatic music. However, it ends with:
And why does the queen cry on her throne quietly and alone
And why does no one come to her all mute and pale under the moon
Because this great melody demands pain, longing, and poetry
So it can carry these words and touch your heart
Inverted in the case of Peter Gabriel, whose album Up is generally regarded as both one of his darkest albums (if not the darkest) and one of his worst (though many fans still like it).
Also inverted with Michael Jackson. When the child molestation accusations brought against him in 1993 resulted in a massive Creator Breakdown, the result was the second disc of 1995's HIStory, which consists mostly of songs about persecution, loneliness, injustice, greed, lost childhoods, and man's inhumanity to man and the planet. Music critics and casual listeners were not impressed by all the angst, thanks in part to Angst Dissonance (yeah, multi-millionaire celebrities in The Tyson Zone have it so hard), and in the U.S. the album quickly fell off the charts. Tellingly, it's never been made available as a standalone release, while the Greatest Hits Album that made up disc one was in 2001, and the remix album followup Blood on the Dance Floor wasn't given a significant promotional push in North America and reviews weren't much better.
The comic strip Funky Winkerbean won several awards over the years for dealing with a character's battle with cancer (which eventually resulted in her death), although it seems a lot of people didn't enjoy actually reading these strips. The long, drawn-out, angsty nature of the whole thing was parodied in the webcomic Shortpacked!! with Funky Cancercancer.
Tom Batiuk was really annoyed with the insinuation that people weren't exactly enjoying watching him slowly torture his fictional characters to death and expressed this in his other strip, Crankshaft, while the cancer plot was winding down. He did it again in Funky Winkerbean with Les actually echoing the same sentiment and contrasting his words with the image of his dying wife in the hospice bed next to him.
September 2009 brought a story arc in which Les and Susan have to defend the choice of Wit (which is about a woman dying of cancer) as the School Play against parents who wanted to see something upbeat and fun instead of True Art. The apparent Take That, Critics! got the strip further mocking at the "Comics Curmudgeon" and "Stuck Funky" blogs.
August/September 2010 brought in a story arc in which Les had to decide on a cover for the book he wrote about Lisa's death; Susan defended the somber cover that more or less matches the one to the real book Batiuk wrote on the grounds that Art should remind people of the bleak, pointless agony that is the reality of human existence.
An irregular feature on the Comics Alliance site is commentary on the most depressing Funky Winkerbean strips - that month.
Many musical theatre fans are still annoyed today over The Music Man winning the Tony award for Best Musical over West Side Story. West Side Story has scenes of deadly violence, juvenile-delinquent angst and a Downer Ending, so it has earned the reputation as having been "ahead of its time" (despite being a remake of a musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet).
Shakespeare's tragedies tend to be elevated higher than his comedies. Of the comedies, The Tempest is treated as particularly artistic, and it's one step from tragicomedy, as is Measure for Measure, the bleakest and most unfunny of all his comedies (the main characters don't die at the end, so it only narrowly avoided the traditional definition of tragedy at a time when all theatrical fiction was either "comedy" or "tragedy").
This is a core belief of the Nowhaus collective in Passing Strange. When the lead character, The Youth, joins them his music goes from American pop to a dark, brooding number that culminates in his declaration that "I let my pain fuck my ego and I call the bastard art!"
Wicked soon goes from a clever little musical about life to a depressing musical revolving around Star-Crossed Lovers which ends with one of them dead. Or so one of them thinks. The source book is almost nothing but angst, but the musical has its fair share too.
Ancient Greek Tragedy is all about this trope. The Oresteia is a sample of that genre.
Paradoxically, since Oresteia is also a rare example of a Greek Tragedy with a happy ending.
Cirque du Soleil shows like to avert this; even in the more seriously-toned shows (Alegria and Quidam come to mind) the sadder, crueler aspects of existence are counteracted, if not conquered, by the better aspects of it.
Video games with ambitions to the epic approach this, making plot points out of tragedies.
Of course not going over the top with the story helps. There is a difference between making a good tragic story and an excessively dark tale that forces one bad thing after another just for laughs.
There's also a balance needing to be struck in making the game dark and angsty and making it worth playing; since (unlike many of the other mediums presented here) at least part of the appeal of a video game is the sense of accomplishment the player feels as a result of successfully playing it, the player is likely to feel cheated if they invest a lot of time and effort into playing a game only for it to result in a downer or leaves them feeling that nothing has been accomplished.
Square Enixcannot win on this - when their games aren't being accused of following this trope to a T, the supporters of this trope criticize them for not following this trope to a T.
For one example, Final Fantasy VII ends rather ambiguously. This led to an interpretation that the world was destroyed and everyone died, leading some to applaud Square for their gutsy storytelling and others to deride it for being too depressing. Meanwhile, the group of people who pointed out that the world was not destroyed were derided for being unable to face "reality" by people who both loved and hated it. So when Square got around to announcing the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, showing two projects set after the game with a perfectly intact world? They were criticized for "retconning" their game.
The same thing happened with Final Fantasy X - while Tidus and Yuna certainly believe he sacrificed his life, a scene after the credits shows him landing in the ocean in Besaid. Again, the same factions popped up - those who loved the tragedy, those who hated the melodrama, and those who pointed out that it was more likely that he wasn't dead at all and were once again derided for not being "realistic". Fast-forward to the sequel and once again, Square following their own plot points is accused of being a retcon because they used the same scene again and simply placed it within the context of X-2 - thus conclusively showing Tidus alive and reuniting with Yuna.
Final Fantasy Tactics is already a dark game, filled with murder, betrayal, and all those niceties you find in war. But some fans seem to want to make it even darker and more pointless by insisting that, canonically, Delita ripped a spy's tongue out after sparing her life and Ramza and his whole party died, making his whole quest to safe his sister meaningless. The only evidence of the former case is that said character doesn't talk for all of the one minute she's on screen (during another character's monologue) after her supposed death. The latter case is admittedly a little ambiguous, as Ollan wonders whether he really saw Ramza and Alma, or if it was their ghosts, but you have to ask: Why would ghosts be riding Chocobos, and why would the credits show them stopping to get water at a stream if they were dead?
For what it's worth, the game is very depressing in the beginning of the World of Ruin and features its share of moments that will just break your heart. Doesn't change the fact that the ending is incredibly visibly uplifting, though.
Final Fantasy VIII ends with what is, without a doubt, one of the most unabashedly positive endings in the series. The world is saved, the hero gets the girl, and the Garden sails off into the sunset. Naturally, the game got lambasted for being so upbeat and happy in its ending, and a substantial number of fans started developing the "Rinoa is Ultimecia" theory despite all the evidence to the contrary, up to and including Word Of God. Another popular theory is that Squall dies in the end (or, even more nonsensically, at the end of Disc 1, and the rest of the game is a hallucination) which is, again, against all the actual evidence and runs counter to the whole spirit and theme of the game.
This trope in general might explain the tendency in the fandom at largedisclaimer Final Fantasy is notorious for its Fan Dumb and this only describes a general trend; we know there's dissent and disagreement to lionize Final Fantasy IV, VI, and VII while not extending the same courtesy to titles like V and IX. Notable in that IV is apparently lumped into the angsty pile even though, on its own terms, it's as idealistic as V.
How about Kingdom Hearts? First we had these fun adventure games...Kingdom Hearts and II, and Chain of Memories (and, aside from the outright happy ending of II, they had endings that were bittersweet at best, with still alot to feel uplifted about.) And then we had 358/2 Days and Birth By Sleep, both of which have characters who are Doomed by Canon and have the bad guys WIN! WHAT WAS THAT? Not to mention that 358/2 Days contains the only permanent death of a central protagonist in the series. SERIOUSLY. And then they have fans saying that "Square-Enix has grown up". Yes, never mind that there had been darker games made in the past, even before they became Square-Enix and afterwards as well.
Dragon Quest V is probably the most universally praised game in the series for its plot, which is basically 40 hours of the protagonist getting pushed through a Humiliation Conga.
Kill Zone 1 had a relatively decent ending but Kill Zone 2 just take this trope and chugs it down. A hopelessly failed invasion from the start made worse as everyone we knew and loved in the first one died horribly with only one survivor and a Downer Ending where now the ISA is going to definitely lose? Critics loved it, as quoted from another guy "What is the point of completing the single player campaign if you are going to get screwed over?"
Kill Zone 3 is a step up from Killzone 2 in this regard. Yes, it is still INCREDIBLY Grim Dark, but it manages to squeeze optimism back into the story. that is of course, until the ending. The ISA force of thousands has been reduced to less than sixty soldiers, and the Helghast's home planet was nuked to oblivion. The later is especialy terrible, since Hakha from 1 made it clear that not all Helghast are evil and the intro of 3 even implies the millions of civilians on the planet suffering from the regime. And they are STILL FIGHTING BACK.
Dragon Age, one of the most popular and critically acclaimed western RPGs is a Darker and Edgier setting, and as such can end up very angsty indeed, depending on the choices you make. However, it's almost always possible to Take a Third Option and thus Avert this trope.
The sequel plays the trope straight. The plot consists of the balance of power in the Free Marches slowly tipping out of control while your character's family is destroyed, and it's almost entirely your fault.
Played for laughs in the "Mark of the Assassin" DLC. When offered Anderfels ham said to "taste of despair", Hawke and Tallis question whether that's possible and who'd eat it if it was. The waitress says it's popular with artists.
MOTHER 3, who some have said is the closest video games have come to literature.
Original Works by Cavia is pretty much downright angsty. Drakengard, Bullet Witch and NieR are good examples. NieR is noteworthy in particular because even though the game's reception was mixed at best, most critics and fans agreed that the storytelling and characters were very above-average and a high point for the game.
Notable that Drakengard 2 that was more idealistic and wasn't directed by him there are some fans that like to think that that game never happened.
The When They Cry series fell victim to Fan Dumb because of this trope. What makes the series a classic is how it melds tragedy and horror with optimism and lighthearted friendship between the screwed up protagonists. Both are equally important to the plot and characterization, and the storyline's entire point is how a group of damaged, fearful people manage to influence each other for the better and overcome their flaws to build a happy future together. Yet to hear the Fan Dumb talk, it's a good series because it has lots of gore and angst, and for no other reason.
The tagline to Halo: Reach was "From the beginning, you know the end." And how: Reach was glassed by the Covenant even before Halo: Combat Evolved began. The only thing preventing it from being full-on Downer Ending is Noble Six manages to transport Cortana to the Pillar of Autumn and ensures the ship escapes Reach. Because of Noble Team, the UNSC won the Human-Covenant War. It doesn't save them.
Part of the reason Limbo received as much recognition and praise as it did. A platform game? Fair enough. An arty platform game set in a grim, bleak Dark World where you play a small boy who will suffer a awful lot of gory deaths in an unremittingly hostile but beautifully rendered landscape? Transcendent!
Planescape: Torment is a beautiful piece of artwork with one of the most doomed and depressing plots imaginable. The game has you treading through a miserable immortality, forever being hunted, subjected to endless bouts of, well, torment, and seeing all of the damage and misery you have caused to others in your many, many past lives. The ultimate goal of the game is to die, and go to hell, so you can fight a war for demons, no matter how heroic you may have been while you were playing.
On the other hand, not only can you actually change people's lives for the better (this game adoresVideo Game Caring Potential), you can also make up for your crimes. Also, if you pick the good ending you save all your party members who died to protect you, something no other incarnation before could do. Also the ultimate goal is not to die, it's to find out who you are and take responsibility for your actions- even if doing so means death. By the end of it, all the protagonists have changed, and endured torment- but all of them are better people, happier for what they've learned. The plot may have ended on a sad note, but by no means was it a pointless one.
Eric Nylund, the guy who wrote the story of Gears of War wrote several novels on famous FPS franchises which are known for their extreme bleakness.
Spec Ops is an interesting case. It's mechanics and gameplay is So Okay, It's Average, and for the first few missions of the game the story seems typical of a modern military shooter. While it pulls the rug out from under you story-wise, the general gameplay stays the same. The game is imitating a low budget modern military shooter while deconstructing the idea of Escapism and pointing out how disgusting it is to treat war as a power fantasy.
Inverted by Spyro the Dragon. The Darker and Edgier, high-fantasy-oriented Legend of Spyro trilogy earned lower reviews than almost any other games in the series and arguably constituted its Dork Age, to the extent that the series has had one.
Parodied in Kingdom of Loathing by the character of the Pretentious Artist. Some of his remarks on the outfits you can wear to unlock tattoos from him go on about this, but this perspective really shines in the zone unlocked by using a psychoanalytic jar on him, the Pretentious Artist's Obsession. It involves subduing animated kitchen items representing negative emotions in combat, and using them to defeat Anthropomorphic Food representing positive emotions in order to prepare a "mental breakfast" that provides the Artist with inspiration.
Judging by its success, Bioshock Infinite plays it awfully straight: the story of a brutal ex-Pinkerton detective attempting to pay off his gambling debts by retrieving Elizabeth from Columbia, the plot not only reveals a great deal of angst and misfortune in the main character's past (including his participation in the massacre at Wounded Knee and the death of his wife and child) but also goes on to pile grief and misery on the kind-hearted Elizabeth, from being imprisoned and tortured to accidentally sparking off a bloody rebellion in her attempt to help the Vox-Populi. Things only get worse when the alternate dimensions are introduce, and it turns out that Booker has been given the job of saving Elizabeth hundreds of times across the multiverse, and has always failed. Finally, it turns out that Booker is actually an alternate version of the game's villain, Father Comstock; worse still, the gambling debt he wants to repay doesn't exist - it's just a garbled memory of him being forced to sell his infant daughter to Comstock in exchange for his debts being paid and the real reason he's in Columbia is to find and rescue his now-adult daughter. The whole story ends with Booker submitting to a multiversal death in the past in order to save the world from the menace that Comstock would become, also resulting in Elizabeth never being born. And then, after the credits, Booker finds himself back in his apartment, with his baby daughter implied to be in the next room, and he'll now have the chance to raise her as his daughter.
Criticisms of the Monkey Island series after Ron Gilbert left are mostly centered around how the series has become far too comedic and plays Guybrush as a buffoon. The first two games are quite dark and mysterious. Whilst Guybrush is not the smartest person in them, he is far more cunning in them.
Carmen from 9th Elsewhere provides an excellent quote for this trope.
"I'm not a very happy person, but who is? Its not like happiness is necesary to create art anyways. Look at how many revered classics are about pain and struggle. I don't want to be a happy person if it means I have to write about insipid happy things. I'd rather be depressed and write something worthwhile, so if you're out to change me then I don't want your help."
In Sandra and Woo, in-universe, Larisa and her father disputed over this, and her father pointed out that his dark and depressing paintings sold. She drew a bright smiley sun on his dark and dreary landscape, and in revenge, he painted a skeleton hanging from a flower in her painting. Her mother then sold both paintings at a good price, much to their shock.
Weimar World at AlternateHistory.com invoked this trope with "annihilism", an art form to express beauty in destruction. The in-universe French JerkTrope Maker christened it Vladivostok, named after the city that's supposed to be nuked during the breakup of that timeline's Soviet Union.
However, both Walker and his character of The Nostalgia Critic believe that darkness in a movie or TV show should have a point; and not just exist for the sake of this trope. Though they both believe that everything that can go wrong with it will, they praise proper application of darkness in works such as Sonic Sat AM and The Dark Knight.
Invoked in-story in Spes Phthisica: Helen's art only becomes popular when the dead landscapes of her Bad Future dreams start entering into it.
Parodied by Linkara in his Blue Beetle Tribute with 90's Kid: "DUUUUDE! Who needs that kids stuff like hope and joy? No, I want GUUUUNS and lines over people faces..."
Ironically, even the fandom of the show falls victim to this as well. "Chill of the Night!" is not only the single darkest episode in what is normally a very lighthearted cartoon, but would be quite dark even by the standards of Batman: The Animated Series. It's also considered one of the best episodes in the series.
This trope may explain the benign reaction most 6teen fans had to the series finale "Bye Bye Nikki?", where Nikki moved away to Iqaluit (a real town in Arctic Canada). One of the most bittersweet endings in animated comedy history, and the episode was almost universally praised by the show's fanbase.
Hey Arnold! "Eugene, Eugene!" goes for this trope along with Writer on Board and Adaptation Decay in-universe: a drama critic is directing their school musical, in which Eugene has been cast as the main character and Arnold as the villain. Eugene's enthusiastic about it... until he discovers that there's been some deviation from the source material, by having Arnold win the leading lady instead of Eugene and having Eugene get run over by a trolley, while replacing the upbeat finale song "Keep Your Sunny Side Up" with a song called "Nice Guys Finish Last". Eugene queries the director about all this and gets what is essentially True Art Is Angsty (with a dash of Writer on Board) in response. After he leaves, we discover the reason behind the Writer on Board part of the change, as he weeps on a photo of his ex.
Thankfully, the kids pull an inversion of Executive Meddling and have Eugene leap out from the trolley-wreck and deliver the original song to raucous applause, disproving the director's opinion.
Mocked by The Fairly Oddparents, at the end of the episode "Action Packed", when a French kid is given back his fairy godfather: "Now my heart is happy... but my art... will suffer from it...".
Sponge Bob Square Pants: Squidward wants to evoke this in his sculptures and paintings, though even his angst is rather pathetic.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, while not an angsty show, has gotten its immense Periphery Demographic partially because of the increased amount of angst given to the characters compared to previous generations of the My Little Pony franchise. It uses angst effectively to give the characters a very realistic depth and to further conflict in its stories. Not to mention that the Darker and Edgier adventure episodes also tend to be very popular compared to the usual episodes.
The franchise's history with this even predates G4. Rescue from Midnight Castle had quite the positive reception, and it was a very dark special.
The Simpsons episode "Brush with Greatness", we see a flashback to Marge as an art student showing her teacher a painting of Ringo Starr. He disapproves it, instead praising a painting of a Sad Clown by another student.
Crops up often in Winterguard, where shows using angsty classical music tend to score the highest.
Utsuge in general; whether applied sparingly and with purpose, or generously and without restraint. Viewing something that touches the audience's emotions leaves the impression that by the act of viewing it the audience has participated in something greater than mere entertainment. Where one person's Drama is another's Narm, both still recognize this trope at play in the work.
Commenting on the PBS film Imagining America about American artists, Jonathan Fineberg, Gutgsell Professor of Art History at the University of Illinois, book co-author and co-creator of the documentary, equated profound insight with unpleasantness and discomfort on public radio: "The artists who really have profound insight of some kind are often unpleasant to look at." It's supposed to be "threatening" and make viewers feel "uncomfortable".
The Tumblr RP communtity lives on this to the point where it reaches ridiculous levels. It's seen as "not normal" there to NOT want to see your favourite character in emotional pain. And people wonder why they're considered a weird site...
The trope was criticized by C. S. Lewis in his non-fiction book An Experiment in Criticism, in which he remarks that "funeral bells can be as out of place as wedding chimes."