My husband giggled when he turned on the video trailer for the new Melissa McCarthy movie The Happytime Murders. He may have laughed once or twice while it played. Me? I didn’t. I went to bed angry.
(Here’s the trailer if you want to see how you’ll feel about it.)
That trailer filled me with a rage I did not expect, and it took me two days to formulate why I was so viscerally upset.
Here’s what I finally decided: I want there to be some scrap of positivity, of decency, of just sweet-natured happiness left in the world.
For me–and many others–the Muppets in general represent that kind of cheer. Sure, bad things happen sometimes, but even the “bad guy” characters aren’t really always that bad, and the Muppets are kind, compassionate, funny, and just generally nice. They are wholesome. They are good.
But we’re in an era of “grimdark” right now. The Happytime Murders is totally in line with a lot of other cultural moments right now: it’s gritty, it shows the seedy “truth” to our happy Muppet-esque characters, it goes out of its way to dirty and otherwise shit on that wholesome goodness.
Some people are into that, I guess. But I am wholeheartedly NOT.
My real-world feels particularly “grimdark” lately, and all the media I consume seems to lean grimdark even if I don’t want it to, and I can’t turn on the news without hearing yet another terrible thing that shows that there just isn’t much wholesome goodness in the world. I’m already tired and gross and brought low by the cumulative weight of all of this real stuff—why in the hell would I want to throw down like a pig in the sty and get even dirtier?
This might seem inconsistent when you realize I wrote a zombie apocalypse book. Isn’t that also a way of making things darker than they really are?
But no, I wrote a book that’s as funny as it is scary, and gets downright goofy. You can make zombie decisions! How can that ever be taken seriously?
But other movies have taken “tortured” looks at childhood loves and you don’t hate them?
First, how do you know I don’t? Second, okay, I do count Who Framed Roger Rabbit? as one of the pivotal movies from my childhood.
(Let’s just take a minute to appreciate how adorably stupid and straightforward that movie trailer is… )
And yes, murders and scary things do happen in that. But you know what? Every single cartoon character in that movie acts in a way that is completely consistent. Bugs is a lighthearted asshole; Mickey and Minnie are in love. They are still who they are. There’s no need to show any seedier underbellies than what already exists in their toon world. And it’s a great movie and a hilarious comedy!
What I want is more goodness.
My favorite movie so far this year has been The Greatest Showman.
It is admittedly not the best movie ever made. The elephants are a little rough and animated, the story is pretty obvious from the trailer alone, and it can seem a little hokey, sure. It’s watered-down and probably not all that closedly hewn to the real story of P.T. Barnum, and glosses over some aspects of how the “freaks” were treated.
But it is pure. It is so pure and wholesome and sweet. It has incredible music, colors, and light, and it just a wonderful, happy, uplifting movie. I felt good when I left the theater. (I definitely can’t say that after watching Infinity War.) It was so incredibly nice to feel good for a change, to feel like the world wasn’t such a bad place and that it’ll all work out okay in the end.
I want more of that.
The Happytime Murders can go flush down a toilet where they belong.