Tuesday, April 28, 2009

M-i-c-k-e-y M-o-u-s-e, Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse...

Mickey Mouse endings--an ending to a short story or novel in which justice triumphs with a loud tap of the gavel and the characters act as though they'd just been awarded E tickets to Disneyland; exaggerated all's-well-that-ends-well conclusions, prognoses, or payoffs.

True enough, not all stories require endings in which characters are being led to the gallows or guillotine or even seen rolling up their sleeve for a fatal injection. Many stories build to conclusions that by their very nature transmit touchy-feely emotions and are to be relished as, say, a frothy cappuccino would be relished or a bottle of Sierra Nevada pale ale. Mickey Mouse endings connote a mindless move toward propagandist tropes which pay homage to cultural decorations. Such endings relegate the protagonists of a story to the equivalent of the figures atop wedding cakes, a doughy, sugar-laced concoction colored with vegetable dye.

It is no accident that the iconic nice-guy figure from the second generation of comics in America has devolved into an adjective for types of music, books, and ad hoc events suggestive of music heard while riding in elevators or while waiting on hold for customer support from large organizations with whom we deal and have frequent issues. In a terrible celebration of wholesome excess, Mickey Mouse endings have become associated with the controlling imperatives of the company that owns him via copyright and registered trademark, a formulaic vision of the human condition, fostering a subtext of cynicism bordering on outright antipathy.

Much about endings of stories can be learned from reading the short stories of Anton Chekhov and James Joyce, adding to this accretion of wisdom the dead-pan wryness of Mark Twain, leavening the mixture with the individual writer's own special view on what it takes to make a go of life in the twenty-first or, for that matter, any century.

Yet more is to be learned from comparing the rules of behavior surrounding Mickey Mouse and his ensemble crew with the rules and regulations governing yet another figure from the animation world, Wile E. Coyote. From the former "bible," the writer can glean little more than ways to produce Mickey Mouse endings. From the latter, the writer can glean a workable recipe of humor, irony, and a GPS of the human agenda.

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