The End

1 Nov

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“That isn’t the end of the story. You don’t know that the story ends that way.”
DeAndre McCullough, to David Simon
Quoted in DeAndre’s obituary

“Everything has a second act and a third act. And everybody gets to write their endings.”
David Simon, to reporters
Quoted in Fran’s wedding announcement. David Simon was the best man. 

    The meaning of a TV series is that it ends. Shows are aired and replaced and recycled and cancelled every day. Even if a show has a life as a syndicated rerun, the finale remains the finale. The story’s plot exists within a bounded world. When it’s over, it’s over. That is the trouble with adapting the truth of ongoing lives for the small screen. The viewer is aware that this is simply a dramatization of a single year, but we have also been conditioned for our entire lives to expect the format of a television show with a beginning, a middle, and an end. DeAndre is arrested, and that’s it. The Corner got him. It’s over. What we misunderstand is that “it” is just a TV show, “it” is not The Corner’s, or DeAndre’s life. 

    The show’s creators attempt to combat our instincts by including interviews, in the same style as the dramatized interviews, with the “real” versions of the series’ characters. Just after a montage telling the fates of DeAndre’s friends and family, the director talks to “Real Blue”, “Real Fran”, “Real DeAndre” and “Real Reeka”. These are the real people on whom the characters were based. Even the director seems to be shocked by this. “The Real Blue!” he repeats, awestruck. He interviews them about their impressions of the series; Fran hopes that it will help people realize the humanity of drug addicts, they all hope that people will see that they were just doing their best. But even this interview ends, and the credits run. There are times when curiosity leads us to explore what happened to the people who are the basis of TV shows and movies, but our engagement and understanding largely ends as the last credits scroll.

    The strangeness of continuing to live your life after the dramatization of your life is ended appears repeatedly in follow-ups of the characters. The two cases I included at the beginning of the post are the most poignant. In one, DeAndre expresses his frustration with the audience’s impulse to close the curtain on his life, insisting that it’s not over, and that he still has a chance to escape. He would struggle with addiction throughout his life, but as the characters did in ‘The Corner’, I’m sure he always had hope that one day he’d get out of it. David Simon has a more optimistic bend when he speaks at Fran’s wedding, building on that “end of the story” metaphor, and saying that everybody gets to write their own ending, and every life has a second and third act. Whether or not the first act determines the outcome of the whole play, and whether having your first act close its curtains on national television changes the stakes, is something to consider. 

DeAndre’s obituary 
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/10/arts/television/deandre-mccullough-inspiration-for-the-corner-dies-at-35.html

David Simon statement after DeAndre’s death
http://davidsimon.com/deandre-mccullough-1977-2012/

Fran’s wedding announcement
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/19/fashion/weddings/19VOWS.html/

 

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3 Responses to “The End”

  1. crystalfong November 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    I think this is a very interesting place to focus – on the ending of a book, TV show, or film. Especially when The Corner is based on a true story, as the writer or director, since they are writing on actual lives that keep living, how do they choose when and how to end the book/show? Personally, I was surprised when they brought the real Fran, DeAndre, Blue and Tyreeka for an interview at the epilogue, especially when we find out that Fran has been clean for years, and that DeAndre is still on good terms such that he would be participating in the interview. The ending of the series – with Fran relapsing and DeAndre getting arrested did not prepare me for what we actually find out about the real people. It makes me think if they did want this series to bring hope and humanity to the drug addicts in Baltimore (like real Fran mentioned), was this the right ending – to end with Fran and DeAndre both at low points?

    In the article linked, DeAndre was unhappy with the ending of the corner because his life didn’t end there, and Simon offered to write a better ending in the future. However, I think that the real amazing story Simon ought to write about is Fran (after reading the wedding announcement). Her struggle and character shown in her romantic relationship with Donnie Andrews is simply amazing, and in my opinion, a great ending to reflect hope and humanity in the inhabitants of the Corner.

  2. Jan Feldman November 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    Creating a temporary ending from an ongoing story is an interesting problem that Burns and Simon faced. I’m sure that fictionalizing parts of the true story helped to fit this into a book and miniseries format. This also makes me wonder about how this could play out differently in The Wire, which doesn’t have to remain faithful to any particular person’s life. The Wire can be constructed to have a beginning, middle, and end that are believable. However, it is still up to the writers/directors to choose what “end” means. It might be just as unsatisfying or unsettling for the audience, depending on what message they want to send. The characters in The Wire don’t exist outside of the series, even if they are loosely based on real lives.

  3. hcloftus November 4, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    “Six Feet Under” had a phenomenal series finale– [**SPOILER ALERT**] the last ten minutes were a series of flash-forwards that chronicle the deaths of the main characters. It is regarded as one of the best finales of all time, and I agree– it was extremely satisfying. The description of the ending of “The Corner–” a forced ending to an ongoing story– makes the successful end to “Six Feet Under” make all the more sense. It is the ultimate conclusion, the audience gets a complete epilogue. There is no eventual assumptions that the characters must live happily ever after after however the series ends, and no room for speculation.

    “The Corner” can tie loose ends, but I still wonder not only how characters ended up, but what the most intimate moments of their subsequent lives were like after seeing them play out on screen. The removal of the audience from the details and live motions of how subsequent events of “The Corner” occurred is almost as painful as not knowing what eventually happens. This is partly why I appreciated the “Six Feet Under” finale so much– albeit brief, I was included in the occurrence of their deaths; I saw them “first hand.” As I said before, it was satisfying.

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