Contains spoilers for the Sanditon season finale.
Blimey! Last Sunday night was a brutal night for the normally cosy world of generic TV entertainment. The longs knives were sharpened and ready to carve a plump side of rump in the season finale to Sanditon, up until now a predictable glossy Austen adaptation (give or take the occasional sea drenched nudity). Twitter became a watercooler flood of protest as a result, the echo of BUT SIDNEY HOW COULD YOU? rattling through many a post across the land.
Switching to the BBC was no better. Normally Strictly Come Dancing comes with its own comfort blanket and a hot toddy. Gentle entertainment to see us off into pleasant slumbers before the hideous reality of Monday morning crashes in.
Not this time. Welcome to the danger zone, music ramped up to the eyeballs as two excellent couples plummeted into the dance-off. There was Craig Revel Horwood, rising up like Peter Cushing from the shadows, closely followed by that hotbed of slashed shirts, Bruno Tonelloni, over pontificating and making like Viago from What We Do In The Shadows. How on earth are they going to top the slaying of Dev and Dianne in the Halloween spooktacular?
Expectations had been high for both these shows. Sidney and Charlotte, handfasted together in perpetual bickering for all eternity. A sweet but disposable plodder being dropped from SCD.
And neither happened.
Sanditon was clever. It laid the breadcrumbs of matrimony for seven episodes before dropping an anchor on our collective minds and leaving the way open for season two of Sydney’s Clenching Jaw Line. A fairly tame series blew itself out of the water and onto our social consciousness in a way Miss Austen may not have approved off.
Charlotte deserved a happy ending – in our collective consciousness. But in truth, that very rarely happens. As Miss Austen herself observed, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. In Sydney’s case, it was the reverse widow position that was appealing. And lovely Lottie with her stubborn chin just couldn’t compete with cold hard cash and feckless brothers.
SCD followed the whim of the vote of both the judges, and the general public. Sometimes we get what we deserve, even if the participants don’t. The reverberations spill out afterwards, ripples across social media. The outcome wasn’t fair. The outcome mirrored life. Good people don’t always get what they deserve.
We yearn for happy endings in our fluff fiction precisely because we know how rare they are in reality. Having our expectations subverted – as happened on Sunday night – brings home to us our own vulnerabilities. We watch escapist TV for a reason. The stuff with the happy endings, the underdog who pulls through and wins the prize – that’s what we seek. A happy ending as a reward for dealing with adversity. When we don’t get it, our composure can be ruffled.
Subverting expectations is rather fun. Not in a let’s be a complete bitch and act like my diva pants are on fire kind of way, but in challenging the limits that you – and other people – set on yourself. Are you muddling along that middle lane tucked up in a protective comfort blanket? What will happen if you shuck it off, and defy what’s expected of you? Burst your own watercooler and see what happens. Though please don’t slip on the resulting puddle.
What have you secretly yearned to do for years? You may want to draw a comic-book series. Or walk Land’s End to John O’Groats. Ask yourself what is stopping you. Is it that your expectations of yourself are set too low, for whatever reason?
Duty and fiscal obligations have their place in life. I’m not advocating irresponsibility here. But sometimes doing something that no one expects of you can be a huge boost. Even if it is to hand jive across the Blackpool Tower Ballroom. If it is within the realms of possibility, then why not have a go?
To coin a phrase, take care and keep dancing. Or drawing, walking, gaming, singing and creating. And thanks, as always, for reading.