In the nineteenth and final part of Moving Pictures, this might just be my favorite ending to a Discworld book. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For death and for discussion of depression, suicide, and poverty.
You know why this is so good? Because for me, the end of Moving Pictures respects the tone set throughout the novel. It’s so beautifully consistent with the themes of longing, identity, and history. These people were irrevocably changed by the experience of Holy Wood, and they’ll never be the same again. This does not mean that their lives are now suddenly drastically different than they were before. Each of them is still plagued by things that bothered them or held them back before, though I’d like to be optimistic. I think Holy Wood helped these characters. I think it gave them a new way to look at the world. It didn’t solve their problems, but it opened doors.
Ruby / Detritus
Ruby and Detritus will always be awkward, I imagine, and while human courtship felt right to Ruby, she knows that it’ll still be complicated from here on out. Like many of the characters in this final section, she experiences brief flashes of the magic of Holy Wood before it flickers out. They offer her and Detritus a momentary vision of a reality where flirting is poetic, intense, and effortless. But that’s not how the world works, is it? It’s never effortless at all:
If Ruby had learned anything in Holy Wood, it was that there was no use in waiting around for Mr. Right to hit you with a brick. You had to make your own bricks.
The world is not like the movies.
To their credit, the animals affected by the magic of Holy Wood tried their hardest to adapt to a new world, one where they didn’t quite fit into the animal kingdom or humanity. There’s nothing wrong with straddling two worlds, but ultimately, these creatures were unhappy. So when Holy Wood died, their confusion slipped away. Perhaps more so than any of the other characters, they found closure in normalcy.
The world is not like the movies.
Ginger and Victor
While I was reading this, I was convinced that nothing was going to be sadder than the section detailing the final scene between these two characters. As I said in the last review, I understood Ginger’s sadness at the end of this whole messy affair. After having achieved stardom, where did these two go? Victor seemed comfortable returning to his old life, perhaps abandoning the pursuit to be a wizard, but Ginger wasn’t quite satisfied with what was left for her. As she says:
“What can you be, after you’ve been yourself, as big as possible?”
“Nothing,” said Victor.
“No one knows what it feels like.”
And there is at least a power in that: shared experience. Maybe there wouldn’t be many people left to remember Holy Wood, and maybe it would haunt Ginger and Victor for the rest of their lives. But there’s a promise of possibility in her final sentence here. She tells Victor, with a smile on her face, that, “Tomorrow is another day.” Victor and Ginger guaranteed that there would be another tomorrow, and I’d say that’s the best thing they did together. They helped save the world, y’all, and in doing so, they gave themselves another day.
It’s a start.
One Thousand Elephants
So, I’m amused by the fact that Pratchett wrote in this subplot just so he could have a character make a joke about the elephants “remembering” Holy Wood. That’s… that’s such a long set-up to such a tiny punchline. It’s kind of awe-inspiring. It was nice to see Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs again. (WHERE IS VIMES??? I WANT ANOTHER VIMES BOOK.) I was also satisfied that unlike many of the other characters, Dibbler’s closure was… well, nothing. He didn’t get his own point-of-view section, he didn’t earn money from his ventures in Holy Wood, and he’s right back to where he started at in the beginning of Moving Pictures. Sometimes, the most satisfying end is when a character doesn’t change at all. I could say the same for Silverfish, who is back to being nothing more than an alchemist in Ankh-Morpork. Some people don’t have transformative experiences, you know?
I wasn’t ready to be completely destroyed by this book.
At the end of the day, Gaspode is probably my favorite character in this book. I didn’t expect to fall in love with a sarcastic, grumpy, and cynical dog who spends most of Moving Pictures fighting to be recognized for his contributions. And as much as I adore him, I’ll always look upon his story here with sadness. Aside from Victor and Ginger, did any of these other characters recognize how significant he was to the story? Did anyone else know that he often did far more than Laddie did?
I was convinced, then, that both of these characters would die before my eyes. Death shows up right after Laddie’s whimpering begins to fade away, and I was certain. This was it. Gaspode would die, unrecognized and utterly forgotten by nearly everyone. I mean, y’all, this passage is making me cry again and I DEFINITELY KNOW HOW IT ENDS.
Death reached into the mysterious recesses of his robe and produced a small hourglass. There was almost no sand left in the top bulb. The last seconds of Gaspode’s life hissed from the future to the past.
And then there were none at all.
Death stood up.
I realized then that Gaspode was dying first, and possibly alone. He had struggled so hard to find affection and respect, and after helping to save Holy Wood, to save an entire world of people who most certainly ignored him, he was being ignored in death. I nearly started bawling when the trolls discovered Gaspode and Laddie in the rubble, first out of relief, and then out of the utter sadness that even in this moment of hope, Gaspode was being ignored again.
But he was used to that. Gaspode had always had a solitary pride about his life, and I found it strangely empowering that as the magic of Holy Wood exited the world, Gaspode found comfort in his place in the world as an ugly mutt with almost no one to care for him.
Somewhere in the distant mountains, wolves were howling Somewhere in friendly houses, dogs with collars and dishes with their names on were being patted on the head.
Somewhere in between, and feeling oddly cheerful about it, Gaspode the Wonder Dog limped into the gloriously-monochrome sunset.
Gaspode never got to be the best version of himself in Holy Wood because he already was that the whole time. He straddled worlds, he fought for his happiness, and he deserved to find it, even if he was all alone.
A talking dog just ruined my goddamn life, y’all.
Holy Wood Dreams
To have a dream die is a miserable thing to experience.
I spent a lot of time in high school believing that the work I did in my classes was leading me on a specific path. I was going to major in English in college, I was going to escape the shithole of a town I lived in, and my educational brilliance would get me through the rest of my life. I’d study hard, get my degree, get my masters, get my PhD, and I’d be a published author by the time I was thirty. I had done so well in school – and had earned the praise of all my AP English teachers over the years – that I never anticipated what would eventually happen when I got to college. When I found myself exasperated and bored by the English courses I was taking, I felt as if I’d put myself on a life path that was destined for failure. Had I wasted years writing? Had I chosen a career that guaranteed I would be poor? Had I signed up for a path that would force me to study things I didn’t like?
Years later, after switching majors, I ended up having to drop out of college, just a semester or two from my political science degree. It’s a decision that’s haunted me for nearly ten years now, and one that baffles and mystifies everyone I went to high school with. I was voted most likely to succeed because that was the one thing I was good at, undeniably so. I had a 4.34 GPA in high school; I was valedictorian; and I’d accomplished all of that while supporting myself during my junior and senior years. How could I possibly fail so badly in college? How could I have gone on to disappoint myself and my family so thoroughly?
It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve found comfort in my dream dying. I never finished college, and I believe I’m the only member of my family not to do so. I spent long periods in poverty. I worked a lot of terrible jobs. I spent most of that time unhappy. But my dream died a long time ago, left to hollow and rot in Long Beach, and in doing so, I ended up here. If I’d not dropped out of college after getting fired, would I have moved to Los Angeles and pursued a life in the arts? Would I have applied for that job at that tiny start-up called Buzznet? Would I have stuck with that company until one day, in May of 2009, my years of writing and critical analysis inspired me to create a little blog called Mark Reads Twilight?
I failed. I failed to complete college, I failed to become the kind of writer I thought I was going to be, and I let my dream die. But here I am, sitting on a plane to New York City, just fresh off two events in Chicago where I’d been asked to speak because of my writing, and I accept my failure. I had to fail in order to find a new path to a new dream. I’m close to finishing my first novel. I have people all over the world who eagerly await a new post, a new video, a chance to meet me in person, and who make me thankful that I did not kill myself all those years ago when my dream died and I thought I was worthless, a failure of a human. Even if things have been rough for me the past couple of months due to a break-up, depression, and the massive changes I’ve made in my life, I have never, ever been happier to be Mark Oshiro.
I’m happy my dream died because it was not the end for me. It was the beginning of something new. I think that ultimately, that’s the meaning of Moving Pictures. Some things may not be meant to be, and we may be ruined and crushed by disappointment. That’s a natural part of the human experience, but we are largely a resilient force in this universe. I have failed more times than I can count, and somehow, I found a way to push forward into another day.
I hope you can, too.
The original text contains use of the word “madness.”
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