Netflix’s New Notebook Ending: Censorship or Evolution?

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Netflix has changed the ending of The Notebook leaving fans enraged. What impact does this have on the longevity of art and its original meaning?

In news which shocked generations of fans, Netflix have taken it upon themselves to change the ending of The Notebook (2004). Unless you have been living under a rock, isolated from the influence of pop culture, the premise of this cult classic will be familiar. This film follows the story of Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) and Alison “Allie” Hamilton (Rachel McAdams), whose love story takes place during the 1940s.  Their relationship is recounted from present-day by Noah (James Garner) and the audience sadly learn that Allie (Gena Rowland), Noah’s now wife, is suffering from dementia – adding another upsetting layer to this already devastating romantic tragedy.

The original ending consists of the couple dying peacefully in bed side by side and cementing their place amongst Hollywood’s most loved couples. However, Netflix have decided to change this ending and replace it instead with a frustratingly ambiguous camera pan away from the very much alive couple. Given that The Notebook is the go-to film when you need a good cathartic release, I’m not surprised that fans have reacted with such animated displeasure at this alternative ending.

As an English student I am encouraged, nay vehemently persuaded, to search for alternative interpretations. However, there is a difference between thinking deeply about other possible explanations and re writing the original. Why has rewriting art become such a thing? 100 years ago people weren’t changing the ending of cultural classics, so why are we doing it now? I hate to add to the already over-used barney, but I do believe social media has a lot to answer for. Through the median of Twitter and Instagram we are able to create our own narratives and sometimes can become so entrenched within ourselves that it’s hard to find a footing back in reality. To re write someone else’s art and make it our own, we essentially isolate ourselves in an impenetrable bubble consisting only of our ideas, views and preferences. This then makes us inadequate to deal with the thoughts and opinions of others, which are inevitably unavoidable.

Furthermore, where do we draw the line when it comes to re writing art? If storylines are consistently being erased and over layed with new meanings, what then happens to the original text? Going beyond romance films into the realms of taking down statues of controversial figures and rewriting provocative storylines, instead of seeking to erase problematic or upsetting things, perhaps we should learn more about the context and be willing to accept things as they once were but understanding of the fact that things are different now. We cannot rewrite history when it no longer reflects our modern-day wokeness. That being said, I am all for alternative endings. For example, last year one of the world’s best-loved Italian operas, ‘Carmen’, was given a radically different ending, with the heroine killing her tormentor instead of herself.

In light of the #MeToo movement, this radical departure from the original story was an evocative stand against the violent abuse women so often silently endure. However, what is so positive about this is that the original Carmen has not been forgotten or scratched from the record, which frankly is the stuff of futuristic dystopias. How can we live in a truly democratic and progressive society if history is constantly being rewritten and future generations are subsequently denied the awareness of the oppression and pain previous generations have been through?

In summary, Netflix bring back the ending we know and love. I promise we can handle it.

Image credit: Alamy