Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lit Review 1

Updated tumblr link with first lit. review


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Storify re-posted with active link.


Literature Review


Literary Review


Lit Review


Lit Review


password: eng212w

Literature Review

Literature Review

The Birth of a Nation - Lit Review

A couple of weeks ago, every single Republican Senator voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would make it easier for women to receive equal pay as men at work. Not only was this an unanimous vote, there are four female Republican Senators in Congress, which means that four women voted against equal pay for their own gender. It may seem a little ridiculous and counter-productive, but today's society is very much ridiculous and counter-productive, especially when it comes to women's rights. There has been a very intense feminist movement all around the world, and it has been very evident in today's media, such as television shows, movies, and magazines. One of the biggest themes of today's melodrama in media is feminism, whether it's pro-feminism or anti-feminism.

I am, and hopefully it goes without saying, a feminist. I not only believe in equal rights for both genders, but I believe that females shouldn't be blamed for being raped, that they shouldn't be objectified to fit society's standards, and that they should be able to wear whatever they want without people saying that her outfit is inappropriate or "distracting." I feel as though a lot of what society bases its stereotypes and judgements on is media. As Jackie Byars said in All that Hollywood Allows, "films had detrimental effects on real women and argued for more positive representation of women"  (pg. 25). For example, Disney princesses are portrayed to be weak and in need of a prince to save them; it teaches girls at a young age that they need boys to survive. In movies and books, girls are often portrayed as losers if they're smart and "nerdy," or as mean girls if they are confident and strong. There's no winning no matter what you are or how you act, society will always find something wrong. Girls are slut-shamed more than guys are, there are women-specific insults, and yet, through all of this, girls are the "villains." Girls are pitted against each other for no reason at all, everything is made a competition between them, and it distracts from who the real bad guy is, society, and usually men (not every man, but more likely than not, they are the root behind feminist issues). Yes, there are a lot of issues when it comes to media and feminism. However, that's beginning to change. Women are learning how to fight back. People are using strong women roles to make a statement and to represent the feminist movement in society. As Patricia Evans said in Issues in Feminist Film Criticism, "feminist film critics in the United States continue[d] to regard film as a vehicle for personal change and political activism." (pg. xvii).

 Many films and television shows are starting to star very strong and intelligent lead female characters. There is the ever popular Harry Potter series with Hermione Granger, the Hunger Games trilogy with Katniss Everdeen, and of course, Game of Thrones with Khaleesi. They are very prominent and very inspiring roles, and females every where and of all ages look up to them. Not to mention, celebrities are taking a stand for feminism, and everyone knows of the influence they have on society. Even recently, Emma Watson (the actress behind Hermione Granger) started a feminist movement #HeForShe, in which she asks males to take a stand as well and fight for gender equality.

Feminism and women's right have come a very long way from where it was at the beginning of society. We recognize that feminism is such a huge and controversial issue in society because of how media portrays women. "It is on the level of what underlies the daily, conscious actions that representations exist and that we can uncover the mythic signifieds of a culture." (pg. 16, E Ann Kaplan, Motherhood and Presentation). The movement is very similar to the old racial movement, and what Linda Williams wrote about The Birth of a Nation. The movie was meant to bring the white Americans together against a common enemy, the African Americans, and nowadays, media is trying to bring women together to fight other women. As Marcia Landy said, "most often, threatening aspects of experience are concealed in order to be entertained" (pg. 20 Imitations of Life: a reader on film & television melodrama).

Formal literature review & Birth of a Nation


Literature Review


Storify- New Version


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Birth of a Nation

Watched with Phillip. Finished the diary last night but nearly forgot to post it! So here it is:

password: eng212w

The Birth of a Nation: The KKK hits the Big Screen?


I watched the movie with Jenny Zhou. The posts are in chronological order, which for Tumblr the oldest post will be at the bottom and the newest post will be at the top, so scroll down to view properly.

The Birth of a Nation


Birth of a Nation and Melodrama


Revised + Reactions to "Birth of a Nation"


Birth of a Nation

My Storify Analysis.


Movie Response


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Laura's Birth of a Nation Storify


Birth of a Nation Reactions


"Birth of a Nation" Visual Diary


The Birth of a Nation (reactions) - Arkin



I can't really figure out how to use Storify, so I've resorted to using Flickr instead. In order to see my comments just click on the screenshot.


The Birth of a Nation Screening & Captions


Reaction to KKK Saves the Day


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Three Responses

Saher #1: Williams spends a great deal of chapter one discussing the importance of distinguishing melodrama from realism as she explains that “melodrama is neither archaic nor excessive but a perpetually modernizing form that can neither be clearly opposed to the norms of the “classical” nor to the norms of realism” (12).  She makes it clear that melodrama is “perpetually modernizing” and constantly adapting to social moral dilemmas. What social issues do you think the melodrama of the mid-20th century would address in our current society?

Jiny talked about how the melodrama of the mid-20th century would address feminism in our current society. While I think that is definitely a real possibility, I think there are a few other issues (one she mentioned slightly): the desire to be perfect and education in public schools. The former Jiny mentioned. Nowadays, so many marketing strategies revolve around the desire people have to look and be (not the best they can be but) perfect. Plastic surgery is glorified in places like LA and New York and Korea (basically in big cities everywhere). There’s even a reality show called Botched on American television that follows two of the best plastic surgeons in LA as they correct botched plastic surgery cases. The race to stay young forever is virtually impossible, but yet we all participate (including myself). A lot of media nowadays like TV shows, music, movies all take as moment to address this issue while the person delivering a positive message is wearing make up, has a perfect body, and has obviously gone through hours of preparation to deliver a message that says, “It’s okay to not be perfect! (like me)” Another issue would be something a little less petty: American education. I wouldn’t have answered this question with that answer if I didn’t take my freshmen seminar last year about American education. Reading books like Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol really opened my eyes to the downfalls of public schools, especially in poverty stricken neighborhoods. The idea that the poor stay poor because they don’t know or want to be any better is truly a false popular opinion, because really, they stay poor because they have the hardest climb up (nearly impossible). To conclude, the desire to be perfect and education in public schools are two more issues I’d like to add to the list melodrama of the mid-20th century would address in our current society.

Saher #2: On pages 98 and 99, Williams makes a note of the melodrama seen in The Birth of a Nation and comments on how she believes that it “generated racial controversies that altered the way white Americans felt about blacks” (98) and that it made the black man into “an object of white fear and loathing” (99). Williams spoke on this point earlier in the chapter when she speaks about how melodrama is the “primary way in which mainstream American culture has dealt with the moral dilemma of having first enslaved and then withheld equal rights to generations of African Americans” (44). What aspects of these comments do you think are still present in movies and television today?

After reading Arkin’s and Jiny’s response to this question, I just want to say something that might be a little bold and definitely controversial. I think nowadays, American’s make movies that portray African Americans in a positive light due to the guilt they feel about the past. We all want to look like good people. Americans have a “dark period” in their history blackened (for a lack of a better word) by slavery. Just like the Germans feel guilty about the Holocaust, Americans feel guilty about slavery. Even in the movies about slavery and/or unequal rights like 12 Years a Slave, The Help, and Belle, they use pathos to push the audience to support the African American characters. They may not be casted as the powerful characters or typical good guy, but they are always the characters that gain the most support and empathy from the audience. 

Arkin #3: Does the audience/crowd portrayed in the Disney clip, Mickey’s Mellerdrammer, contribute in any way to its overall melodramatic nature? If so, how?

The crowd, like the characters in Mickey’s Mellerdrammer, are just as expressive in body language and actions. Nowadays, when we think of a bad performance or an unwelcome stage character, we don’t actually see audiences throwing fruits and vegetables at them because that would be socially unacceptable. Melodrama is the use of this type of exaggeration to convey a type of emotion in the audience watching the video. The audience in Mickey’s Mellerdrammer actually go back to Williams’ idea of pathos. Since there is no dialogue, or very little dialogue, pathos can be created through the crowd reactions. They tell the audience watching the video how to feel –– the character(s) they are cheering at is/are the good guy(s), the character(s) they are throwing food at is/are the bad guy(s). Without the crowd, audiences are more likely to have their own opinions about the characters, but like the idea of a “crowd reaction,” the audience will join the crowd in their reactions contributing to Mickey’s Mellerdrammer’s overall melodramatic nature.

Response to Questions - Arkin

Ean’s Question:
1) Linda Williams, in the first chapter of her book Playing the Race Card: From Uncle Tom's Cabin to O.J. Simpson stated that "Melodrama is often often referred to as occupying the childhood of a nation." A classic example is Harry Potter, seemingly geared towards children with its youthful protagonists and innocent artwork. Is this always the case with melodrama, specifically in American culture? If so, give an example of a series that supports this and explain generally how it is melodramatic. If you do not believe this is the case, give an example of a melodramatic book, series, television show, or movie that supports this view and explain.

I do not believe that this is always the case in American culture. I think that several melodramas call for an examination of morality, however there are plenty of melodramas that are more fit for a more mature audience. For example, the novels-turned-HBO television series, Game of Thrones touches on the themes of class struggle, gender-role, and even slavery. The stories involve many characters and separate plotlines, each scene with its own hero and villain. The intimate violence and adult content in Game of Thrones makes for a mostly rated-R experience – likely not to be enjoyable for children, whether they are reading or watching. Either way, Linda Williams would be expected to agree that Game of Thrones is not suitable for children, while it encompasses the core qualities of melodrama for an older audience.

Saher Fatte’s Question:
2.) On pages 98 and 99, Williams makes a note of the melodrama seen in The Birth of a Nation and comments on how she believes that it “generated racial controversies that altered the way white Americans felt about blacks” (98) and that it made the black man into “an object of white fear and loathing” (99). Williams spoke on this point earlier in the chapter when she speaks about how melodrama is the “primary way in which mainstream American culture has dealt with the moral dilemma of having first enslaved and then withheld equal rights to generations of African Americans” (44). What aspects of these comments do you think are still present in movies and television today?

Evidently, “racial controversies” have been a major subject matter in recent news. Through the means of media and news, black people in America have often been demonized, but that is not to say that lots of cartoons, comedies, and films have also not also incorporated black people as the bad guys. Blacks have also frequently fallen into the category of the victimized, helpless type in many cases.
I believe that Williams is right in stating that melodramatic work today is a catalyst in battling the harsh realities of this country’s past. Melodrama has been used throughout the past two centuries in America and seems more recently, to deal subliminally with notion of whites recognizing responsibility or guilt. In the case of The Birth of a Nation, there is obviously less of a contrite atmosphere than in that of a film such as Django: Unchained, produced in 2012. In 2012, we as the audience are forced to call into question all components of the film. This “moral dilemma” is something that lingers today, not able to be erased from history with the flick of a wand, and will most likely stay that way. African Americans have had to face a massive displacement complex over generations, quite incomparable to most other groups and what deepens the conflict are the decades of attempted integration and rebuilding – but it is a work in progress. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see a black man dating a white woman, or even working as partners on a crime television show. Black men and women have taken on the roles of many different protagonists in recent history, so I do not feel as though every show or film must comment on or include certain elements of history. African Americans have completely come into their own, culturally, so to speak– with the help of brilliant writers and producers, many black actors and actresses have nailed roles across the board and have become some of the most iconic figures in recent popular culture. It is important to keep in mind that America is still comparably a young nation and that the inevitable nature of this country is to change and progress, so as the nature of melodrama.

Laura Flint’s Question:
3. Why do you think the creators of 'Mickey’s Mellerdrammer' choose to create a comical parody of Uncle Tom's Cabin? Do you think the primary purpose was to make fun of the over-the-top dimensions of the novel and play? Or to make fun of the anti-slavery message itself? Is it a parody of melodrama? Or a parody of the themes of Uncle Tom's Cabin?

I think that a parody of melodrama is an interesting way to put it; Disney productions have always found a way of adapting its content and humor to the norms of the current society. We are shown in Mickey’s Mellerdrammer who to approve and not approve of, but in the classical, comical fashion that is Disney’s very own. I think that primarily – before any intention of making fun of the over-the-top dimensions of the novel and play – Disney created an aesthetically clean and engaging clip, geared for a younger audience of the time. This idea of bringing to light the more mature cultural attributes and conflicts to a younger audience is not always recurring throughout Disney, in general. I do not necessarily think that Disney is making a huge attempt to poke fun at the anti-slavery message, although there is satire in the animation, and Disney himself had been known to have his own set of moral principles. However, I do believe that Disney is having its own fun – for instance, Mickey’s production is put on in a barn converted to a theatre, Goofy is constantly giggling as the stage hand, and Horace Horsecollar is pelted with fruits and vegetables throughout – playing with melodrama and the themes of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  

Three Questions

  1. When Williams writes about "Classical" Cinema vs. Melodrama, she suggests that they are distinguishable from each other. Previously, it was already expressed that Melodrama was always considered something lacking of taste. Nowadays, are there really any fictional movies that are free of melodramatic elements? If so, give an example. If not, what about nonfiction movies? If so, give an example.
  2. At the end of the third chapter, they say "We have seen that [white women became the victim-heof black lust and white men were empowered to accomplish their rescue] these two traditions are deeply implicated in one another," and go on to suggest that melodrama, especially melodrama on the topic of race, has taken elements from the past and built off of them. In what way have melodramas on the topic of race taken elements from past films like The Birth of a Nation?
  3. A big part of early melodramatic films was an over-exaggeration in image to make up for the loss of dialogue. In Mickey's Mellerdrammer, in what ways are the "make up" and costumes the "actors" wore stereotypical of the characters they represent?

Melodrama in The Communist Manifesto (Edit/Rewrite)

After rereading The Communist Manifesto and Melodrama and the Consequences of Capitalism, I can see what I've missed in my last post, and to add/revise it, an important point to make is the relationship between melodrama and capitalism, which was also discussed in The Communist Manifesto.

Melodrama and the Consequences of Capitalism talks about how "any worker caught up in the new machinery of exploitation and profiteering, and who faced the erratic waves of unemployment peculiar to industrial society, would have been sensitive to the harsh underpinnings of capitalist modernity. To a large extent, these were the people for whom sensational melodrama was geared, and for whom it might have resonated as a reflection of a new reality." In a sense, communism, like melodrama, was a reaction to capitalism. Marx holds (in the first chapter) that the bourgeoisie are good because they put an end to feudalism and have helped society move forward immensely, but as society continues to move forward, the new reaction or movement is headed towards communism. Marx (and Engels) was actually from a bourgeois family but were able to evade their origins and identify with the proletariat, so communism, like melodrama, was directed towards the working class or proletariat. Marx says that bourgeois exploits the proletariat through the “constant revolutionizing of production and uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions” just like Melodrama and the Consequences of Capitalism talks about the new machinery exploiting the workers.

The Communist Manifesto doesn't make the bourgeois "villains" really but it is very evident from the very beginning the proletariat and bourgeois are separate parties in a "revolution". He explicitly points out the good deeds that the bourgeois have performed but simply proceeds to say the time period of their existence has come to a swift end and now, "the essential conditions for the existence and for the sway of the bourgeois class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage labor; wage labor rests exclusively on competition between laborers." In my previous post, I used the terms "aristocrat" and "bourgeois" interchangeably because I did not understand the differences in the terms, but now that I do, I realize Marx is not talking about aristocrats, but about the bourgeois. Like in melodrama, the bourgeois are the landlords asking for rent money, throwing proletariats out of their homes, and Marx is writing about a revolution that would provide a solution to such hardships faced by proletariats.

In terms of audience, The Communist Manifesto was written to explain what communism was for anyone who has a misunderstanding of it or interest in it, but it was directed to be beneficial to the proletariats. At the end, it even declares an alliance with the social democrats, supporting other communist revolutions, calling the proletarians to action: “Workers of the world, unite!” This is another area where melodrama and The Communist Manifesto intertwine. Melodrama attracts an audience "comprised mainly of gossipy shopgirls with mouths full of gum, weaselly young men with well watered hair and yellow suspenders embroidered with green shamrocks, and fat immigrants with respiratory problems."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Answers to Meg's 3 questions

  1. Williams highlights Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a primary example of racial melodrama. This novel was also very controversial at the time it was released (which Williams discusses). Did Harriet Beecher Stowe purposefully use melodrama to make the book even more controversial?
    • A: From the first anecdote of Stowe, which was after the book was written (after she became a celebrity), I think she might not use melodrama purposely but accidentally. When she saw the statues, she was instantly attracted by them. However, she quickly alarmed herself that this is melodrama, and she was sort of appalled by the power of melodrama. Later though, she did not think there is a really big problem with melodrama's innovative way of expression: "Without specifically taking up the defense of the term, Stowe nevertheless defends the right of an artist to break the 'classical' rules of unity and decorum even if it means 'being melodramatic'." (P11) She definitely wanted the book to be very controversial but may unconsciously utilized new and innovative elements such as pathos, and some of the elements that are melodramatic.
  2. Does the “silent” aspect of Birth of a Nation make the film more melodramatic? What do critics think?
    • A: The silent aspect did make the film more melodramatic as it leaves mission of delivering message purely on images, music, and pathos. Critics, such as Dorothy Dix states:"I had considered the moving picture interesting, instructive, amusing, diverting, beautiful, spectacular, but I had believed that the silent drama never could touch the emotions very deeply. I had thought that to grip an audience, to melt it to tears with pathos, to thrill it with high herotic sentiment, required the spoken word and the magic of human voice."But he also finds the movie an "apotheosis" of the moving picture" which can work up an audience to a "perfect frenzy". (P98)
  3. Woodrow Wilson’s “It is like writing history with lightning” quote is highlighted. In what context was this said? How does this apply to what we have read so far in class?
    • A: It was the "best remembered description" of the movie "The Birth of Nation." However, Williams refers to it as "apparently apocryphal". It seems that Williams believes the Birth of Nation is not a good way to portray the "truth" in history. There are different types of documents with regard to history, and an emotional aspect has its own function if not recording the history strictly. Emotional aspect of history is an social aspect of history. So far I feel Wilson's comment is fair. With the theme of class struggle, the way that melodrama raise these social issues are in ironic and humorous ways.  

3 Answers

1. Saher: Williams spends a great deal of chapter one discussing the importance of distinguishing melodrama from realism as she explains that “melodrama is neither archaic nor excessive but a perpetually modernizing form that can neither be clearly opposed to the norms of the “classical” nor to the norms of realism” (12).  She makes it clear that melodrama is “perpetually modernizing” and constantly adapting to social moral dilemmas. What social issues do you think the melodrama of the mid-20th century would address in our current society?In our current society, I see melodrama in our culture dealing with feminism and LGBT rights (honestly, more feminism, though). You have people like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, hilarious female comedians that inspire girls to embrace themselves and not to take people who try to insult you and put you down too seriously. You have television shows like Game of Thrones and movies like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games with very strong, intelligent female leads, that obviously cast a positive image on girls everywhere and make them believe in themselves. You have artists like Beyonce and Nicki Minaj that flaunt (and embrace!!) their sexuality because why not? If men can do it, women can do it as well! Women everywhere are using their talent to empower girls everywhere and do their part in educating and strengthening women so that they, too, can rise above jokes about being in the kitchen or being paid less than their male counterparts. There are people everywhere that are trying to make it more socially normal to tell males not to rape, instead of telling females not to walk alone or wear revealing clothing. Celebrities very openly talk about how much they're Photoshopped in magazines and try to make girls understand that what they see in magazines isn't always realistic. What used to be taboo and unheard of (like women not being able to show off their body), is now becoming normal and socially acceptable, and a lot of that has to do with melodrama that deals with feminism and the way America reacts to seeing it in media.

2. Saher: On pages 98 and 99, Williams makes a note of the melodrama seen in The Birth of a Nation and comments on how she believes that it “generated racial controversies that altered the way white Americans felt about blacks” (98) and that it made the black man into “an object of white fear and loathing” (99). Williams spoke on this point earlier in the chapter when she speaks about how melodrama is the “primary way in which mainstream American culture has dealt with the moral dilemma of having first enslaved and then withheld equal rights to generations of African Americans” (44). What aspects of these comments do you think are still present in movies and television today?

I think that "racial controversies" are still very obviously apparent in today's culture, and that blacks are still being made into "object[s] of white fear and loathing." A lot of the times in movies or television shows, who's usually the bad guy? A black person. Who's usually being ridiculed in videos or photos that go viral on the internet? A black person. Who gets judged the most, has the harshest jail sentences, and gets shot for no reason? More often than not, it's a black person. And this idea that black people are murderers/rapists/thieves/"villains" is fed by the way they're portrayed in media. That will probably never change. But on a slightly more positive note, it has definitely gotten better throughout the years, and the theme of black villains isn't as prevailing in movies and television shows. I feel like that is America's way of moving past their old ways, and trying to make amends with the African American community.

3. Natalie: Is melodrama stable as a genre or continually evolving?
Williams said it herself, that melodrama is "perpetually modernizing," meaning that it is constantly evolving, adjusting to the issues that currently face society today. When Williams wrote the book, she was focusing on the theme of racism in melodrama because that was the prevailing social issue in society. She used Harriett Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Birth of A Nation as examples, which both focused on racism, but nowadays, in today's movies, television shows, and books, there are other social issues that are commonly seen in our culture, like feminism and LGBT rights. Once activists get to a compromising point in those issues so that they don't feel like they have to keep fighting, melodrama will start to find other topics/issues to be dramatic about.

Answers to questions

Natalie’s third question:

Although the South ultimately lost the Civil War, the director of The Birth of a Nation portrays them as worthy heroes throughout the movie. In the film, the South is in fact victimized by the primarily black revolts in Piedmont. Viewers are meant to sympathize with the southern family as they are attacked by black rebels. Ben, one of the Southern Cameron sons, is viewed as virtuous. The victimization of the southerners is eventually terminated, when viewers see Ben’s “true virtue,” as he rides into town on his horse to save the county from, first, the rebels and, later, Lynch’s milita. The multitude of white southerners’ deaths at the hands of black rebels also encourage the reader to sympathize with their plight.

Philips third question:

After reading this question, Oscar Pistorius, the South African Paralympic runner who ran in the 2012 summer Olympics, immediately came to mind. I will be discussing his national recognition prior to his murder trial.
After prevailing in many legal battles, a younger Pistorius was allowed the opportunity to run in the 2012 Summer Olympics, competing as the first double leg amputee to compete in the Olympic Games. Pistorius’ pathos was eaten up by the media. His story received international recognition, and his efforts to compete as a handicapped runner were celebrated. Commercials promoting the Summer Olympics featured Pistorius as a symbol of perseverance. Viewers worldwide tuned into the Olympics to watch the underdog win several gold medals. To many people, Pistorius’ victories were seen as some of the most defining moments of the entire summer Olympics. His hardship provoked strong emotions in the eyes of viewers, a classic and commonly used trend in melodrama.

Vivie's third question:

Linda Williams explains that three important characteristics in melodramatic film, theatre, or literature are “if emotional and moral registers are sounded, if a work invites us to feel sympathy for the virtues of beset victims, if the narrative trajectory is ultimately concerned with a retrieval and staging of virtue through adversity and suffering.” (pp. 15) While there are many examples of modern melodramatic films, one that strikes me as humorously melodramatic is Marley and Me. The film recounts the tale of a dog’s life, from near birth to eventual death. Marley and Me is rare in that viewers sympathize with a dog that, at first, seems troublesome and naughty, but later is revealed to be good-natured and affectionate. David Frankel, the director of Marley and Me, strikes every emotion in the viewer. Viewers feel sympathy for the dog, who is not recognized as being ultimately “good,” in however many ways an animal can be good. Marley’s true virtue is revealed by the end of the film, which is also the point where viewers’ “emotional and moral registers are sounded.” 

Response to Jiny's three questions

1) Is it ironic that the "villain" in Mickey's Mellerdrammer is the white clansman? Or did Walt Disney do it on purpose? This was created in 1933, a time when racism was still abundant in the country, so what message was Disney trying to get across to his audience?

A - The only reason the "villain" in this cartoon is white is because slave owners were almost always white in American history, and the slave owner is portrayed as white in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, which the cartoon is trying to resemble.

On the other hand, it is fair to argue that Walt Disney did purposefully black face Mickey in the cartoon in order to make fun of African Americans. For one, it is a common belief that Walt Disney himself had antisemitic views and Nazi sympathies. On June 8, 2014 - my twentieth birthday, but I digress - Meryl Streep, a widely respected and forward thinking actress, openly criticized Walt Disney for being a "gender biggot" and "supporter of an anti-Semitic industry lobbying group." She even quoted Ward Kimball, also an animator, saying that Disney "didn't trust women or cats" (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/meryl-streep-slams-walt-disney-as-racist-antisemitic/). Taking all of this into consideration, 1933 is before he worked with German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl in 1938, a well known propagandist for the Nazi party, one of the earliest cited controversial acts of Walt Disney (http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007410). However, if he did in fact sympathize with those types of views, it would not be a stretch to claim that his views are present in earlier work, such as this cartoon. Ultimately then, Disney used Stowe's novel as a setting for his humor, but the message he was trying to portray was not one that supported a progressive racial agenda. This is clear by the "explosive" black face and overall dirty look of the characters. The irony in the villain being the white clansman in this situation is that it probably goes against Walt Disney's personal beliefs. The overall result of this is the message from Disney, a comic genius, that racial stereotyping is funny, regardless of anyone's sentiments.

2) Williams argues "that since the mid-nineteenth century, melodrama has been, for better or worse, the primary way in which the mainstream American culture has dealt with the moral dilemma of having first enslaved and then withheld equal rights to generations of African Americans" (pg.44). Would she argue that nowadays, melodrama is attempting to deal with prejudice against women/minorities/the LGBT community?

A - Expounding on Williams's quote, melodrama has indeed been used as a tool to support progressive change in American culture and politics. Melodrama is a way to publicly express the evolving ideas of a society as it struggles to choose a decisive side of complicated, hot-button issues, such as prejudice against women, minorities, and the LGBT community. For example, there is still the claim that racism is alive and well, but some cartoons would argue otherwise. In the crude comedy cartoon south park, season 4 episode 7 called "Chef Goes Nanners," two of the town's citizens argue to keep or change the town's flag, bringing the case to the Mayor (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0705908/). The flag depicts a few white stick figures hanging a black stick figure. Chef, an African American resident of South Park, argues to change the flag claiming that it is racist; Jimbo argues to keep it for its historical significance. The protagonist in the episode is Chef and the antagonist is clearly Jimbo. Both characters embody racial stereotypes in the episode, Chef dressing in traditional African clothing and Jimbo wearing his KKK outfit throughout town. The Mayor decides to settle this issue with letting the children of the elementary school debate over the issue, and whichever side wins in the debate decides whether or not to change the flag. Again, this pivotal use of children to decide such complex issues can be argued as a melodramatic theme, their inherent pureness the leading factor in melodrama's labeling of bad or good. Ironically though, in the end, the children end up debating on the fact that a man was being hanged, not even seeing that the man was a different color than those hanging him. In this way, the episode argued that society has progressed past racism as a problem, that the new generations have outgrown this prejudice.

3) Williams says that The Birth of A Nation "generated racial controversies that altered the way white Americans felt about blacks, and how they felt about being white" (pg. 98). It made "the black man into an object of white fear and loathing" (pg. 99). What would Williams say about Mickey's Mellerdrammer? How would she compare the two melodramas? What would she say about the two opposite pieces?

A - Williams would probably say that Mickey's Mellerdrammer has similar racist tendencies to The Birth of a Nation. The most notable of these would be the instance of blackface, which portrays the African American race in America as barbaric, demonizing them and therefore perpetuating racial prejudice. Although the cartoon was not as controversial, both were controversial in their own right, but their differences stem from the media on which they were released as well as the time period. The Birth of a Nation, which aired about a decade before, was monumental in that it had large support and criticism, being the first movie screened in the White House by Woodrow Wilson, but at the same time the NAACP tried to ban the movie (http://www.whitehousemuseum.org/east-wing/theater.htm; http://chnm.gmu.edu/episodes/the-birth-of-a-nation-and-black-protest/). Mickey's Mellerdrammer, however, was controversial in that such outward racism was rejected by both parties.