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
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.