Monday, September 15, 2014

Answers to Three Questions

1. Answer to Laura's question #2
On page 35, Linda Williams states that "melodrama offers the hope, then, that it may not be too late, that there may still be an original locus of virtue, and that this virtue and truth can be achieved in private individuals and individual heroic acts rather than, as Eisenstein wanted, in revolution and change." Eisenstein was a Soviet filmmaker who is famous for his use of Russian montage to create propaganda films in favor of the Bolshevik Revolution and the rise of Communism. Earlier in class we defined theCommunist Manifesto as melodramatic. Do you think Marx was urging for "private individuals and individual heroic acts" in his melodramatic manifesto? Do you agree with Williams' emphasis on the individuality of melodrama? Then do you believe that melodrama can successfully be utilized for the promotion of "revolution and change"?

-In contrast to Williams, Marx was urging for 'revolution and change' rather than 'private individuals and individual heroic acts'. Marx urged the proletariats to recognize the evil in bourgeoisie, that while class conflict is an inevitable part of history, they in turn destroyed moral values and stability well established for hundreds of years in medieval Europe. Marx achieved this by simplifying the world view, dividing it into goodness and evil. I think Williams' emphases of individuality works better for modern society, as individualism is widespread and pain and suffering of an individual is more relatable. Therefore, I do believe that individuality of melodrama can be used to promote 'revolution and change'; Stowe's 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' successfully developed suffering of a hero to tragic circumstances of a group of people, evoking emotional support from the readers. 

2. Answer to Laura's question #1
Linda Williams defines melodrama as any art form in which "emotional and moral registers are sounded...a work invites us to feel sympathy for the virtues of the beset victims...the narrative trajectory is ultimately concerned with a retrieval and staging of virtue through adversity and suffering..." (Williams, 15). Later in Chapter 1, she also claims that melodrama is "the dominant form of popular moving-picture narrative." Do you agree with her? Would that mean that all modern cinema today is melodramatic? Think of the latest super hero movie. Aren't the super heroes all morally sound, they face challenges, they fail, the audience is sympathetic, but they rise up to be victorious against adversity? What about romantic comedies in which the girl is betrayed by the guy, we feel sympathetic, but she ends up with the right guy at the end. Is Linda Williams' definition too broad? Or does melodrama include something other than standard Hollywood plot devices that defines the genre?

-I think Williams' definition of melodrama is very broad; certain movies such as romantic comedies do not qualify as melodrama. Romantic comedies portray emotional conflicts that a male or female character goes through as they fall in and out of love, which are popular because they are human emotions that are relatable by viewers. However, many other Hollywood movies utilize melodramatic elements to capture pathos of the audience. For example, movies that involve victimized heroes such as Harry Potter are melodramatic because by 'retrieval and staging of virtue through adversity and suffering', human goodness and integrity are emphasized. Moreover, a very simplistic view of the world, that is divided by good and bad, is prominent in many movies. For instance, albeit being misunderstood by many, Harry Potter and his friends are portrayed as the ultimate moralistic side that are constantly battling against the villain, Voldemort. Such black and white perspective is effective in continuously creating challenges for the protagonist-and creating a denouement that ultimately earns sympathy and approval from the audience. 

3. Answer to Natalie's question #3
How does "Birth of a Nation" portray the victimization of white southerners?

-In the beginning of the movie, southern plantation owners are seen as victims of the war as the camera focuses on ruins of mansions and women and children mourning over death of a family member who was a confederate soldier. Such scenes evoke sympathetic emotions towards white southerners from the audience. Later in the movie, a clear distinction between the good and the evil are drawn as a white girl kills herself rather than be raped by a black man-the movie praises her for providing 'lesson of honor' and her lover, who is white and belongs to KKK, vows for revenge. The KKK is then portrayed as the virtuous people who carry out the revenge and kill the man who attempted to rape her. Moreover, subtitles between the scenes explicitly elicit such victimization by adding that "helpless white people look on'-while the KK come into town like knights in shining armors to save them. 

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