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.