Monday, September 15, 2014

Melodrama Questions

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?

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 the Communist 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"?

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?

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