1.) Williams tells us that melodrama has been "consistently identified in recent years with women's concerns," (16) and that it is sometimes "classified in film studies as a sentimental genre for women" (17). How does Williams respond to such assumptions? What aspects of melodrama seem particularly "feminine?" What more traditionally "masculine" elements of melodrama are often overlooked?
Williams responds that that she views melodrama "in its more general and pervasive operation as a mode of representation with a particular moralization function operating across many gestures" (16). She writes that instead of defining melodrama as a "ghetto subgenre of women's films,'" scholars should "seek out the dominant feature of melodramatic mode." She points out that melodrama has been classified as "sentimental genre for women" because other melodramatic films like the "western and gangster films...had been constructed...in relationship to supposedly masculine cultural values" (17). Some of the feminine aspects of melodrama are found in the vulnerability of the heroes and the focus on emotions and pathos. The masculine elements lie in the films with more action like the movie Rambo she refers to in the movie. Other masculine elements lie in the weakness of the women characters and the ability of the men to save them in the nick of time.
2.) Williams notes that in the process of proving
the virtue of victim hero, ‘the transmutation of bodily suffering into virtue
is a topos of western culture that goes back to Christian iconography’
(Williams, 29). Earlier in the text, it was established that there was a ‘waning
of Calvinist morality in America’ (Williams, 20). Are there other
sources/traces of Christianity that can be observed in melodrama? If so, what
are their roles?
Christianity is not outwardly present in melodrama. However, melodrama can be seen as a reaction to the changing influences of Christianity in the modern era. Williams explains how melodrama serves as a reaction to the "waning of Calvinist morality in America." Williams explains how because "the manifestation of good or evil could no longer be attributed to God's providential power," suffering became a major focus of early films. She also cites a link to the "transmutation of bodily suffering into virtue
is a topos of western culture that goes back to Christian iconography" which venerates the crucifixion and pain of Christ as virtuous. Many of the heroes in melodrama are virtuous throughout their suffering, and are rewarded for it at the end of the story.
3.) Williams establishes a relationship between
realism and melodrama, that ‘historically, melodramatic and realistic dramas
developed during the same period in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
They have been mutually influential.’ (Williams, 38). Realism indeed had a
profound influence on melodrama as a ‘renewed truth and stylistic innovation’
(Williams, 39). On the other hand, how did melodrama influence realism and its
development? Were such influences favorable for development of realistic drama?
Or did they impede such progress of realistic drama?
Williams writes that "theater history has most commonly been written as the victory of realism over melodrama, a more careful history observes the mutual borrowings and lendings of the two forms" (38). She argues that "realistic touches" were used "as a way of modernizing stage melodrama" (39). Many if the "realism" films that sprung out of the early twentieth century were "fundamentally melodramatic." Oftentimes films of the era brought up realistic social problems and "harsh realities" only to have the problems resolved "through its climax of pathos and action" (40). Melodrama may have made realism films more approachable to film-goers, while realistic aspects of melodrama made the films more intellectual and relevant. The two genres grew simultaneously, and cannot be viewed at separately.