-- part 1 --
Reading some of the other posts, and skimming through all of them, I've come to conclude that everyone has mentioned different popular novels of the fantasy/supernatural genre as an example of melodrama. However, as I was reading Marc Bousquet's publication on Melodrama in Harry Potter, Shutter Island came to mind immediately.
Now I don't know if everyone has watched Shutter Island, because if you haven't this wouldn't make sense to you at all. Even if you've only watched it once, you might still be confused. So literally, Shutter Island is confusing and scary as hell.
A part of the article that clarified melodrama for me was when Marc said, "One of [melodrama's] most common plot engines is misrecognition." Marc went on to say, "Sometimes the mistaken authority in melodrama is "the public" itself. Typically the ultimate recognition of the hero's goodness is accompanied by other revelations: the identity or true character of the villain, clarification of plot lines, and so forth." For awhile now, I've always thought of melodrama as women being tied to tracks just to get out just in time before getting killed, but never as something that "introduces ambiguity and complexity only to drive it from the scene."
So I'm not going to use direct quotes like everyone else because the truth is I just cannot remember all the direct quotes, and I want to talk about the plot as a whole.
*warning: spoilers below*
When the movie begins, we (the audience) are introduced to Teddy Daniels who is entering an isolated psych ward as a detective. He is introduced as representing the "homespun, often undying clothing of the working class and peasantry" as the good. The psych ward in itself, especially the people of authority are introduced as the villain(s); was the ones who "wore black, the dark evening clothes, and top hats of the aristocracy." He was introduced as someone who went there attempting to uncover the unethical doings of the psych ward on Shutter Island. "Much of the dramatic action has to do with [Teddy] being misunderstood or victimized. [He] doesn't change, but this circumstances change or his true identity is revealed."
What engraved this movie so deeply in my mind was the way we (the audience) were so completely sold on the idea of who was good or who was evil until the very end. As Teddy attempts to find out how to expose Shutter Island for what it is, we are taken through more and more events that cement Teddy as the good guy, and everyone else (mostly in authority) are all bad.
Then, PLOT TWIST. The psych ward was actually performing one of their biggest experiments to catch Teddy because he was actually a patient at the psych ward who escaped. The whole story was taken from Teddy's point of view when in reality, he wasn't the good one, he was the crazy one. The story ends with him getting half of his brain cut out as an attempt to treat his intense mental illness. Turns out, everyone on Shutter Island was in on this.
But do we believe this? "The reward of virtue is only a secondary manifestation of the recognition of virtue." I still don't know if I believe it. That's why Shutter Island is the epitome of melodramatic for me. It "thematizes the inadequacy of the melodramatic register of contemporary subjectivity," when Teddy claims he was the good guy. It is so complex and ambiguous that it would probably take more than once to really understand what happened in detail. And most obviously, misrecognition was one of the main themes in Shutter Island, even until the very end when we're not sure what we recognize.
-- part 2 --
I think I could describe what happens in the passive in a non-melodramatic way, but it wouldn't have the same effect. Shutter Island is one of those stories that you can't say "long story short." I think a lot of the time in melodrama, this is the case because one of the main aspects of it is misrecognition. To pass this aspect along, I'd have to describe the meaning in a way that brings my audience through the same way I walked through understanding it (Shutter Island) the first time (and the second). Any rhetoric, melodramatic especially, isn't explainable as much as it is experienceable. The phrase, "take walk in my shoes," works for melodrama too. For me to explain it in a non-melodramatic way, my audience would fail to have "walked in my shoes," and therefore wouldn't have the same understanding of the passage (or situation) as I do.