Saturday, September 13, 2014

Three Questions

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?

2.  Williams repeatedly emphasizes that contemporary and recent works are too often misidentified as being realist or as pertaining to specific genres, when really they are fundamentally melodramatic, owing a great deal to a form first popularized in the 19th century.  How would she account, then, for works that predate the 19th century, yet employ the five features she says make a work melodramatic?  Consider the 14th-century Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:  it 1) begins and ends in the happy, idealized "home" of Camelot, 2) deals with a victim-hero, Sir Gawain, who suffers greatly at the hands of wild beasts and the elements, and is ultimately saved when he proves his virtue by not sleeping with the Host's wife, 3) deals with both the action of Gawain seeking out the green chapel and the passivity of him awaiting his fate at the hands of the Green Knight, and comes down to him avoiding getting his head chopped off when the axe stops "in the nick of time" after just nicking his neck, 4) mixes clearly fantastical, sensational elements with a geographically accurate England, and 5) portrays an unmitigatedly good hero struggling with apparently dark, magical forces (even if the Green Knight does turn out basically good in the end).  Should such examples be seen as disproving the origin of melodrama as we understand it in the 19th century?  Or is there something in Williams's contemporary examples (Rambo, Titanic) that could not have existed before the 1800s?

3.  Williams says that David Griffith, creator of "Birth of a Nation," is often considered the father of American cinema, and that his racism is seen to detract from otherwise impressive work that greatly advanced movie-making.  Precisely what advancements did Griffith make that were so important to cinema?  Do you think they can be separated from his politics and viewed as admirable, or do you believe racist rhetoric was an essential and fundamental part of his success?

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