Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Three Responses

Saher #1: Williams spends a great deal of chapter one discussing the importance of distinguishing melodrama from realism as she explains that “melodrama is neither archaic nor excessive but a perpetually modernizing form that can neither be clearly opposed to the norms of the “classical” nor to the norms of realism” (12).  She makes it clear that melodrama is “perpetually modernizing” and constantly adapting to social moral dilemmas. What social issues do you think the melodrama of the mid-20th century would address in our current society?

Jiny talked about how the melodrama of the mid-20th century would address feminism in our current society. While I think that is definitely a real possibility, I think there are a few other issues (one she mentioned slightly): the desire to be perfect and education in public schools. The former Jiny mentioned. Nowadays, so many marketing strategies revolve around the desire people have to look and be (not the best they can be but) perfect. Plastic surgery is glorified in places like LA and New York and Korea (basically in big cities everywhere). There’s even a reality show called Botched on American television that follows two of the best plastic surgeons in LA as they correct botched plastic surgery cases. The race to stay young forever is virtually impossible, but yet we all participate (including myself). A lot of media nowadays like TV shows, music, movies all take as moment to address this issue while the person delivering a positive message is wearing make up, has a perfect body, and has obviously gone through hours of preparation to deliver a message that says, “It’s okay to not be perfect! (like me)” Another issue would be something a little less petty: American education. I wouldn’t have answered this question with that answer if I didn’t take my freshmen seminar last year about American education. Reading books like Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol really opened my eyes to the downfalls of public schools, especially in poverty stricken neighborhoods. The idea that the poor stay poor because they don’t know or want to be any better is truly a false popular opinion, because really, they stay poor because they have the hardest climb up (nearly impossible). To conclude, the desire to be perfect and education in public schools are two more issues I’d like to add to the list melodrama of the mid-20th century would address in our current society.

Saher #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?

After reading Arkin’s and Jiny’s response to this question, I just want to say something that might be a little bold and definitely controversial. I think nowadays, American’s make movies that portray African Americans in a positive light due to the guilt they feel about the past. We all want to look like good people. Americans have a “dark period” in their history blackened (for a lack of a better word) by slavery. Just like the Germans feel guilty about the Holocaust, Americans feel guilty about slavery. Even in the movies about slavery and/or unequal rights like 12 Years a Slave, The Help, and Belle, they use pathos to push the audience to support the African American characters. They may not be casted as the powerful characters or typical good guy, but they are always the characters that gain the most support and empathy from the audience. 

Arkin #3: Does the audience/crowd portrayed in the Disney clip, Mickey’s Mellerdrammer, contribute in any way to its overall melodramatic nature? If so, how?

The crowd, like the characters in Mickey’s Mellerdrammer, are just as expressive in body language and actions. Nowadays, when we think of a bad performance or an unwelcome stage character, we don’t actually see audiences throwing fruits and vegetables at them because that would be socially unacceptable. Melodrama is the use of this type of exaggeration to convey a type of emotion in the audience watching the video. The audience in Mickey’s Mellerdrammer actually go back to Williams’ idea of pathos. Since there is no dialogue, or very little dialogue, pathos can be created through the crowd reactions. They tell the audience watching the video how to feel –– the character(s) they are cheering at is/are the good guy(s), the character(s) they are throwing food at is/are the bad guy(s). Without the crowd, audiences are more likely to have their own opinions about the characters, but like the idea of a “crowd reaction,” the audience will join the crowd in their reactions contributing to Mickey’s Mellerdrammer’s overall melodramatic nature.

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