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May 2000, Week 4


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sandy Camargo <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 24 May 2000 09:32:32 -0500
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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To JD in Kyoto, "Drama" is short for "Melodrama," about which lots
has been written in connection to cinema. Historically, westerns,
romances, and other genres included in surveys of Hollywood film
genres were all considered types of melodramas: detective melodrama,
western melodrama, family melodrama, etc. After a time, the term
"melodrama" came to be identified with the "woman's film," so some
discussions of melodrama are more narrow than others. A useful place
to begin is Peter Brooks's THE MELODRAMATIC IMAGINATION. Robert
Lang's book on American Melodrama (I can't recall the exact title)
deals with Griffith, Vidor, and Minnelli, and is very useful as well.

Sandy Camargo
Department of English
University of Missouri
Columbia MO 65211

>Sorry for crossposting this, but I'm interested to see if I can get another
>angle from this list.  I'm trying to gather some thoughts on Drama as a
>genre, but interestingly I've found that there isn't much written in the
>reference books to genre on Drama. The Virgin Encyclopedia ignores it in
>its genre section, which seems pretty typical, and all of the academic
>books I have on genre don't deal with it either. The Western, the gangster,
>film noir, action, SF, horror, spy films, road movies, romance - loads and
>loads and loads galore on those.  Yet a large number of films are
>categorised under Drama and virtually no writings.  I wonder why?  Perhaps
>it's because the characteristics of Drama are not so tightly defined
>compared to the other genres, or perhaps there isn't so much depth for
>critics to get their teeth into.  Anyway, I would have thought someone
>would be able to find patterns in Drama worth writing about, particularly
>on a psychological level, but the only angle I've been able to find so far
>is through Jospeh Campbell and the Hero's Journey.....anyone know of other
>ideas about Drama?
>I've written a simple introduction in easy language for my Japanese
>students.  It happens to be tied in with Forrest Gump which we'll be
>viewing and discussing later.  If anyone cares to read it and make
>suggestions or comments, I'd be grateful (preferably about Drama rather
>than about Gump - I don't want to hash old arguments).
>Part One: Drama
>Drama is an unusual genre in terms of popular cinema.  As well as trying to
>entertain, the films try to make people think.  They present life's
>problems, both small and large, and show how people cope with them.
>The focus of drama is on the human character.  It often takes the form of a
>crisis of some sort, such as unemployment, discrimination, relationship
>troubles, or dying.  A common subject is that of illness.  Characters who
>cope successfully with suffering not only give a positive message of hope
>but show the strength of the human spirit.  It is such a common 'recipe'
>for stories that critics talk of films with 'Disease of the month'.
>Conflict and change are crucial to drama.  The heroes search for a way
>through a world of crisis, and in their fight against hardship they win the
>sympathy of the audience.  In a sense they act as our representatives and
>suffer on our behalf.
>When the heroes of drama are put to the test, they need advice or some kind
>of inner faith to support them.  This usually comes from an older person,
>or someone who has faced a similar kind of challenge before.  In Forrest
>Gump the advisor is Gump's mother, whose words remain in his mind long
>after she has died.
>Dramas can take many forms.  They may be set in the past (historical drama)
>or in the future.  They may be serious in nature, or light-hearted like
>Forrest Gump.  Some are personal in nature, whereas others are more
>concerned with social issues.  Rain Man (1988 ), for instance, shows how a
>young man played by Tom Cruise is affected for the better by spending a
>week with his handicapped brother.  Philadelphia (1993 ) on the other hand
>is concerned with attitudes to homosexuality and Aids, which it portrays
>through the story of two lawyers.
>Forrest Gump is both personal and social.  On the one hand it is the
>biography of a man with a subnormal IQ and the lessons that can be learnt
>from his life.  On the other hand it shows the changes in American society
>between the 1950s and 1980s.  Though Gump's life is unique, he faces
>problems similar to those that we all face at one time or another.  The way
>in which he deals with them provides encouragement to us with our own
>Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite

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