Apr 13, 2012

M is for: Melodrama

Definition of MELODRAMA

1
a : a work (as a movie or play) characterized by extravagant theatricality and by the predominance of plot and physical action over characterization
Back when I was an arts and entertainment reporter, one of my jobs was to preview theatre productions and review restaurants. (It was the BEST JOB.) And one of those gigs involved a hilarious production of the Pirates of Poulsbo, a melodrama based on the Pirates of Penzance. There was the stump-legged captain with parrot, the black-patched first mate, the yellow-haired serving wench with huge boobs, and the young, handsome, really really really stupid newbie deck hand. Given those character descriptions, you can probably figure out the plot. And who needs a plot w/ those guys anyway? The actors asked questions of the audience, who was forced to sing sea chanties and occasionally be pulled up on stage to dance a pirate jig. We all had a blast.
But it's only been recently that the term 'melodrama' meant a spoof. Think of soap operas. Or silent movies. In that context, melodrama means abundant wailing and gnashing of teeth. Evil, mustache-twirling bad guys and swooning damsels in distress. It's so formalic, every episode of Law and Order could be called a melodrama. 
 I can think of a few YA reads that, take away the magic, the sci-fi weapons, the repressive dystopian government, have melodrama written all over them. Which tells me that some storylines never change.
So what does melodrama mean to you? Have you read anything new that is melodramatic?

11 comments:

mooderino said...

I think of melodrama as big emotions. Really big emotions.

mood
Moody Writing

Kyra Lennon said...

I love melodrama in the old fashioned sense, when it meant that everything was bigger and more - well - dramatic lol!

.jessica. said...

I always worry that I'm slipping into melodrama when I'm writing - YA is kind of ripe for it, you know? Teens are so here and now, and every emotion is so potent.

As much as I adored it, I have to say that Lauren Myracle's Shine had one of the most melodramatic endings I've ever read. The twist and conclusion were straight out of a soap opera. (Which is, uh, probably why I loved it so much, ha.)

Damyanti said...

Look forward to the rest of your challenge run…can’t believe we’ve had 14 days already!
--Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2012

Twitter: @AprilA2Z
#atozchallenge

Lynn Proctor said...

i think the term has been misused as of recent years---i would have called a movie and or book, like "the notebook" (which i do not like---but have had to endure through many times, due to my daughter's obsession with it)a melodrama

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

When I was in elementary school we had a very talented teacher who would write plays for our grade to perform. One of the plays was a melodrama and I got to be the female lead, Sybil. I still remember lines from it and how fun (and almost silly) it was! :)

That's a good point about a lot of YAs being melodramas underneath all the fluff. I read mostly contemporary YA; I don't think that genre into it quite as much, but I'll have to pay closer attention. :)

Daisy Carter said...

Hmm, I can think of a few books that might qualify, but I won't name names. ;) I actually like a good melodrama every once in a while, like the Notebook movie *haven't read the book, but I would guess it's the same?*

100smilechallenge said...

Looks like I could learn a lot from you and your blog...you are a good find from the a-z blog challenge.

Nicole said...

I tend to steer clear of melodrama in reading, but when it's done well it's sometimes good for a laugh.

J.L. Campbell said...

Hey, there,
Coming through on the challenge. I tend to think of melodrama as over the top and something to be avoided in my writing.

Carrie-Anne said...

Most silents aren't melodramatic. I've seen over 900 silents, and the vast majority weren't melodramatic. That's a modern-day stereotype based on unfamiliarity with the sadly lost artform.

I don't mind melodrama in books or films if it's done right. There's nothing necessarily wrong with it so long as it's done well and the story is that way for a reason.