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Melodrama in Social Media

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Alice Zhang

on 9 October 2014

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Transcript of Melodrama in Social Media

What's new about melodrama nowadays
Two perspectives
Important Quotations From Ankers
Anker & Williams
Social Issue 2- Chinese nationalism during cultural revolution
Williams focused on racial relations and melodramatic works. She also used examples from real world to show how melodrama is effecting the way we view many social issue.

Williams views melodrama as a tool of expression and a product of social developments. Thus, her views on melodrama are mainly objective.
Anker focused on politics and news. She specifically indicated that the whole American reaction to 9/11 on the media is too melodramatic and it prevented us from thinking as rational individuals to form our own national identity.

Anker emphasized on the dangerous side of melodrama specifically in political practices. Having a simple but strong definition of good and evil might not be a good idea.
Thursday, October 17, 2014
Yuchen Zhang ENG 212W
What is melodrama?
Melodrama and its power
Melodrama is a special form of expression, which is typically extremely emotional and dramatic. However, these are not the only features of a melodrama. Melodrama often is about a heroic story: there is a villain, a victim, and a hero. Villains are always evil, and victims the helpless. Heroes, on the other side, are the virtuous good.

Who decides what is good and what is bad?
Social issues do. As melodrama is very approachable and has a wide range of audiences, it is one of the best ways to address social issues. In fact, melodrama started with the theme of class struggle. Then it expands later to tackle different social problems such as politics and racial struggle during certain time periods. Typically morality is involved in melodrama, and it was simplified to eliminate ambiguity.
Melodrama in Media
Origin of melodrama comes from theaters and literature. However, as human society develops and we have figured out faster ways to communicate, melodrama spread into movies, TV productions, websites, and even newspapers and formal reports. Social media and melodrama together double the powerfulness.
Important Quotations From Williams
"...I want to pursue another line of inquiry: Did contemporary Americans experience the crisis of 9/11 through the melodramatic narrative of victimization and retribution? How might American ideals and designations of moral virtue attach to this narrative? Can melodramatic discourse produce a certain type of American national identity through empathy with the dual role of victim and hero?" (pg. 22)

“The villain is a shifting category populated most often by a foreign invader or a domestic subversive seemingly intent on destroying either American ideals or American territory, who becomes personified, demonized, and codified as the embodiment of pure evil. Conferring the location of moral power on the victim, this narrative imbues the idea of country with moral valor by portraying America as a unified body able to overcome a situation of victimhood with a successful assault on evil.” (pg. 26)

"In sum, framing American identity through melodrama obfuscated state power. Though nebulously configured, state action was characterized as both necessary and good;...The most dangerous implication of the melodramatic national identity during September 11 was that it took power away from citizens by encouraging them to assume that state power was an unquestionable moral imperative in fighting the eternal battle between good and evil.

"As citizens, we must begin to question the seductions of this national self-understanding that feeds on an attachment to victimization and generates vengeful heroism...Perhaps we can open up a wider space of deliberation over America's collective identity, and the state action committed in its name.

Story 1-McCarthyism
How does this Portray Anker's idea
Story 2-Virginia Tech Massacre
Story 1-Hong Kong Protest
Story 2-From Ferguson to Lee: the issue of race in America
How does this Portray Anker's idea
How does it relate to Williams & Melodrama
How does it relate to Williams & Melodrama
"...my goal is to more deeply understand the phenomenon of racial melodrama as it assumed the from of a highly mediated trial that was, in part, a reaction to a previous trail and as racial victims and villains than the juries themselves. " (pg. 258)

“There was hope that 'the glaring light of television' would expose discriminatory police practices and bring the perpetrators to justice. However, when yet another archaic component of the melodarma of black and white was brought to bear, in an 'anti-Tom' defense, to explain the police officers...” (pg. 255)

"The television viewer of the media event is thus afforded a totalizing vantage point along with instantaneous interpretation that attempts to compensate for the loss of presence. The live broadcast, displayed in real time, continuous with the time of its viewers, is a continuum that cannot be edited in any of the usual ways." (pg. 261)

"The Anglo-American Jury trial orginated in the illiterate tribal world of Germanic Europe, where oral arguments were presneted to laymen summoned for a concentrated period of time to judge their peers...In the spinning of these adversarial stories something like an 'aesthetics of astonishment' --the coup de theatre that suddenly reverses the direaction of the proceedings---is produced." (pg. 262)

"I would argue that it was the general neglect of the perspective of the African-American woman, throughout the long history of these melodramas of black and white, that created those stone faces in the first place."

During 1940s and 1950s, America was under the fear of expanding Communism form Eastern Europe and China. Under this pressure, "a young Senator named Joseph McCarthy made a public accusation that more than two hundred 'card-carrying' communists had infiltrated the United States government. Though eventually his accusations were proven to be untrue, and he was censured by the Senate for unbecoming conduct, his zealous campaigning ushered in one of the most repressive times in 20th-century American politics."

The trials were basically forcing the accused to admit that they were communism and eventually it turned into something like "witch hunts." Any type of socialists were dangerous too. Many writers and politicians were accused wrongly, but was unable to return to work later. This lead to the consequence where fewer and fewer stands up to disagree with McCarthy.

Source: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/arthur-miller/mccarthyism/484/
This is another typical example of how melodrama was used to unify America into its core values of democracy and freedom in a nondemocratic way. During the whole "Red Fear" periods, articles and newspapers were addressed to attack the communists and praise pure capitalism.

The victim here is still America, and the villain is communist ideas. The hero, is America, or John McCarthy himself.

As Anker believed, when melodrama enters politics, it can cover people's vision from seeing the truth and think independently.
In 2007, 32 people were shot and died in Virginia Tech University. A student named Cho Seung-Hui armed with gun suddenly shot toward the crowd and caused the tragedy.

After the "massacre" take place, various medias and news responded to this shocking news. Years later, the story was still reported and there is always a page concerning the victims.
The deeper truth is, the Korean student who decided to shoot everybody was bullied heavily during early school years. He was forced to eat trash and experienced many inhumane things.

However, under the massive information about the victims on social media, nobody really cared about this student's story. In fact, if we want to solve and prevent this kind of tragedy, it would be more effective for us to pay attention to the cause and try to solve the problem from its root. (There are people saying he is pretending but this is debatable.) The incident was somehow melodramatically written by reporters. The victim is Virginia Tech students, and the evil is this gunman. Morality was greatly concerned to condemn the shooter. This is what Anker was worrying about.
The protest now was called "Umbrella Revolution. " After Beijing announced the 2017 election was not happening, Hong Kong people, especially students, started to protest and blocked main financial district.

“When I heard the national anthem starting to play, I certainly did not feel moved so much as angry,” Mr. Wong said a few hours later, after a protest at a flag-raising ceremony on Wednesday morning to mark the Chinese National Day holiday. “When it tells you, ‘Arise! All those who refuse to be slaves!’ — why is our treatment today any different from the slaves?”
This is not quite an race issue, but a identity issue for sure. The fact that some of the protesters compare themselves to slaves draw some similarities with Williams' ideas. The event is certainly emotional and dramatic. The victims are HK residents, and the mainland Policy makers are the villain. The hero, must be students themselves.
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/02/world/asia/hong-kong-china-democracy-protests-students.html
Social Issue 1-Teenagers Arrested After Raping A Teen Girl And Uploading It To Snapchat

A Saugus, MA, mother alleges that her 16-year-old daughter was drugged and raped, and her attackers filmed the whole event using Snapchat.

She told press that she wants the rapists publicly punished.
"Shots fired, people crying, sirens in the night, tear gas and broken glass. These are the sights and sounds of Ferguson, Missouri. In the suburb outside of St. Louis, the eyes of the nation turned towards the end of a life and the beginning of a conversation about the lingering issue of race in America."
On Aug. 9, 2014 Michael Brown, 18, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer. After the incident, race was more openly discussed. Some people are more racist, others do not think racism is an issue.
Source: http://leeclarion.com/news/2014/09/26/from-ferguson-to-lee-the-issue-of-race-in-america/
This is one of the Playing the Race Card issue. Using melodrama to analyze, the African American teenager is a victim, and the white racist officer is the villain.

The article is written in a sentimental way and it is sort of dramatic. However, as Williams argued at the end of chapter 7, "I would argue that it was the general neglect of the perspective of the African-American woman, throughout the long history of these melodramas of black and white, that created those stone faces in the first place."
During cultural revolution, people had blind believes in Mao and created lots of miserable incident.
One of the stories can be well illustrated by a movie "Coming Home.
In this movie, “coming home” means coming home from the persecution during Cultural Revolution. The father was a well educated professor who escaped and sneaked back home to see the mother. However, the daughter was really loyal to the party, not only she is young and passionate easily, but also she was only able to play a key role and get a promotion in her theater dancing group. Although she was the best dancer already, she could not play the leading role because the status of her father. After she found out about her father, she immediately reported and her father was arrested again. Her mother was in despair and got mentally ill. The tone of the whole movie is pretty miserable, and the movie gained one of the highest grossing in the summer season.
The mother's words sounds really heavy and intense. The villain here is certainly the rapers, while the girl is the victim. Hero here can be the mother or the law.

Melodrama using social media in this story can help the helpless to raise a serious social issue and further pushes for reforms and eduction.
Because it was mostly censored in China, melodrama on cultural revolution have not been produced greatly. Since the opening up, now there are many movies condemning Mao's mistake on Cultural Revolution.

The movie "Coming Home" used melodramatic rhetoric. The villain is Mao's policy and blind nationalism, the victims are people who were under this system. The hero, on the other hand, might be the end of the cultural revolution and the arrest of the "Four of Gang."
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