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Melodrama in American Media

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Virginia Spinks

on 13 February 2014

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Transcript of Melodrama in American Media

Melodrama in American Media
Obamacare Controversy
There has been a lot of controversy revolving around Obama's presidency, especially around his new healthcare legislation. Not only was this controversy pervasive in the Supreme Court case judging its constitutionality, but even more so now that Obamacare is beginning to be implemented. Many have had negative reactions to it, but I think that this story found on http://theblacksphere.net/2014/01/stepping-victims-americas-doorway/. This article, like Anker demonstrates, uses melodramatic grammar to identify a villian (namely Obama and his Obamacare), and victimize and unify the American people. The author of this article, Kevin Jackson, makes vast blanket statements that necessitate a feeling of emergency, and then calling for action against the injustice of the legislature in Washington. To make the situation seem even more dire, the author ties what Obama is doing to America metaphorically to the killing of Jheryl Wright, who died before he could be seen by a doctor in the emergency room.
The Murder Trial of Viola Liuzzo, 1965
Viola Liuzzo was a white woman from Detroit who participated in the march from Selma to Montgomery during the Civil Rights Movement in 1965. When she was shuttling people back to Selma from Montgomery after the march, a car containing four Klan members--including one undercover FBI informant--drove past Liuzzo's car (that contained nineteen-year-old black man Leroy Moton) and shot her to death. Even though Liuzzo gave her life to the movement, many did not see her that way. Liuzzo . unfortunately lay at what Williams called the "intersection of race and gender." Because she was a white woman who was driving a black man, she was considered a traitor by some, a whore, and a "nigger-lover." The Klan members were being tried for murder, but everyone was quick to excuse her murder for who she was driving. The jury could not come to a decision; they were 10-2 guilty of man-slaughter. Since it was a mistrial, the case came to court again and again, until the federal court finally convicted the three non-FBI Klansmen as murderers. The appeals through the court system indicate that as time passed, and as people's attitudes changed, the people sought out the martyrdom and justice that Liuzzo deserved. The proper melodrama eventually played itself out in the court system.
Rape Trial of William Kennedy Smith
Williams helps us analyze this trial even though it does not have a racial dimension. However, Williams' concepts of "moral legibility," celebrity, media coverage, and male v. female sexuality. Smith was acquitted of all charges after an eight-month media-ridden trial in 1991. In a way it sort of predates the OJ trial, because it too was heavily covered in the media--some could say, even more that the fall of the Soviet Union that happened contemporaneously-- and pits the virtuosity of a man against the virtuosity of a woman. Not only that, but Patricia Bowman decided to remain anonymous during the televised trial, so her demeanor could not be seen. Instead she was a blue blob, that probably alienated sympathy for her story more than her so-called "cold" lead prosecution lawyer, Lasch, who is also a woman. Even though the doctors who examined Bowman after the alleged rape were 99% sure that she was telling the truth, based on injuries and voice-analyzing, apparently that was not enough for the jury, which was comprised of four women and 2 men. The fact that previous sexual assault charges against Smith could not be considered in the trial by Florida law also did not help Bowman's case. I think that Americans were so fascinated by this trial because the truth became so obscured and ambiguous through it that they just wanted a verdict that would absolve the situation of complexity and give a definite answer of who was telling the truth and who was lying. Although in retrospect, I think Williams said it best when she states that "the system aims simply at the contest between the least doubtable of stories" (263).
Controversy over NSA Scandal
In recent years, it has become apparent to the American people just how involved the National Security Association is in our lives. The media went ballistic when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden released government documents indicating just how intrusive the NSA was being, however the mass media has made it seem that the NSA was overly interested in domestic surveillance. Obama stated that "the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light". I focus here on a Fox News clip/poll that asked Americans in a biased way whether or not "NSA secretly collecting phone records of millions of U.S. citizens" was "unacceptable, invades privacy," or "acceptable, prevents terrorism." The report goes on to victimize the American people underneath the knowing eye of President Obama. This melodramatic viewing confirms Anker's views in a sort of opposite way. Anker argues that the oversimplicity of this rhetoric "made state action seem absolutely moral and unquestionable." In this case, the American people are seemingly victimized by a state whose actions might be considered to be absolutely immoral and a threat to the individual freedoms on which the country was founded. THis melodramatic grammar, producing such state mistrust, could be dangerously polarizing.
What Do I think?
A poll in Women's Home Journal showed that 55.2% of women thought that Liuzzo "should have stayed home."
To melodramatacize or not--Should we name the enemy?
I feel very strongly about the American media's and overall cultural "naming of the enemy" in the Middle East. I absolutely abhor that this country capitalized on the death of Osama Bin Laden with an Oscar-nominated blockbuster film about Seal Team 6 so soon after his death. I hate that TSA agents "randomly select" my friends from airport security lines, because they look "vaguely Middle Eastern," and I hate that my own father has a sort of underlying subconscious prejudice against Muslims. And all of this seems to be stemming from a prolonged overreaction to the events of September eleventh 2001. This reactionism has been so deeply rooted that we are willing to point fingers at anyone, including the state now for letting the so-called enemy continue to wound the well-being of the American people. The somewhat recent Benghazi attacks are what I speak of now. The role that the "Innocence of Muslims" YouTube video played in the attack is strongly disputed, but the main qualms that I have with the whole situation is just how unwilling we are to give any blame to ourselves in the often violent area where our two cultures meet.
Another scenario/issue that is relevant for Americans consider today is the standards and operation of our food industry here. Most people do not know where their food comes from, what is in it, nor do they care, or can afford to care. Our problems are vast, complex, and multi-layered when it comes to this, but I do not think that most of the issues are any less morally legible. For example, processed food is cheap food is unhealthy food, and the poorer demographic of Americans cannot afford any better, propagating the obesity epidemic. Big agricultural companies use GMO's and other tactics to make themselves profits, including bullying their contract farmers through unreasonable regulations and patent laws. What's worse is that the majority of the American population remains completely ignorant about all of it. I think a melodramatic approach is necessary to wake people up, so that some positive revamping can be accomplished in the entire system.
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