Now, I am a complete and utter sucker for melodrama. That is, a dramatic piece of visual stimulus containing exaggerated characters, exciting events, blah, blah, blah…
Free Willy has often moved me to tears…
So why do I love it? Well, to me, characters are one of the most important aspects of a show, they have within them to power to drive the show forward- even if a storyline is weak or pretentious, a good cast of characters makes the ride a whole lot more bearable. So, if a good ol’ bit of melodrama allows me to become emotionally invested in a character, and the show as a result, bring it on!
I’ve often heard people complain about melodrama and its ability to ruin perfectly good shows, how extreme shifts in tone can be jarring, uncomfortable or cheesy, devastating the opportunity for emotional investment. Angel Beats is often cited as being a show that does this; in fact, it’s practically infamous for its extreme swings between comedy and drama within short spaces of time but, the scene where we learn about Naoi’s past never once made me laugh or roll my eyes. Even though we were only introduced to him an episode before, the dramatic shift in tone was what gave the scene its power, it was the shock of it which inspired such an emotional, snotty reaction!
And what’s so bad about cheesy melodrama? Perhaps because I’ve been part of a theatre company for three years, (being over-the-top and dramatic comes as second nature) it rarely bothers me when a character really hams it up, I’m often far too busy piloting my rofl-copter to care that the melodrama is outta place!
Remember this scene? Remember how you laughed? Now tell me how much you hate cheesy melodrama!
And if a show’s really clever it can subvert melodrama for its own comedic purposes. I remember this one scene in Gintama where we’re told a heart-breaking story of a little girl who was forced to leave her dog, Jerry, behind when she and her family moved as they couldn’t afford to take care of it. Long story short, the dog died. Needless to say, I was very upset by this, as was the girl when she found out. An elderly man passing by stopped to comfort her; the rest of the scene goes as follows:
The melodrama lowers your defences, reducing you to a quivering heap, before sinking its comedic fangs straight into your jugular. Although, saying that, I think this is one of the two times I can remember melodrama being purposely subverted for the LOLs, the other time being Lovely Complex’s ‘bear curry’ scene.
See, melodrama’s pretty wonderful isn’t it?