Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Core Post: Melodrama, Serial Form, and Television Today

    At the beginning of the article, the author points out the differences between daytime soaps and the prime-time continuing melodramatic serials. The “content” is the significant distinction between the two forms, for catering to the audiences at different times of the day. However, the term “television melodrama” provided the two forms with a similarity. Then, following Willemen’s logic of the films of Douglas Sirk, the author uses the prime-time continuing serials Dallas and Dynasty as examples to introduce the two texts: melodrama as a form and as an ideology.  The author quotes psychoanalytical and feminist critics to open up the ideological contradictions in the domestic sphere. To be specific, “the main contradiction melodrama explores is the expectation that the family should fulfill all needs society can’t fill” (7). At the same time, the author points out the filmmaking characteristics of television melodrama, such as mise-en-scene, acting, editing, musical underscoring, and the use of the zoom lens. 
    I am not very familiar with Dallas and Dynasty, but this article reminds me of the Chinese melodramatic text Kewang, which can be seen as the first television melodrama in China. It was released in 1990 and got the unprecedentedly highest rating, about 90% in China, during that time. I would like to point out the two texts of Kewang, which correspond with the ideas in this article. The “primary” text, or the narrative level, of Kewang describes a tragic story that happened between the main female character called Liu Huifang, who represents all virtues of the Chinese traditional female, and her husband, Wang Husheng, who represents a bad, ungrateful, and irresponsible man. It is the typical narrative model of melodrama that “the good can never ultimately receive their just rewards, yet evil can never wholly triumph.” The plot focuses on the ordinary Chinese people during the time of the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1967) and the reform period of the early 1980s, so the secondary text of Kewang reveals the miserable life of the Chinese people who experienced the difficult time by formalist characters. This point is in accordance with the idea mentioned in the article that “the emergence of the melodramatic serial in the 1980s represents a radical response to and expression of cultural contradictions” (13).


  1. Lina! I like the example of "Kewang" here in this context, and I agree that it is certainly an early Chinese melodrama representation. "Kewang" plays heavily into the female lead's emotion status. Besides, reading the article "Genre and Television" by Jason Mittell made me realize that both the audiences and the industry are creating and categorizing television genres through practice. In the circumstances of "KeWang", the initial purpose of making this television was not to make a "melodrama", but simply a night time drama about a female who is the ideal woman that every Chinese would understand and love. It is interesting that though there is no such term as "melodrama' back in the 90s, the success of this television led to a series of dramas that were labeled as "melodrama", " tragedy" and "Kewang-like drama," thus the term turned back and define "Kewang" afterwards.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Yitong! I like the point you added that the audiences also played an important role in the process of creating and categorizing television genres, which shows a phenomenon that, during that time, the audiences all over the world had a strong desire for “melodrama.” As we know, after Kewang, sequences of melodramas were boomed in China, and we called them “Qiong Yiao drama.”