Thursday, January 31, 2008

Melodrama or Tragedy?

Watch the trailer for World Trade Center (2006). How does this clip tell a narrative about September 11th? Using James Peck's "September 11th: A National Tragedy?" as a reference, do you think this movie depicts the 9/11 terrorist attacks as melodrama or tragedy? Or do you disagree with Peck's definitions of the genres/ modes of tragedy and melodrama?

Post a comment responding to this movie trailer. You can use these questions as a guide, or you can bring up your own point that you think will add to the discussion. To add your comment, click on the link for "comments." Remember to sign your name!

21 comments:

Niranjan Kumar said...

This trailer seems more like tragedy to me. As Peck defined it, tragedy stages moments when the systems people live by fall apart and fail them. That's what seems to be depicted in this trailer. The system that the people lived by did fall apart, and they were not ready to handle what happened. There is a protagonists, mainly the policemen and the firefighters, who are caught in a horrible situation under the rubble. While there are situations where melodrama has an argument (the protagonists and the "evil that men do"), I feel like there are more elements of tragedy.

Nelly said...

I agree with what Niranjan posted. This trailor is definately not a melodramatic one. James Peck describes melodrama as only portraying two opposite views. The trailer for The World Trade Center depicts a story of two police officers and their experience without introducing any real good vs. evil themes. In fact, Peck states that tragedy is "A form of lamentation, it facilitates mourning and generates memory." Without even viewing the movie, one knows that it will dwell into the suffering of specific individuals in order to do just that.

Lydia Zodda said...

I think that it is difficult to gauge whether or not the movie is melodramatic or tragic just from the trailer, especially using Peck's definitions of the genres. From what is shown, it does not seem to be totally melodramatic by Peck's standards. There are clearly "good guys"- the policemen and firefighters, but there does not seem to be a constant interaction with a villain as there is in the examples Peck gives. Instead, the movie seems to focus on the aftermath of an event. From what I have seen, the movie is probably more tragic. It does, as has been said before, seem like it would “facilitate mourning and generate memory.” However, I hesitate to say that it fulfills Peck’s definition of tragedy. The trailer, at least, lacks certain elements, notably the self-scrutiny that Peck argues comes with tragedy. This does not seem like the kind of movie that was made to have Americans face any of the “awful truths” Peck points out. From the trailer, I also don’t think World Trade Center is meant to “preserve outrage.” From the tagline “The world saw evil that day, two men saw something else, a true story of courage and survival,” the movie seems like it emphasizes hope. The background music does not have a very sad tone, either. I think that the movie is probably a hopeful account of human bravery more than a tragic story. However, it is difficult to determine whether or not this is true without seeing the movie in its entirety.

Diana said...

The trailer sends a tone of tragedy rather than melodrama. Melodrama is more about a struggle against two opposites and the plot is usually full of twists. This trailer seems gloomy since the beginning and also ends on a sad note. There is a lot of lamenting which is shown by the clips of the women with sad faces, hugging their kids and holding on to blankets. Peck spoke about tragedy as a situation that disappoints people by failing to work the way they expect, and that is exactly what is depicted in the trailer. There is clip where Nicholas Cage mentions that they never expected something this big so they weren't prepared. Also, on a more general note, it seems that when a hero does for a noble cause it falls more into the tragic genre than the melodramatic one.

kathy spriggs said...

I think the trailer looks more like melodrama than tragedy. Peck argues that tragedy has three main elements: lamentation, outrage, and contemplation. The movie looks like it's about mourning and perhaps outrage, but not self-examination. The trailer doesn't suggest that the attacks generated any new insights about our foreign policy or our country. The movie also looks like it paints a pretty clear black and white picture. It isolates the events of September 11th from the context of the United States' policies. It has the simplicity of melodrama rather than the complexity that Peck identifies with tragedy.

michelle gumport said...

I believe World Trade Center depicts 9/11 as a tragedy. The trailer says, “The world saw evil that day. Two men saw something else.” The movie does not appear to set up the terrorist attack as the bad guys (the terrorists) vs. the good guys (the US), but instead focuses on the sacrifices policemen and firefighters made to save innocent people. However, it is not a tragedy in the purist sense because it does not force the audience to “squarely face some awful truths.” The trailer, while it doesn’t set up this struggle as melodramatic, does not appear to point out any truths about the United States to provide background for the tragedy. It seems to avoid that topic altogether by simply displaying the chain of events but not discussing who was responsible or what the retribution will be.

Hillary Lin said...

The trailer is more tragic than melodramatic, as it depicts messages meant to evoke mourning and remembrance of the event and all those affected by it. But it also certainly does not question some of the factors Peck points out in his essay concerning the tragedy of 9/11. He says there are reasons for why this happened, and we need to focus on that as well - we need to look at our hubris and not just depict ourselves as the "good." In this sense, the trailer is slightly more melodramatic, sympathizing only with the Americans and leaving out the sufferings of the "other side."

Billy Vernon said...

I think this trailer has both melodramatic and tragic characteristics, but does not completely fulfill either definition given by Peck. It's melodramatic in the sense that it does portray these firefighters and policemen as heroes to the innocent victim that is America; it does not seem to show any negative characteristics of the US. However, it never really gets into detail at the pure evil of the terrorists as a melodrama should, except for the line of the world seeing "evil that day"
There are tragic elements in that there is a great deal of mourning, and we see great stories of loss. However, there doesn't appear to be any outrage or facing of "awful truths" that Peck claims usually accompany a tragedy.

jon denby said...

I'll take the minority stand: that this trailer is more of a melodrama than a tragedy.
According to Peck, melodramas "traffic in heroes and villains", and certainly casts the NYPD as selfless heroes versus the "evil" that the world "saw that day". Both good and evil are slightly exaggerated and contrived, as the NYPD are cast as the good guys fighting the "world evil" of the terrorists. Even though the "bad guys" are never really seen in the movie, that only serves to exaggerate the magnitude of their evil as something bigger than can be seen by individuals.

Also, the very nature of the movie is melodramatic, if you follow the definition of melodrama as "comprised wholly of exaggerated emotional and/or moral appeals" It plays the heartstrings of Americans , pouring salt into an already open emotional wound in their hearts (9/11) in order to get an overwhelmingly powerful emotional response. It also uses slow orchestral music and the love note written under the rubble to exaggerate this emotion.

Yongwhan said...

The trailer seems to be a tragedy than a melodrama. James Peck defines melodrama as a depiction of two opposing views: good vs. evil. The trailer of the World Trade Center, however, does not describe this situation; more or less, it centers around telling a story of police officers and firefighters who are placed under a horrible disaster, in order to arouse a feeling of remembrance and mourning. In fact, the trailer is in accordance with the definition of tragedy that Peck provides.

michelle said...

I agree that this trailer depicts a tragedy not a melodrama. 9/11 was one of the worst tragedies that America had experienced and I don't believe that this trailer showed the true seriousness of the pain all the victims of that event experienced.

Adri Campos said...

The trailer portrays more of a tragedy than a melodrama. Like stated by Peck, tragedy is “a genre of suffering and witness,” one that “stages moments when the systems people live by fall apart and fail them.” The latter of Peck’s statements is best exemplified with the couple in the trailer. They are shown giving each other a kiss before they go to bed; seconds later the trailer shows the “system” or their lives falling apart.

I believe there was a concerted effort not to make the trailer melodramatic. It attempts to portray the suffering and the disaster without offering a stark contrast between the good (victims) and the bad (terrorists or the American government).

MexicanPrep7 said...

The trailer goes along with what Peck defines as a tragedy: a genre of suffering and witness. WTC captures these basic elements with the stories of those two police officers trapped under the mountain of rubble. Since this is an account of true life, it resonates with Peck's explanation about the protagonists being caught in an unlivable situation and a chorus (their wives) that collectively responds to their angiush. WTC is more of a tragedy than a melodrama because of the fact that this "excessive" form of violence truly happened.

Anonymous said...

That last comment was mine by the way, i couldnt put my name.

-Mundo

Tommy said...

Regardless of whether it is politically correct or nice to say, this trailer is considerably melodramatic. The event itself is certainly a tragic one, but the light that is shed on the police force is that of heroic, and that is associated with melodrama. The film, which I have seen, focuses on the lives of those few police men that tried to save others and ended up sacrificing themselves. The fact that the film is based on a true story is extremely tragic, but the film itself and the way that it is portrayed is most definitely melodramatic. James Peck would agree that this film is just another illustration of Americans not being able to show that they are at fault for the event too. It shows Americans inability to look at WHY the event happened and only at the immediate effect of it on those who were present. The movie tries to show that Americans are heros who will not yield to terrorism while Peck argues that we should be yielding in the form of self flaw evaluation. Instead, we are at war with a small portion of the world over a global economic issue.

Cameron said...

I think that Peck and the film examine two different things. The film focuses on the stories of two men rather than the country as a whole. In fact, the trailer makes this distinction explicit by stating, "The world saw evil that day, two men saw something else." The story of the two police officers is definitely tragic: two protagonists suffer through no fault of their own based upon the collapse of the foundations of their existence. Through their suffering, they reexamine their lives. This pattern of drama fits Peck's description of tragedy very well.

Peck looks at the macrocosmic narrative of 9/11 and attempts to apply his definition of tragedy two it and notes that it does not fit. He characterizes it as melodrama instead because it creates stark moral divisions. The key failure of 9/11 to be a tragedy was the lack of self-examination that it caused. I would argue that on both the individual and national level that much re-examination occurred. On the individual level, people re-examined their notions of security and the way they live their lives. For example, many more people started attending religious services in a re-examination of their spiritual lives. On the national level, it forced a rethinking of the relative isolationism of the Clinton years. However, the conclusion of this self-examination did not lead to a "betterment" in Peck's opinion; it lead to a "derangement." Therefore, he cannot classify 9/11 as a tragedy because its conclusions challenge his world view.

Diogenes said...

I agree with Lydia in the fact that it is difficult to decide on a genre for this particular piece. Using Peck's definitions, this clip does not fit exactly, especially since it lacks a set villain. It is also difficult to tell without seeing the whole movie. Using any set of the other definitions we have for melodrama, this can fit into one of them when you point out the sensationalist description of the storyline and the powerful text at the end. In the end, I would probably label it a melodrama instead of a tragedy because it has more melodramatic characteristics.

Phillip K. said...

James Peck suggests that tragedy might be the right form of art to cope with the events of September 11th 2001. He criticizes the tendency to move towards melodramatic interpretations because they tend to be too simplistic, defining the world in absolute values – dividing it in good and evil, black and white. For Peck, a tragic interpretation leads to the ability to see oneself critically, and in a new light. The trailer for World Trade Center indicates a melodramatic approach to the events of 9/11. The clear divisions of good and evil are reinforced through the depiction of American heroism and the impact of the terror attacks on individual lives. It provides a snapshot of the events and not the holistic approach that Peck advocates in the use of tragedy as an appropriate art form.

Anthony! yay said...

I remember that when this movie first came out, I had two thoughts: 1. This movie seemed very touching and emotional, and 2. Was this movie just done to exploit this feeling among Americans and reap a big profit? This second thought ties into the idea that people are still drawn to tragedies just like those written in Ancient Greece, but possibly for those melodramatic characteristics of my first thought. What's wrong if we think that while not the exact same thing, tragedies and melodrama evoke the same emotions?

Stephanie said...

This trailer showed us a tragic, and dramatic representation of what happened on 9/11. In agreement with Peck's reference to contemporary narrative theory, the trailer turns the incident into a story with characters as a means for ordering the world. I agree that we are innately hardwired to turn tragic and true events into melodramatic stories that we can relate to in order to better deal with the truth at hand. This film is a means for mourning what happened on 9/11.

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