Podcast

Monday, March 20, 2017

Storyteller’s Rulebook: The Difference Between Drama and Melodrama is “Would It Make the News?”

I saw a lot of bad indie movies back in the day, but surely one of the most annoying was Blue Car. The main storyline involved a girl having an affair with her teacher, but there was also a subplot –a subplot!- in which, if I remember correctly, her seven year old sister commits suicide.

This is a note I give all the time: It’s too much. I love a good ripe melodrama as much as the next man, but melodrama involves a certain over-the-top tone. Blue Car was played as a straight drama, but the events were beyond the limits imposed by that genre.

Here’s the difference: Would it make the news? Seven year old girls don’t often commit suicide. It’s a huge deal. There would be think pieces about it. But in this movie, it’s so unremarkable that it’s not even the main topic of the movie.

I’ve said before that Moonlight was a little too bleak for me, but it’s a good example of how far you can push drama without going into melodrama. A boy getting beaten up by one boy and then breaking a chair over the back of another boy is violent and shocking, especially if you know the real circumstances, but it wouldn’t make the news, so it’s drama, not melodrama.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So, trivially, drama can’t contain any (real or fictional) celebrities?

Besides, a 10 year old sister commiting suicide wouldn’t make the news, and still wouldn’t have been a better subplot.