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Definition and History
Melodrama refers to a dramatic work that puts characters in danger in order
to appeal to emotions.
It is based around having the same character in every scene. For example
having a hero that turns up, heroine that turns up, usually the one the hero
The term originated from the early 19th-century French word
mélodrame, which is derived from Greek melos, music, and French
Melodrama is when something is over dramatic
In the beginning of the 18th century, melodrama was a technique
of combining spoken recitation with short pieces of
The first full melodrama was Pygmalion by Jean-Jacques
Rousseau, The tale of the sculptor Pygmalion, who unhappily
falls in love with one of his own sculptures until the goddess
Venus takes pity on him and brings the sculpture to life.
Conventions - Cinematography
The camera shots that are used are mainly medium close ups and close
ups of the characters or significant things in the drama. The camera
shots are also usually fast paced and quite short, which builds up tension
for the audience.
In Hollyoaks, a medium close up shot is used to show the character’s
emotion and facial expression. The use of the medium close up shot
doesn’t just emphasise the character’s emotions but it also makes the
location of the set visible to the audience.
Mise en scene
Melodrama/ soaps are usually set in one particular setting.
The clothing, accents and dialect reflects the soap and usually allows the audience to relate to the show.
The setting is usually simplistic to come across as realistic. However, when combined with the dramatic storylines and
characters, it adds effect and excitement to the scenes.
The costumes- these are carefully chosen to ensure the clothes each character is wearing reflects their personality and
the way they are being represented.
There is also a lot of props used in melodrama as the exaggerated drama may mean that there are lots of props being
thrown/broken/smashed etc. to again create the drama and excitement.
Waterloo road is set in a school
Clothing – school uniform helps indentifies the students from the teachers
Characters – teachers and students
dialect – the difference how the students speak compared to the teachers
Relates to students and teachers
Hollyoaks is set in Chester
The accents – helps the audience detect the regional indentity of the soap
Surroundings- help Indentify the regional/ national indentity of the soap
Relates to teenagers and young adults
Conventions - Sound
During Melodramas, non diagetic sound is used in ways such as Gunshots, Explosions or
Slaps. These sounds are real to the scene, however are added in afterwards to when its
actually filmed. An example of when its used commonly is at the start of soap scenes to
create certain atmospheres. This would then fade out when the characters begin to
Diagetic sound is also used in ways such as doors slamming or glasses smashing. These
sounds are more realistic to the scene and aren’t added in afterwards, and are part of
the filming. These are used in most soap scenes.
The different sounds heard, add to the genre, as the noises can be over the top and
dramatic, adding a bigger effect to what's being shown.
Conventions - Editing
• Linear editing: where all the scenes are in chronological
• Cross cutting editing: where the soap cuts between
simultaneous shots http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OclXrCuiVY
• Transition: not a lot of soaps use transitions such as
fades or dissolves to try and keep it realistic
• Non diegetic audio: to enhance the drama of the soap http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MKxKPdNQ1E
Escapism - This is where a viewer may want to escape their daily lives to watch
something exaggerated and something which wouldn’t happen in their real
everyday lives. An example could be that during soaps, the amount of drama and
stuff going on can be enjoyed by the viewer as its most probably a lot different to
their real life.
Catharsis - Where the viewers are made to feel the same emotions as the characters
in the soap. An example would be that if someone in a soap was killed, you may
feel in a similar way to others around the person, being upset and maybe crying. It
allows the viewers to build a relationship with the characters, making the storyline
Victorian stage melodrama
The Victorian stage melodrama featured six stock characters: the hero, the
villain, the heroine, an aged parent, a sidekick and a servant of the aged
parent engaged in a sensational plot featuring themes of love and murder.
In the end good triumphs evil.
In Melodrama’s the characters are usually exaggerated to fit certain
Examples of melodramas:
Hollyoaks Channel: Channel 4
Broadcast Time: 18:30 each weekday
Target Audience: Teenagers
Waterloo Road Channel: BBC One
Broadcast Time: 20:00 every Thursday
Target Audience: Teenagers