Our Faith in Evil

Melodrama and the Effects of Entertainment Violence


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About the Book

Is violence in American cinema a reflection of life? Or does life imitate the violence people see in cinema? One of the pressing questions in today’s society is whether fictional portrayals of violence have social or psychological consequences. Studies have concluded with both “yes” and “no” verdicts. Is America a culture of violence? Why does violence, horror and melodrama appeal to people? This book explores these issues with primary focus on entertainment, especially film, through lenses of the media, the consumer, and the cultural backdrop. The film A Clockwork Orange allegedly spawned so much violence in the United Kingdom that director Stanley Kubrick was rumored to have fled with his family to avoid a death threat. From that classic case, the author takes readers through a study of media and violence that examines the structure of horror, the origin and nature of evil, the Greek mythic tradition, melodrama and catharsis, fairy tales, comic books, video games and real horror. In part two the author offers case studies in several genres: westerns, multi-melodrama (The Silence of the Lambs), slasher films, psycho drama, serials such as Star Wars and Harry Potter, apocalyptic melodrama, modern and postmodern noir, creature features and religious melodrama. In-text citations are included, and two notes expand on a couple of issues in the text—the perspectives of Plato and Aristotle on the effects of tragic drama, and discussion of differences of opinion relating to methodological approach.

About the Author(s)

Gregory Desilet has spent more than four decades researching and writing on communication and rhetorical theory, language philosophy, and various media and cultural phenomena as these relate to conflict, violence, and community formation. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Bibliographic Details

Gregory Desilet

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 356
Bibliographic Info: photos, appendices, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2348-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0765-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments       vii
Preface      1
Introduction: Ultraviolence and Beyond      5

1. Fictional Horror      33
2. The Troubling, Doubling Self      41
3. Inside the Doppelgänger      51
4. The Origin of Evil      58
5. The Nature of Evil      67
6. Tragic Myth and the Origin of Evil      76
7. Alternative Applications of Greek Mythic Tradition      89
8. Metaphysical Horror      96
9. Violence and Melodrama      104
10. Catharsis and Melodrama      110
11. Catharsis Reconsidered      115
12. Melodrama and Fairy Tales      127
13. Comic Books and Video Games      142
14. Real Horror      153
15. The Melodramatization of American Culture      165
16. Whence and Whither: Conclusions and Recommendations      200

17. The Western as the American Myth      213
18. Multi-Melodrama: The Silence of the Lambs      234
19. The Slasher Horror Genre Since Psycho      240
20. Psycho(melo)drama: Raging Bull and Taxi Driver      256
21. Epic/Serial Melodrama: Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings      265
22. Apocalyptic Melodrama: The Terminator and The Matrix      276
23. Modern “Noir” Melodrama: Bonnie and Clyde      288
24. Postmodern “Noir” Melodrama: Pulp Fiction      299
25. The Creature Feature: Jaws versus Moby Dick      306
26. Religious Melodrama: The Passion of the Christ      310

Appendix 1: Effects of Tragic Drama: Plato versus Aristotle      317
Appendix 2: Methodology      324
Bibliography      329
Index      339