Defining melodrama has been an objective of theatre and film scholars for many years and has proved to be a challenging goal since the term has changed in meaning many times over the decades. For example, scholar Ben Singer notes that “‘Melodrama’ as it is used today is all but synonymous with…heightened emotionalism and sentimentality…but this was not the principle usage in the early years of the film industry” (94). Around the early twentieth century when film was gaining great popularity, melodrama referred not to high emotionalism, but action, thrilling sites, and danger. If one were to consider this second definition of melodrama and apply it to different films, action-adventure and science fiction genres would apply to this definition. In fact, Gary Westfahl comments, “of all modern forms of fiction and film, none seems more closely linked to melodrama than science fiction” (193). There are a number of science fiction films that come to mind for analysis, including Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). Analysis of this film would be interesting, however, this paper will analyze the 2009 Star Trek (J.J. Abrams) and explore how this film aligns with and departs from the arguments presented by Westfahl and Singer. In addition, this essay will explore representations of women in Star Trek with the objective of determining whether or not representations of women have changed since early cinematic portrayals of females.
I wrote this essay for my class, Women and Visual Culture THTR&FLM 3P03 at McMaster University.
Jackie Stacey stated, “Who looks and who is looked at are not neutral phenomena, but rather are cultural practices involving power relations” (Stacey 7). The film Moulin Rouge (Luhrmann, 2001) reinforces Stacey’s statement by showing how the different ways men and women look and are looked at might have been constructed through cinematic practices. The culturally constructed practice of looking has formed a connection with possession, which in turn has allowed men to view women as commodities (Stacey 7). The film even goes so far as to link Satine to an actual commodity by calling her “the sparkling diamond” (Luhrmann). The representation of women as commodities in Moulin Rouge is reinforced by the power of the dominant male gaze and the treatment of women in the film as commodities. A close analysis of certain scenes and texts will be used to show the ramifications of putting women in a position of powerlessness.