chapter  11
12 Pages

Reading as a Woman

I.AngarguesthatthesatisfactionsoughtbythespectatorsofDallas withwhomshecorrespondedwasbasedonan'emotionalrealism' articulatedthroughmelodrama(Ang,1985:87).Thatistosay,at oneleveltheviewersknowthatDallasisafantasy:theyseethe flowofeventsasunrealandtheglamourasderivingfromthefantasy worldofadvertising(ibid.:42,48,78);buttheyperceiveasrealthe 'fluxofemotion'arousedbyevents,andtheirlettersshowanintense desiretobelieveinthecharacters(ibid.:30f.,42).Angcallsthis'the tragicstructureoffeeling'.(Asimilarlyambiguousattitudetowards therelationshipbetweenfantasyandrealityisrevealedinRadway (1984:186f.,202f.).)Torespondtothetextinthiswayistorespondto theelementsinitwhichderivefromthemelodramatradition,namely:

(1)theconflictsarebetweenpeoplewhoaresupposedlyclosest toeachother(notbetweenenemiesas,forexample,in thethriller);thisencouragesintensifiedemotionalconfrontations,andfavoursthearenaofthefamilyandthepersonal (Ang,1985:69f.,76);

(2)Theeventsareveryexaggerated-everythingbecomesacrisis. Theexaggerationallowstheeventstostandasmetaphorsfor 'life'stormentsinourculture';forexample,alcoholismstands asametaphorforself-destructiveness.Thesemetaphorsare highlyunoriginalanditistheirlackoforiginalitywhich givesthemtheirpower,through'directcomprehensibilityand recognisability'(ibid.:62-4);

(3)Soapslowslifedown.(Thisisliterallytrue,inthatreaction shotsshowinsequencetwothingsthatin'realtime'are happeningsimultaneously,andtheyareconstantlyused;we havealreadyseen(inchapter3)that'stretchingtime'isa techniqueforemphasisingwhatistobeconsideredmost

important in narrative.) It is brought about by the attribution of great significance to apparently trivial things. Indeed, all events in the drama are very clearly imbued with meaning -nothing is insignificant, the most trivial incident becomes charged with emotional weight. This process is very reassuring because it reveals that there is a close relationship between morality and daily life; it compensates for the 'vague sense of loss' typical of modem life (ibid.: 79ff.).