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Edge of Seventeen: Juvenile Agony and Youth Fantasies in New Queer Adolescence Films
Unformatted Document Text:  emotion only at every stage of the narrative. Further, melodramatic plots have no inner motivation, instead intensifying the viewer’s emotions through excessive ˜ reproduction of structural and stylized conventions (Alerdice, 1965). Hence, melodrama, and the Hollywood melodramas in particular, constitute simplifications of more complicated ˜ film genres. In these melodramas, which originated in the bourgeois novel in the 19 th century, the protagonists experience personal, social, and family difficulties on their way to romantic unification (Feuer, 1984). These difficulties are reflected and intensified by an emotional soundtrack. The dictionary definition of melodrama is that of a dramatic narrative in which musical accompaniment echoes the emotional effects. This is still perhaps the most useful definition, because it allows melodramatic elements to be seen as constituents of a system of punctuation, giving expressive color and chromatic contrast to the story- line, by orchestrating the emotional ups and downs of the intrigue (Elsaesser 2002 [1972], p. 50). Correspondingly, the protagonist’s coming out in the queer youth melodramas of the 1990s, in particular to their parents, is visualized in over-dramatized scenes and always involves emotional melodies, tearful outbursts, shouting, rebuke and imputation, while the cinematic queer adolescent in these films is always questioned, doubted, distrusted, and disrupted by the hostile hetero-normative environment. According to Hannah Arendt (1959), speaking makes a person a political substance, and only what is relevant and deserved to be seen and heard can be tolerated by society. Hence, the irrelevant immediately becomes a private matter. Thomas Elsaesser (2002 [1972], 46) refers to the blurred boundaries between the public sphere and private domain in cinematic melodrama in particular. He notes that this genre possesses the element of interiorization and personalization of what are primarily ideological conflicts, together with the metaphorical interpretation of such class- conflicts as sexual exploitation and rape. Elsaesser theorizes the “Masochism of melodrama” (p. 65), and points out that one of the characteristic features of melodrama in general is that it concentrates on the point of view of the victim, and sometimes even manages to present all the characters convincingly as victims. “In Mineelli, Sirk, Ray, Cukor and others, alienation is recognized as a basic condition, fate is secularized into the prison of social conformity and psychological neurosis, and the linear trajectory of self-fulfillment so potent in American ideology is twisted into the downward spiral of a self-destructive urge seemingly possessing a whole social

Authors: Padva, Gilad.
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emotion only at every stage of the narrative. Further, melodramatic plots have no
inner motivation, instead intensifying the viewer’s emotions through excessive
˜
reproduction of structural and stylized conventions (Alerdice, 1965). Hence,
melodrama, and the Hollywood melodramas in particular, constitute simplifications of
more complicated
˜
film genres. In these melodramas, which originated in the
bourgeois novel in the 19
th
century, the protagonists experience personal, social, and
family difficulties on their way to romantic unification (Feuer, 1984). These
difficulties are reflected and intensified by an emotional soundtrack. The dictionary
definition of melodrama is that of a dramatic narrative in which musical
accompaniment echoes the emotional effects. This is still perhaps the most useful
definition, because it allows melodramatic elements to be seen as constituents of a
system of punctuation, giving expressive color and chromatic contrast to the story-
line, by orchestrating the emotional ups and downs of the intrigue (Elsaesser 2002
[1972], p. 50).
Correspondingly, the protagonist’s coming out in the queer youth melodramas of the
1990s, in particular to their parents, is visualized in over-dramatized scenes and
always involves emotional melodies, tearful outbursts, shouting, rebuke and
imputation, while the cinematic queer adolescent in these films is always questioned,
doubted, distrusted, and disrupted by the hostile hetero-normative environment.
According to Hannah Arendt (1959), speaking makes a person a political substance,
and only what is relevant and deserved to be seen and heard can be tolerated by
society. Hence, the irrelevant immediately becomes a private matter. Thomas
Elsaesser (2002 [1972], 46) refers to the blurred boundaries between the public sphere
and private domain in cinematic melodrama in particular. He notes that this genre
possesses the element of interiorization and personalization of what are primarily
ideological conflicts, together with the metaphorical interpretation of such class-
conflicts as sexual exploitation and rape. Elsaesser theorizes the “Masochism of
melodrama” (p. 65), and points out that one of the characteristic features of
melodrama in general is that it concentrates on the point of view of the victim, and
sometimes even manages to present all the characters convincingly as victims. “In
Mineelli, Sirk, Ray, Cukor and others, alienation is recognized as a basic condition,
fate is secularized into the prison of social conformity and psychological neurosis, and
the linear trajectory of self-fulfillment so potent in American ideology is twisted into
the downward spiral of a self-destructive urge seemingly possessing a whole social


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