Friday, February 8, 2013

Genre Savvy: Drama

When I originally spoke about Drama, I made a mistake:  Drama is not one of the classic Greek genres, it described all of Greek literature.  Drama itself was divided into Tragedy and Comedy.  My Drama is more the equivalent of Tragedy, but like Humor vs Comedy, I like the term Drama better.  And again, I'm capitalizing everything, is it any wonder my shift key is wearing away?

Tragedy, of course, describes the central emotion of Drama, sadness.  That's actually rather odd for what is, essentially, the most important and most widely accept form of fiction in the world, but nearly every Drama is built upon being brought low by some event or another.  Why is that?  I suppose it's because people can relate to being sad, as everyone is at one point or another.  Even the perpetually happy have their moments of self doubt and depression, though they do a good job of hiding it.

I couldn't even begin to cite examples of sadness in Drama because I'd be here forever.  Les Miserables, Romeo and Juliet, hell nearly anything by Shakespeare, the list goes on and on forever.  The thing is, being sad isn't just a personal thing in these stories, it's often shared, a collective depression that the various characters sometimes try to find a way out of, but often simply wallow in through the length of the story.  Often, it also gets worse as the story goes along, one tragedy building on another until it seems the weight of it should utterly crush even the most hardened soul.  The great tragedies of our age often result in the entire main cast dying as a result, even though the most powerful moments often only need one or two to die to bring the point across.

Like fear in Horror, though, sadness alone gets old very quickly.  Still, there are some people who really enjoy it, which is why the Blues exists.  For those who don't want to dwell on depression and tragedy, there is an out via Drama's other pole, hope.  Hope provides a point to all the tragedy in the story.  The idea that maybe, possibly, the world can be a better place is what gives hope power, and keeps people going.  It's odd to think that the ancient Greeks viewed hope as one of the great evils of the world in this sense, but sometimes hope is misplaced and results in more tragedy than anything else.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions, to use the old phrase.

Again, good examples of hope are hard to come up with because there are SO many.  One of the best ones, is, again, out of date, but A Christmas Carol is a good example of hope.  Hope that one man, however much tragedy he has caused or has been done to him, can shift from being a horrible old man into a great and wise person is a great example.  It is still just one of many stories, and often forms the backbone of nearly all fiction.  The hero of any story is generally the physical embodiment of hope in those stories.  When the hero fails, the story becomes tragedy, for sure, but coming back from that failure is hope in it's most potent form.  Perhaps this is why it is so rare for a story to be pure tragedy, as everyone wants hope in their story.

When it comes to depression and sadness, I think the best comic I have as an example is Hopscotch, a short story comic that is, at the end, quite sad.  It's a good comic, no doubt, but it is a sad story.  The main characters do not come out of the story living happily ever after (though they do come out alive).  The tragedy of their story is quite potent and the emotions feel quite real, and I really think it should be read rather than me telling the story again.

Hope's example is Between Failures, whose title already implies depression and drama.  The hope though, comes from a single moment that turns the comic in a new direction.  The power of hope actually changes the comic from black and white to color, which is symbolic of the attitude and nature of the strip.  Hope drives everything, hope that life will get better, with a little work and planning.  Will it end up that way?  Hard to say, though I suspect it probably will end with a bit of tragedy, the hope generated now will carry over and keep going, making that final blow much less painful.

Drama is a powerful genre, and one that covers such a wide net as to dominate most of the others, except one:  Humor.  That'll be for next week, the last genre, but not the last article in the series as there is another.  Until then kiddies.

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