Thursday, June 30, 2011

HAWTHORNE: Hyperdrama On The Fake

Ah, the things I do for love.  Magalie N. is my muse for this blog, and this is her special request.  She may not be happy with what I write, but if nothing else comes from this blog post (or show), it is that I have coined a new term.

TV shows, especially dramatic TV shows, are filled with melodrama (melodrama definition).  TNT's slogan is "We Know Drama".  Therefore, you would think they would know better.  The new term I have coined is "hyperdrama".  Melodrama is basically taking real life situations, and manipulating them, in order to tug at your heartstrings.  Movies are famous for doing that.  A great example of misused melodrama was in the otherwise great movie, Ghosts of Mississippi.  The emotion of the scene where Myrlie Evers (Whoopi Goldberg) is on the stand talking about what happened was great, in the written word.  The performance and words would have been plenty to tug at the audience's collective heartstrings.  It became melodramatic due to the use of the overwrought score underneath, while the scene played.  Imagine if every time you had something sad, powerful, or meaningful to say that a dramatic underscore would begin to swell underneath your words.  Perhaps that is why I loved the movie The Truman Show, so much.  It poked fun at that idea.  Melodrama, when used well, can propel you to real emotions.  Melodrama, when used poorly, will make you roll your eyes (think the movie Armageddon).  Real emotion comes from real attachment to the characters, not making them say something sad, while they're crying, and then putting a manipulative score underneath the dialog to attempt to make you cry.  The TV show, The Big C (Showtime), toes this line between real emotion and emotional manipulation perfectly (at least it did in the first season).

When a TV show takes the idea of melodrama way too far, it is often referred to as "overly melodramatic".  There are many shows that fit this bill.  It's generally a line most good shows and movies try not to cross.  It is usually crossed by directors who have no true understanding of human emotion, and just think they can make you feel something by manipulating you.  The third stage of manipulation, that is way worse than being overly melodramatic, is the new term I have coined, "hyperdrama".  Here's my definition of hyperdrama.  Hyperdrama is when realistic situations are manipulated so much that they become completely unrealistic.  It is the equivalent of the farce, in comedy.  Just like farce, in comedy, doesn't give us any realistic chance of taking the product seriously (intentionally), hyperdrama doesn't give us any realistic chance of taking the product seriously, while expecting the audience to take it seriously (unintentionally).

I haven't seen very many episodes of HawthoRNe (TNT, Tuesday nights at 10pm EDT), but I have seen at least a half a dozen.  I never would have written a blog post about it, because it is just such a head scratching show.  It's like if someone hooked you up to an IV of Coca-Cola, and then expected you to get clean in a day, once stopping the IV.  You get to the end of each episode, completely unsatisfied, but at the end of each one is a cliffhanger that makes you need to watch the next episode.  That just makes me damn mad.  So, now I'm forced to watch this show, with my wife (who typically screams at every episode), because I have to see what happened.  This show is a damn soap opera, and we all know how those things turn out.

This is the third season in the series.  I think I watched a few of the episodes last season, and just thought it was completely unbelievable.  My wife still continues to watch it, and now Magalie asked me to check it out to write a blog post about it.  I've talked about how nearly every TV show, these days, has a story arc.  Shows with a story arc are extremely hard to follow, if you start watching them after the beginning.  The viewer kind of gets an idea who each character is, but if you don't know the full story behind each one, certain characters can end up seeming like really bad caricatures.

Jada Pinkett Smith is part Cherokee, and so am I.  Everyone who knows me knows how I feel about my Native American brethren and sistren (I know that's not a real word).  Jada is very easy on the eyes, so her being on the show is not going to be something that's going to run most people away.  If nothing else, many people could watch the show JUST to look at her (in fact, I suggest that is the best way to watch the show).  I am not necessarily advocating doing this, but it does make the show more watchable, for those who just can't get into the hyperdramatic stories.  Remember this paragraph as an important point, a little later in this post.

Anything I'm going to be talking about in this post is going to be heavily generalized, because I just don't know that much about the back story of the characters, or their motivations.  I have seen some of the episodes, so I am at least a little familiar with a few of the story arcs.  Bear with me, if I don't get much right.  I'm doing the best I can.

From what I remember about the show, Christina Hawthorne (Pinkett Smith) is the Chief Nursing Officer at a private hospital.  The hospital, at some point, was in dire financial trouble.  Yet, Christina somehow managed to help dig them out of it.  She is the classic superhero character.  Christina is stubborn, and she just doesn't really seem to understand the political and practical ramifications of anything she does.  She is trying to help people, dammit, and if you can't understand that, then just get out of her way.  So, she will clearly have issues with higher ups, and this will likely play an important role in the future story arcs of the show.

Since I started watching the first episode of the third season, I will be basing this blog post on what I've seen, so far.  That means I'm only going to talk about the first episode and third episode of the season.  Do you remember what I wrote a few paragraphs ago about Jada being easy on the eyes, and that if there were no other reason to watch the show, looking at her would be a fairly decent excuse to watch?  Well, the makers of the show decided they didn't want that to be a compelling reason to watch the show, anymore.  The first episode of the new season starts out with Christina getting married to Dr. Tom Wakefield (Michael Vartan).  If I remember correctly, Christina had a very tumultuous relationship with Tom, and a main reason they ended up together was because Christina became pregnant after what was basically sympathy sex.  The wedding is marred by hyperdramatic "comedic" moments that make it clear that these two probably shouldn't really be getting together.  At some point during last season, a creepy cop played by Marc Anthony was introduced.  He clearly has major feelings for Christina, and appears to be quite jealous of Dr. Wakefield.  In this season, his behavior borders on the edge of being a malevolent stalker.

Once the wedding is over, things go back to normal, and Christina is on the phone, after leaving work for the night, with her husband.  Five minutes prior, they were practically making out in the E.R., or whatever that area is that they work in.  While she is on the phone, and about to get into her car, she is attacked, and savagely beaten.  It is so bad that when the attacker first confronts her, he bashes her head through the driver's side window, breaking it.  I sincerely hope this is not possible, in real life, but I suppose it is.  The point of this is that the makers of the show decided it was a good idea to destroy Jada's beautiful face.  What is wrong with you???

After getting taken back into the hospital, we learn her baby is fine, due to all kinds of protection from amniotic fluid, and stuff.  Of course, this turns out to be wrong.  Her husband is completely married to the problem (literally), and does not use any sound medical principles in determining the best course of action.  His only interest is in saving the baby, and Christina feels the same way.  It seems to me like both people realize the only thing that got them together was the pregnancy.  The amount of resentment the loss of this baby could cause could prove to be the ultimate demise of their relationship.  Fortunately for us, Nick Renata (Marc Anthony) is the only cop in this city.  It's even better that he has very strong feelings for Christina.  Now we have three people who can't detach themselves from the situation properly, in order to make practical decisions.  Tom and Christina care about the baby, no matter what happens to Christina, and Nick only cares about Christina.  Nick wants to get any information out of Christina he can, even though she was blitz attacked, and shouldn't have been able to see anything.  After awhile she does remember one detail, the look of a particular ring.  This ring is what will make you need to watch the second episode.  My wife can tell me the details of that episode, because I ain't gonna watch it.  I just asked her about the episode, and she tells me she can't remember the details.  She said these exact words, "It just goes in one eye, and out the other."

I'll give you a few of the hyperdramatic things I witnessed in these two shows, but this is by no means a full list.

1. There was hyperdramatic "comedy" in the marriage scene, in the form of leaf blowers/weed whackers, that is meant to make us realize that this marriage really might not be meant to be.
2. The medical judgment of Tom is extremely compromised by his attachment to his wife.  Everyone forcefully "tries" to talk him out of the case, but he will not listen.
3. Christina basically follows every piece of advice Tom gives, even while everyone around him says what he is proposing is ridiculously dangerous, and could end up causing not only her death, but the baby's death, as well.
4. For some reason, even though the baby is 20 weeks old, they find it necessary to do everything they can to save it.  Labor is coming, no matter what, and they do everything in their power to try to stop it.  It's clear the baby is going to die, just let it happen, people.  Oh, by the way, don't tell the audience that the baby will be fine, when an attack like this (her stomach was clearly kicked at least once), usually results in the baby's death, solely due to the trauma of the mother.
5. When Christina is in the hospital, the boss of the hospital (which Christina helped save) tells another Nurse that he wants her to replace Christina.  The woman agrees to do it temporarily, to which the boss tells her that it is a permanent position, and to take it or leave it.  No one basically gets fired, if they are beaten up, and land in the hospital.  Based on my limited knowledge of the show, Christina practically owns the hospital, anyway.  After the awesome lawsuit she's going to win, due to this firing, she'll probably officially own it.
6. In the latest episode, Nick's mother is in an elevator with Christina and someone else, being moved for treatment of some sort.  She "dies", and is in need of the shock of life.  Christina's been fired, but picks those paddles right up.  The guy with her tells her that she can't do that, and to put it down.  She ignores him, and does it.  After which, he says, don't do that again.  She does it again.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that the guy should have taken the effing paddles out of her hands, and done it himself.  That's hyperdrama at its finest.  I guess Christina won't own the hospital, after all, when it's found out she did this.  Maybe she won't end up in jail, but I guess that will have to wait until next time.

There are many, many other things that happen, throughout the series, that I could continue to list, but I will stop it there.  In wrapping up, this show is meant to be watched by women.  Husbands can be drawn in by the beauty and sex appeal of Jada, I guess.  Unfortunately for the husbands, Jada's face is pretty jacked up, right now, so that won't add any appeal to the show.  The show is very much like a soap opera, and it ties the episodes together well enough that you are forced to watch another episode.  You may scream at the absurdity of nearly every situation, in the show, but there's a good chance, if you start watching the show, that you will be back for more.  This is solely because of how hyperdramatically the makers of the show manipulate you.

The show is every possible genre rolled into one.  It's "comedic", it's "serious", it's "horrific", it's "tense", and it's "fantasy".  The show will try everything possible to try to tug at your heartstrings, but it ultimately fails solely because it's so easy to see through the hyperdramatic manipulation.  The bad news is that it won't turn you off enough to stop watching it.  Thanks for reading.

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