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Sometimes You Need Some Melodrama in Your Life

Tie her to the track, bubba!

Tie her to the track, bubba!

Cue the music. The curtain rises. We hear an evil laugh and the mustache-twirling villain strides onto the stage to a chorus of boos from the audience. The melodrama had begun.

And–confession incoming–I loved every lame, over-the-top moment.

Once a summer, for our founder’s day, my little hometown used to produce a melodrama in the historic Hyatt Theater. Looking back, I’ve tried to figure out why I liked these campy, often silly melodramas so much.

I suspect part of it was the fun of booing and hissing, and of course, cheering the hero. But I think I also liked that they never took themselves seriously. The old-time melodramas had a sense of humor. I’m a sucker for a sense of humor.

I loved the asides when the villain broke the third wall. The villain and his sidekick always got the best lines and the hero never seemed to realize it.

When I was older, the hubs and I stumbled onto a melodrama while on vacation. This one had the added fun of allowing the hurling of peanuts during the performance. It was good to be bad.

Hmmm…no, that couldn’t be why I love melodramas.

Growing up there were Popeye’s weekly battles with Bluto over Olive Oly to tide me over between the yearly productions, and of course the “classic” Jack the Giant Killer, but you can not imagine the thrill that went down my back when The Perils of Pauline was re-released (not that I knew it was a re-release, because old as I am, I was not alive in 1913!) into film in 1967.

Oh. My. Gosh. I was kind of a star.

Okay, it was incredibly lame but lame with a sense of humor. Every time Pat Boone smiled at the camera his teeth would gleam. At one point the villain asks how he does that. Okay, it’s funnier to see than to write about. I think the heroine even got tied to the railroad track, though that might have been Olive Oyl.

Fast forward many years–no, not that many, back up a little, yeah there–to my first website.

It felt inevitable for me to call it The Perils of Pauline. Cause even though I’d moved on from melodramas (mostly), I still liked a lot of peril mixed into my romances.

So, confession over, I think everyone needs a little melodrama in their lives. Even when you’re scoffing, melodramas provide these benefits:

  • They make you smile (or even LOL) which is scientifically proven to be good for you. By scientists.
  • They are cathartic because the bad guys always get their comeuppance despite witty banter (or because of?)
  • They let you be bad to be good
  • The good guys always win, even if they lose with the bad dialog
  • You can walk away thinking, “At least I’m not that lame…”

And when I was asked to write a short story (Steam Time) for the Dreamspell Steampunk anthology, it felt natural to return to those melodramatic roots. The villain may not twirl a mustache (it’s just not as effective in print form), but he does have a mean gang of bullies…who are automatons.

Yeah, I had fun. (Steam Time is part of my Project Enterprise series and was recently “collected” into Project Enterprise: The Short Stories.)

It’s been years since I’ve seen a melodrama, so I don’t even know if they are still (intentionally) around. I know I’ve seen a few unintentional ones (grin). So are you of the “tribe that knows melodramas?” Miss them? Love them? Hate them? Recognize their limited benefit to wider society?

Perilously, and mellowly, yours,


Project Enterprise Short Story Collection by Pauline Baird Jones