Title

Melodrama and the psychology of tears

Document Type

Journal article

Source Publication

Projections: the journal for movies and mind

Publication Date

6-1-2014

Volume

8

Issue

1

First Page

23

Last Page

40

Publisher

Berghahn Books Inc.

Keywords

crying, emotion, melodrama, narrative structure, sadness, Stella Dallas

Abstract

Melodramas are sometimes called "tearjerkers" because of their ability to make viewers cry, but there is currently no detailed account of how they succeed at this task. Psychological research suggests that crying occurs when people feel helpless in the face of intense emotion. The emotion felt most intensely when watching melodramas is sadness, and sadness has a structure and specific features that determine its intensity. I describe the ways the conventions of melodrama fulfill the criteria for intense sadness and perceived helplessness that underlie these films' ability to make viewers cry. I illustrate this model with a detailed analysis of Stella Dallas (1937).

DOI

10.3167/proj.2014.080103

Print ISSN

19349688

E-ISSN

19349696

Publisher Statement

Copyright © Berghahn Journals, 2014. Access to external full text or publisher's version may require subscription.

Full-text Version

Publisher’s Version

Recommended Citation

Frome, J. (2014). Melodrama and the psychology of tears. Projections: the journal for movies and mind, 8(1), 23-40. doi: 10.3167/proj.2014.080103