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  • Kim Senklip Harvey

Non-Mellow Drama

I've had recent experiences of men using the melodramatic genre to make themselves feel safer and hoard power of being "right" in artistic assessment and I want to call that in.


Melodrama, since its inception, is a patriarchal colonial term with a genesis of men leveraging it as a tool to attack women and feminine peoples, energies and realities. It’s predominantly used against women and is a gross and violent collapsing of the complexities of the femme experience.


It’s been used in application to assuage white mens misunderstanding of femme experiences and to be using terms like “sensational” and “excessive emotions” is a patriarchal attack on our lived experience. It’s often used out of ignorance and is absolutely rooted in control.

I don’t appreciate or respect the genre. I think it’s often used to attempt to obstruct women and femmes sovereign abilities to express ourselves free from patriarchy.

Even as a verb, as an acting style, I seriously question its continued impact on marginalized groups of people and in particular Indigenous, Black and POC where the white patriarchal gaze conditionally dismisses reactions outside their own in an attempt to assert some sort of authority over our aliveness. The metric for melodrama becomes one from a white male colonial and imperial perspective and thus a white supremacist one.


I think melodramatic as an acting style is also a lazy directive. I can't act melodramatically. I can deepen my urgency and investment in stakes for my objective. Melodrama also pivots off of the oppression and incorrectness of others and or self and I want to refuse that imperial canadian shame culture of "appropriateness." So then I understand the category to exist for a position of judgement which for me is anti-Indigenous because it goes against my Salish values and ontologies.


It also functions off of a binary “good and bad”, “right and wrong”, “success or failure” and I’m not interested in supporting these binary linear metrics because it oppressively upholds an imperial ontology of relationalism. It’s a violently reductive term that was literally erected for white men to hoard power on what is a expected, rational and accepted and that is complete horse shit.


I also often find its white men using it to describe situations and experiences they lack the capacity and experience to understand and thus have effectively refreshed the weaponizing the genre. That’s the particular aspect I’m addressing, as well as the dangerous positioning it oppresses on Indigenous, Black and POC women and femmes and our safety around sovereign expression.


Melodrama sets an “acceptable” level of "excessive emotion" perpetuating white supremacist ideas or normativity and I look at whose most vulnerable with this standard and limit its Indigenous, Black and POC women. For if we express ourselves outside this metric we are oppressively positioned to be beyond "excessive" and the "sensationalization" of our realities stewards a dangerous scenario of imperialists managing and policing our behaviours.


I don’t believe we need an imperial genristic assessment tool rooted in the action of metricizing “excessive” emotional behaviours, especially one that's inherently pejorative and affirms white authoritarianism. I simple reject it.


There are other terms and approaches outside this imperial one that can get to desired outcomes of intensified emotional exchanges that isn’t so steeped in imperial patriarchal and white supremacist brutality.


Theatrical and really any artistic terminology that aims to collapse and assess vs expand and experience, makes my work as an Indigenous storyteller more challenging.

Making artistic ceremonies, which live parallel to euro canadian theatre, involves a lot of refusals of dogmatic notions of theatrical categorization of western theatre. It's not magic realism, it's not a dramedy, it's not melodrama stop using western terms to discuss Indigenous theatre. Stop letting fear lead your experience.


It's my responsibility to create spaces, in process, theorizing and execution that position peoples to be seen in all our abilities free of white power. So using western theatrical terms to manage my work and assess your experience is missing the opportunity to not just tilt your head into an Indigenous paradigm, I'm offering you an invitation to have you embody the experience in full. Don't crane your neck in and ramble on about your critical analysis from an imperial perspective. Be brave, step in and surrender to a space where you don't need terms to make yourself comfortable. Bring your cultural heritage but don't violently oppress it.


Is this solely about melodrama, no. Is this an offer for us all to critically investigate what we're complicit in upholding and on the hook for, yes. Looking at melodrama and troubling our dogmatic conditioning around it's racist and misogynistic intersections is imperative for us to move forward with truth and any hope for artistic sovereignty for all community members. As well as many other necessary investigations into how canadian art practice unfairly and violently positions Indigenous, Bland and Poc artists.


I also offer that when I’ve addressed this, or really when ever I present an opportunity to trouble an entrenched and inherently white supremacist theatrical practice people can get defensive and or become even more reductionist and collapse all theatre, art and its components into distorted and selective historical rememberings. Such as "anything rooted in colonialism is bad."


That’s an oversimplification of what I’m addressing. This sort of contemporary shirking by forcing a low dimensional intersection undermines the complex attacks by the state via a general dodging of present guilt and complicity by its state agents. It's about as useful as fantasizing about "when we all lived tribally". This collapsing is a romanticized reduction of history, embodied experience and power exchanges that conveniently dilutes cultural heritages and land stewardship.


Don’t absolve yourself with reductionist rationale - it’s much more than that.


With deep love and drama,


Kim.


p.s


I'm mid production for season 2 of The Indigenous Cultural Evolutionist. We have episodes 1-6 now available on all your streaming platforms. With thousands of listens already from close to 20 countries around the world! I'm elated with the reception of TICE Season 2 so far. Limelet for everyone amplifying this work on your social media, every share powerfully helps get this work to people who could benefit from the nourishment!


Take a listen here!




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