Death of the Melodrama. Long Live the Melodrama.
I peeled my feet from the floor covered in popcorn and beer to dance to the YMCA. My cheeks hurt from laughter. I strained my voice to chat with Jim, my fiancé’s father, over the booming sounds of the Village People.
Women in extravagant Victorian gowns danced around us flinging newspapers cones full of popcorn.
It was the opening night of the Rondy Melodrama which takes place during the Rondy, the Fur Rondy or more formally, the The Fur Rendezvous Festival. Whatever you choose to call it, the annual festival celebrates the ending of winter and hopeful arrival of spring. Originally a swap meet for fur trappers, the Rondy has grown in size and now coincides with the Iditarod.
“I did a Rod,” said the buxom maidservant.
The crowd erupted with laughter. But the scene quickly changed as our Villain entered. The crowd was encouraged to hiss, boo, and throw popcorn but the tide had started to turn.
To begin, our Villain was so good at being bad. He had won the crowd over with the expressive use of both cape and mustache twirls. A perfect showman with just the right amount of cheese.
And our poor Hero, a true sap. So bad at being good, he was the epitome of an Alaskan Dudley Do-Right. A helpless wimp, all cheese and no substance.
The crowd’s sentiment towards the characters was no fault of the actors. They were playing and executing their roles perfectly within the context of the melodrama. We, the crowd, were not playing our part. We failed to adapt to see the production through its black and white lens. The show wasn’t failing us. We failed the show.
Chad Johnson, the man everyone loved to hate on this season’s Bachelorette, nailed the archetype of the villain in our modern melodrama. Chad had it all. Strong jaw line, superior build, and an mischievous smirk beneath his five o’clock shadow. Chad even dressed the part, or lack their of, with his half-zip pullovers accompanying him on every date. His most effective–and endearing–quality was his penchant for fisticuffs. Well, more like his penchant for talking about fisticuffs.
Personally, I loved Chad. I loved that he was able to elicit fear and attention from a house full of Dudley Do-Rights. Up against a foil like Evan, a cringeworthy erectile dysfunction doctor from Nashville, I imagine that part of you was rooting for Chad too.
Chad was the perfect villain, and when someone is so good at what they do, they are impossible to hate.
From wrestling, it’s the Razor Ramon, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Paul Heyman phenomenon. Villains who eventually elicited cheers form the audience.
In wrestling and the melodrama, it’s easy to root for these villains because you know that they will get their comeuppance. There’s always a hero waiting in the wings.
As for Chad, working in the context of a not entirely scripted modern melodrama, the story is slightly different. Part of us, like the Dudley Do-Right contestants, believed that he might actually tie JoJo to the railroad tracks. Which wouldn’t be a problem if there was someone “pure of heart” to save her.
It could have been Alex, but he decided to go Super Bro after eliminating Chad in the 2-on-1 date. It was almost some Walter White level evil, inheriting qualities of the person he just sent home.
It could have been Vinny, but he’s just a barber with a terrible haircut who got eliminated. That’s a true hero, putting others before himself.
It could be Jordan. But is Aaron Rodgers brother in it for all the wrong reasons?
The Bachelorette, the perfect modern melodrama like professional wrestling, knows that it is best to operate in shades of gray. Put us on the fence, but push us towards one direction. The remaining contestants are not unlike romanticized versions of Steven Avery, guilty of loving JoJo until proven otherwise.
Popcorn began to pileup in the doorway as people shuffled their feet toward the exits. Our Villain had been thwarted, our Heroin saved.
Over the departing crowds, our Villain called out, “Thanks for coming. Have a great night.”
“Great job tonight. I really enjoyed the show.” I said walking past him.
He stopped me and shook my hand. “Thank you. That means a lot.”
“Do you think you’ll get her next time?” I asked.
He pulled me in close, and whispered in character, “For Throckmorton Dirtbag, there’s always a next time.”