Melodrama Queen

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Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White From Uncle Tom to O.J. Simpson
By Linda Williams
Princeton University Press
401 pp., $32.50
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Throughout Playing the Race Card, Williams never discounts the hypocrisy, the brutality, often at work in the melodramatic mode, especially in matters of race. Indeed, her parting thoughts offer a melancholy caveat to what has come before. "I seriously doubt that it will be possible for popular culture to break with melodrama's obsession with past injury as a way of establishing moral legitimacy," she writes. We have only to look at the past months' headlines—the ongoing debates around the Confederate flag, the court battle over the Gone With the Wind parody, the burgeoning reparations movement, the retrying of Ku Klux Klan terrorists—to know we won't be weaning ourselves from this brand of storytelling any time soon.

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