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Embodied VisionsEvolution, Emotion, Culture and Film$
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Torben Grodal

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195371314

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195371314.001.0001

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Sadness, Melodrama, and Rituals of Loss and Death

Sadness, Melodrama, and Rituals of Loss and Death

Chapter:
(p.122) 6 Sadness, Melodrama, and Rituals of Loss and Death
Source:
Embodied Visions
Author(s):

Torben Grodal

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195371314.003.0006

This chapter analyzes why tragic films are successful and prestigious although they evoke sadness and grief, whereas fitness-enhancing activities in general evoke pleasure. First, it focus on general brain mechanisms by which superior goals temporarily modify reactions of unpleasure to support coping in the service of goals, as in action and adventure films. Second, it argues that such general mechanisms cannot explain films with negative endings. It argues that viewer preferences for such stories may be explained as adaptations created during the evolutionary process. Third, it argues that there are two adaptive mechanisms at play: a general mechanism that makes negative events fascinating to support information about negative events (enhancing learning), and a cluster of more specific adaptations that support bonding—pair-bonding, male bonding, and tribal bonding—based on rituals of mourning. Rituals of mourning are often linked to scenes that elicit awe and submission to some higher power (fate or divine forces); the chapter discusses the biological-evolutionary underpinnings of such emotions and behaviors and analyzes Saving Private Ryan, The Last of the Mohicans, Hero, Pan’s Labyrinth, and others, in this light.

Keywords:   film melodrama, rituals of mourning, tragedy, bonding, tribalism, negative emotions, coping and dopamine, evolution

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