Comedy-Drama—known by the neologism “dramedy”—is a subgenre of comedy that presents one of life’s most prevalent incongruities: sorrow and joy intermingling and wrestling. Dramedy has received mixed reactions from film critics and audiences. Modern culture seems obsessed with films that have either uplifting light transcendence or dark neo-Gothic themes, but when light and dark are mixed together in a single film, it may create cognitive dissonance in viewers. As the executive producer of the television series House of Lies claims, “We…are uncomfortable with drama when it’s in our comedy. And we’re uncomfortable with comedy when it’s sullied by drama.” Blending the disparate elements of comedy and drama into one film can seem like a mongrel and akin to irreverently performing a festive hornpipe dance at a funeral. The comedy-drama combination can be unappealing to audiences who want to see the world in a facile way, either as naively perfect or hopelessly cynical. However, neither extreme is an accurate portrayal of reality. As Kevin Taylor and Giles Waller write, humanity is living in the reality of “Holy Saturday,” waiting “between the memory, trauma, and despair of Good Friday and the expectant hope of Easter.” Dramedy produces the “Holy Saturday” tension, mixing the suffering of the cross and the joy of the resurrection. Despite the criticisms, the dramedy genre has significant value in that it helps viewers better perceive a Christian view of reality, as venturing into the dramedy examples of The Kid, Untouchable, and Life is Beautiful will reveal.
The Christian view of reality acknowledges that there is still real pain and suffering in the world. Even Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) Some days can feel like “Good Friday”: the day of suffering, earthquakes, darkness, and death. Simultaneously though, Christian theology acknowledges that ultimately, death has been defeated, and Christ will return for His Bride: “But take heart! I have overcome the world,” Jesus also says. Thus, other days feel like “Easter Sunday”: the day of new life, hope, feasting, and light. “We experience our Good Fridays knowing about Easter morning. We know that death does not have the last word. But death does have the last word for the moment,” as author David Mills proclaims. That means earthly life is a mongrel of the hornpipe and funeral: a mixture of rejoicing and mourning. It’s analogous to “Holy Saturday,” which is “that odd day sitting between the reality of death and the reality of Christ’s final victory over death.” The whole creation is still groaning, waiting for the final “Easter Sunday,” the wedding feast of Christ and His Bride, the Church. In the meantime, daily life is presently stuck on Holy Saturday, some days looking back to Good Friday and some days looking forward to Easter Sunday, and perhaps most days, life is a strange mixture of both.
The Bible is full of that mixture. Although the shape of the Bible is ultimately comic (comic in the classical sense of a happy ending), it is teeming with tragedy. There is nothing comedic about God’s people being adulterous, rejecting Him, betraying Him, and sinning against Him. It is a very serious thing, so serious that Christ pursued His people by dying a gruesome death on the cross. Nevertheless, the same book that includes wars, heartbreak, weeping, captivity, betrayal, and a torturous crucifixion also includes singing, parades, rejoicing, resurrection, and ultimately the wedding feast and God’s Kingdom having fully come.
Dramedy then, which essentially is a Holy Saturday mixture, combining the tragedy or drama of Good Friday with the comedy of Easter Sunday, is particularly well-equipped to help viewers perceive the story arc of Christian theology. For that to become clear, the genre of dramedy first must be defined, but its definition has provoked much debate. Some argue dramedy is an evolution of comedy: it is merely the next change of the comedy world. Another declares dramedy is a way to please audiences from both ends of the emotional spectrum. Still others argue it is a hybrid genre, blending the rules associated with both drama and comedy. A definition seems elusive.
In fact, exploring dramedy’s forerunner and twin—tragicomedy in theater—reveals the genre has escaped a concrete definition for hundreds of years. Nonetheless, considering the history of tragicomedy can at least help unearth some of the essential elements of tragicomedy, and thus its film equivalent, dramedy. Tragicomedy was popularized in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, initiated in Italy in large part by Giovanni Guarini with his play The Faithful Shepherd (1590), and initiated in England by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher with their collaborative plays. In the prologue to one of his plays, Fletcher said it lacked death, so it could not be a tragedy, yet it brought some near to death, so it could not be a comedy; thus, it was a tragicomedy. Such a combination was not readily accepted. The playwrights were creating tragicomedy in a culture steeped in Aristotelian categorization, so critics were uncomfortable with the transgression of clear-cut barriers between tragedy and comedy. Critics said the only way tragicomedy could work is if it had a double plot, and that would be against the Aristotelian value of unity.
In response to critics who claimed tragedy and comedy were fundamentally incompatible entities that could not be mixed into a single plot, Guarini argued tragicomedy does not merely yoke together two separate genres. Rather, it uses both tragedy and comedy to create a third entity, like mixing tin and copper to make bronze. Guarini admitted there were certain elements of tragedy and comedy that could not be blended, but he believed some elements could be combined without offending Aristotle’s immutable laws of nature. From tragedy he could take “its great persons but not its great action, its verisimilar plot but not its true one, its movement of feelings but not its disturbance of them, its pleasure but not its sadness, its danger, but not its death.” From comedy, he could take the measured laughter, modest pleasantries, the happy reversal, and above all, the comic order. The happy reversal and comic order is key, for even though Renaissance and modern critics debate the exact definition of tragicomedy, at least they can agree that the happy ending is somewhat of a tragicomic inevitability. Indeed, one encyclopedic dictionary describes tragicomedy as “a drama with a happy ending.” Tragicomedy follows an arc in which the potential for tragedy arises, but tragedy is averted or transcended, and the story ends with a comic resolution. Guarini contended that tragicomedies must end in joy.
Having explored what the genre of tragicomedy entails, it should start to become clearer how tragicomedy, and thus dramedy, coincides with the Christian view of reality. Tragicomedy, in fact, “finds its narrative and structural basis in Christian redemption,” for the tragedy of Adam and Eve’s fall leads to the comic resolution of Christ’s death and resurrection. Guarini himself recognized that tragicomedy was a genre suitable for Christianity. He claimed neither comedy or tragedy in and of themselves were apropos for a Christian age. Comedy was no longer appropriate because it made people dissolve into licentious laughter. Tragedy was not fitting because a purpose of that genre is to improve compassion, but now that humanity has the sacred teachings of the Gospels to show compassion, tragedies are redundant. So Guarini wrote a tragicomedy that showed providential history, from a fall (tragedy) to a redemptive act of sacrifice (comedy). Such a scheme strongly suggests a “Christological dynamic” and the happy ending involves redemption, which is fitting to Christian doctrine. The “redemptive reversal” of the tragedy at the end of a tragicomedy allows viewers to laugh through their tears and “the comic return as a dimension of reality” can be profound. Likewise, Christ brought a comic return to reality, restoring the comic order. Comedy entered the tragedy. Even the incarnation itself could be seen as having “holy hilarity” for there is incongruity in God becoming flesh. The tragedy of all humanity being forever lost was averted through the comedy of the incarnation. Tragicomedies, and by default their film descendant—dramedies—give viewers a glimpse of the comic dimension of reality transcending the temporary tragedy, and thus give viewers a taste of Christian theology.
The Christological dynamic is seen in the dramedies The Kid, Untouchable, and Life is Beautiful. The Kid (1921) by Charlie Chaplin was one of the first films to combine the genres of drama and comedy. Italian director, actor, and playwright Roberto Benigni believed that Chaplin was one of the first persons who could make people laugh and cry at the same time and could turn the comedian’s work into something poetic. The film opens with the words: “A picture with a smile-and perhaps, a tear.” An unwed mother is holding her baby, and as she struggles along carrying the child, the shot cuts to an image of Jesus bearing his cross. Another shot cuts to the father of the baby, and when a picture of the mother falls into the fireplace, he lets it burn. The mother is all alone. With much distress, she decides to leave her baby in the car in front of a fancy house, and then she runs away. Two thieves break into the car to steal it, and they do not notice the baby until they are down the road. One of the thieves puts a gun to the baby, but then decides to leave the baby in the trash. Charlie Chaplin—playing the Tramp—finds the baby, and after a sequence of comedic scenes trying to pass the baby off to others, he sees the letter in the baby’s clothes that says he is an orphan; please love him.
Meanwhile, the mother regrets her decision and is desperately trying to find her baby, and she faints at the news that the car was stolen. The film skips forward, and the now five-year old Kid and the Tramp are working together. The Kid goes through town throwing rocks into windows so that the Tramp can be paid to fix them. Scenes of slapstick comedy ensue with fist fights and running from the police. The Kid’s mother has become a rich celebrity, and when she goes to poor neighborhoods to give toys to children, she unknowingly meets her son. One day she finds him sick and tells the Tramp to call for a doctor. When the doctor finds out the Kid is an orphan by seeing the letter, he sends for the orphanage workers to come pick up the boy. The Kid and the Tramp escape from them and go on the run. When the mother comes back to check if the boy is feeling better, she runs into the doctor who shows her the letter—the letter she had left with her baby five years ago! She puts out a $1000 reward, and someone steals the boy away from the Tramp to turn him in for the reward. The Kid is reunited with his mother, and the Tramp mopes around until a police officer comes to take him to visit the Kid and mother. The film ends with the Kid jumping into the arms of the Tramp and the Tramp entering the home of the mother.
For about the first eight minutes of the hour-long film, there is no indication that this film will also be a comedy. That eight minutes is when the mother is rejected and left destitute and alone. The image of the cross appears. A car is stolen. A gun is put to the baby’s head! It all seems to be set up for a continuing tragic tale, but with the entrance of Charlie Chaplin, he saves the baby, and a tragedy (the baby’s death) is averted by the comedic character. With the ensuing comic scenes, the tragedy does not completely cease, for the mother’s regret and heartbreak is still evident and prominent. One scene is a slapstick chase and the next is a close-up on a mother’s pained face. The mother’s story is on the tragic path and the Tramp and Kid are on a comic path. The mother jumps over to the comic path when she is reunited with her son, and the Tramp is pushed on to the tragic path with the loss of the Kid. At the end of the film, the two paths merge into one as the tragic path dissipates into the comic path, and all three characters enter into a happy ending. Chaplin’s film matches his philosophy of life: “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” Indeed, when looking at life from a limited perspective, it seems to merely be a tragic tale. Looking at it from Christian theology’s wide perspective, in contrast, shows that the tragedy is a short path merging into comic resolution.
The French film known in English as Untouchable (2011), is based on a true story. In the film’s retelling, a rich quadriplegic, Philippe (François Cluzet), hires an ex-convict, Driss (Omar Sy), to take care of his daily needs. Driss had no intention of getting hired; he only wanted to get a signature as proof he applied to a job, so he could continue to receive unemployment benefits. Philippe convinces Driss to work for him during a one-month trial period. Driss’s family life is in shambles, and his aunt kicked him out of the house, so he agrees to take the job so he can live in Philippe’s mansion. Philippe chooses Driss because he is tough and will not show him pity. The two men become friends, and the film essentially becomes a “buddy comedy,” complete with crass jokes and sexual innuendoes. Scenes of pain are intermixed, as Philippe has phantom pains and shares about his wife’s death, and Driss has family drama. Philippe has been writing to a woman for months but is too nervous to meet her in person. Driss eventually orchestrates them to meet at a restaurant, and the film ends with Driss and Philippe smiling at each other through the restaurant window and then Driss walking away. The end credits state that Philippe got remarried and had children, and Driss got married and had children as well.
The directors and writers of the film, Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, said that the film redefines the heroic image, from the superhero to “two simple people who can accept the fragility of their lives.” He adds that “…the humour saves these two people. It’s a kind of British humour. The British can joke about everything, even misery.” The man the film was based on, Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, only agreed to give the directors the rights once he found out the film would be a comedy. Nakache said that “ didn’t want to be viewed with pity, seen as less than human: he said make a comedy.” The directors were warned to stay away from this story because disabilities and the French projects are taboo topics. By making the story a comedy, however, the directors were able to get away with broaching those topics. They have received thousands of thank-you messages from those in wheelchairs.
Unlike the recent blockbuster Me Before You, in which the wheelchair-bound man decides to commit suicide through euthanasia, the comedy Untouchable shows that the wheelchair-bound man can still have joy. The film mentions suicide multiple times, but the conversation is always superseded by a joke or humorous situation. For example, while Philippe’s beard is being shaved by Driss during a time of depression for Philippe, he tells Driss that “a quick cut would settle it.” The scene explodes into laughter though as Driss cuts Philippe’s mustache and beard to mimic various people of history. Director Nakache said that “Philippe can be in a depressed state and Driss is able to get him out of it by making him laugh even if it is at his expense.” Laughter seems to enable the acceptance of human fragility, instead of the fragility leading to despair. Typical of the genre of tragicomedy or dramedy, tragic thoughts are averted or transcended by comedy. The film ends mentioning marriages, so it has a comic ending. The film comes near to death—both in the physical injury and in the mental thoughts of suicide—but it does not end in death. Although the humor content of the film is at times adverse to Christianity due to the sexually immoral and coarse joking, the form of the film still aligns with the shape of Christian theology. It gives a vivid picture that the joy of Easter Sunday can be brought into Good Friday tragic days, even into the tragic days of a quadriplegic and ex-convict.
The Italian film La Vita è Bella, or Life is Beautiful (1998), written, directed by, and starring Roberto Benigni, begins as a romantic comedy. Guido (Benigni) pursues the high-society schoolteacher, Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), with humorous and seemingly magical antics, but he finds out she is engaged to a man of Italian high society. When Guido and Dora both sneak under a table during an event that Guido is waiting tables at, Dora pleads, “Take me away.” He rides in on his white horse and whisks her away. The next scene shows the couple with a five-year-old son, Giosué (Giorgio Cantarini). Guido owns a bookshop, and his son helps him. It seems like a straightforward fairy-tale—unless viewers are paying attention to the details. For instance, Guido rides in on a white horse that had been vandalized with the painted words, “Jewish horse.” At dinner, Dora’s teacher friend tells her about a math problem in the third-grade curriculum. The question asked how much the state would save if cripples are eliminated. The teacher goes on to explain why she was so shocked at the math question: not because of its content, but because it was too difficult of a multiplication problem for third graders. A store near Guido’s bookshop says “No Jews or dogs” and when Giosué asks about it, Guido just jokes that they will put a “No Spiders and Visigoths” sign on their store.
The subtext of the first half hints that this film is not just a comedy, yet it can still feel jarring when the second half of the movie is set in a Holocaust concentration camp. When Dora comes home one day, the house has been ransacked, and her husband and son are missing. She finds out that because Guido is Jewish, he and Giosué are being loaded on a train to be taken to a concentration camp. She convinces the Fascist guard to put her on the train too, but at the camp, the women are separated from the men and boys. Guido comes up with the idea to convince Giosué that this camp is all a game, and the Fascist guards are just playing the part of mean men who yell. The winners, those who reach one thousand points, win a real tank, and Giosué can win points by staying hidden and quiet. Throughout the time at the camp, Guido tries to make it beautiful, such as when he manages to put the record player near a loudspeaker and play Dora’s favorite song. Near the end of the film, the guards are gathering the prisoners to kill them before American troops arrive. Guido hides Giosué, dresses up as a woman, and sneaks into the women’s barracks to find Dora and escape, but he gets caught. From his hiding spot, Giosué can see Guido being led by a guard at gunpoint, so Guido winks and does a clownish walk until he’s out of sight of Giosué, and Giosué smiles. The guard leads Guido behind a wall and a gunshot rings out. When Giosué comes out from hiding in the morning, lo and behold, there’s a tank! The American army had come, and they give him a ride on the tank. While driving down the road, Giosué sees his momma among the other survivors, and he gets off the tank and runs to her exclaiming, “We won! We won the game! Daddy and me came in first and now we won the real tank! A thousand points to laugh like crazy about. We won! We won!” The last scene is mother and son laughing.
In contrast to the definition of tragicomedy that it has the danger of death but not death, Guido dies. The film does not end tragically though, as both Giosué and his mother experience the danger of death but escape it in the end, and thus the comic order prevails. In line with the elements of tragicomedy, the film has a verisimilar plot to the Holocaust, but not its true plot. It has movement of feelings but not its disturbance of them, because the film does not show any clearly disturbing images (the pile of bodies comes close, but they are shrouded in smoke). It provides the measured laughter and modest pleasantries through Guido and Dora’s clever courtship.
Interestingly, in the film, Guido’s friend tells him that the philosopher Schopenhauer postulates that whatever you will, will come true. Guido begins to use the philosophy like magic, waving his fingers and saying a sentence repeatedly. For instance, when sitting in the theater, he sees Dora and continuously says “Look at me,” and she eventually does. However, Schopenhauer’s philosophy is antithetical to Life is Beautiful. For one, Schopenhauer declares, “Life is never beautiful”! Benigni may have merely misunderstood Schopenhauer when writing him into the script, or he may have included Schopenhauer to add a layer of comedic irony. Guido was using will to get what he wanted, but Schopenhauer called for a complete renunciation, or rejection, of the will, believing it was the cause of suffering. Schopenhauer also found fatalistic realization to be a source of comfort, and he believed nothing could be done to alter the course of events. Contrariwise, Guido was constantly engaging with his environment to change the course of events. For instance, he orchestrated a way to pick up Dora in his car, pretending to be her fiancé. Schopenhauer’s philosophy was essentially pessimistic, and Guido’s view of the world was optimistic. Guido would have made much better friends with G.K. Chesterton than Schopenhauer. Guido, who laughed even in a concentration camp, lived out Chesterton’s belief that “Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live…” Dramedy, in general, rejects a Schopenhauerian resignation in response to suffering, for a dramedy plot transcends tragedy rather than fatalistically resigning to it. Chesterton calls Joy the gigantic secret of the Christian, and it is Joy, not pessimism, that dramedy spreads.
The comedy-drama mixture in Life is Beautiful is advantageous to the story and presents a true picture of reality. However, Life is Beautiful fostered controversy and intense criticism. Benigni’s film seems to have garnered as much criticism as Guarini’s original tragicomedy in the 1500s did! The fact that tragicomedy or dramedy has been causing such controversy since its inception continues to show that people are uncomfortable when drama and comedy are mixed. Following are three of the main criticisms directed at Life is Beautiful.
First, critics blame the film for making light of the Holocaust. However, adding comedy does not neglect the seriousness of the subject. Instead, the structure of the film—first half predominately comedy, second half predominately tragedy—in a sense matches the reality Jews went through. Their lives would have been happy and normal, and then would have started to become increasingly more tragic, and the film helps viewers feel that disorientation. Viewers can feel the “eruption of absurdity and the transformation of one reality into its opposite,” Casey Haskins notes. The comedic bliss in the first half serves to make the concentration camp even more tragic because viewers see the happy life that is then torn away. Benigni justifies his use of comedy in the film: “I think that sometimes only comedians can reach the peaks of tragedy. At the end of Life Is Beautiful, I use the lowest gag in comedy, dressing as a woman, but in this case, it is the very peak of tragedy.” Benigni follows that model at least one other time in the film. When Guido finds out that Dora is engaged, he trips over the chair and falls. Falling is another one of the lowest gags in comedy, and it comes at the moment of Guido’s deepest pain and disappointment in regard to the romance. The comedy does not negate the seriousness of crushed romance or the Holocaust then: it intensifies it, bringing viewers to the emotional intensity of both laughter and tears.
Creating the film with comedy also makes a subliminal point about the Fascists. If comedy presents men as worse than they are, as Aristotle says, and reveals true aspects of humanity, such as incongruity, foolishness, and fragility, then perhaps the film gives the “Aryan race” a lower, more accurate view of themselves. In the film, Guido sneaks into the school to find Dora and is mistaken for the inspector who was supposed to teach the children about the superiority of their race. Guido points to his ear lobes and belly button to teach how superior his body is. Through that scene, Guido is cleverly showing that the “superior race” is just as lowly. All races share the same incongruous nature as the Jews: Aryans also have weird- looking belly buttons and wiggly ear lobes. The movie’s comedic elements make fun of the Fascists, which is helpful for lowering inflated self-perception.
Second, Life is Beautiful is criticized because if the world is ruled by the Kafkaesque absurd, Guido’s heroic sacrifice at the film’s end does not make sense. It assumes a benign moral order that even a child can grasp, one ruled by virtue, family values, and potential for moral and spiritual redemption. According to this critique, the real problem is not that the film has comedy, but that the film is comic in “its deeper vision of life.” Considering Christian theology, this criticism is instead praise for Life is Beautiful and for dramedy in general, for a deeper vision of life is comic. It is true that Guido’s heroic sacrifice does not make sense in an absurdist world, but it does make sense within the Christian redemptive framework.
Third, critics think thatthe happy ending is disrespectful to the memory of those who suffered and died in the Holocaust. Instead of ending in resignation and acceptance of inevitability, Life is Beautiful ends with celebration. Again, rather than being a strike against the film, this criticism supports the value of the film. The terrors of the Holocaust should not have the last word in life. A comedian should make an audience laugh “in the hope this may enliven in them a sense of what it may mean not to give suffering the last word,” according to Vittorio Montemaggi. If the comedian can inspire a love for life, it will give them an ethical attitude that is antithetical to killing another human. Laughter is a way to counter the Hitler’s of the world because it “enlivens a joy of life at one with respect for the life of others.” It helps us view other human beings as an inexplicable miracle. Thus, rather than being disrespectful to the memory of those who suffered, the film can honor their memories by producing an ethical attitude opposite of the one that made the concentration camps possible in the first place. It aims to prevent it from happening again. Further, the happy ending of the film shows viewers that death is not the only side of existence and that a happy ending can exist “because one human being may be ready to suffer for another.” As the adult Giosué voiceover says, “This is my story. This is the sacrifice my father made. This was his gift to me.” Giosué’s happy ending came from tragic sacrifice.
In the comic order, the “finitude, fragility, and foolishness of human life does not give way to tearful destruction, but can be resolved into joyful laughter,” as Phil Tallon expounds. Life is Beautiful ends in the joyous laughter of mother and son, and although that was not the historical reality for most Holocaust victims, it is a reminder of what the future reality can be. That future reality of joyful laughter was won because one human being—God made flesh—was willing to suffer, and now death is not the only reality of existence. When Giosué saw the tank, his mouth dropped open and then he exclaimed, “It’s true!” Christ earned a glorious, comic reality for humanity, and when the full extent of it is made clear at Christ’s return, we too can exclaim, “It’s true!”
In the meantime though, dramedy can help us better navigate the tension of living on Holy Saturday. Through more exposure to dramedy, we can become more comfortable with drama in our comedy and comedy in our drama in life. “Man is the only animal who laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is stuck in the difference between what things are and what things ought to be,” declares William Hazlitt. We weep because of the residual tragedy, but we laugh knowing what things ought to be, and thus what they will be. We do not have to live only on “Good Friday,” for some of the laughter of the coming Kingdom can start now. “Give us our daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer can be interpreted with the sense of “give us, here and now, the bread of life which is promised for the great Tomorrow,” as NT Wright argues. The joy of Easter Sunday and the joy of the future “Easter Sunday” wedding feast can flood on to this Holy Saturday. Dramedies can serve as a reminder and pour that joy into our current dramas. As dramedies make us laugh and cry, we can have the intense reminder that despite our present tragedies, tragedy ultimately can be averted, for life has a comic resolution.
See Haskins’ discussion of Mark Edmundson’s theory in Casey Haskins, “Art, Morality, and the Holocaust: The Aesthetic Riddle of Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 59, No. 4 (Autumn, 2001): 373-84, accessed April 22, 2017, http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.hbu.edu/stable/pdf/432290.pdf.
See Philip Sydney’s quote in Valerie Forman, Tragicomic Redemptions: Global Economics and the Early Modern English Stage (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, ©2008), 6, accessed May 10, 2017, http://site.ebrary.com/lib/rdcollege/doc?id=10748487.
Kevin Taylor and Giles Waller, eds., Christian Theology and Tragedy: Theologians, Tragic Literature and Tragic Theory, Ashgate Studies in Theology, Imagination, and the Arts (Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate, ©2011), 9.
Kevin Fallon argues that all comedy needs dramatic tension to pull off laughs, and the fact that comedy can make the audience laugh or cry is just a “representation of how sophisticated the comedy genre has become, and why it shouldn’t be fragmented by cheap labels like ‘dramedy.’” Kevin Fallon, “Why ‘Weeds,’ ‘The Big C,’ and ‘Glee’ Are Comedies, Not Dramedies,” The Atlantic, June 28, 2011, accessed May 9, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/06/why-weeds-the-big-c-and-glee-are-comedies-not-dramedies/241143/.
Andrew Ho, “50/50 defines ‘dramedy’ genre,” The Technique: Georgia Tech (Atlanta, GA), September 29, 2011, accessed May 9, 2017, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/146443C9DD3249F8?p=WORLDNEWS.
Joseph Turow, Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication, 4th ed. (New York: Routledge, 2011), 1, accessed May 10, 2017, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&an=354265. 45.
Eric Bullard, “Tragicomedy,” Salem Press Encyclopedia of Literature (January 2017): Research Starters, EBSCOhost (accessed May 8, 2017). The first hints of tragicomedy arose even earlier with the classics: “Some early classical plays, such as the Alcestis of Euripides and the Amphitryon of Plautus, seem to mix issues and events of seemingly tragic intensity with comic effects and a happy resolution.” Hugh M. Richmond, Shakespeare’s Theatre: A Dictionary of His Stage Context, Athlone Shakespeare Dictionary Series (London: Continuum, 2002), 468.
Verna A. Foster, The Name and Nature of Tragicomedy, Studies in European Cultural Transition (Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2004). However, although most sources agree that tragicomedy has a comic resolution, there are at least a couple outliers. The Salem Press Encyclopedia of Literature said that tragicomedies “ranged from fully happy endings for everyone, to a mixed finish in which some characters prevail and others are left to despair, to a completely tragic conclusion in which all the characters suffer or perish.” (emphasis mine). Further, the first Renaissance use of the term tragicomedy “came in Fernando de Rojas’s novel in dialogue La Celestina, which carried the subtitle of Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea (The Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea). The story offers a bawdy comedic tale about two lovers from different social castes whose romance is used for financial gain by the nobleman’s servants. In the end, all the major protagonists of the work are dead—a tragic outcome.” One of the first Renaissance plays termed “tragicomedy” thus ended in tragedy. See Salem Press Encyclopedia of Literature. Nonetheless, it could be argued those outliers were not actually tragicomedies since they didn’t fit the definition of having a comic order, a definition explicated by prominent tragicomedy authors, defenders, and theorists, such as Giraldi Cinthio and Giovanni Battista Guarini.
Richard W. Kroon, Av a to Z: An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Media, Entertainment and Other Audiovisual Terms (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., ©2010), 699. See also, “Another significant development in English drama in the early 1600s was the mixing of serious and comic elements. Plays reflecting this development generally had many qualities of tragedy, but with a happy ending.” Edwin Wilson and Alvin Goldfarb, Living Theatre: History of the Theatre, 5th ed. (Boston, Mass.: McGraw-Hill, ©2008), 209.
Mukherji and Lyne, 46. Guarini argued comedy makes us dissolve into laughter “to such an extent that we sin against modesty and the decorum of a well-mannered man,” which I have summed up as “licentious.”
Vittorio Montemaggi, “Dante’s Commedia and the Comic Art of Roberto Benigni” in Beyond “Life is Beautiful”: Comedy and Tragedy in the Cinema of Roberto Benigni, ed. Grace Bullaro, (Leicester UK: Troubador Publishing Ltd, 2005), 117.
Becky Reed, “Interview: Untouchable Co-Director Olivier Nakache,” DIY Magazine, September 26, 2012, accessed April 22, 2017, http://diymag.com/archive/interview-untouchable-co-director-olivier-nakache.
Kate Taylor, “Intouchables: Touching on the legacies of French colonialism,” The Globe and Mail, last modified June 18, 2012, accessed April 22, 2017, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/film/intouchables-touching-on-the-legacies-of-french-colonialism/article4223684/.
Alex Norman, “Interview with Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, the directors of Untouchable,” The Digital Fix, September 21, 2012, accessed April 22, 2017, http://film.thedigitalfix.com/content/id/75995/interview-with-eric-toledano-and-olivier-nakache-directors-of-untouchable.html.
Holocaust survivor Primo Levi said that whilst in the camp, he still thought life outside it was beautiful and would continue to be so. “Benigni’s daring, fable-like, and clearly non-historical move is that of bringing the beauty of life inside the camp.”From Montemaggi, 128.
This is a point that needs developed more. What exactly does Benigni mean when he says that “I discovered that in the lowest you can discover the highest” and “the point where comedy and tragedy meet, when you laugh and cry at the same, is almost God-like”? See Logan.
See Haskins, 379. The author says that with good triumphing over evil, doesn’t this “clinch case? Has Benigni not defiled the most serious of subjects with a story that is comic not only in its local devices but also in its deeper vision of life?”