“Sirens of TI” as an example of the new genre of 21st century melodrama

warning: theatre content

Although most people may see the “Sirens of TI” show at Treasure Island as contentless spectacle, there’s much more to it.

The melodrama of the 20th century featured polarised morality and spectacle. “Sirens,” however, is 21st century melodrama. One of the biggest changes in drama for the last two decades is the confusion of morality. Melodrama used to be clear cut good v. bad. There was the white hat hero and the black mustache tie-you-to-the-train-tracks bad villain. Both were easily identifiable and there was nothing in between. Today’s melodrama is an exploration of moral issues. What makes us good or bad? Is it what we do or why we do it? Think about this before you answer.

We all agree that Jack Bauer is a hero. Consider his actions. A lot of people consider what he does “wrong,” but we stand up and cheer for his because of his reasons for doing it. He frequently will sacrifice his own moral character for the great good of the safety of the nation.

This stands in contrast to “the grotesque” movement of the romantic period. The romantic period started blending different elements of characters. The characters themselves were, however, still very distinct and readily identifiable. In the 21st century, we don’t know who is who.

“Sirens” is no different. There are pirates and sirens. Criminals (particularly poignant given recent events) and mythical sex goddesses. Ironically, the Siren’s ship is white – normally symbolic of purity. The visual design of the pirate’s vessel is clearly influenced by a Peter Pan “lost boys” style. The Sirens seduce the Pirates. Clearly in this performance the Pirates are the victims – “lost boys” who are helpless to the seduction of women. This is also a sexual role reversal from what was portrayed just 20 years ago. Vampire literature (and other similarly sexual story lines) has always shown men as the aggressor – but that’s changed now.

Who is good? Who is evil? Why are we motivated to do thing? What is the true measure of our character? The Pirates, ironically are standing up their honour. The Sirens are seeking purely after carnal desire. In the end the Sirens win. What is the show teaching? Immediate gratification is good. Impulse control is bad. Welcome to Vegas. We’re here to help you with that – for a small fee.

Some things, though, will never change. The melodrama of the 18th and 19th centuries featured spectacle. It was all about putting on a big show – bigger, better, louder. Epic. The 19th century featured a sub-genre called “firefighter melodrama” that was popular because they got to burn things on stage. The same is true with “Sirens.” As they’ve proven on Mythbusters, it’s always better to end with a bang.

So the bottom line is that “Sirens of TI” has been written in the melodramatic style because it’s historically about escapism – and guess what Vegas is trying to create. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” LasVegas itself is performance. It’s all a show. People come here to fulfill the same escapist desire. It’s carnal. It’s deeply rooted, and it a lot ways it’s sad that people have no greater source of joy in their life. I think it’s sad the the closest many people come to “being alive” is being to close to something that is completely (and openly) contrived in nature.

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