Back to tragedy

I know we discussed the concept of tragedy last week, but while I was watching Birdman last night, the idea kind of came back to me. (I know we didn’t watch it in class, but I found it relatable). At the Golden Globes, Michael Keaton won Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, for his role as Riggan, but I didn’t reaaaally see it as a comedy, but I guess I could consider it a dark, dark, dark, dark, dark comedy.


In the final 20ish minutes of the film, the climax revolves around opening night of Riggan’s broadway debut. He had already spoken with a critic who told him she would tear his show a part, and to him, it seems like his life is falling apart. Cue the dramatic moment where he picks up a gun, instead of his prop gun, loads it, and walks on stage.

The scene continues and eventually ends with Riggan shooting himself, and supposedly killing himself. The following scene is choppy and drastically different from the rest of the seamless film, and I took it to be Riggan’s life flashing in his final moments. Then things get weird — I believe that when Riggan wakes up in the hospital, its the final moments of his dream-like state, or even his afterlife, where everything is just as it should be for him — a good relationship with wife and daughter, a good critique, an already fixed nose, and being able to actually fly out the window.

To me the ending, and movie as a whole, was a tragedy. It ended with the death of the lead, and the whole plot was about strained relationships, struggles with inner demons, and Riggan’s seemingly worthless life.  Though I found some of the dialogue comical, I don’t think I would ever jump to say that this film should be put in the “comedy/musical” category. To me it was very much a drama, and pretty much a tragedy — and I never realized that those could be intertwined.

So, I have a question about this: Is Birdman a tragedy? Can it be both a comedy and a tragedy? Or, does it have to do with hybridity in genres.

One thought on “Back to tragedy”

  1. Classically speaking (i.e. in the Shakespearian sense of the word), comedy ends in marriage and tragedy ends in the death of the main character. It’s up to debate as to whether Riggan actually dies at the end of Birdman. If he does die, then Birdman is a tragedy by definition.

    I would say he doesn’t actually die because the whole film is based in fantasy. “I don’t exist,” Riggan says, exasperatedly, during his final monologue, “I’m not even here.”

    This probably doesn’t answer your question, but these are just my thoughts.

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