Few artistic movements have provoked such strong emotions as has melodrama over the years. From sneers of derision to tears of empathy, melodrama has the peculiar facility to divide and polarize popular and critical opinion. The study of the origin and influence of melodrama in cinema has likewise generated more heated and contradictory debate than perhaps any other area of enquiry within film scholarship and criticism. Melodrama cannot be defined simply as a genre, as it frequently defies attempts at generic classification. Rather, the history of the term's use in film scholarship demonstrates many of the debates and limitations of genre theory.