Genre is dead/Long live genre….

Posted: October 7, 2010 in Media

 In class we read an article discussing genre in the media (though mostly in film) and arguing whether or not is still is a useful concept to use…

Here is a brief summary of the article-

Genre is labelled on media products to make them easier to distribute to audiences (so if you like horror films, and see a new film labelled as a horror also, you’re more likely to go and see it basically)

-The article explains that genre categorization is usually straightforward to distinguish- they all have similar (if not the same) codes and conventions in sound, editing, camerawork and lighting etc which audiences apparently like because it is familiar and reassuring for them

-So, we are made to think that genre is a rigid and structured term, but is it?

-The article then goes on to discuss and evaluate the fact that genres gradually evolve over time- progressing through all the films in a certain genre as each new film maker tries to do something new with the codes and conventions so as not to bore audiences

-To summarise and argue that genre is not rigid or structured at all, the writer discusses ‘Star Wars’ and argues that it is not just a science fiction (as most would generalise it as) but is a big mix up of all kinds of genres. It has fantasy elements, historical elements, mythical elements and all kinds of conventions that mean that ‘Star Wars’ therefore cannot be identified as just one genre.

-They argue that because of big Hollywood films becoming too predictable due to these rigid codes and conventions of genre used for every film, this is why film makers have begun to try and break these conventions.

-They also say that genre ‘hybrids’ are much more common than people may first think, and that if we really analyse a film properly, we will soon discover none all share the exact same qualities but all very different in their own ways. 

-It also explained that people have begun inventing new genres, like Film Noir, to catch up with the fact film makers are desperately trying to break boundaries only to end up creating new ones.

-Moving onto TV and genre, the article says that in Television the genre boundaries are (or were to begin with) a bit less complex or structured than in film. (Such as children’s Television is a genre that covers ‘Tom and Jerry’ but also ‘Newsround’ despite the glaring differences in codes and conventions between them).

-And then there is an explanation of the term ‘Jumping the shark’ (taken from a TV series names ‘Happy Days’ which was supposed to be realistic but ended up getting more and more surreal as it went on) and that this represents how, if films or even TV series’ get a bit too adventurous in breaking these conventions, it can result in baffled and disappointed audiences.

-It is then explained that film makers and producers have a lot of difficulty in making something that is new and exciting to attract new audiences, while keeping to the old codes and conventions of their genre to still keep old audiences happy at the same time.

-The article then explains that genre itself receives a lot of prejudice- especially form critics- and it is predictable and lacking in quality to just ‘copy’ the codes and conventions from other films of the same genre.

-It says that TV series and films have much success when they challenge these conventions and end up creating new ones for people to follow (such as ‘The Office’ which was made out to be a documentary but was actually scripted) as it challenges audience’s expectations and therefore interests them more (but this breaking of conventions is as old as original genres themselves)

-They say that the things that affect how we view genre are the following- the genre’s histories/ previous films of the same genre, the time in which the film was created etc etc

-The writer summarises his article by arguing that it is nonsense to claim that genres have rigid structures, boundaries, codes and conventions. This then challenges many assumptions made about genre itself. We should also acknowledge other things, like audience and their own personal perceptions that all differ

-They suggest that to describe how texts work, we should look at how they function in relation to genre, like a guideline, rather than simply defining them by it.

-Interestingly, the article compares genres to the concept of stereotyping– if we analyse a certain group of real people that we consider to be a certain type of person because of a stereotype, we may start to realise that the stereotype is a generalisation and therefore doesn’t apply to absolutely everyone in this group. So, when we start to pick apart a film seeming to be placed in a certain genre we can see they are complex and unique– so labeling them in one structured genre is generalisation and rather meaningless.

So, what am I going to take from this??

Well, I’ve realised the following things:

-That to establish the genre of my trailer is important for marketing- it helps audiences understand and acknowledge what may be expected from the film itself. Thus allowing them to judge whether they’d enjoy it or not.

– That I may wish to consider the codes and conventions within my genre of thriller and sub-genre of revenge. But I want to consider that sometimes it can be a better idea not to stick to these conventions like it is a book of rules because they can make my trailer/film predictable and boring (as it’ll have all the same conventions as the other films in the same genre).

-I can keep the codes and conventions of thriller and revenge films as guidelines, but remember that I do not have to stick to them (in attempt to differ from what I did from the AS course, which was very much based on the conventions of the thriller genre).

-But if I try to break these conventions I should be careful not to ‘jump the shark’ and make my trailer too ridiculous for the genre as this can make the audience disappointed and confused with what the trailer is trying to convey the film as.

-To be aware that genre conventions and codes are changing all the time in genres– so I need to be aware that I should try to think of new ideas, but I should acknowledge the fact that I want to be adventurous and different but I don’t want to go so out of the conventions to confuse audiences and in the mean time, probably disappoint them too.


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