Conventional definitions of genres tend to be based on the
notion that they constitute particular conventions of
content, e.g. themes and settings, which are shared by the texts
which are regarded as belonging to them.
Every genre positions those who participate in a text of that kind:
as interviewer or interviewee, as listener or story teller, as a
reader or a writer, as a person interested in political matters, as
someone to be instructed or as someone who instructs. Each of
these positioning implies different possibilities for response and
Each written text provides a ‘reading position’ for readers, a
position constructed by the writer for the ‘ideal reader’ of the
Other pleasures can be derived from sharing our experience of a
genre with others within an 'interpretive community' which can
be characterized by its familiarity with certain genres.
STEVE NEALE (1980)
It is easy to underplay the differences within genre.
Steve Neale declares “Genre are instances or repetition and
difference.” He adds that “Difference is absolutely
essential to the economy of genre.”: mere repetition would
not attract an audience.
Steve Neale argues that Hollywood’s generic regime
performs two inter-related functions: i) to guarantee
meanings and pleasures for audiences ii) to offset the
considerable economic risks of industrial film production by
providing cognitive collateral against innovation and
Genre is constituted by “specific systems of expectations
and hypothesis which spectators bring with them to the
cinema and which interact with the films themselves during
the course of the viewing process.”
JOHN HARTLEY (1994)
Texts often exhibit the conventions of more
than one genre.
John Hartley notes that “The same text can
belong to different genres in different
countries or times.”
Traditionally genres were regarded as fixed
forms, but contemporary theory emphasises
that both their forms and functions are
DAVID BUCKINGHAM (1993)
David Buckingham argues that “Genre is
not… simply ‘given’ by the culture: rather, it is
in a constant process of negotiation and
Embedded within texts are assumptions
about the ‘ideal reader’, including their
attitudes towards the subject matter and
often their class, age, gender and ethnicity.
USES AND GRATIFICATION
Pleasure due to the recognition of the
features of a particular genre, recognition of
what is likely to be important because of our
knowledge of the genre, is necessary in order
to follow a plot.
Genres may offer various emotional pleasures
such as empathy and escapism- a feature in
which some theoretical commentaries seem
to lose sight of.
Aristotle acknowledged the special emotional
responses which were linked to different genres.
Deborah Knights (1994) notes that “Satisfaction is
guaranteed with genre; the deferral of the inevitable
provides the additional pleasure of the prolonged
Steve Neale (1980) argues that pleasure is derived
from “Repetition and difference”; there would be no
pleasure without difference. We may derive pleasure
from observing how the conventions of the genre
are manipulated (Abercrombie (1996) we may also
enjoy the stretching of a genre in new directions and
the consequent shifting of our expectations.
TOM RYALL (1978) AND
Genre provides a framework of structuring rules, in the shape of
patterns, forms, styles, structures, which act as a form of ‘supervision’ over the work of production
of filmmakers and the work of reading by the audience.
John Fiske defines genres as ‘attempts to structure some order into the wide range of texts and
meanings that circulate in our culture for the convenience of both producers and audiences.’
Ryall sees this framework provided by the generic system; therefore, genre becomes a cognitive
repository of images, sounds, stories, characters, and expectations.
1. To the producers of films, genre is a template for what they make.
2. To the distributor/promoter, genre provides assumptions about who the audience is and how to
market the films for that specific audience.
3. To the audience, it is a label that identifies a liked or disliked formula and provides certain rules
of engagement for the spectator in terms of anticipation of pleasure e.g. the anticipation of what
will happen in the attic scene of The Exorcist.
4. When genres become classic, they can exert tremendous influence: production can be come
quicker and more confident because film-makers are following tested formulae and have a ready
shorthand to work with, and actors can be filtered into genres and can be seen to have assumed
‘star quality’ when their mannerisms, physical attributes, way of speaking and acting fit a certain
style of genre.
Rick Altman argues that genres are usually
defined in terms of media language
(SEMANTIC elements) and codes (in the
Western, for example:
guns, horses, landscape, characters or even
stars, like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood) or
certain ideologies and narratives (SYNTACTIC
JOHNATON CULLER (1978(
Generic conventions exist to establish a
contract between creator and reader so as to
make certain expectations
operative, allowing compliance and deviation
from the accepted modes of intelligibility.
Acts of communication are rendered
intelligible only within the context of a shared
conventional framework of expression.
5. In turn, viewers become ‘generic spectators’
and can be said to develop generic memory
which helps the in the anticipation of
events, even though the films themselves might
play on certain styles rather than follow closely a
clichéd formula. E.g. the attic scene from The
Exorcist – we expect something to jump out on
the woman because all the generic conventions
are in place, but in the end, the director deflates
the tension. We do not consume films as
individual entities, but in an intertextual way.
Film is a post-modern medium in this
way, because movies make sense in relation to
other films, not todeviate from the clichéd formulae that leads to a
6. It is the way genre films reality.
more interesting experience for the viewer, but fore this to work
properly, the audience must be familiar with generic conventions and style.
Problems with genre
Theorist and Critic Rick Altman (1999) came up with a list of
points he found problematic with genre classicfication .
a) Genre is a useful category, because it bridges multiple
b) Genres are defined by the film industry and recognised by the
c) Genres have clear, stable identities and borders.
d) Individual films belong wholly and permanently to a single
e) Genres are transhistorical.
f) Genres undergo predictable development.
g) Genres are located in particular topic, structure and corpus.
h) Genre films share certain fundamental characteristic.
i) Genres have either a ritual or ideological function.
j) Genre critics are distanced from the practice of genre.
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