Media products can be classified into categories or genre. The word 'genre' comes from the French word meaning 'type' or 'class'. Media genres appear within a medium (film, television) such as the "horror" film or the television "situation comedy".
A genre can be recognised by its common set of distinguishing features
The features associated with a genre's style and content may be, for example, a particular setting, character types, technical codes (lighting or music).
You may also find that some media texts blur genre boundaries.
Audiences and Producers...
Audiences recognise these features and therefore expect certain things. For example, at the end of a romantic comedy film the two lead characters will realise they are in love. Audiences may even select a text on the basis of its genre.
Producers market texts according to genre because a niche audience has already been identified as taking pleasure in that type of text.
However, a genre is not static – it changes all the time – resulting in hybrid (or sub-) genres and changing codes and conventions. There is also a relationship between genres and the societies in which they are created.
Conventional plots, narrative, characters or media language. Used by producers to form a writing structure and to attract an audience.
Used by an audience to search through media texts and see which they would like based upon they conventions they would have seen previously in other texts which share the genre.
The definition "genre" was developed in the 1950's Hollywood Studios, or Film Factories.
Studios would reduce costs by re-using sets or writing frames in order to cut production costs and produce films that were certain to be bought by media audiences.
This caused films to look the very similar, for example see Howard Hawks 1937 film Scarface and Little Caesar produced in the same year.
The distinctive textual properties of a genre typically listed by film and television theorists include:
narrative - similar (sometimes formulaic) plots and structures, predictable situations, sequences, episodes, obstacles, conflicts and resolutions
characterization - similar types of characters (sometimes stereotypes), roles, personal qualities, motivations, goals, behaviour
basic themes, topics, subject matter (social, cultural, psychological, professional, political, sexual, moral), values and what Stanley Solomon refers to as recurrent 'patterns of meaning' (Solomon 1995: 456)
setting - geographical and historical
iconography (echoing the narrative, characterization, themes and setting) - a familiar stock of images or motifs, the connotations of which have become fixed; primarily but not necessarily visual, including décor, costume and objects, certain 'typecast' performers (some of whom may have become 'icons'), familiar patterns of dialogue, characteristic music and sounds, and appropriate physical topography;
filmic techniques - stylistic or formal conventions of camerawork, lighting, sound-recording, use of color, editing etc. (viewers are often less conscious of such conventions than of those relating to content).
Mood and Tone
Less easy to place in one of the traditional categories are mood and tone (which are key features of the film noir).
Mode of Address
In addition, there is a particularly important feature which tends not to figure in traditional accounts and which is often assigned to text-reader relationships rather than to textual features in contemporary accounts. This is mode of address, which involves inbuilt assumptions about the audience, such as that the 'ideal' viewer is male (the usual categories here are class, age, gender and ethnicity); as Sonia Livingstone puts it, 'texts attempt to position readers as particular kinds of subjects through particular modes of address' (Livingstone 1994, 249).
Some film genres tend to defined primarily by their subject matter (e.g. detective films), some by their setting (e.g. the Western) and others by their narrative form (e.g. the musical).
As already noted, in addition to textual features, different genres also involve different purposes, pleasures, audiences, modes of involvement, styles of interpretation and text-reader relationships.
There are three main purposes in categorising texts into genres. These are:
To influence production in order to fit into a particular genre
To give insight into ways audiences consume texts
To help consider texts from an academic perspective
Which comes first?
The three reasons above can be likened to a triangle.
Audience Producer Text This creates a chicken and egg effect – which comes first? Or do they all happen at the same time? Or do the directions shift? And, if they do shift, what causes this?
Todorov said, “All media production takes place in the light of other media production and represents partly a response to the pre-existing world of production.”
Are we doomed to experience the same text over and over again...?
Genres and Sub-genres
Groups of texts that share common features.
Genres and Sub-genres
There is no single perfect way to trace the relationships between these categories
The structure of genre is very broad
Texts can be regarded as combining genres and therefore having originality
Hybrid Genres - Regressive
Regressive: a text that attempts to take on elements ‘original’ to a genre by resisting change that has already happened within the genre and attempting to go back to an earlier state.
This can be difficult because an audience’s expectations are often based on these changes, so although they are not used in the text, their absence is obvious.
Hybrid Genres - Progressive
Progressive: a text is created by melding aspects of different genres. This is usually an attempt to be original, but typically all of the elements have been used before, so all that is original is the blending of them.
If a text defies categorisation it is known as a Maverick.
These are few and far between as most texts have something in common with one (or more) of the genres