Genre Theory


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Genre Theory

  2. 2. Genre TheoryDaniel Chandler: Conventional definitions of genres tend to be based on the notionthat they constitute particular conventions of content (such as themes or settings -iconography) and/or form (including structure and style) which are shared by thetexts which are regarded as belonging to them. The Shining could be read according to this theory as conventionally, thrillers will seek to place protagonists in an isolated location – The Overlook Hotel This convention is emphasised in the film’s climax when Jack pursues his wife into a bathroom where she cannot escape. Pursuit of an innocent victim as another thematic convention (cf. North by Northwest, Cape Fear)
  3. 3. Mori, The Tunnel, Blunt Trauma• Think carefully about your own films and the one you have studied for today‟s lesson Themes and Iconography Structure and Style (plot info/props/characters...) (camerawork and editing)
  4. 4. Traditional Genre TheoristsRick Altman argues that genres are usually defined in terms of medialanguage (SEMANTIC elements) and codes (in the Thriller, for example:guns, urban landscape, victims, stalkers, menaced women or evenstars, like James Stewart or Jack Nicholson) or certain ideologies andnarratives (SYNTACTIC elements – Anxiety, tension, menacing situation)Jonathan Culler (1978) – generic conventions exist to establish a contractbetween creator and reader so as to make certain expectationsoperative, allowing compliance and deviation from the accepted modes ofintelligibility. Acts of communication are rendered intelligible only withinthe context of a shared conventional framework of expression.Tom Ryall (1998) sees this framework provided by the generic system;therefore, genre becomes a cognitive repository ofimages, sounds, stories, characters, and expectations
  5. 5. Tom Ryall (1978) – Genre provides a framework of structuring rules, in the shape ofpatterns/forms/styles/structures, which act as a form of „supervision‟ over the work of productionof 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 andmeanings that circulate in our culture for the convenience of both producers and audiences.‟Steve Neale (1990) argues that Hollywood‟s generic regime performs two inter-related functions:i) to guarantee meanings and pleasures for audiences ii) to offset the considerable economicrisks of industrial film production by providing cognitive collateral against innovation anddifference. Dial M For Murder Cape Fear Vertigo
  6. 6. It is easy to underplay the differences within a genre. Steve Neale declares thatgenres are instances of repetition and difference (Neale 1980, 48). He adds thatdifference is absolutely essential to the economy of genre: mere repetition wouldnot attract an audience.Memento is a conventional thriller interms of plot – Protagonist seeks revengeagainst his wife’s murderer. Yet thenarrative style creates the genericdivergence in being told backwardsTexts often exhibit the conventions of more than one genre. John Hartley notesthat the same text can belong to different genres in different countries or times(OSullivan et al. 1994). E.g. Alien as bearing the iconography of a Science Fictionfilm (setting, props, characters), but the stylistic approach of a Horror – Extremeclose-ups and heavy use of low-key lighting to unsettle audience
  7. 7. Your own films• Can you apply Steve Neale‟s theory to your own films?• Have you challenged the conventional thriller genre at all by adding subtle differences in character, plot, setting etc...• Or are you conforming to genre by following expected conventions in style and iconography? (David Chandler‟s theory)
  8. 8. Traditionally, genres (particularly literary genres) tended to be regardedas fixed forms, but contemporary theory emphasizes that both their formsand functions are dynamic. David Buckingham argues that genre is not...simply "given" by the culture: rather, it is in a constant process ofnegotiation and change (Buckingham 1993).Buckingham’s argument therefore would compare nicely to Steve Neale toadd a further theoretical approach to your responseFatal Attraction Casino Royale
  9. 9. Contemporary Genre TheoristsDaniel Chandler: Every genre positions those who participate in a text of thatkind: as interviewer or interviewee, as listener or storyteller, as a reader or awriter, as a person interested in political matters, as someone to be instructed oras someone who instructs; each of these positionings implies differentpossibilities for response and for action. Each written text provides a readingposition for readers, a position constructed by the writer for the ideal reader ofthe text. (Kress 1988,)Thus, embedded within texts are assumptions about the ideal reader, includingtheir attitudes towards the subject matter and often their class, age, gender andethnicity.David Buckingham
  10. 10. Genre and AudienceUses and gratifications„ research has identified many potential pleasures ofgenre, including the following:•One pleasure may simply be the recognition of the features of a particular genre becauseof our familiarity with it. Recognition of what is likely to be important (and what isnot), derived from 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 featurewhich some theoretical commentaries seem to lose sight of. Aristotle, ofcourse, acknowledged the special emotional responses which were linked to differentgenres. Deborah Knight notes that satisfaction is guaranteed with genre; the deferral ofthe inevitable provides the additional pleasure of prolonged anticipation (Knight 1994).
  11. 11. •Steve Neale argues that pleasure is derived from repetition and difference (Neale1980); there would be no pleasure without difference. We may derive pleasure fromobserving how the conventions of the genre are manipulated (Abercrombie 1996). Wemay also enjoy the stretching of a genre in new directions and the consequent shiftingof our expectations.•Other pleasures can be derived from sharing our experience of a genre with otherswithin an interpretive community which can be characterized by its familiarity withcertain genres (Daniel Chandler).
  12. 12. Neale (1980)- much of the pleasure of popular cinema lies in the process of “differencein repetition” – i.e. recognition of familiar elements and in the way those elementsmight be orchestrated in an unfamiliar fashion or in the way that unfamiliar elementsmight be introduced
  13. 13. Can Genre be defined by audience? Is it a question of filmcomprehension?Neale (1990) – Genre is constituted by “specific systems of expectations andhypothesis which spectators bring with them to the cinema and which interactwith the films themselves during the course of the viewing process.”
  14. 14. 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.
  15. 15. 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 to reality.6. It is the way genre films deviate from the clichéd formulae that leads to a more interesting experience for the viewer, but fore this to work properly, the audience must be familiar with generic conventions and style.
  16. 16. David Bordwell notes, any theme may appear in any genre (Bordwell 1989)„One could... argue that no set of necessary and sufficient conditions can mark offgenres from other sorts of groupings in ways that all experts or ordinary film-goers would find acceptable
  17. 17. PROBLEMS WITH GENRE CLASSIFICATIONTheorist and Critic Rick Altman (1999) came up with a list of points he found problematicwith genre classification .a) Genre is a useful category, because it bridges multiple concerns.b) Genres are defined by the film industry and recognised by the mass audience.c) Genres have clear, stable identities and borders.d) Individual films belong wholly and permanently to a single genre.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.