One main reason why genre is changing over time is that there are
now changes in audiences’ expectations. According to research
contemporary audiences are much more sophisticated viewers than
those in previous years who first saw moving pictures or television
programmes. Therefore an audience reading text from an
established genre is more likely to be familiar wit the codes and
conventions of that genre from reading similar texts.
For example if you watch an action adventure film and the
protagonist dies and doesn’t manage to save the damsel in distress
you’d be certainly surprised and possibly feel cheated because its
not what you would expect; or if you’re watching a romance film you
would expect the woman to end up with the man that she loves.
The familiarity with these codes and conventions – the character,
the setting, the music - from watching similar horror films or
television programmes, all raise expectations, even though there is
not a happy ending in an action adventure. These expectations are
based on our readings of similar texts. The popularity of certain
kinds of texts proves that for many audiences familiarity breeds
contentment rather than contempt.
However, texts need to strike the right balance of repeating certain
codes and conventions while adding something new (this is done to
prevent the audience from seeing the same thing and to keep the
genre fresh and new) for example, a contemporary setting, a plot
twist, or a scene where the antagonist behaves unexpectedly.
One other reason why genre is changing over time is that there are
changes in target audience. Both media institutions and producers
first need a clear idea about the audience, therefore age, gender
and social class must be identified, having said that these factors
influence they way a text is made from choices about who will
appear in it to the kinds of special effects are used.
It is often argued that target audiences for films have become
younger over the previous years, more than it has ever before. The
term used for this is known as the ‘juvenilisation’ of cinema and this
may be the reason why horror films are now usually aimed at a
mainly teenage audience, rather than a more adult audience.
There have also been changes in society, ideologies, values and
representations, ultimately meaning that genres have changed.
Therefore it is clear that contemporary audiences are harder to
shock and more accustomed to representations of graphic violence,
sexual images and ‘bad’ language as well as more spectacular
special effects than ever before. This can be closely linked to the
‘effects debate’ suggesting that how much are people (and children)
exposed to in the real world in terms of explicit content.
Genre changes according to the values and concerns of the society
around them. The changing position of women (equal rights),
governments, levels of employment, economic climates, national
and international conflicts, attitudes towards violence and the family
and aesthetic movements are just some of the issues that influence
representations and trends in the media.
Technological advances in the film industry has been used
significantly in recent years thus changing the way films are
produced, for example the invention of the ‘Steadicam’ allowed the
camera to appear to float and enabled the stalking shots so
important in horror films.
Furthermore developments in digital video editing techniques which
led to fast paced editing and exact pacing of music with on-screen
action had changed the way that audiences had perceived films.
The Blair Witch Project is a good example of a film influenced by
new technology – its entire look is the result of the use of cheap
digital cameras which did not exist a few years ago, it was also the
first film to be marketed initially through the Internet (new media).
Genres can also be heavily influenced and suddenly relight their
popularity or change direction because of the impact of
individual texts which come to be seen as genre defining.
Genre defining moments are fairly rare in the media and may
only become apparent long after a text is produced when we
can properly see its influence.
However, although texts which are successful at their release;
will be imitated in media owners’ attempts to cash in on what
made them popular, suggesting that the most influential or
critically acclaimed texts are not always those that are the most
As well as the influence of particular texts there is the impact of
particular directors, authors and stars. For example, the influence
of Hitchcock, often described as a master of suspense, continues to
be seen in contemporary thrillers not least those which are remakes
of his work such as A Perfect Murder or Gus Van Sant’s ‘karaoke’
Some films are made as vehicles to showcase a particular star and
exploit his or her popularity, while the names of particular authors
will guarantee funding for their books, and often the films of their
Many films are based on the thrillers of John Grisham, for example,
Philip K Dick has been influential in the development of the Sci-Fi
genre and, more recently, J. K Rowling has earned millions for
herself and the publishing and film industries through her Harry