An introduction to genre ‘Genre’ is a critical tool that helps us study texts and audience responses to texts by dividing them into categories based on common elements. Daniel Chandler (2001) - the word genre comes from the French (and originally Latin) word for ‘type. The term is widely used in literary theory, media theory to refer to a distinctive type of ‘text’. Steve Neale (1980) declares that “genres are instances of repetition and difference” – it is essential for genres to deviate occasionally in order to attract and engage audiences.
Which genre is your text? Music video – which genre category is it? Performance, illustrative or disjuncture? (Andrew Goodwin) What genre is your music? Which generic conventions have you applied? E.g. lip-sync close- up, mimed playing of instruments, repetition of chorus shots to enhance ‘repeatability’, unusual camera shots and angles, first person mode of address directly engaging the viewer through the camera, star imageOR Film – what genre is your film? Which generic conventions have you applied?
Genres are recognisable through the repeated use of genericcodes and conventions:Tom Ryall suggests that the types of conventions found ingenres might be grouped within the following categories:Iconographies: (symbolic forms associated with the genre)Narrative: (structure, open/closed)Representations: (characters/stereotypes)Ideologies (beliefs and ideas of the ‘ideal’ concept, themes)Which of the above codes/conventions does your c/w useand how?
Genre and audiences If we recognise the genre of a text it enables us to feel at home and we gain enjoyment from “spotting the conventions” (repetition) and making comparisons with other films of the same genre. However if a text deviates from the conventions it can confuse us, but at the same time we enjoy seeing the rules broken, providing that the film-maker doesn’t go too far. We are more advanced than audiences of the past simply because we’ve seen more films than anyone in the history of the media, so we expect genres to be played with. Which conventions would your audience enjoy spotting in your text?
Genre and audiences Genre offers audiences a structure or framework enabling us to feel secure in our knowledge. Audiences like the anticipation of waiting for the predictable features and getting involved in a text. Audiences can influence genres by reviving them.
Pleasure of genre for audiences• Rick Altman (1999) argues that genre offers audiences ‘a setof pleasures’.Emotional Pleasures: The emotional pleasures offered toaudiences of genre films are particularly significant when theygenerate a strong audience response.Visceral Pleasures: Visceral pleasures are ‘gut’ responses andare defined by how the film’s stylistic construction elicits aphysical effect upon its audience. This can be a feeling ofrevulsion, kinetic speed, or a ‘roller coaster ride’.Intellectual Puzzles: Certain film genres such as the thrilleroffer the pleasure in trying to unravel a mysteryor a puzzle. Pleasure is derived from deciphering the plot andforecasting the end or the being surprised by the unexpected.•Which set of pleasures does your genre offer?
Frank McConnell – 5 Genres Frank McConnell’s theory is based around the idea that instead of basing genres on their visual clues (mise en scene etc) it is more meaningful to split texts according to their themes, plots and leading characters. He argues that his genres can be applied to any situation in a film where the lead character will fit one of these roles and the state will be their family, business or empire…
Frank McConnell – 5 Genres1. The King – establishing the state – the epic2. The Knight – consolidating the state – the adventurous romance3. The Pawn – trapped in the institutionalised state – the melodrama4. The Fool – responding to the madness of the state – the satire5. Apocalypse – the collapse of the state which leads to a new beginning – no single heroWhich of these categories fits your film text?
Thomas Schatz – 2 Genres Thomas Schatz’s theory is that there are just two genres: the genre of order and the genre of integration (1981).
Genres of order (western, gangster,sci-fi etc) Hero – individual, male-dominant Setting – contested space which is argued over (ideologically unstable) Conflict – externalised – against others (expressed through violence) Resolution/ending – elimination (death) Thematics – The hero takes upon himself the problems, contradictions of his society and saves us from them - macho code of behaviour - isolated self-reliance(either through his departure or death, the hero does not fit in with the values/lifestyles of the community but maintains individuality)
Genres of Integration (Musicals,comedies, domestic melodramas etc) Hero – couple or collective e.g. family Setting – Civilised space (ideologically stable) Conflict – Internalised – between themselves (expressed through emotion) Resolution/ending – embrace (love) Thematics – the romantic couple or family are integrated into the wider community, their personal antagonisms resolved - maternal – familial code - community co-operationWhich of these categories fits your film text (genre of integration or order)?
The Strengths Of Genre TheoryThe main strength of genre theory is thateverybody uses it and understands it –media experts use it to study media texts, themedia industry uses it to develop and markettexts and audiences use it to decide what textsto consume.The potential for the same concept to beunderstood by producers, audiences andscholars makes genre a useful critical tool. Itsaccessibility as a concept also means that itcan be applied across a wide range of texts.
Genres are not fixed. They constantly changeand evolve over time.David Buckingham (1993) argues that genreis not... Simply "given" by the culture:rather, it is in a constant process ofnegotiation and change’.
In terms of your coursework...• How we define a genre depends on ourpurposes (Chandler, 2001).• What was your purpose and the medium?• Your audience and the industry sector youwere working within will have defined whatyou understood as the genre and sub-genreof the texts you created.
Practice question“Media texts rely on audience knowledgeof generic codes and conventions in orderfor them to create meaning”.Analyse one of your courseworkproductions in relation to genre.