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Genre. Thinking about the meaning of differences. Genre. Categories of media. Understood variously in terms of Agenda of Film Industry Artistic Practice and Aesthetic Conventions Discursive or Critical Reception (Audience Preferences and Critical Interpretation)

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Thinking about the meaning of differences.


Categories of media. Understood variously in terms of

  • Agenda of Film Industry
  • Artistic Practice and Aesthetic Conventions
  • Discursive or Critical Reception (Audience Preferences and Critical Interpretation)

Studying genre is perhaps most useful in understanding the interplay among these arenas.


Singin In the Rain (1952) by Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen

  • Romantic couple in society
  • Diagetic music alternates with sober dialog
  • Acting: rhythmic movement and realism
  • Alternating male and female groups; merging in end
  • Stylistic
  • Happy Ending
genre as industry template
Genre as Industry Template
  • As studio systems grew in Hollywood and elsewhere, they began to recognize the possibility of developing formulas for commercially successful films.
  • Studio systems began to conceive of audiences in terms of groups with fidelity to types of film. (Marketing)
familiar genres in cinema
Familiar Genres in Cinema

As viewers we can quickly locate films or TV within genres that are part of our media culture.

  • Musical
  • Western
  • Gangster
  • Sci Fi
  • Bio-pic
  • Film Noir
  • Horror
genres are vague and unfixed
Genres are vague and unfixed
  • There are many arguments about what are valid genres. There are no clear rules.
  • Genres change historically, genres overlap, and new genres are created
  • Films may cross genres or only adhere partially to a genre within a section of a film.
more genres
More Genres
  • Art film
  • Queer Cinema
  • Blackspoitation
  • Martial Arts
basis of genre categories
Basis of Genre Categories
  • Location or setting (Western, Gangster, War, Sports)
  • Mood or Themes (Action, Horror, Romance)
  • Format (Documentary, Experimental, Animation, Soap Opera)

However, what makes a work fit within a genre is always more than the title of the category suggests. It combines of semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic attributes.

Semantic: what the film represents (characters, settings, themes)
  • Syntactic: the structure and relationship of formal elements in the film.
  • Pragmatic: How the film is taken up by viewers and critics.
what constitutes a genre
What constitutes a Genre?
  • Kind of events portrayed
  • Social class of the characters
  • Ethical qualities of the plot/characters
  • Narrative structure
  • Audience effects
genre and imagined community
Genre and Imagined Community
  • As Ella Shohat and Robert Stam point out, the movie audience is a "provisional 'nation' forged by spectatorship", and genre audiences form what Rick Altman describes as "constellated" communities—groups of individuals who "cohere only through repeated acts of imagination"—in the context of cinema, an imagined connection among geographically dispersed viewers who share similar spectatorial pleasures and generic knowledge.
genres as fictional worlds
Genres as Fictional Worlds

Christine Gledhill(Film Scholar):

  • Genres provide fictional worlds as sites for symbolic actions.
  • Interplay of realism (cultural verisimilitude) and “non-real”. Fluidity of fictional and social imaginaries (conflicts presented, and resolved).
  • The metaphor of society talking to itself.
genres and community
Genres and Community
  • Just as communities are not homogenous, we should keep in mind that audiences of a particular genre are diverse. Genres, thus mediate differently positioned spectators.
  • The Hero
  • The Antagonist
  • The Land
  • Community vs. lawless individual(s)
  • The Struggle between civilization & primitivism/nature
  • The Drama in a ritualized form--gunfight, cattle drive

Example: Red River (1948) by Howard Hawks

1. Kind of events portrayed

2. Social class of characters

3. Ethical qualities of the characters

4. Narrative structure

5. Audience effects

Examples: The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola, 1972, Goodfellas Scorsese 1990, Little Caesar 1931, LaRoy

  • Audience effect is key
theoretical questions and challenges
Theoretical Questions and Challenges
  • Is there a minimum taxonomy or are genres limitless? What are useful categories for study?
  • Are genres out there in the world or are they constructed by film theorists, industry, audiences?
  • How do genres relate to contemporary values and ideas?
  • How are genres descriptive and proscriptive?
  • Are genres timeless or time-bound?
  • How are genres understood and transformed across cultures?
  • How do audiences negotiate preferred interpretations suggested by genres?
theoretical approaches to genre
Theoretical Approaches to Genre
  • Semiotics: study of how is meaning created.
  • Industry: History / social and economic analysis
  • Audience Reception
  • Spectatorship