Analysis of Popular genres:
‘Genre’ is a French term meaning "type" or "kind". Putting things into categories is useful in any form of study; it’s a way of establishing some kind of control over an amorphous mass of information. Each medium in the mass media has its own kinds of language, characteristic signs and sign systems.
Genre is part of the Key Concept of Language, and can be applied to all kinds of media text. Putting media texts such as film, television programmes, print media, or music into categories is useful as a way of establishing some kind of control over an amorphous mass of information. Each genre follows its own kinds of conventions - language, characteristic signs and sign systems. However, genres are fluid and not fixed and under constant renegotiation between media industry and audience through the combination of the familiar and the unexpected.
The standard approach to teaching genre in film and television is to focus on the common codes and conventions. Looking at film posters, trailers or short scene extracts will quickly enable students to identify similarities and differences in characters, location, stories and familiar objects (the iconography). Repeated narrative patterns can be observed and beyond this the recurring theme which leads to exploration of shared ideological messages. For the study of magazines the categorisation might be based on definitions of target audiences – age, gender, ethnicity, class etc.
The History and Evolution of Genres
Genre analysis also includes understanding the evolution of a genre over time. Genres change and develop because of changes in the culture or historical period in which the genre is being produced. The Western solo hero who was popular in the 1940s and 1950s evolved into the group of heroes in the 1960s and 1970s with Rawhide and Bonanza—shows that reflected a shift in the workplace to that of the group in the corporation or company during that time. And, with the increasing interest in urban crime and international espionage in the 1970s and 1980s, the Western was replaced by the police/detective and the spy/thriller genres. Genres also gain popularity with certain audiences who seek out these genres given the historical or cultural forces operating in a certain period. During the Great Depression, audiences flocked to movie houses to view Hollywood romantic comedies as a way of escaping the grim realities of everyday lives characterized by poverty and deprivation. The nature of the threat in science fiction movies also shifts to reflect changes in fears or threats facing societies. During the 1930s and 1940s, Americans expressed racial fears, as manifested in the rise of the Klu Klux Klan, and in the film, King Kong. During the 1990s, with the increased production of films and the control of media conglomerates over the types of films being made, an increasing number of formulaic genre films were produced. Film studios needed to attract large audiences in order to make a return profit on the millions they invested in high-production, special-effects films, so they turned to safe, familiar genres and sequels. As Wheeler Dixon (2000) argues: What audiences today desire more than ever before is “more of the same,” and studios, scared to death by rising production and distribution costs, are equally loathe to strike out in new generic directions. Keep audiences satisfied, strive to maintain narrative closure at all costs, and keep within the bounds of heterotopic romance, no matter what genre one is ostensibly working in. Yet, at the same time, the studios must present these old fables in seductive new clothing, with high budgets, major stars, lavish sets, and (if the genre demands it) unremitting action to disguise the second-hand nature of the contemporary genre film (p. 8). Film versus television genres. There are some important differences between film and television genres. Film genres (see list below) tend to be more general, for example, the...
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