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Genre Theory Revision

jeremy | Thursday June 03, 2010

Categories: Key Concepts, Genre, Theory, Genre Theory


David Buckingham studied 8-12 year olds undertaking this experiment.  He found that:

“genre was being used as an unspoken rationale for moving from one topic to the next. Thus, discussion of one comedy programme was more likely to be followed by discussion of another comedy programme, rather than of news or soap opera.? (Buckingham 1993: 139)

Genre is a French word that means type or kind. Genre is a way of classifying a media text to tell us something about it.

Genre is frequently used by audiences, even if implicitly, (and even if they’re not Media Studies students!) to share media texts.

Narrative is a key element to establishing genre.

Theorist Steve Neale defines genres as ‘a set of expectations’ (Neale 1980: 51). So here, a competent reader of the genre of murder/mystery understands that the first suspect is unlikely to be the villain and expects to have to wait until the end before the actual villain is revealed.

However, it can be argued that this “set of expectations? is actually limiting for audiences.

Revise the genre of action movies.

If you watch an action movie, (eg. Casino Royale) you can identify a moment when the hero is failing in his quest.  Discuss the fact that, as an audience, our expectation of the genre is that he will ultimately succeed, so we can discount this failure as a temporary setback.  We are never concerned whether he will overcome his difficulties; our understanding of the genre means we gain our pleasure from seeing how he will overcome his them.

Revision activity: Watch and makes notes on a romantic comedy.  Identify the point at which the two main characters are estranged. (eg. in Four Weddings and a Funeral there is a moment when Will is watching Carrie on her wedding night dancing with her new husband)  Discuss why audiences are still secure, even at this point of disequilibrium, that our characters will resolve their situation.

The ideas of John Hartley (Key...

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