- Published: November 10, 2022
- Updated: November 10, 2022
- Language: English
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The concept of genre is useful in looking at ways in which media texts are organised, categorised and consumed.
It is applied to television, print and radio texts s well as film. The concept of genre suggests that there are certain types of media material, often story-types, which are recognised through common element, such as style, narrative and structure, that are used again and again to make up that particular type of media genre. Genre The term used for the classification of media texts into groups with similar characteristics. An important element in identifying a genre is the look or iconography of the text.
Iconography constitutes a pattern of visual imagery which remains common to a genre over a period of time. Iconography Those particular signs that we associate with particular genres, such as physical attributes and dress of the actors, the settings and the ‘ tools of the trade’ (cars, guns etc.)Genre is a popular formula which, if successful, is often repeated again and again and can be used over a long period of time. For instance, in a gangster film, we expect to see some, or all, of the following elements that will also probably have been used in a gangster film from the 1930s :* Car chases* Guns* Heroes* Villains* Violence* Urban settings* Mafia* Corrupt police/politicians* Beautiful women* ItaliansThere are also certain actors which we may associate with this genre of films, e. g. Robert de Niro, Vinnie Jones etc, as well as certain directors.
For example, Alfred Hitchcock and horror. Audiences are said to like the concept of genre because of its reassuring and familiar promise of patterns of repetition and variation. The concept of genre is important in arousing the expectations of an audience and how they judge and select texts. Placing a text within a specific genre plays an important role in signalling to an audience the type of text that they are being invited to consume. Audiences become familiar with the codes and conventions of specific genres.
Familiarity through repetition is therefore one of the key elements in the way audiences understand and relate to media texts. Audiences not only come to expect certain common codes and conventions but these can also provide a short cut which saves the audience time in developing a new set of conventions each time they consume a new text in that particular genre. This can be seen when two existing genres have been brought together to create a new one. For example, docu-soaps, which combine elements of documentary and soap opera. These rely on an audiences understanding and ability to read each specific genre – they understand how documentaries work and they understand how soap operas work, therefore docu-soaps area able to satisfy their expectations of both. Often the promotion and marketing for new texts invite the audience to identify similarities between a text and predecessors in the same genre.
The audience can then take comfort in the fact that what they are being offered is something which they have previously enjoyed and the producers hope they will enjoy it again. It has been suggested that proficiency in reading texts within a genre can also lead to the audiences pleasure being heightened as they recognise particular types or storylines. Producers are said to like the concept of genre because they can exploit a winning formula and minimise taking risks. The concept of genre also helps institutions budget and plan their finances more accurately and helps them to promote new products. One of the main functions of most of the mainstream media is to make a profit.
Just as a high street retailer has to sell goods that the consumers will want to buy, so a media producer has to create texts that audiences will want to consume. One way to do this is to find out what audiences really enjoy and offer something similar. Genre is an easy way of doing this. Where a formula has been proved popular with audiences it makes sense for the producer to use that formula again and to create a new product that contains similar recognisable features which it is hoped will have an immediate appeal to an established audience. It is for this reason that certain genres seem to be continually popular, such as hospitals dramas on television.
Some genres, like wildlife programmes, although popular for many years, have changed over time as technology has changed, although the codes and conventions or the presenter may have stayed the sane. Indeed, genre is such a useful tool that is now the case that small niche audiences are targeted by themed cable and satellite channels carrying programmes of just one genre. These niche audiences are groups of people with specific media interests, such as holiday, history or adult programmes. This has the very real advantage of delivering a ready-made audience to advertisers marketing specific products. For example, a channel dedicated to travel programmes will clearly attract an audience in the market to buy holidays. Other changes in genres over time may be due to the changes in society itself.
Consider, for example, the police series on television. The representation of police officers in programmes like Dixon of Dock Green, broadcast in the early 1859s, is quite a long way removed from the way they are represented in some more contemporary programmes like Cops, or The Bill. The dominance of genre, coupled with the caution of many media producers, can mean that some new texts are marginalized because they do not fit into the generic conventions that audiences recognise and accept. However, there are always new combinations of programmes being produced that it is difficult to fit into one specific genre, but yet they are successful. Some texts, such as Scary Movie, deliberately adapt or parody genre conventions and characteristics.
It could be argued that texts fail to fit into a particular genre and are often the most successful – they fail to fit into audiences expectations, therefore the audiences are curious as to hat is being offered to them. The idea of genre has been used for a long time. It was the film theorists of the 60s and 70s who recognised the importance of genre to Film and Media Studies. They saw genre as important because media texts are the product of an industrial process, rather than the creation of an individual, as typified by the Hollywood studio system.
Grouping texts according to type makes studying them more convenient, recognises the industrial constraints upon producers of media texts and also allows these texts to be looked at in terms of trends within popular culture e. g. Western. Genre theory acknowledges that, while an individual text my not be worthy of detailed study, yet a group of texts of the same genre can reveal a good deal, especially in terms if audience appeal. Recent studies suggest that categories of programmes cab be gender-specific in that they appeal particularly to either male or female audiences. Males, it is suggested, prefer factual TV programmes, sport or action based narratives, and fictions where there is a clear resolution at the ends.
I. e. all the villains are killed and the boy gets the girl. 1.
The concept of genre can have limitations when applied to ranges of media texts because of the variety and the need for constant updating of texts that are being produced. Many texts may look similar but are too different to be put together. 2. Sometimes the category becomes too generalised t be helpful. For instance, soap (domestic settings, continuing storylines, cliff-hanger endings, familiar characters, etc.
) But how helpful is it to say that Sunset Beach and Eastenders belong to the same genre? We need to be able to distinguish between sub genres within a genre, e. g. American ‘ fantasy’ soaps and British ‘ realism’ soap operas. How would you describe Australian soap operas, such as Neighbours or Home and Away? 3. Although we have used the concept of genre for all media texts, it has been argued that genre is most useful for film or television and is of limited use when applied to newspapers, magazines or radio.
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