Genre and its What, Why,and How

  1. Introduction

Every aspect of media shows a reliance on the genre. Thus, before approaching the genre theory, we should first know the three important questions regarding genre theory, which are what, why, and how. For this reason, I will be explaining what is a genre, why do genres change over time, and how do genres define our values?

  1. Study Description

The term ‘genre’ comes from French means ‘kind’ or ‘class’. The term is usually used in rhetoric, literary theory, and media theory to refer to a type of ‘text’. Genre theory is used in the media studies to distinguish the categorization of films. By using genre theory, we somehow create a way to describe films.

In order to understand more about genre theory, we can divide the theory into four parts. These parts somehow do participate in the importance of the theory. The four parts including the audience, the time period, marketing, and problem. When making films or music, the director or producers should pay attention to know whom the intended audience is, what year/ decade this time is to consider what types and how to make the film seems better. Speaking of marketing, genre theory is also a very good way of marketing a film both for the producers and the audience. Though the genres seem diversified, they do have problems that they are facing with. The genre is a complicated concept if we take a closer look at all kinds of films, we find that although they have similarities in other aspects, they are still very different at some points. It is very important for genre theory to continually re-define itself by technology, the audience, and the political message.

So, what are characteristics seem to determine genre? There are three characteristics seem to determine genres such as narrative (similar plots and structures, obstacles, conflicts, and resolutions), characterization (types of characters, roles, personal qualities, motivations, goals, and behaviors), and basic themes, topics, and values.

Though genre theory is a complicated concept in which we have to analyze the different genres of various films, it is worth to spend time studying and analyzing the theory. This is essential to our lives since everyone watches movies, so by knowing how the genres have been changed from the past until now can be the next step for us to predict the change of the genres in the future as the audience expect and want more than that. Furthermore, the genres reflect the values of not only ourselves but the society we are living as well, so it’s worth to be curious about how these genres reflect those values.

  1. Analysis

Horror, romance, sci-fi, musical, western, etc. are considered as genres. For example, when it comes to horror/slasher genre, this means the audience expect to see lots of brutal sadism and bodies chopped up, the traps made by the murder, or even the concept of “Everyone dies except the main character”. So, when the producers provide a film with such features like these, they can expect members of this audience to show up. For romance genre, there will be kiss scenes, sex scenes, rom-com story between mostly the man and the woman; while cowboy, gunfights, horses, wilderness, love affairs, bank robberies are the typical characteristics of the Western films. The typical symbols in the frame, the type of conflicts, and the way these conflicts are resolved all contribute to the genre. Every genre has its own features and differences based on gender, interests, and values of every society.

According to Stephen Neale, “Genres are systems of expectations and conventions, that circulate between industry, text, and subject.” Overall, genres create expectations, hopes and promises bringing pleasures if these hopes and promises are fulfilled. The idea of audience foreknowledge will lead to a certain set of expectations. Since film industry is made because of the audience and for the audience, so to catch the trends and audience’s attention, is this the reason why genres change over time? Indeed, the more the world develops, the more people expect. 
Audience expectations and existing genres provide a guide for the production of new genres. Based on audience’s reviews and comments, the producer will probably make changes to the existing genre or perhaps create a new one. But, there aren’t any new genres provided, they are just basically updated from the existing genres. Therefore, genres may rise and fall with the change in cultures. For example, there are some changes in heroic adventure movies, earliest movies were undertaken by men while women only played a small role as the man’s lover. Now, the recent movies have women as a hero or the main character such as Wonder Woman or Kim Possible. Moreover,the previous superhero moviesdidn’t include sex scenes or too many romantic scenes like the superhero movies nowadays; the great example would be Deadpool where there are sex scenes, curses, and humor in the movie. Another example for the change in genres would be the horror genres, the audience of this decade would find it funny watching the 1920s horror movies, but in the years of 1920s, the audience would be really scared of this type of horror that the movie brought to them. Perhaps, the audience in the next generations will find it funny watching 2018 horror movies too, we cannot know! The same way fashion and makeup change so do genres because people see, taste, like, and dislike always change according to the environment in which they are living. People in this generation expects more than people from the previous generation. We can see the killers in 2018 movies are more brutal and crazier than the killers in 1950 movies; the superheroes in 2018 movies look more muscular and fancy with their new costumes. 
The question is, “What is the reason that all of these changes happen?” – Audience. Audience and their expectations are those who will “tell” the producers that “I want Hulk to look taller, muscular, smarter and stronger”, so there it is, we have a new Hulk who is stronger and bigger. It happens to music as well. The thing is, if you throw a 1970 song to a 16-year-old kid, he won’t listen. But if you ask him about Daniel Caesar, Post Malone, Martin Garrix, he probably knows. Why? – Because this is 2018, the age of EDM, of rap, of Hip Hop, etc. Most people in this generation listen to the melody only, they probably don’t care about the lyrics since there are curse words in songs, and the chorus only has 5 sentences, but it keeps repeating for like 10 minutes just because the melody sounds cool. 
Genres are somewhat created to fulfill the dreams of humans. That is said, people dream to travel through spaces, discover somewhere out of the Earth, discover something new by their imaginations like power, magic, something fairy-tale, etc. so that is why fiction/sci-fi was created. On the other hand, every woman absolutely once dreams of being the main character in her romance story, that is she wishes to become a woman who experiences a beautiful love story in which she will meet her high school sweetheart or an artist who truly deeply madly fall in love with her; some may want to experience a funny love story so we have rom-com. That is said, genders do participate in genres. While men tend to look for masculinity, power, and dangers in their life; women tend to look for something exciting, sweet, and funny. But that is not totally right to say that all men prefer action and all women prefer romance. There are still some men don’t like horror movies and there are still some women don’t like romance movies. And, there are some genres or movies that both men and women like. 

Each genre can be identified by many different elements that allow us to recognize a particular genre and to expect certain things to occur within it. If one says she like action and horror movies, people will instantly know what she means. They may think that she has a strong, independent personality which is kind of like the men. Hence, the movies that we watch or the kinds of music we listen to define us; they somehow reflect our values and expectations.  

  1. Implications and Conclusion

The action world is full of dangers. Science fiction always goes with aliens, planets, and weird technology. And when it comes to slasher/horror films, don’t beg – you will be killed anyway. In films, people already knew the hero will survive, the bad characters will die, the guy and the girl will be a couple, but in some case, they still want to see the movies to expect another changes or endings. The key for a writer when writing a movie script is to understand the genre and meet the expectations of the audience.

Perhaps, in the future, there will be new genres created according to the trends and the audience’s expectations. The superheroes in the future will look even more muscular, taller, stronger with many extra powers than the 2018 superheroes; or, perhaps the Western cowboys won’t ride a horse as a transportation anymore; or, rom-com will not always a rom-com between man and woman but maybe there will be more gay or lesbian or bi rom-com movies. This is just one of many predictions so far in the future, anything can happen, who knows?

Works Cited

Andersen, Jack. “Genre, the Organization of Knowledge and Everyday Life.” Information Research, World Wide Web, WWW, Professor T.D. Wilson, 9 December 2017,

Cohen, Ralph. “History and Genre.” New Literary History, vol. 17, no. 2, 1986, pp. 203–218. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Neale, Stephen. “Questions of genre.” In Oliver Boyd-Barrett & Chris Newbold (Eds.) Approaches to Media: A Reader. London: Arnold, pp. 460-72

Miller, C. R. “Genre as social action.” Quarterly Journal of Speech, pp. 151–67

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