Genre, simply defined, is the categorisation of media texts into groups based off of the repertoire of elements within them and in comparison with the repertoire of elements in previous texts that are considered to be in the same genre. However, thats looking at genre very basically, upon looking at genre in more detail one can see it’s true importance from a film producing stand-point. Genre is a way of maximising profit through specialisation. Either through franchising a successful concept or producing films which can draw upon the talents of the studio workforce and facilities (conveyor
belt production process). In addition to this, genre is key marketing tool throughout the
distribution and reception cycle. It acts as another point of attraction for large audiences and a tool for distribution companies to more accurately focus on their ‘target audience’. With this understanding of how important genre is with regards to successful advertising and film making in mind, I decided to ensure that I understood as many genre theories as I could to improve my overall knowledge of genre and help come up with ideas to implement these theories into our construction.
Lacey’s theory of the ‘repertoire of elements’:
Lacey considers the ‘repertoire of elements’ that work in combination to suggest a media text belongs to a particular genre or mix of genres. He provides a useful framework to follow when analysing genre. Lacey breaks a text down into these five areas to identify the elements in each: Setting, Character, Narrative, Iconography and Style
. Narrative: This refers to the story structure as well as the specific narrative devices, which genres employ (investigation, murder etc.).
. Characters: Narrative is usually developed through characters and their functions (hero, villain etc). Some characters are so closely associated with a genre that they become generic types. For example, in noir, the ‘femme fatale’.
. Setting: Some genres have a distinct location but this can be subject to change, for example noir films have moved from the US city to outer space. Genres can also be associated with time periods like the classic noir films set during inter and post-war periods are sometimes recreated e.g. Chinatown or radically changed e.g. Bladerunner
. Iconography: Films contain visual and audio images, which become instantly recognisable and associated with the genre. E.g. noir feature the iconic lipstick of the femme fatale and the private eye’s office.
. Style: Iconography refers to the objects but style describes the way they are presented. Camera angles, editing, lighting and the use of colour all contribute to the style of a film. Noir is heavily associated with chiaroscuro lighting, dated angles and long takes e.g. Touch of Evil
Theorises that genre is just a case of repetition and difference, claiming that ‘Particular features which are characteristic of a genre are not normally unique to it; it is their relative prominence, combination and functions which are distinctive’, ‘Genres are instances of repetition and difference’ and that ‘Difference is absolutely essential to the economy of genre’ (Neale, 1980) in other words mere repetition would not attract an audience as they would eventually get bored of seeing the same thing over and over again, ergo, whilst films must have some similarities to those that came before them in order to fall into the same genre (category), they must also include some differences/innovations to keep them fresh, exciting and appealing to audiences.
Ruby Rich doesn’t see genre as being as traditional as just categorising texts based off of a checklist of the repertoire of elements, rather that genre is constantly developing and evolving. To better explain if we look at women, for example, the femmes fatales of original noir were typically passive and only partly exploitative, however, in Neo Noir, women are usually pure evil, and highly active, with sexuality and greed the primary markers of character. There’s some precedent, of course: the greedy scheming Laurie of Gun Crazy, who literally takes the film’s hero for a ride, and the relentlessly curious Gabrielle of Kiss Me Deadly, whose greed carries a sinister price tag, are the indicators the evolution of the Noir genre into the Neo Noir.
Altman claims that “a relatively stable set of semantic givens is developed through syntactic experimentation into a coherent and durable syntax” and that “An already existing syntax adopts a new set of semantic elements.” My understanding of this theory is that Altman believes that genre is constantly evolving and developing and is in some sense a case of repetition and difference. He believes that one of the two key factors of genre analysis, semantic and syntactic elements, will be traditional and conform to a genre whilst the other is modernised and adopts new ideals and concepts. What this means is that films can be easy to categorise into genres by having traditional aspects whilst also being modernised by having innovative aspects. To clarify, semantic elements are mise-en-scene related and syntactic elements are more theme based and a presentation of different themes and ideologies
To conclude, with out constructions I believe that we will base our work around the genre of our piece around the Rick Altman theory about semantic and syntactic elements as it will enable us to easily be categorised as being of our desired genre whilst allowing us to be original and creative.