Professional / Visual Arts & Film Studies Essay


Genre Studies

The genre study is a multidisciplinary academic study that focuses on genre theory in different fields such as literature, art, rhetoric, and linguistics. In art, a significant field where genre occupies a considerable role is Television and Film.

Film genre is a category that a motion picture falls into. It is decided based on similarities such as the emotional response to such a movie or the narrative elements in the film. Most film genre theories are influenced by literary-genre criticism, and each genre has its conventions, settings, iconography, characters, actors, and narratives.

The characters in each genre of film are significantly different. For instance, film noir usually has familiar characters such as hardboiled detective and femme fatale. Western movies usually portray a gunfighter character. There are actors who have established themselves as suitable to play the role of this standard characters in a particular film genre.

For instance, John Wayne established himself as Western Actor while Fred Astaire was known with the musical film genre. According to Janet Staiger, the concept of film genre can be defined in four different ways.

1. Idealist method: the judgment of film based on predetermined standards

2. Empirical method: The identification of a film genre by comparing it with films that are already classified into that genre.

3. Apriori method: The use of expected generic elements to determine the genre of a film

4. Social conventions: The classification of films based on society's cultural consensus.

Significance of the Film Genre

The film genre usually determines the techniques and style that the filmmaker will use in production. For instance, low-key lighting and flashbacks are wildly used in film noir, horror films employ tight framing, and Western Film generally displays their titles using text font similar in appearance to rough-hewn logs. There are also conventions regarding the film scoring for each film genre. For instance, Sci-Fi films usually HSE electronic music, while romantic melodramas use lush string orchestras.

The film genre also affects how it is advertised, broadcast, or even organized for sale or rental.

The screenwriter usually organizes stories with the genre of the film in mind. In doing this, they focus on three aspects which are –

1. Atmosphere: This covers the props, costumes, locations, and the several visceral experiences that are created specifically for the audience.

2. Character: Each film genre has its stock characters, archetypes, and what motivates the central characters in each film.

3. Story: The considerations here relates to tent pole scenes, themes, and how the perspective of the characters shift from one scene to another while maintaining the rhythm.

Genres of Film

Classifying films based on the genre is complex, with different sub-genres and categories already in existence and even more still emerging. The basic film genre includes documentary (real-life events) and fiction. There are subgenres under this, such as docudrama and docufiction. Sometimes, unrelated categories are combined to create hybrid subgenres such as we have with romantic comedy, horror comedy, action comedy, etc. The classification is done using different parameters, some of which are not even related. Common denominators for the classification includes:

Setting: This is the environment in which the action and story happen. For instance, a war film will usually be on a battlefield, a space-opera film would be somewhere in the outer space, and a Western movie would be set in the countryside.

Theme: This is the topic around which the ideas and issues in the film revolve. For instance, there are sports films, crime films, science fiction films, etc.

Mood: The mood refers to the movie's emotional tone, which determines how the audience feels when and after seeing the film. Common examples include tearjerker films, horror films, comedy films, etc.

Format: The format of a film is how it was shot. There are several formats, such as 16 mm, 8 mm, or 35 mm. It could also refer to the manner in which the film is presented—for example, anamorphic wide-screen.

Budget: The amount spent in the movie could also be used to determine the film genre. The money spent will usually determine the type of production, and it explains why we have genres such as big-budget blockbuster, B movie, low budget film, amateur film, etc.

Target Audience: The group of consumers for which the film is made can also be used to categorize it, such as when we have children film, teen film, women film, etc.

The genre of a film does not merely refer to category or type of film alone. Other factors, such as institutional discourses, generic structures, audience expectations, etc. also play key roles. This explains why film genre is not a fixed concept as it continues to evolve with time, and some genres even go out of style, such as the melodrama.

The genre of films is rarely pure as films combine two genres to create a hybrid genre in line with the derivative and diverse origins of the cinema.

Television Genres

Also related to film genres, albeit a little different, is the television genre. The common television shows genres include

Sports: These are programs featuring sporting events, most of which are live such as Sunday Night Football, Super Bowl, Match of the Day, etc.

Sitcoms: These are comic television series that is known as situation comedy. Examples include The Big Bang Theory, Friends, How I Met Your Mother.

Documentary: A documentary in this context is simply a television program that documents real-life events such as Horizon, Panorama, Life on Earth, etc.

Soap Opera: A fictional drama that focuses on people and their daily lives. It is similar to the regular Television Drama except that Drama does not focus on the actors' everyday lives in the story.


The study of genre is something that has existed in the work of art or literary production from as far as 1770. It would become a major aspect of film theory in the 1960s. Today, it continues to evolve and draw on the genre in other forms such as theatre, novelsFilm genre, etc.


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