Class notes -Genre

What is genre? It’s a French word meaning kind/type. Words related to genus – science classification. Making distinctions in science is easier / straightforward.The term was borrowed from literature.

The concept of genre relies on generic conventions –  a set of conventions that are employed and identifiable – relies on audience expectations. So we would expect a horror to shock and scare us, etc – to meet out expectations. The generic conventions are determined by a variety of factors – especially true for motion picture.

Plot elements might be conventional, for example investigations in mystery films – usually to a conclusion that is not expected or like revenge in westerns. Love triangles in romances.

Characters can also be conventional. The femme fatale. The comic sidekick. The nerdy scientist. The smart know-it-all.

Thematic conventions. Loyalty and obedience in a hong kong martial arts film – you killed my master, i will honor him! Space operas have the fight against tyranny and oppression.

Characteristic film techniques. Single source lighting in film noir, ramping in modern action films and musical cues in melodramas. Jump scares in horror – cow-prod cinema.

Ramping in action films is basically when switching between slow-motion and fast motion. Example of ramping in film:

In this example we see the character; sherlock holmes, is thinking quicker than his opponent and also it makes the scene a little cooler.

Iconography – usually achieved through the use of specific forms of symbolism (fantasy’s use of religious symbols (game of thrones for example – its because we already recognise them and therefore it places the people and place in some form of reality for us)- war films and nazi symbols (army symbols). Symbols we recognise to convey certain messages. Skulls are also used to portray the bad guy or a killer.

Object and settings. Westerns – the wild west, america, the desert. Science fiction – space. There are expectations to a particular actor being in a film – like Arnold schwarzenegger films – we expect action, fight scenes, etc. Jim Carrey comedies are not going to be high class and will have silly humour throughout. (although truman show, eternal sunshine of the spotless mind – which are not quite the same – although they do contain some moments of his humour.

Genre – Film  noir

Plot elements: crime

Character: detective, femme fatale

Setting – urban, city, often night, smoky, seedy clubs, dingy offices, mansions.

Technical elements: single sourced lighting

Genre – Western

Theme – civilisation vs lawlessness (peace vs chaos)

Character – cowboy, the bad guy with a good heart, the horse, lawless indigenous people, sheriff (brave or corrupt) damsel in distress.

Plot elements – revenge, robberies, cattle drive.

Iconography – wanted poster, guns, cowboy hat.


Consciously or not people expect things from a genre, and there’s an almost unspoken contract, that the audience expectations are met.

The mixed genre have different expectations, or at least audiences are prepared for more variety from the genre elements. Comedy thriller, western musical, action-buddy films (like ‘lethal weapon’ and ‘die hard’ a little bit as well).


The first assignment for this class will be asking if animation is a genre and then presenting evidence to argue against and/or support this.

I think animation cannot really be a genre because it transcends it – animation is as flexible as other film mediums if not more so. You can make anything possible with animation, literally any kind of content can be thought up and created with animation – and it is and has been- the only limit is the artists who are creating it. For it to be seen as its own genre is useful when browsing movies you want to watch, but not always so good for comparing contrasting animations. Animation can be a short music video, with no story what so ever, or it can be a complicated political thriller, or a childrens cartoon, or a romantic comedy, or any genre of film you can imagine.

“People think of animation only doing things where people are dancing around and doing a lot of histrionics, but animation is not a genre. And people keep saying, ‘The animation genre.’ It’s not a genre! A Western is a genre! Animation is an art form, and it can do any genre. You know, it can do a detective film, a cowboy film, a horror film, an R-rated film or a kids’ fairy tale. But it doesn’t do one thing. And, next time I hear, ‘What’s it like working in the animation genre?’ I’m going to punch that person!”

-Brad Bird [1]

Music is my favourite genre! Ooh or video games maybe, OR BOOKS – THE SMARTEST OF ALL THE GENRES!!   /s

Sci-fi is its own genre, but it can be a crime, thriller, action, comedy… We’ve reached a turning point now where genre’s can only begin to describe the thing, but not totally – or at least often enough this can be the case.


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