Presentation on theme: "Why do genres change over time? Generic texts do not have a set of fixed and unchanging characteristics but, like any other texts, they reflect the changing."— Presentation transcript:
Why do genres change over time? Generic texts do not have a set of fixed and unchanging characteristics but, like any other texts, they reflect the changing times and societies in which they are produced as well as changes in media institutions, such as the film industry, themselves. If you are studying Genre, you should be aware of how and why a particular genre has changed over time and you should be able to account for the similarities and differences between texts from the same genre which have been made at different times.
Changes in Target Audience Media institutions and producers need to have a clear idea about the audience a text is likely to attract before production begins and the age, gender and social class of the target audience is likely to influence the way a text is made from choices about who will appear in it to the kinds of special effects used. Of course, the audience who actually consumes a text may be very different from the audience intended and different texts from the same genre may appeal to different audiences. It is often argued that target audiences for films have become younger over the years. This is known as the ‘juvenilisation’ of cinema and may be why horror films are now usually aimed at a mainly teenage audience. Some recent research also suggests that when heterosexual couples go to the cinema it is likely to be the woman who decides what film to see while the man pays and, if this is the case, it may influence not only where and how films are marketed but also the kinds of films which are produced and how they are made.
Changes in Audience Expectations Contemporary audiences are much more sophisticated viewers than those who saw the first moving pictures or television programmes and an audience reading a text from an established genre is likely to be familiar with the codes and conventions of that genre from reading similar texts. So, if you read a romance novel where the leading lady doesn’t end up with her man you’d certainly be surprised and possibly feel cheated. If, while watching a horror film, you see a woman who is alone in a house at night, opening a door, against a background of scary, tense music your heart rate might increase and you’d prepare yourself for the woman to reveal something, or someone, pretty nasty. Your familiarity with these codes and conventions – the character, the setting, the music - from watching similar horror films or television programmes, all raise your expectations, even if there is nothing on the other side of the door (in which case of course, you breathe a sigh of relief only for the killer to jump up from the window!). Perhaps surprisingly, much of the enjoyment that comes from watching, or reading, generic texts is derived precisely from knowing what to expect from them. Filmmakers can manipulate our emotions by meeting or cheating the expectations we have of a text based on our readings of similar texts. The popularity of certain kinds of texts proves that for many audiences familiarity breeds contentment rather than contempt!
Audiences continued Having said this, texts need to strike the right balance of repeating certain codes and conventions while adding something new – a contemporary setting, a final ‘twist’, a moment where a protagonist behaves unexpectedly or perhaps even a self-conscious parody of existing codes and conventions – in order to keep the genre fresh and prevent us from getting bored. These novelties may be rejected or may be absorbed into the genre so that they become conventional in future texts. As an example, Scream, one of the first horror films to self- consciously parody the conventions of the genre, was considered to be groundbreaking when it was released in 1998 but, only two years later, after a spate of similarly inter-textual and self-reflexive films, Scary Movie, a parody of these parodies, was released in 2000. In order to enjoy Scary Movie audiences would need to be familiar not only with the conventions of horror but also with films that parody them, showing just how quickly genres change and audiences become familiar with these changes.
Changes in Society, Ideologies, Values and Representations The effect that the media has on audiences is always a subject for debate. Is it that audiences’ tastes and values influence the media or vice versa? Wherever you stand in this argument, it is clear that contemporary audiences are harder to shock and more accustomed to representations of graphic violence, sexual images and ‘bad’ language as well as more spectacular special effects than ever before. In order to explain how and why a genre changes over time you should be able to show how different texts reflect the values and concerns of the society around them. The changing position of women, governments, levels of employment, economic climates, national and international conflicts, disease, transport systems, immigration and emigration, attitudes to sex, violence and the family and aesthetic movements are just some of the issues that will influence representations and trends in the media.
Censorship and Codes of Conduct If you look at the code of ethics applied to films in 1960 which banned explicit nudity, swearing (including ‘Damn’, ‘God’ and ‘Hell’), and excessive and lustful kissing you can see how far what is considered acceptable, or tasteful, by both audiences and the film industry has moved on. Modern audiences are used to much more graphic sex and violence and the boundaries of what is considered to be ‘tasteful’ in film are stretched more and more each year.
Influence of particular texts, Genres can be heavily influenced and suddenly rekindle their popularity or change direction because of the impact of individual texts which come to be seen as genre defining. Genre defining moments are fairly rare in the media and may only become apparent long after a text is produced when we can properly see its influence. Although texts which are successful at their release will be imitated in media owners’ attempts to cash in on what made them popular, the most influential or critically acclaimed texts are not always those that are the most popular.
Influence of stars, authors and directors As well as the influence of particular texts it is also important to recognize the impact of particular directors, authors and stars. For example, the influence of Hitchcock, often described as a master of suspense, continues to be seen in contemporary thrillers not least those which are remakes of his work such as A Perfect Murder or Gus Van Sant’s ‘karaoke’ Psycho. Some films are made as vehicles to showcase a particular star and exploit his or her popularity (this was particularly evident in the number of action films starring Schwarzenegger or Stallone) while the names of particular authors will guarantee funding for their books, and often the films of their books. Many films are based on the thrillers of John Grisham, for example, Philip K Dick has been influential in the development of the Sci-Fi genre and, more recently, J. K Rowling has earned millions for herself and the publishing and film industries through her Harry Potter books.
Media Institutions e.g the Film Industry Media texts do not just appear – the consumption of a text is the final stage of a process beginning with the decision of powerful media owners to fund a text, usually based primarily on the profit they anticipate it will make, and followed by the production, editing and marketing of the text, all rigorous, costly and lengthy processes involving the business and creative decisions of what could amount to hundreds of people. Over time, particular studios or publishers become associated with particular genres and they will influence the style or themes of the texts they produce.
Changes in Technology Your examiner will not expect you to know an enormous amount about this, but to understand genre properly you should have some appreciation of the importance of technological change. Examples of technological advances in the film industry include the invention of the Steadicam which allowed the camera to appear to float and enabled the stalking shots so important in horror films, developments in digital video editing techniques which led to fast paced editing and exact pacing of music with on-screen action. The Blair Witch Project is a good example of a film influenced by new technology – its entire look is the result of the use of cheap digital cameras which did not exist a few years ago and it was the first films to be marketed initially through the Internet, itself an important new technology.
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