Film and genre
in Beginning film studies (second edition)
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If genre is an analytical category or formal property shared with other art forms, it has long proved especially important to film. The first of four substantive sections here considers attempts to devise taxonomic and iconographic models of film genres, and assesses their explanatory force. A second section positions genres less as quasi-scientific categories than as provisional labels attached to groups of movies by diverse interest groups: it asks, therefore, who gets to enjoy definitional power in such situations. The section that follows is preoccupied by genres and history, exploring both the internal history and evolution of a genre and the complex ways in which that genre is related to broader historical shifts and tendencies. Subsequently, discussion takes place of the continuing analytical viability of the idea of genre (in the face of some critics’ claims that we live now in a period of filmmaking characterised not by strict generic demarcation but by generic assemblage or hybridity). The chapter’s case study, bringing together and testing these various conceptual strands, is of the superhero movie.

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