chapter  5
22 Pages

Film and television genres

As with auteur theory, genre theory was first developed in regard to film studies, then later expanded and adapted into discussions about television. (And similar to auteur theory, how useful genre theory actually is to the study of television will be explored below.) However, genre theory has been around for millennia, with some historians pointing to Aristotle’s Poetics as one of the field’s founding texts. In it, Aristotle sought to distinguish between different literary forms-such as comedy, tragedy, and various types of poetry-based upon their effect, style, and/or subject matter. Whether it is used to explore literature, film, or TV, genre theory is primarily about labels and labeling: categorizing texts into one group or another. Thus, one of its central tenets is taxonomy, or classification, and in this respect genre theory shares much with evolutionary biology, a field that seeks to organize, describe, and label the natural world into discrete categories from kingdom to genus to species. Just as plants and animals can be named and classified according to their shared traits, so too can films and TV shows be named and classified according to their similarities (as well as their differences from one another). The western, the horror film, and the musical are all well known genres that have been explored within film studies; the terms are used by critics, scholars, and everyday movie watchers. Each genre has a specific set of concerns and looks and functions quite distinct from the others.