Setting and Narrative
•Set in a futuristic setting or an alternative history
•Usually set in a city or a space-ship
•Always some form of “not-real” alternate reality, time, or place
•Often includes space travel and time travel
•Often set on distant planets or in space
•If set on earth, then it’s usually a dystopic reality (set after a nuclear holocaust, or after technology has taken over, or after an oppressive government has limited freedom or rights, etc.)
•There’s an improbable quest or epic journey – usually to save humankind or the Earth against an invasion or oppression
•There are binary opposites of good and evil
•Hero on an epic quest, often is either totally arrogant or quite self-doubting. If arrogant, then he/she gets beaten down, but then pulls it back together and against-all-odds goes on to defeat the enemy. If self-doubting, then will question whether or not he/she is the right person (destined) to do the job – has to be convinced and developed before saving the world.
•Side-kicks, mentors, or helpers (sometimes human, sometimes not – often at least one of them dies) assist the hero
•Aliens or non-humans are the antagonists/villains (including robots, monsters, killer microbes, space creatures, androids, super-computers) – often the villains are stubborn and arrogant with cronies or soldiers to do the dirty work
Style and Visuals
•Plenty of special effects and lavish costuming (to portray the aliens, robots, spaceships, etc.)
•Helmets, lasers, guns, metal
•Often lots of explosions, crashes, and shoot-outs
•Fast panning and tracking shots are used to follow the action and create tension
•Establishing shots show the futuristic city or space-ship before moving in to closer shots
•Lots of electronic equipment, computers, and technology that seem too complicated for us to understand
•Sometimes taps into the Horror genre codes and conventions to add suspense and fear
•Dystopia – technological mis-utilization. The futures is bleak, oppressive, and to be avoided.
•Commentary on Societal and Cultural issues such as the warning against over-use of technology, war, racism, ecological destruction, medical ethics (genetics), and one-world government oppression
•Express society’s anxiety about technology and the future
Genre is a French word for 'type' or category. Genres have certain distinctive main features. These features have come to be well understood and recognized through being repeated over a period of time.
Genres have a certain amount of predictability and repeated elements, which make them distinctive and which help to define them. All genres have a portfolio of key elements from which they are composed. Not all examples of a genre will have all the elements all the time. It is these elements which make up the formula or a repetition of elements of a given genre.
Repetition of elements include:
All genres have recognisable protagonists or lead characters. These may be heroes and/or villains. Sometimes these lead males and females are so predictable that they have the same qualities across a number of genres.
Another part of the formula of genre, includes recognisable though minor characters. These are called stock characters. In science fiction texts the stock characters are the scientist, aliens, robots. In news programmes the on the spot reporter, academics who are specialists in their field, eye witnesses, weather man/woman would be considered stock characters.
Plots and stock situations
The storylines or parts of them are also predictable and recognisable. However complicated the stories are in soaps, there is bound to be a scene in which someone turns up from the past and has some form of confrontation. In horror films there is the presence of the stock situation of the monster killing someone or a shootout in a western.
This element is crucial to genre because, it is the aspect of genre we immediately recognise and lock into.
The main types of icon are:
Props such as guns can instantly tell us about the genre of the film. A Colt 45 will inform the audience it is a western, a laser or ray gun that it is a science fiction film. Props also stand for the main ideas and themes of the genre.
Specific costumes can be associated with specific genres. For example: astronaut suits – Science Fiction, sombrero – westerns, expensive suits – gangster, bright colourful colours on TV – children’s programmes, suits – News programmes.
These elements are typical, distinctive and recognisable for a given genre. Their importance varies from text to text. The settings of quiz shows such as Millionaire Hot Seat and The Chase are very distinctive.
The themes or ideas which run through and come out of the stories are very much part of genres. Themes also tie in with the value messages that the genre is projecting. For example, all genre narratives say something about conflict between good and evil. But the theme of the fear of technology is central to Science Fiction films, not other genres. Fear of the unknown is central to horror.
Some stars or celebrities become associated with specific genres. Arnold Schwarzenegger is associated with action films, John Wayne with westerns, Bruce Lee/ Jackie Chan martial arts, Hugh Grant with romantic comedies.
Some sounds are instantly associated with specific genres. A creaking door with horror, a sound of a space ship with science fiction.
Genres in film include: