Sunday, January 16, 2005

Hotspot #3: There is no Genre.

This is a follow-up to my previous Hotspot, where I argued that Manga wasn't a genre but a style. Kudos to Malakhim who left an insightful comment that really made me rethink this statement. In fact it caused me to rethink what a 'genre' was exactly.

In times of doubt, the best reference is the dictionary:

Webster defines 'genre' as
1 : a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content
2 : KIND, SORT
3 : painting that depicts scenes or events from everyday life usually realistically

Dictionary.com on the other hand, and describes it as
n.
A type or class: “Emaciated famine victims... on television focused a new genre of attention on the continent” (Helen Kitchen).

A category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, marked by a distinctive style, form, or content: “his six String Quartets... the most important works in the genre since Beethoven's” (Time).

A realistic style of painting that depicts scenes from everyday life.


Pay particular attention to the Dictionary.com definition.

If this is accurate, then it appears I am mistaken. A genre is actually a loose term to refer to either style, form OR content. So if manga is a style, then it is a genre. And if a story is about people in a fantasy land, then it is of the Fantasy genre. So if it's a manga AND in a fantasy, it's Fantasy manga. Sounds about right?

But wait a minute... if we were to follow my earlier analogy, does that mean we can all group crates, fruits and fruit species together and classify them interchangably? (Yes I am being sarcastic here.) Is it just me, or is this a rather poor way of classifying something?

If you had told me a genre was defined by a combination of style/form/content/setting, then it'd make sense. But this really looks to me like genre is simple a loose word substituted for 'story type', 'setting' and 'style'.

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Which are three separate categories for a reason.

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Then why is a genre a genre at all?

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And why are we classifying content with it instead of sticking to the original classifications?

Until I find the answer to what a genre really is, I think I'm going to drop the use of 'genre' from my reviews now on.

So expect to see future Finds being classified by a new system:

Setting and Elements: Fantasy / Sci-fi / Real-life / Surreal ...
Story Type: Adventure / Humour / Parody / Horror / Auto-biographical ...

Art Medium: Digital / Pencils / Inks / Full-Colour / Monochrome / Photo ...
Art Style: Stylised-Cartoony/ Stylised Semi-Realistic/ Realistic ...

Or something like that.

Ow my head.

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