media blog

December 11th, 2010

Giving the People What they Want

Posted by kwildermuth in

Schatz’s approach to genre theory emphasizes on what the audience wants.  A film essentially is based on its structural components.  Components such as plot, character, thematics, style, setting, etc.  Expectations in a type of film are made and reinforced through similarly made films. This creates the term genre.  A genre is made after the pattern is known, and this is used as the foundation of all similar genres in its kind.  It’s identified through the rules, function and components in a film. 

Schatz further discusses that genre is comparable to a language, although in a different sense.  Just because there’s a similar function in each genre, the meaning is actually used differently.  Verbal language is neutral.  The English language is manipulated by the speaker to “make” meaning.  Film genre is different – it’s a meaningful narrative system because of specific cultural significance.  The system is reorganized, not the storyline.

What we tend to see more is, genre films evolving rapidly because of the demands of commercial popular media.  The audience tends to watch and interpret movies and can draw certain similarities.  According to Schatz, this is what brings the public to theaters.  We study what we already know and in existence.  Similarities can also be seen through the setting, character and plot – but not always.  More so, we identify what type a film genre is due to the attitude and conventions of action.  What each character would do in each type of situation and how the situation is played out. 

The cultural community of a genre is linked by directors, writers, performers, the studio, producers and so on, who orchestrate the generic context.  Constructing a film genre takes a lot of thought and consideration when creating the film.  The pattern is established and recreated through films of that type.  This “gives the people what they want.”  For example, a young group of kids who want to see a comedy have certain expectations to fill – laughter (along with other factors used in comedies).  However, we can certainly tell the difference between a comedy and a horror picture. Actions and the plot distinguish genres from one another.  These kids can recognize the cultural arena they’re in and how the movie will play out.  Yes, there certainly can be more than one genre in a film, however Schatz is more concerned with delivering what the audience wants and expects. 

One film I can think of applying Schatz ideas is Meet the Parents, starring Robert De Niro.  This film is certainly a comedy.  It has the love story, Ben Stiller falling in love with Teri Polo.  It’s represented as a comedy from the start with Stiller’s character, “Gaylord Focker.” Her parents don’t approve of Stiller because he is a Nurse.  This shows that society is very judgmental, although the audience finds it in fact, funny.  He tries to impress the father, De Niro but always seems to fail.  He “accidentally” causes her sister Debbie a broken nose and a black eye during a volleyball tournament.  Everything is going wrong for Stiller.  However, this is all seen as funny, for it’s the essentials which make up a comedy.  Schatz would agree because the conflicts are significant and expected.  We expect him to fail and we laugh when it doesn’t.  The film is fulfilling the role as a comedy because it makes the audience laugh.

Does Meet the Parents challenge the audience’s expectations? Yes because there are a few scenes in which the audience is told to feel sympathetic for Stiller’s character.  We identify ourselves to him because many of us can place ourselves in the same situation (trying to empress the parents of the one you are about to marry).  Although, we can’t help but laugh because the film is portrayed in a hilarious manner. The problem is repeatedly addressed.  It offers the audience something new because the plot is out of the ordinary constructed (using a lie detector test by her father) – but is also relatable on a cultural note. 

            Schatz theory, i feel,  is understanding and can help us understand why audiences value certain types of genres.  We expect certain actions and plots to take place in films.  Film genre is placed into many categories in which we can all pick and choose to enjoy.  It’s easier for the consumer to choose a film when arriving at blockbuster, or when entering a movie theater.  A comedian will love a comedy, similar to a person who loves watching soap operas, will love a drama.  Genres can also be used to pick and choose a film depending on the mood we’re in.  A film should always give the audience what they want in different fashions.

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