Task 5 – Genre

Pick a film genre and write 500 words about its conventions, using some of the analytical approaches discussed in this week’s session. You might consider the role of:

• iconography

• narratives themes, characters & plots

• conflict/consensus

• audience and industry,

• ideology, identity & society




  • La La Land (2016)
  • The Jazz Singer (1927)
  • Annie (1982)
  • Cabaret (1972)
  • Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
  • West Side Story (1961)
  • A Star is Born (2018)
  • Hairspray (2007)
  • The Greatest Showman (2017)

Genre is often hard to define and always changing and there’s often a formula to stick to so that a genre is identifiable. However, you often don’t want to stick to all conventions to avoid being too predictable and cliche. It is said that genre films can create realism within the confines of their conventions.

First popular in the great depression in the 20’s, (when spirits needed to be lifted)… the Musical genre seems to have been on a steady decline ever since. Nevertheless, I think that this genre is in-fact an interesting one in terms of iconography, narrative themes, characters, plots, conflict, audience and much more. I also believe that the musical genre has a large impact on society and has a high social impact than arguably any other genre. Since the recent release of La La Land – a contemporary twist on a classic formula – an interest in the musical genre has been reignited and the traditional cliche’s back with new twists.

Musicals feature a lot of movement, often in the form of dance – whether big or small numbers there is almost always the element of dance in musical films. Dance can help convey emotions that else would be difficult to show on the screen. They can act as metaphors, emotive relief, climax, show conflict and much more. Singing is also a key feature of most musicals and once again can help to either convey particular emotions or to contextualise and reason the emotions and acts that the audience have seen prior. Songs can also be used to forebode happenings and can include leitmotifs to represent specific characters, feelings, etc. Stereotyped as “over-the-top”, the musical genre is also often fueled by either a romance or feud… or both somewhere in the storylines – like most films there is a conflict and a resolution – sometimes some more intense than others.

Iconography – What things look like and what they signify – (Colin McArthur)

Iconography for the musical genre would often be bright colours, a bold title, big musical numbers, large dance sequences, and elaborate sets. Old, original Hollywood musicals were shot in 2.55 CinemaScope, a format that was used prominently throughout the 1950s before Hollywood converted to the 2.40: 1 aspect ratio you see used in most films today. Furthermore, shooting on film is often done to pay homage to these old Hollywood musicals and/or used to reap the benefits of shooting on film such as the depth and tone of the colours and the intricacy.

Narratives themes, characters & plots – Types of people and what happens – (Thomas Schatz)

Narrative themes for musicals are often fighting for love, fighting for something, wishing for more out of life and then realising you don’t want it, community etc. Within this genre, songs are sung by the characters to advance the plot or develop the film’s characters or themes and are ways to outwardly express emotion through song and dance

Conflict/consensus – Claimed that all films are either those two categories aka Gangsta/Romance – (Thomas Schatz)

There is often always a conflict within the film and story itself which causes tension and therefore a change of pace in the story. I don’t agree with the statement that films can be put into two categories as I think that this is a rather limiting statement as each film to their own and there can be many different categories to a film and in this case, a musical film. “Bugsy Malone” (1976) is an example of both gangsta and romance within a musical.

Audience and industry – The relationship between audience intentions, filmmakers intention, audience behaviour and industry – (Tom Ryall)

As stated above, the musical genre seems to boom during and the aftermath of an episode of great economic/global depression as it acts as a source of hope, positivity, and entertainment. I believe that from the start of this genre these have always been the intentions of the filmmakers in question of musical films.

Ideology, identity & society – Repetition and Difference within formula & reflection of society – (Steve Neal)

Musicals often like to replicate society at either the time that it is set or the time that it is made. However, as musicals were originally used to seek escapism, the worlds in which musicals were set were slightly different to our own.

Society and History

Musicals became popular in the Great Depression which started in 1929 and lasted until the late 30’s. People needed their spirits lifted and a distraction during these time – this was when musicals boomed.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *