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Genre Classification

The Oxford English Dictionary defines genre as “a style or category of art or literature.” The concept generally is accepted as originating from Plato and Aristotle as a method of classifying art or literature.  The original genres were poetry, drama, and prose.  Poetry was then further classified into the genres of epic, lyric, and drama.

It is only in subsequent centuries that genres of tragedy, comedy, and tragicomedy became introduced.

In the present day, genres are defined as Westerns, science fiction, romance, action, etc.  It is an interesting bastardization of the original use of “genre.”  As a result, things can get a little crazy and confusing when defining genres.  As a result, I would like to attempt what George Carlin did with the Ten Commandments – “reduce the number of commandments and come up with a list that’s a little more workable and logical.”

Filmsite.org lists the major genres as: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Crime & Gangster, Drama, Epics/Historical, Horror, Musicals/Dance, Science Fiction, War, Westerns.

I would like to argue that Musicals/Dance, Science Fiction, and Westerns are better defined as styles of film.  The themes remain the same; they merely change in setting and/or format.  Therefore, we can cut those out from the list of genres, and we are left with: ActionAdventureComedyCrime & Gangster, Drama, Epics/Historical, Horror, War.

Now the Adventure film genre is defined as exciting stories in different locations.  So essentially, they are Action movies but in a different setting.  Therefore we can really cut down those two so we have left: Action/AdventureComedyCrime & Gangster, Drama, Epics/Historical, Horror, War.

Continuing on, War deals with the horrors and consequences of war, thus putting it into the Action/Adventure, Drama, and Epics/Historical categories.  I would like to argue that War can thus become incorporated into those three categories and then nullified.  Further, with the onslaught of crime films and TV shows brought on by CSI, Crime & Gangster has come to be considered a genre of its own, yet at its core, it falls under Action/Adventure and Drama just with a stronger topical focus, so it too can be incorporated.  Therefore, we are left with: Action/Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Epics/Historical, Horror.

This leaves a list that I think is satisfactory.  We could potentially work harder to incorporate Epics/Historical, but that would require causing some films like those on the History Channel to be shunted aside.  Now you might be curious why Romance wasn’t on this list.  That is because Romance can generally fall under Comedy and Drama, Romance films just generally are one of those two with a specific topic.  That is why it isn’t included in here.  However, there are two genres that I think should be added to this list: Psychological and Coming of Age.  Both of these genres generally combine a mess of other sentimentalities.  Most of the time, Psychological is seen as Psychological Thriller, but I want to leave it as purely Psychological, because there is a very small subset of films that deal with delving into the psyche of humanity.  The one that commons most readily to mind that most people have seen is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  As for Coming of Age, true, many of them are comical or sad and involve romance, but that is not their true intent.  I would like to use 500 Days of Summer as an example of this kind of film.  Or the ever famous Breakfast Club.  It is truly difficult to classify both in any of the main film genres that I have already mentioned.

So here is the end list, including common styles that can be classified as well:

Genre Style
Action/Adventure Animated
Comedy Fantasy
Coming of Age Film Noir
Dramas Musicals/Dance
Epics/Historical Science Fiction
Horror Western
Psychological
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One response to “Genre Classification

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