How we classify particular styles and types of media text by identifying common features

Key Concepts:

generic structure

This is a very complex issue and it includes many different strands:

the 'look' of a film or TV programme
narrative structures
character 'types'

One of the most irritating things about trying to assign any text to a genre is the fact that many texts just do not fit a particular style or type. They may have elements of the 'parent' genre, but the codes and conventions may have been 'twisted' or altered in some way. This produces a 'genre-within-a-genre' and we call it a SUB-GENRE

Within the genre of 'TV comedy', for example you may find many other 'types' of comic text, each of which is a sub-genre of comedy.

alternative comedy
American sitcom
British sitcom
(And just to make things worse, how would you classify programmes like 'Ab-Fab', 'League of Gentlemen' or 'Shooting Stars'?)


Within a genre you will find particular signs associated with that genre. This, in media-speak, is called iconography.
Look for things like:

particular tools of the trade (fast cars, guns)
dress codes of actors
physical attributes

Remember that iconography isn't only concerned with the look and the signs and content of particular generic texts, it is also applied to people, especially actors, or 'stars' like Marylin Monroe, who are often labelled as 'screen icons'. It can also be a style of 'mise en scene' associated with a particular director, like John Woo, or Quentin Tarantino, or even the director himself can become an 'icon'! Also look at 'typical' settings like the Western movie, or 'predictable' characters like robots in science fiction films, or monsters in 'slasher' movies. You will find that iconography runs right through media output, from the pages of 'Hello' magazine, through MTV, into film and television - even political journalism, or tabloid press coverage.

An icon is an image that originally was a religious picture - very recognisable and venerated (worshipped) by churchgoers. Keep that idea in your mind and you can see how the process works in media terms


Audiences like genre. It's predictable and reassuring.
Producers like it because it's a formula that can be reproduced over and over again.
Generic structure is very powerful BUT form can sometimes dominate content

V Pope