Steve Neale’s Idea of Genre

Steve Neale

Steve Neale is a Professor of Philosophy and Linguistics at the City University of New York, who has analysed all forms of modern genre and how they are influenced by certain economic and social factors. His perception is as follows:
  • Steve Neale’s perception is that “genres exist within the context of a set of economic relations and practices”.
  • He adds that “genres are not the product of economic factors as such”, and “the conditions provided by the capitalist economy account neither for the existence of the particular genres that have until now been produced, nor for the existence of the conventions that constitute them”.
  • Economic factors may account for the perpetuation of a profitable genre.
  • Steve Neale argues that Hollywood’s generic regime performs two inter-related functions: i) To guarantee meanings and pleasures for audiences. ii) To offset the considerable economic risks of industrial film production by providing cognitive collateral against innovation and difference.
  • Neale goes on to add that genre is constituted by “specific systems of expectations and hypothesis which spectators bring with them to the cinema and which interact with the films themselves during the course of the viewing process”.
  • Much of the pleasure of popular cinema lies in the process of “difference in repetition” – (i.e. recognition of familiar elements and in the way those elements might be orchestrated in an unfamiliar fashion or in the way that unfamiliar elements might be introduced).
  • Pleasure is derived from repetition and difference. There would be no pleasure without difference. We may derive pleasure from observing how the conventions of the genre are manipulated.
  • Neale implies that difference is absolutely essential to the economy of genre, and that mere repetition would not attract an audience. Texts often exhibit the conventions of more than one genre.
  • Genre criticism and genre theory are often justified on the grounds that they acknowledge Hollywood’s commercial and industrial nature and on the grounds that the genres they discuss correspond to the trends and divisions in Hollywood’s output.
  • The concept of genre has for some time served as a means to link Hollywood’s practices and Hollywood’s output to Hollywood’s audiences and to the socio-cultural contexts within which its films are produced and consumed.
Commenting on Neale’s personal view of genre and how it exists, I have realised that I am already using his perspectives within what I have already achieved. I find his concept of “difference in repetition” especially fasinating, because it implies that the audience is entertained by how films of a common nature relate to each other (i.e. how they present the same narative in a different format). Examples of this type of film include classic Hollywood movies, primarily set in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West. The reason for this is that these film constantly keep the use of a semi-nomadic wanderer, usually a cowboy or a gunfighter.
This “difference in repetition” also exists within the horror genre, because the normal is exploiting human fear (you always get a monster, creature or murderer). This has been explanded to include “invisible horror”, with classic blockbuster films including Jaws (1975), and more recent films including those about infectious diseases, such as 28 Days Later (2002) and Contagion (2011). All this gives me an idea of how I want to end my film: with an effective cliffhanger, not necessarily to promote a possible sequel (since I want Mobile to be a one-off film), but to encourage the imagination of the audience, and how they think the film should have ended.

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