Matt Teichman (University of Chicago, graduate student)
“Which movie genre are you?”
The paper will not be distributed in advance.
We give the same label—“film genre” —to what are two distinct notions. One might be called “historical genre,” the kind of category that critics use to designate movements in the history of filmmaking, and the other might be called “industrial genre,” or the kind of category that the film industry uses to classify its products in accordance with the needs of various consumer populations. This paper focuses its attentions on developing a definition of industrial genre, departing from the assumption that a film’s genre in either sense is best conceived as a cause of its style and that it is a mistake to confound the two. A historical genre, such as surrealism, should be understood not as the confluence of certain stylistic traits but as a historically grounded discursive community responsible for having produced a body of artifacts. The defining characteristic of industrial genres, on the other hand, is that they serve as building blocks out of which the consumer may construct her identity. It is only because consumer culture formulates its notion of identity in terms of taste—and because identities come with desirable or undesirable stereotypical baggage—that industrial genres are able to carry out their function.