Why I Love Genre?

Because I like to break it!

Oh shit, I guess I still agreed to do this weekly.

This week was better, mostly because I kept busy with the Manitoban. Still not doing great but it’s better than drowning.

What the hell do I talk about?

I guess I can talk about genre.


Genre is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “A style, especially in arts, that involves a particular set of characteristics.”

What are those characteristics? Well we often mean Tropes.

Trope is defined as “Something such as an idea, phrase, or image that is often used in a particular artist’s work, in particular type of art.”

A genre is a style that is built of tropes and the tropes are the characteristics that genres are built in. Many, including me, often refer to tropes as the “trappings of a genre.”

Why am I fascinated with genre and tropes? Let’s start with a familiar situation that ALL writers get into. They surf TVTropes.org until they hate themselves, their writing and screech, “I can never write anything original!”

Yes, my sweet summer child, you can never write anything original. Everything is a trope. Everything has been done to one extent or another. Anything that can be qualified as an emotional satisfying or interesting story has already been done.

Here’s the thing. Writing without using tropes and genre is a little like making chair without any wood. Tropes and Genre are the building blocks of how you write.

Why am I fascinated with writing tropes? When you understand that you can and SHOULD steal from fucking EVERYONE, you are more free creatively. You have more building blocks to work with. You’re free! Does a neo-noir science fiction western work? Well it did in 1997 with the release of Cowboy Bebop?!

“[They]… will play freely without fear of risky things. They must create new dreams and films by breaking traditional styles. The work, which becomes a new genre itself, will be called… COWBOY BEBOP.”
Cowboy Bebop, Opening Tank! by Shinichiro Watanabe

It should also be recognized that genre is as much a marketing ploy as anything. Genre has tropes, but they are separated on different shelves so bookstores, movie theaters and concerts can say, “If you like this one thing, it is next to a bunch of similar things that you will also like. So buy them.”

What makes genre so interesting to me is how you can break this idea. When you understand how genres interrelate and influence each other, you can break them into pieces and Frankenstein it back together. Somethings it’s a mess, sometimes it’s amazing.

How genres influence each other can be an inspiring and a fascinating cultural exchange. None more than how American Westerns and Japanese Samurai Films have influenced each other.

This subject has been covered ad nauseam elsewhere such as “Shoot ‘Em Up & Slice ‘Em Down: A Cross-Cultural Examination of Western and Samurai Cinema” and “Live by the sword, die by the gun: where Westerns and samurai movies diverge.”

Artists United/Toho Company

I adore this because it shows how differing genres can share a visual language and tropes, while also being distinct in their own right. In pieces they share many trappings such as the duels, the long silences to draw out the tension, the wandering characters and the cycles-of-violence. When you are able to break them into their pieces, you can swap the pieces around.

This is where true brilliance can happen and is one of the main ways genre evolve and transform. The careers of George Lucas and Quentin Tarantino are built on this idea. Take the pieces, break them, put them back together.

Lucasfilm/Disney. Is this a Western? Science fiction? Samurai? Medieval fantasy?

In conclusion, why am I obsessed with the categorization of storytelling?

I love these boxes with all their toys and I will dump on the floor and smash them together until something weird or interesting comes out. This is the functional reason I write. I write for therapy, but that’s emotional.

In the act of creating art, smashing genres is why I do this. It is liberating knowing you don’t have to dig inside yourself for this new source of originality. Its a burden taken off your shoulders. Find the stuff you like and keep smashing it together.

I will likely return to this subject.

Thank you for reading. Comment and Share!