AS Media Report Name: A. Student
Student User 1/3/11 09:08 Comment: Always include your name at the top.
Group: AS-MEDI-LFE Tutor: John Crossley Introduction This research examines conventions within the romantic comedy genre and the findings will be used to help in producing a film poster and DVD cover. Genre is the term used to describe types of media text that share similar characteristics such as action, horror or science fiction.1 Daniel Chandler explains why genres are useful: Genres offer an important way of framing texts which assists comprehension. Genre knowledge orientates competent readers of the genre towards appropriate attitudes, assumptions and expectations about a text which are useful in making sense of it.2
In the case of Romantic Comedy films this means that the audience usually has quite a deep understanding of the type of things that might happen in this type of film and will predisposed to expect certain character types and plot situations. Part of the enjoyment of watching the film is then the balance between the parts of the film that follow the expected pattern and the aspects that are unusual, unexpected or original. Poster and Trailer Analysis To inform my production I examined three films that exhibit conventions from the romantic comedy genre: Knocked Up (2007), How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days (2003) and When Harry Met Sally (1989).3 This is a hybrid genre, which means it is a combination of two main genres. 1
Philip C. Congleton, Guide to Film Critique <http://www.mecfilms.com/critic1.htm> Congleton lists film genres as follows: 1.) Action: A fast paced film that displays the use of human endurance. 2.) Adventure: Journeys to other lands. 3.) Animated: Cartoon or stop-‐motion. 4.) Comedy: Funny! 5.) Crime: Plots are based on unlawful human actions. 6.) Documentary: A film that tells a report on an issue. Not a story or narrative drama. 7.) Drama: Films that deal with strong human emotions. 8.) Family: A film with subject matter suitable for all ages. 9.) Fantasy: Films that deal with fairy tale adventures or plots from the dark ages. 10.) Horror: Films that are created to scare the audience. 11.) Musical: Films that have song and dance as the primary factor. 12.) Science Fiction: Films that deal with outer space adventures and extra-‐terrestrial encounters. 13.) Suspense: Films that keep secrets from the audience. The outcome is always kept secret in the best way possible. 14.) War: Films based on wars that occurred in recorded human history. 15.) Western: Films based upon the exploits of the American west during the 19th and early 20th centuries. 2 Daniel Chandler, An Introduction to Genre Theory, <http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/intgenre/intgenre2.html> 3 Knocked Up, dir. Judd Apatow, (Universal, 2007).
Student User 1/3/11 09:00 Comment: Make sure you use the sub-‐headings to help with your structure
Student User 26/2/11 20:08 Comment: This is a footnote, used to indicate that there is some extra information related to this point at the bottom of the page. Place your cursor in the text then use the insert menu and scroll down to footnote
Student User 26/2/11 20:10 Comment: Footnotes are also used to give a reference showing where quotes came from. To get the higher grades it is good to provide evidence that you have done some reading.
Student User 26/2/11 20:14 Comment: When quotes are included, you should explain in your own words how the quote relates to your topic.
Student User 26/2/11 20:14 Comment: When you make reference to the titles of texts these should always be in italics not quotation marks.
Student User 26/2/11 20:16 Comment: Including pictures is very useful to save on words. You should always add a caption to say what the image is, even if you think it is obvious. To do this go to insert>caption.
Figure 1 Rob Reiner, When Harry Met Sally, (1988)
Figure 2 How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days
Figure 3 - Knocked Up, Poster (2007)
All three films have an attractive, slim, young blonde woman as one of the main protagonists and a male who is either older or less attractive.4 Figure 3 illustrates this point, as the slim, beautiful and immaculately made-‐up Katherine Heigl is cast alongside the scruffy, unshaven and slightly out-‐of-‐shape Seth Rogen. This reflects a more general inequality, whereby female actors are primarily valued for their looks, whereas male actors can succeed by virtue of other characteristics. I have chosen to subvert this convention in my production by creating a smart and independent female lead, who successfully pursues an attractive male without succumbing to pressure to have a make-‐over or act like a damsel-‐in-‐distress. This will appeal an educated female audience who enjoy strong female characters such as Cady in Mean Girls and less to a mainstream audience who enjoy more conventional Hollywood representations, where women are often only included as a beautiful love-‐interest for a male character. As is typical of this genre, all three posters centre on white heterosexual couples and it is clear that there is a close relationship between the characters. Despite these genre conventions there are also notable differences between the posters, as the facial expressions and body-‐language of the main protagonists in each case are used to convey different meanings to the audience. Figure 1 shows Harry and Sally lying in an intimate embrace. Whilst Sally looks contented and happy, Harry appears wide-‐wake, with a slightly furrowed brow suggesting he is worried. The image therefore fits in with stereotypical gender roles within this genre, where a female character is looking for love and security with one man, whilst the male character fears commitment. The scenarios that arise from these conflicting interests then usually provide a source of humour in romantic comedies. The meaning of the image is anchored by the tag line: ‘Can men and women be friends or does sex always get in the way’. This means that the audience’s expectations regarding the film are likely to relate to a light-‐hearted, comedic treatment of the ‘men are from Mars women are from Venus’ theme, in which mismatched 4
Billy Crystal (1948) – Meg Ryan (1961), Mathew McConaughey (1969) – Hate Hudson (1979), Seth Rogan (1982) – Katherine Heigl 1978).
Student User 1/3/11 09:09 Comment: When you insert captions word will automatically generate a figure number which you can refer to in the text.
Student User 1/3/11 09:04 Comment: Try to avoid describing the poster and make a point about what is generally expected in the genre-‐ backed up with reference to the text.
Student User 1/3/11 09:05 Comment: Make sure that you show how the real posters have affected your work.
Student User 1/3/11 09:07 Comment: Try to interpret the visual codes of the poster – how it creates meaning for the audience.
lovers try to negotiate the difficulties of love, sex and friendship en-‐route to a ‘happily-‐ever-‐ after’ ending. Similarly to Figure 1, the poster for How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, (fig. 2) shows a couple who are drawn to each other but also with a note of tension. The placement of the couple, with their backs towards each other indicates a degree of hostility and suggests to the audience that this is not a straightforward romance. The combination of the title and the image implies that the film is about a couple who are motivated to not be together—going against the narrative conventions within the genre. Despite this twist, the overriding expectation from the genre is that the resolution of this hostility will form the main narrative arc of the film. Osama Tarek Ammar explains the relationship between the narrative and the audience as follows: The narration controls disclosure of information and depends on disparities of knowledge between different characters and the audience to inform and attempt to shape an audience response.5
In other words, although the characters experience some degree of hostility within the film, the audience has the superior knowledge that this is a fictional Hollywood romance with certain genre conventions. This allows the viewers to make the comfortable assumption that despite the character’s own understanding of their situation, within this fictional world they are destined to be together and the audience can enjoy the process of the characters coming to share this understanding. How and why the characters come to accept this fate is what Roland Barthes would describe as an ‘Enigma Code’: a narrative device whereby a puzzle or problem is set up at the outset that triggers an audience’s curiosity to find out how it might be resolved. The Knocked Up poster encapsulates a similar enigma. The combination of the title, waiting room setting (with a poster related to pregnancy on the wall) and body language suggest that the film follows a couple dealing with an unintentional pregnancy. The enigma is: how will this ‘problem’ be resolved in order to achieve the obligatory happy ending. Despite the differences between each film, the producers of each poster are able assume that their audiences will all have a existent understanding of the genre and they can therefore use slight variations on a consistent theme to communicate the main characteristics of the film very economically. The teaser trailer for Knocked Up, begins with a black screen followed by a studio logo with non-‐ diegetic music (Let’s Do It); a suggestive female vocal immediately generating connotations of love and sex.6 The logo dips to black before an establishing wide-‐shot of restaurant with the diegetic sound of conversation and cutlery (fig. 4). The slow forward motion of the camera over a table, with flattering light raises audience expectations of romance. A caption follows: ‘what do you talk about’. This unfinished question encourages the audience to relate to the awkward situation, reflected in shy glances and stilted conversation of the main protagonists (figs. 5 and 6). The sedate style of the trailer is conventional in this genre and allows the audience to dwell on the social awkwardness that is the source of comedy in this trailer. 5
Osama Tarek Ammar, Notes on Narrative Disclosure in Film, <http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Students/ota9901.html> 6
Knocked Up Teaser Trailer, accessed February 2010, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7VXM0AgI0I&feature=PlayList&p=16983A08921DF06C&index=3>
Student User 1/3/11 09:10 Comment: Longer quotes should be set apart as a separate indented paragraph – select the text and hit the tab key to indent.
Student User 1/3/11 09:12 Comment: The marking criteria require you to show: Excellent ability to apply knowledge and understanding, this means reading to find media ideas and theories to apply in analyzing the texts
Student User 1/3/11 09:14 Comment: Make sure that you insert screen grabs to help your trailer analysis. On a Mac hole cmd+shift+4 then drag the cros-‐hairs over the screen, this will capture the screen as a jpg on the desktop.
Figure 4 Knocked Up Trailer
Figure 5 Knocked Up trailer
Figure 6 Knocked Up Trailer
In my storyboard, I have similarly made use of non-‐diegetic music to create audience expectations. I have also adopted slow transitions, flattering light and minimal camera movement to avoid the fast and disorientating style used to create tension in other genres such as action. Target Audience My target audience are single women aged 15-‐25, predominantly in English speaking countries such as the UK and US. They are likely to be in education and will relate to an independent woman looking for love on her own terms. There are also positive male characters and humorous situations to interest a male audience who might watch the film with female friends or girlfriends. Evaluation I have attempted to create a conventional product to appeal to a mainstream audience. The colours are instantly recognisable as signifying love and romance and this connotation is reinforced by the use of love-‐heart graphics.
Student User 1/3/11 09:15 Comment: Try to make 4-‐5 specific points about your intended audience – don’t just say men over 16 or something equally simplistic.
Student User 1/3/11 09:17 Comment: This poster was made by a student in 2010 but I am using to illustrate how to evaluate. You should include your own poster and dvd cover here.
Figure 7 Love Struck poster
The Ugly Truth uses the same colour palette and similar iconography. The leading female characters are also similar in appearance.
Figure 8 The Ugly Truth Poster
Other posters from the genre such as Marley and Me (fig. 9) also use red text and a white background, with the main characters shown in bright, flattering light to maximise how attractive they look to the audience. I have use similar lighting and a smiling expression effectively to make a similar impression.
Student User 1/3/11 09:16 Comment: The marking criteria specify: Evaluation incorporates sophisticated reference to comparable media products
Figure 9 Marley and Me poster
Intolerable Cruelty (fig. 10) uses some of the same conventions but this time the title and the barbed-‐wire heart-‐shape indicate that this film is likely to offer an unconventional and even adversarial take on love. My poster does not go this far and is designed to appeal to more popular expectations of an idealistic romance.
Figure 10 Intolerable Cruelty poster
Life As We Know It targets an older audience who are interested in seeing the trials and tribulations of a long-‐term relationship and the arrival of children. The flattering portrayal— love hearts and clean white backdrop—are replaced a cluttered room, signifying the chaos of a young family. As is usual for a romantic comedy, my poster seeks to deal with the couple getting together, not the more realistic and less romantic portrayal of what happens after the couple ‘sail in to the sunset’.
Figure 11 Life As We Know It Poster
Finally, the Notebook poster shows stereotypical traits of a romantic drama, such as sepia colour, sunsets, a chaste embrace (not an actual kiss) and idealistic rowing boat setting.
Figure 12 The Notebook Poster
My poster compares favourably with the professional productions and follows the genre conventions that are identified in the The Ugly Truth poster in particular.