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Compare examples of genre texts from different decades of any media genre of your choice.

Genre is useful for audiences as it enables them to differentiate between the styles and types of narrative, allowing them to decide on what they enjoy. Producers benefit from genre as they can see what is most successful at the current time, and, therefore, make more of the same to capitalise on profit. Due to the ongoing existence and progression of genre, certain changes occur in film, but yet they remain reflective of the genre they are in. This observation is supported by Steven Neale’s description, that genre operates as a “repetition of difference”. Subtle differences may appear on screen, but the underlying repertoire of elements are exclusively the same. I will be considering the science fiction genre, within which, the films Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Invasion, and The Faculty will be discussed. These films are recognisable as being part of the science fiction genre due to the inclusion of aliens in all three texts. This is a common trend within the genre and is apparent in countless other films. The repetition of such ideas is noticeably popular with audiences, who have consumed similar texts for decades. Audiences like this repetition as it fits into their schema, complying with the ideologies and values of previous texts which they have enjoyed.

However, genres do not endlessly repeat themselves. Instead, they evolve, adopting new conventions and narratives to excite the audience. This variation is well-liked by audiences who would become bored of watching the same thing over and over again. The repetition of difference allows the audience to enjoy the particular genre whilst being entertained by the application of new elements. The diverse nature and imagination of science fiction allows difference to be introduced with greater success than any other genre.

Hayward’s theory, that genres are not static but “shifting and slippery”, can be confidently implicated into the discussion, as they do not remain the same but adjust due to the audience and society at the time. This notion can be further enforced by theorist Toamshevsky, who suggested that “no firm logical classification of genre is possible. Their demarcation is always historical, that is to say, it is only correct for a moment of history”. This theory proposes that films produced as part of the science fiction genre, reflect attitudes, worries and conflicts within society at a given time.

The texts held in question all exhibit differences due to the influences of historical contexts that were apparent at the time. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is manifestly a metaphor of society during the Cold War, with the pod people representing Russian communists. The 2007 remake, The Invasion, adopts different aspects as a result of society at this time. The anxieties present in this era are disease, infection and the idea that science is foolishly breaking boundaries, represented in The Invasion by a virus that turns people into an inhuman being. The faculty is more complex as it does not involve concerns of the present society. Instead, The Faculty presents a postmodern view of humanity through its self-referentiality; drawing attention to its own construction which offers little comment on social issues.

Neale supports Toamshevsky’s point and suggests that genre creates meaning in a fluid way. Genre can only make sense in relation to a variety of contextual factors. The contextual factors of institution, censorship, technology and gender representation have all affected these texts and created differences between them. Invasion of the body Snatchers was produced by Walter Wanger, who had an interest in topically political material, being responsible for the making of the anti-fascist film Blockade in 1938. The films screenwriter Mainwaring was even blacklisted himself as a communist sympathiser. Furthermore, the script was rewritten by Richard Collins, a former Communist Party functionary and co-author of the once notorious Song of Russia. These institutional aspects of the film clearly show its intentions and ideologies as being pro-communism, making a satirical attack on McCarthyism. The Invasion was produced by Warner brothers and therefore has values in keeping with traditional America. The narrative of this film concludes with the uninfected triumphing over the alien life form and restoring the world to its previous state. This clearly shows the difference in values as the ending is so definite, whereas in Body Snatchers the ending is not completely resolved, with the imagination of the audience determining the real outcome. The Faculty appears to struggle in commenting on the real world we live in until the very end of the film. We can see this ending as an ironic parody through Frederick Jameson’s definition of the term, as The Faculty ‘mocks rather than plunders from tradition’ therefore interrogating other texts that it mimics. We ask questions about the way the narrative ends as it makes no sense, with everybody becoming better people due to the experience and contradicting there former characters.

Censorship has shaped the three texts dramatically, having restricted the content of some and enabling others to show more varied footage. Invasion of the Body Snatchers was produced in 1956, a time where society was shielded from ‘unacceptable’ material by the MPDDA, therefore limiting the footage that could be shown, and which could be perceived as entertaining by the audience, for example violence, nudity and swearing. The Invasion and The Faculty, however, have not been affected by such rigorous censoring, being produced in a more lenient society. This has allowed both films to include more disturbing scenes such as the alien in The Faculty and the process by which humans are converted into aliens in The Invasion.

Technology also plays a significant part in recognising the differences between the texts. Invasion of the Body Snatchers lacks impressive, large scale scenes partly due to the deficiency of technology but also due to the economic context, as films were made on a much lower budget than they are today. Body Snatchers cost a modern day equivalent of 4 million dollars whereas The Invasion cost a massive 80 million dollars. These economic differences have allowed films produced in the 21st century to be much more impressive in appearance than those created decades ago. The Faculty consisted of many scenes that relied heavily on special effects. However, the methods used could clearly be seen as fake and even comical. This may have been solely due to its postmodern influences but may also have been due to the standard of technology at the time. The Invasion includes much more realistic examples of technology in use, such as the shuttle falling to Earth and the suffocating green mucus that covers the people’s faces.

Representations of gender are very different in the three texts. Body Snatchers clearly portrays a patriarchal society where men are the bread winners and women are the housewives. Miles Bennell is the Proppian hero who is slowed down and hindered by his partner Becky Driscoll who has no relevance to the plot, ultimately becoming an alien and betraying Miles. The Invasion, however, swaps these roles, making the women the hero and the man the burden. This can be accounted for through the second wave of feminism in the late 1960s, characterised by the growing revolt by women against their oppression as a sex. The idea of the crisis of masculinity is also encompassed within the film as men, such as Daniel Craig and Kidman’s ex-husband Jeremy Northam, appear week, being dominated by Kidman’s character and eventually overcome.

Neale’s theory that genre exists through the repetition of difference is highly justifiable when looking at Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Invasion and The Faculty. All three films are extremely familiar with the two most recent films taking their ideas directly from the 1956 classic. The Faculty is a repetition of Body Snatchers due to its close compliance with the texts narrative and conventions of alien organisms, as well as the fact that it makes direct references to Body Snatchers consistently throughout the film. The Invasion is a remake of Body Snatchers, therefore existing exclusively due to the earlier film. It does however have differences to the original to make it more exciting and more in keeping with contemporary society, which has greater appeal to audiences. For these reasons Neale’s theoretical framework is valid, as are the additional views of Hayward and Toamshevsky.