Although this is an article about genres (of art, fiction, comics etc..) and about how the same genre can change significantly from country to country, I’m probably going to have to start by talking about some of my own art yet again. There’s a good reason for this that I hope will become obvious later.
As I mentioned recently, I’ve been making a series of horror-themed “film noir”/ 1950s American horror comics- style paintings at the time of writing some of these articles.
Anyway, one of the things that always fascinated me about the film noir genre is (relatively speaking) just how little I seem to know about it, given that it’s one of my favourite genres. Don’t get me wrong, it always seems like a really cool genre whenever I see anything related to it. But it’s one of those rare genres, like the cyberpunk genre, that I don’t encounter nearly as much as I should.
I mean, the painting I made a few hours before writing this article barely even fits into the film noir genre. In fact, it’s probably more horror punk than film noir.
I think that half of the problem with this art series is the fact that although I’ve seen more American TV shows than I can remember, read more American novels than I can remember, seen more American websites than I can remember, played more American computer games than I can remember and seen more American films than I can remember, I’m not American and I’ve never been to America.
And, well, this made me think about genres and cultures. The noir genre is a uniquely American genre, it’s a very specific sub-genre of detective fiction that evolved in America and it works best when it’s set in American cities (especially in the 1930s-50s). [EDIT: Although I’ve transposed this genre to a UK setting in the comic that is currently being posted here every evening, the only way I was able to get this to work was to tell a comedic story, rather than a serious one.]
Yes, it has a really cool visual aesthetic that can be used in any setting. And, yes, noir-style stories can be set pretty much anywhere – but this probably takes a lot more effort, imagination and research to do properly.
Anyway, this made me think about how different countries and cultures have their own versions of the same genre. For example, I’m a huge fan of sci-fi TV shows – and one really fascinating thing is the huge difference between classic American sci-fi shows and classic British sci-fi shows.
To generalise a lot, classic American sci-fi shows are a lot bolder and more militaristic. They’re shows about adventure, combat and exploration. They’re shows about hierarchy and teamwork.
Whether it’s the various versions of “Star Trek”, “Bablyon 5”, “Stargate” etc.. American sci-fi shows are bold, thrilling, intelligent adventure shows about teams of well-trained explorers, soldiers etc… They’re shows about authority, teamwork, principles and how badass humanity is.
Classic British sci-fi TV shows, on the other hand often tend to be a lot more eccentric, comedic, anti-authoritarian, anti-militaristic and individualistic. They’re about a million miles away from classic American sci-fi. Whether it’s “Doctor Who” or “Red Dwarf”, these are shows that are pretty much the polar opposite of classic American military sci-fi.
Yet, they are in exactly the same genre.
It’s always interesting how genres can change from country to country and yet remain recognisable as the same genre. This isn’t to say that you can’t attempt to make things in other versions of the same genre, but it will probably either be more challenging than you think or, more interestingly, you’ll end up producing a version of that genre which is a unique blend of your “own” version and the version you’re trying to copy.
But, whatever you do, you’ll probably be either influenced by, enhanced by and/or limited by your own culture’s version of the genre in question.
Why? Because these versions of every genre evolved from the culture you grew up in, the culture you’ve been saturated in. They’re imbued with the general attitudes you’ve been surrounded by when you were growing up.
Even if you look at more things from other versions of the same genre, anything you produce will probably look at least a little bit like your own version of this genre.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂