Genre Speech: Rear Window vs. The Real Inspector Hound
When you think of the term ‘genre’, what does it exactly mean to you? Well I’m sure it’s without a doubt that you all commonly believe it constitutes either a kind or category of text, but in actual fact does it really? Good morning Year 11. The prime focus of your studies during the HSC course next year, I’m going to discuss how the genre of crime fiction has extended through time, whereby a variety of notions and characteristics exhibited throughout a text may either reinforce, challenge or extend on genre parameters. So what is genre then? Although genre is quite difficult to define, there are numerous interpretations of the term since the confines between genres are constantly evolving due to changing values. As Daniel Chandler states, “defining genres may not initially seem particularly problematic but it should already be apparent that it’s a theoretical minefield.” However, Jane Feuer believes “genre is ultimately an abstract conception.” These critics therefore prove that yes, while it may be easy to classify a text to a particular genre, we must understand genre as a concept that can apply to varying applications rather than its fundamental relevance to a text. In saying this, as changing contexts and values have developed over time, resulting in new-found conventions, I’ve come to agree with Stephen Neale’s understanding; “Genres are instances of repetition and difference...difference is absolutely essential to the economy of genre.” (Neale, 1980). This my friends, effectively reflects constant changing cultural values and attitudes in our social milieu, don’t you think? Hence, my aim today is to focus on the conventions of the genre of crime fiction and how they have been recreated in a number of ways to reflect the social and cultural aspects that are dynamic to their survival within the popularity of a text. As Neale further suggests, “genres exist to assist in shaping values.” Subsequently, I will discuss how and why Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rear window and Tom Stoppard’s play The Real Inspector Hound have re-worked and extended upon crime conventions prevalent in crime writing through genre, often defying audience expectations in one way or another. As a result, Rear Window highlights and expands upon the cosy conventions of its contemporary society by paralleling the post-war issues of voyeurism and women and subverting them, reflected through its social milieu. The Real Inspector Hound also utilises cosy conventions but parodies them instead, challenging the classical Golden Age’s ‘whodunit’ storyline in a satiric way, so as to query the restoration of justice and the idea of reality vs. allusion. Thus, whilst both texts seek to extend and challenge crime conventions, they also serve to explore society’s human conditions and issues at the time in order to become seminal texts of the genre. Directed in 1954, Hitchcock’s Rear Window reinforces the fact that very few works exemplify all required characteristics of a particular genre, by cleverly breaking the ideal conventions of a suspenseful circumstance in a crime fiction text. The film is rather based around the notion of both solving the crime and proving that it happened. Rear Window further revolves around the concepts of the changing roles of women and queries the morality of voyeurism. Such notions reflect the contextual concerns of the post-war era where a revolutionary social change was clearly prevalent in society, thus endangering the traditional gender restrictions marked by WW2. Through the mis-en-scene of Jeff holding his camera looking outside the window as blinds are swiftly raised to reveal vignettes of apartments, it’s evident that a didactic message outlining the unethicalness of voyeurism is contained within Rear Window. As voyeurism further exposes hidden worlds within the film, Hitchcock manages to reflect upon American society through each of these blocks acting as a...
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