Genre Theory - Robocop

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Film theory explicationAlex Green

How genre theory applies to Robocop 1987 (Paul Verhoven)

Genre theory is essentially a structuralised method of categorising films by common traits or conventions. The basis for genre theory comes from humans need to categorise things into neat sections and is one of the few film theories actually implemented more by the audience of films rather than film theorists and academics.’ As intelligent entities, human beings have a natural proclivity towards organizing the components of the world around them into ordered filing systems.’ (lumiere revolution 2004). However most films in a genre actually share conventions with films from other genres and borrow styles from other genres to make hybrid genres such as action comedies, science fiction/horror etc.

The genre of a film depends on many features that make up the film text itself, from narrative to settings and themes in the story which the film has in common with other films (conventions). A collection of films with similar conventions which are grouped together make up a genre category such as horror, romance etc. The theory of semiotics also comes into genre as semiotics is essentially the language of signs such as red usually means danger, relating to genre signs are used to show the audience what type of film they are watching, visual cues such as the place setting or main characters which create the conventions of that genre. For example if someone goes to see a film in the action film genre they can expect to see a fast paced film with lots of spectacle possibly with special effects overshadowing the narrative, with the narrative usually based around conflict resolution.

To look into how genre theory applies to Paul Verhoven’s Robocop (1987) it is useful to look at the science fiction genre and exactly what conventions go into putting a film into the science fiction genre. The main convention in a science fiction film is in the setting, often set in...
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