The role of media in any society is to reflect and reinforce the dominant ideas of that society
On a surface level, genre theory can be seen as a means of “the division of the world of literature into types and naming those types” (Robert Allen). These divisions in the realm of media cater for numerous factors such as audience expectation and commercial viability. Richard Jameson encapsulates the familiarity that accompanies media genre when he states that “name one of the classic bedrock genres – western, comedy … gangster, science fiction – and even the most casual movie goer will come up with a mental image, partly visual, partly conceptual”. Although genre can be used in this style of compartmentalization and preconception as a template for directors, on a deeper level, genre is a means of exploration of themes generated by the current society within which it is created. Braudy states “genre is a powerful interplay of repetition and renewal” and it is this cunning interplay that allows media genres to reflect and reinforce the dominant ideas of society back towards the audience that generates them.
As Waslow points out, the gangster genre explores audiences “untraveled fantasies of molent upward mobility”. As it’s a genre, there are many characteristics present throughout virtually every gangster film that takes into account the audiences preconceptions. These include the rise and the fall of the gangster, levels of violence and to an extent, the pursuit of the American Dream. The nature of these characteristics however, are altered and warped by directors in order to portray certain themes and ideas that better illustrate the zeitgeist of society. A variety of gangster films can be observed to be doing this; G-Men (1935), The Departed (2006, Scarface (both 1932 and 1983). Each of these visual texts play the role of feeding the pertinent issues and worries present within a society back to that particular audience.
The 1930s was a very conservative...
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