Drama (film and television)

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Gone with the Wind is a popular romance drama. Gone With The Wind 1967 re-release.jpg
Gone with the Wind is a popular romance drama.

In film and television, drama is a category or genre of narrative fiction (or semi-fiction) intended to be more serious than humorous in tone. [1] Drama of this kind is usually qualified with additional terms that specify its particular super-genre, macro-genre, or micro-genre, [2] such as soap opera, police crime drama, political drama, legal drama, historical drama, domestic drama, teen drama, and comedy-drama (dramedy). These terms tend to indicate a particular setting or subject-matter, or else they qualify the otherwise serious tone of a drama with elements that encourage a broader range of moods. To these ends, a primary element in a drama is the occurrence of conflict—emotional, social, or otherwise—and its resolution in the course of the storyline.

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All forms of cinema or television that involve fictional stories are forms of drama in the broader sense if their storytelling is achieved by means of actors who represent ( mimesis ) characters. In this broader sense, drama is a mode distinct from novels, short stories, and narrative poetry or songs. [3] In the modern era before the birth of cinema or television, "drama" within theatre was a type of play that was neither a comedy nor a tragedy. It is this narrower sense that the film and television industries, along with film studies, adopted. "Radio drama" has been used in both senses—originally transmitted in a live performance, it has also been used to describe the more high-brow and serious end of the dramatic output of radio. [4]

Types of drama in film and television

Gone with the Wind is a popular romance drama. Gone With The Wind 1967 re-release.jpg
Gone with the Wind is a popular romance drama.

The Screenwriters Taxonomy contends that film genres are fundamentally based upon a film’s atmosphere, character and story, and therefore the labels “drama” and “comedy” are too broad to be considered a genre. [2]   Instead, the taxonomy contends that film dramas are a “Type” of film; listing at least ten different sub-types of film and television drama. [5]

Docudrama

Dramatized adaptation of real-life events. While not always completely accurate, the general facts are more-or-less true. [6] The difference between a docudrama and a documentary is that in a documentary it uses real people to describe history or current events; in a docudrama it uses professionally trained actors to play the roles in the current event, that is "dramatized" a bit. Examples: Black Mass (2015) and Zodiac (2007).

Docufiction

Different from docudramas, docu-fictional films combine documentary and fiction, where actual footage or real events are intermingled with recreated scenes. [7] Examples: Interior. Leather Bar (2013) and Your Name Here (2015).

Comedy drama

A serious story that contains some characters or scenes inherently humorous to the audience. [8]   Examples: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011), The Man Without a Past (2002), Silver Linings Playbook (2012), Three Colours: White (1994) and The Truman Show (1998).

Hyperdrama

Coined by film professor Ken Dancyger, these stories exaggerate characters and situations to the point of becoming fable, legend or fairy tale. [9]   Examples: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and Maleficent (2014).

Light drama

Light-hearted stories that are, nevertheless, serious in nature. [10]  Examples: The Help (2011) and The Terminal (2004).

Psychological drama

Drama deals on the characters' inner life and psychological problems. [11] Examples: Requiem for a Dream (2000), Oldboy (2003), Anomalisa (2005), Babel (2006), and Whiplash (2014).

Satire

Satire can involve humor, but the result is typically sharp social commentary that is anything but funny. Satire often uses irony or exaggeration to expose faults in society or individuals that influence social ideology. [12]  Examples: Idiocracy (2006) and Thank You for Smoking (2005).

Straight drama

Straight Drama applies to those that do not attempt a specific approach to drama but, rather, consider drama as a lack of comedic techniques. [12]  Examples: Ghost World (2001) and Wuthering Heights (2011).

Type/genre combinations

Salah Zulfikar and Naglaa Fathi in My Husband's Wife (1970) Salah&Naglaa.jpg
Salah Zulfikar and Naglaa Fathi in My Husband's Wife (1970)

According to the Screenwriters Taxonomy, all film descriptions should contain their type (comedy or drama) combined with one (or more) of the eleven super-genres. [2] This combination does not create a separate genre, but rather, provides a better understanding of the film.

According to the taxonomy, combining the type with the genre does not create a separate genre. [2]   For instance, the “Horror Drama” is simply a dramatic horror film (as opposed to a comedic horror film).  “Horror Drama” is not a genre separate from the horror genre or the drama type. [13]

Action drama 

Action dramas tend to be visceral, not intellectual, with dynamic fight scenes, extensive chase scenes, and heart-racing stunts. The hero is nearly always sharp-witted, quick on their feet, and able to improvise mentally and physically. The hero begins the film with an internal problem, quickly followed by an external problem. By story’s end, the hero resolves both problems. [2] Examples of action dramas include Die Hard (1988) and the Mad Max series.

Crime drama

Crime dramas explore themes of truth, justice, and freedom, and contain the fundamental dichotomy of "criminal vs. lawman". Crime films make the audience jump through a series of mental "hoops"; it is not uncommon for the crime drama to use verbal gymnastics to keep the audience and the protagonist on their toes. [2]  Examples of crime dramas include: The Big Short (2015), The Godfather (1972), and The Usual Suspects (1995).

Drama thriller

In a drama thriller, the protagonist is often an unwitting hero reluctantly drawn into the story and must do battle with an epic villain to save the lives of innocent victims; the hero inevitably finds himself deeply involved in a situation involving insane criminals with a very dark past, who will threaten, double-cross, and kill anyone who stands in their way. [14]

According to screenwriter and scholar Eric R. Williams:

Even the typical good guys in other genres (the police, detectives, and guards) can't be trusted in a thriller. Granted, there are "good guys" in a thriller, but the audience and hero never really know who they are until the end. Thrillers explore the ideas of Hope and Fear, constantly tearing the hero (and more importantly: the audience) between these two extremes. It is not uncommon to have the audience hope that the hero will defeat the villain yet remain fearful that they will not. Often, there is a central mystery that the protagonist must solve, one that is obfuscated from the audience and the hero, so that it is difficult to know what is needed to successfully unravel the impending sense of doom that hangs over the hero. [2]

Films such as Black Swan (2010), Se7en (1995), Shutter Island (2010), and Zodiac (2007) are thriller dramas.

Fantasy drama 

According to Eric R. Williams, the hallmark of fantasy drama films is "a sense of wonderment, typically played out in a visually intense world inhabited by mythic creatures, magic and/or superhuman characters. Props and costumes within these films often belie a sense of mythology and folklore – whether ancient, futuristic, or other-worldly. The costumes, as well as the exotic world, reflect the personal, inner struggles that the hero faces in the story." [2] Examples of fantasy dramas include: Life of Pi (2012), Lord of the Rings (2001-2003), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), and Where the Wild Things Are (2009).

Horror drama 

Horror dramas often involves the central characters isolated from the rest of society. These characters are often teenagers or people in their early twenties (the genre’s central audience) and are eventually killed off during the course of the film. Thematically, horror films often serve as a morality tale, with the killer serving up violent penance for the victims’ past sins. [5]  Metaphorically, these become battles of Good vs. Evil or Purity vs. Sin.  The Conjuring (2013), Psycho (1960), Halloween (1978), and Friday the 13th (1980) are examples of horror drama films.

Life drama (day-in-the-life)

Day-in-the-life films takes small events in a person’s life and raises their level of importance. The “small things in life” feel as important to the protagonist (and the audience) as the climactic battle in an action film, or the final shootout in a western. [5]  Often, the protagonists deal with multiple, overlapping issues in the course of the film – just as we do in life. Films of this type/genre combination include: 12 Years a Slave (2013), Dallas Buyers Club (2013), Moonlight (2016), and The Wrestler (2008).

Romantic drama

Romantic dramas are films with central themes that reinforce our beliefs about love (e.g.: themes such as “love at first sight”, “love conquers all”, or “there is someone out there for everyone”); the story typically revolves around characters falling into (and out of, and back into) love. [15]  Annie Hall (1977), Carol (2015), Her (2013), La La Land (2016) and The Notebook (2004) are examples of romance dramas.

Science fiction drama

The science fiction drama film is often the story of a protagonist (and her allies) facing something “unknown” that has with the potential to change the future of humanity; this unknown may be represented by a villain with incomprehensible powers, a creature we do not understand, or a scientific scenario that threatens to change the world; the science fiction story forces the audience to consider the nature of human beings, the confines of time or space, and/or the concepts of human existence in general. [16]   Examples include: Blade Runner (1982), Children of Men (2006), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Planet of the Apes (1968), and Ready Player One (2018).

Sports drama

Obviously, in the sports super-genre, characters will be playing sports. Thematically, the story is often one of “Our Team” versus “Their Team”; their team will always try to win, and our team will show the world that they deserve recognition or redemption; the story does not always have to involve a team.  The story could also be about an individual athlete or the story could focus on an individual playing on a team. [17] Examples of this genre/type include:  Hoosiers (1986), The Hustler (1961), Moneyball (2011), and Remember the Titans (2000).

War drama

War films typically tells the story of a small group of isolated individuals who – one by one – get killed (literally or metaphorically) by an outside force until there is a final fight to the death; the idea of the protagonists facing death is a central expectation in a war film. In a war film even though the enemy may out-number, or out-power, the hero, we assume that the enemy can be defeated if only the hero can figure out how. [5]   Examples include: 1944 (2015), Apocalypse Now (1979), Hacksaw Ridge (2016), The Hurt Locker (2008), Life is Beautiful (1997), and Wildeye (2015).

Western drama 

Films in the western super-genre often take place in the American Southwest or Mexico, with a large number of scenes occurring outdoors so we can soak in scenic landscapes. Visceral expectations for the audience include fistfights, gunplay, and chase scenes. There is also the expectation of spectacular panoramic images of the countryside including sunsets, wide open landscape and endless deserts and sky. [2]  Examples of western dramas include: Django Unchained (2012), Hell or High Water (2016), Mad Max (1979), No Country for Old Men (2007), and Unforgiven (1992).

Misidentified categories

Some film categories that use the word "comedy" or "drama" are not recognized by the Screenwriters Taxonomy as either a film genre or a film type. For instance, "Melodrama" and "Screwball Comedy" are considered Pathways, [18]  while "Romantic Comedy" and "Family Drama" are macro-genres. [19]

Family drama

A macro-genre in the Screenwriters Taxonomy. These films tell a story in which many of the central characters are related. The story revolves around how the family as a whole reacts to a central challenge. There are four micro-genres for the Family Drama: Family Bond, Family Feud, Family Loss, and Family Rift. [2]

Melodrama

A sub-type of drama films that uses plots that appeal to the heightened emotions of the audience. Melodramatic plots often deal with "crises of human emotion, failed romance or friendship, strained familial situations, tragedy, illness, neuroses, or emotional and physical hardship". [20] Film critics sometimes use the term "pejoratively to connote an unrealistic, pathos-filled, camp tale of romance or domestic situations with stereotypical characters (often including a central female character) that would directly appeal to feminine audiences". [21] Also called "women's movies", "weepies", tearjerkers, or "chick flicks". If they are targeted to a male audience, then they are called "guy cry" films. Often considered "soap-opera" drama.

Character development based on themes involving criminals, law enforcement and the legal system.

Historical drama

Films that focus on dramatic events in history.

Medical drama

Focuses on doctors, nurses, hospital staff, and ambulance saving victims and the interactions of their daily lives.

Teen drama

Focuses on teenage characters, especially where a secondary school setting plays a role.

See also

Related Research Articles

A comedy film is a category of film which emphasizes humor. These films are designed to make the audience laugh through amusement. Films in this style traditionally have a happy ending. One of the oldest genres in film—and derived from the classical comedy in theatre—some of the earliest silent films were comedies, as slapstick comedy often relies on visual depictions, without requiring sound. When sound films became more prevalent during the 1920s, comedy films took another swing, as laughter could result from burlesque situations but also dialogue.

Fantasy film Film genre

Fantasy films are films that belong to the fantasy genre with fantastic themes, usually magic, supernatural events, mythology, folklore, or exotic fantasy worlds. The genre is considered a form of speculative fiction alongside science fiction films and horror films, although the genres do overlap. Fantasy films often have an element of magic, myth, wonder, escapism, and the extraordinary. Prevalent elements include fairies, angels, mermaids, witches, monsters, wizards, unicorns, dragons, talking animals, ogres, elves, trolls, white magic, gnomes, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, demons, dwarves, giants, goblins, anthropomorphic or magical objects, familiars, curses and other enchantments, worlds involving magic, and the Middle Ages.

Film genre Classification of films based on similarities in narrative elements

A film genre is a stylistic or thematic category for motion pictures based on similarities either in the narrative elements, aesthetic approach, or the emotional response to the film.

Action film Film genre

Action film is a film genre in which the protagonist is thrust into a series of events that typically involve violence and physical feats.

Western (genre) Multimedia genre

The Western is a genre of fiction and film set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century and the early 20th century in the Western United States, which is styled the "Old West" or the "Wild West".

Story within a story Literary device

A story within a story, also referred to as an embedded narrative, is a literary device in which a character within a story becomes the narrator of a second story. Multiple layers of stories within stories are sometimes called nested stories. A play may have a brief play within it, such as Shakespeare's play Hamlet; a film may show the characters watching a short film; or a novel may contain a short story within the novel. A story within a story can be used in all types of narration: novels, short stories, plays, television programs, films, poems, songs, video games, and philosophical essays.

Science fiction film Film genre

Science fiction is a film genre that uses speculative, fictional science-based depictions of phenomena that are not fully accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial lifeforms, spacecraft, robots, cyborgs, interstellar travel or other technologies. Science fiction films have often been used to focus on political or social issues, and to explore philosophical issues like the human condition.

Thriller is a genre of fiction, having numerous, often overlapping subgenres. Thrillers are characterized and defined by the moods they elicit, giving viewers heightened feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation and anxiety. Successful examples of thrillers are the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

Psychological horror is a subgenre of horror and psychological fiction with a particular focus on mental, emotional, and psychological states to frighten, disturb, and/or unsettle its audience. The subgenre frequently overlaps with the related subgenre of psychological thriller, and often uses mystery elements and characters with unstable, unreliable, or disturbed psychological states to enhance the suspense, drama, action, and paranoia of the setting and plot and to provide an overall unpleasant, unsettling, or distressing atmosphere.

Crime film Film genre inspired by and analogous to the crime fiction literary genre

Crime films, in the broadest sense, is a film genre inspired by and analogous to the crime fiction literary genre. Films of this genre generally involve various aspects of crime and its detection. Stylistically, the genre may overlap and combine with many other genres, such as drama or gangster film, but also include comedy, and, in turn, is divided into many sub-genres, such as mystery, suspense or noir.

Sports film Film genre

A sports film is a film genre that uses sport as the theme of the film. It is a production in which a sport, sporting event, athlete, or follower of sport are prominently featured, and which depend on sport to a significant degree for their plot motivation or resolution. Despite this, sport is ultimately rarely the central concern of such films and sport performs primarily an allegorical role. Furthermore, sports fans are not necessarily the target demographic in such movies, but sports fans tend to have a large following or respect for such movies.

Romance film Film genre

Romance films or movies involve romantic love stories recorded in visual media for broadcast in theatres or on television that focus on passion, emotion, and the affectionate romantic involvement of the main characters. Typically their journey through dating, courtship or marriage is featured. These films make the search for romantic love the main plot focus. Occasionally, romance lovers face obstacles such as finances, physical illness, various forms of discrimination, psychological restraints or family resistance. As in all quite strong, deep and close romantic relationships, the tensions of day-to-day life, temptations, and differences in compatibility enter into the plots of romantic films.

Adventure fiction Genre of fiction in which an adventure forms the main storyline

Adventure fiction is a type of fiction that usually presents danger, or gives the reader a sense of excitement. Some adventure fiction also satisfies the literary definition of romance fiction.

Slice of life describes the depiction of mundane experiences in art and entertainment. In theater, slice of life refers to naturalism, while in literary parlance it is a narrative technique in which a seemingly arbitrary sequence of events in a character's life is presented, often lacking plot development, conflict and exposition, as well as often having an open ending.

Thriller film Film genre

Thriller film, also known as suspense film or suspense thriller, is a broad film genre that evokes excitement and suspense in the audience. The suspense element found in most films' plots is particularly exploited by the filmmaker in this genre. Tension is created by delaying what the audience sees as inevitable, and is built through situations that are menacing or where escape seems impossible.

A romantic thriller or a romance thriller is a narrative that involves elements of the romance and thriller genres.

The Triangle of Knowledge Concept relevant to storytelling

The Triangle of Knowledge is a writing technique to create and amplify tension in a screenplay, teleplay or stage play identified by Eric R. Williams. The Triangle represents ‘three minds’ that contain knowledge within a scene: the Protagonist, the audience, and any other Character in the scene. According to Williams, tension is created or enhanced when one of the three corners of the triangle is deprived knowledge in the scene.

Inspired by the biological classification system of the Linnaean taxonomy, screenwriter Eric R. Williams developed the Screenwriters Taxonomy in 2017 to create a common language of creative collaboration for filmmakers. Williams’ central thesis in The Screenwriters Taxonomy: A Roadmap to Collaborative Storytelling is that the term “genre” is used so broadly to describe films that the modern use of the word has become meaningless. The Screenwriter's Taxonomy proposes seven categories for discussing the creative process of telling cinematic stories.

  1. Type
  2. Super Genre
  3. Macrogenres
  4. Microgenres
  5. Voice
  6. Pathway
  7. Point of View

References

  1. "Drama". Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. 2015. a play, movie, television show, that is about a serious subject and is not meant to make the audience laugh
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Williams, Eric R. (2017). The screenwriters taxonomy : a roadmap to collaborative storytelling. New York, NY: Routledge Studies in Media Theory and Practice. ISBN   978-1-315-10864-3. OCLC   993983488.
  3. Elam (1980, 98).
  4. Banham (1998, 894–900).
  5. 1 2 3 4 Williams, Eric R. (2017). Screen adaptation : beyond the basics : techniques for adapting books, comics, and real-life stories into screenplays. New York: Focal Press. ISBN   978-1-315-66941-0. OCLC   986993829.
  6. "Documentary Is Never Neutral | History". www.documentaryisneverneutral.com. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  7. "Producing Docu-Fiction | Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University". documentarystudies.duke.edu. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  8. Williams, Eric R. (2019). Falling in Love with Romance Movies (Episode #3 Comedy and Tragedy: Age Does Not Protect You ). Audible.
  9. Dancyger, Ken. (2015). Alternative scriptwriting : beyond the hollywood formula. England: Focal. ISBN   978-1-138-17118-3. OCLC   941876150.
  10. Jones, Phil, 1958 April 22- (2007). Drama as therapy : theory, practice, and research (2nd ed.). London: Routledge. ISBN   978-0-415-41555-2. OCLC   85485014.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. "Subgenre - Psychological Drama". AllMovie. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  12. 1 2 Williams, Eric R. (2019). Falling in Love with Romance Movies (Episode #8 Satire and Social Commentary). Audible.
  13. Williams, Eric. R. (2018). "How to View and Appreciate Great Movies (episode #4: Genre Layers and Audience Expectations)". English. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  14. "Thriller & Suspense". The SilverScreen Analysis. 19 November 2016. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  15. Williams, Eric R. (2019). Falling in Love with Romance Movies (Episode #2 Genre: To Feel the Sun on Both Sides). Audible.
  16. Williams, Eric R. (2018). "How to View and Appreciate Great Movies (Episode #6 Themes on Screen)". English. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  17. Firestein, David J. (2007). "Fields of Dreams: American Sports Movies". E Journal USA. 12.
  18. Williams, Eric R. (2018). "How to View and Appreciate Great Movies (episode #22 Pathways to Great Antagonists)". The Great Courses. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  19. Williams, Eric R. (2018). "How to View and Appreciate Great Movies (episode #3 Movie Genre: It's Not What You Think)". The Great Courses. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  20. "Greatest Tearjerkers - Scenes and Moments". www.filmsite.org. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  21. "Melodramas Films". www.filmsite.org. Retrieved 16 June 2020.

Sources