LNH: Legion of Net.Heroes Vol.2 #23

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Thu Nov 8 23:27:30 PST 2007

On Nov 9, 1:53 am, Martin Phipps <martinphip... at yahoo.com> wrote:

> >  Porno is not
> > determined by what feelings (both emotional and pysiological) it
> > inspires in you, but rather by the presence of sex; musicals are
> > determined by the presence of singing and dancing, _not_ by the desire
> > to feel-good.
> It's a simplistic argument that happens to work very well.  All movies
> have music but not all movies are musicals.

That's why I said that musicals are defined by the presence of singing
and dancing, not by music. :-)

>  And pornography really is
> a function of what one individually finds pornographic or arousing or
> disgusting as the case may be.  If a couple were having sex and, at
> the same time, having a meaningful conversation then it could arguably
> be described as a drama with the sex providing little more than
> setting.  You yourself told Saxon not long ago that porn can never be
> sad or it wouldn't be porn.

Actually, what I said was that it would be "terrible".  It would be
"bad" porn.  But it would still be porn, I think, as a genre.  Though
it's true that the presence of sex doesn't necessarily make something
porn; it's when the emphasis is on the sexual performance that it
makes it porn.

You could have a movie where a character sings and dances, but only
for a brief moment-- Christopher Walken does it quite often-- and I
suppose that doesn't make it a musical.

So my definition of pornography is perhaps a bit inexact, but at the
same time depressing and bad porn is still porn, which means the "feel-
good" aspect wouldn't necessarily be a good litmus test either.

I guess we just know it when we see it. :-)

> > And some genres, frankly, do not evoke any overriding emotion at all.
> > What emotion is postmodern work like Ulysses in key with?  What about
> > bildungsroman?  Epistolary? Stream-of-consciousness?  Robinsonade?
> > Psychological Realism?
> How do they make you feel?  It really is a valid way to distinguish
> one pure genre from another.

I've never heard of a "pure" genre before.

The whole point of those examples is that they are genres _defined_ by
either external formal devices (epistolary, for example) or by a basic
plot structure (Robinsonade).

And, to answer your question at least in part-- postmodern work
generally makes me confused and bored.  I'm not sure if that's what
makes it a genre, though. :-)

> > What is the Western a function of?  Anger, justice, elegy, discovery?
> > None of these.
> > A Western is a function of _setting_.
> A Western is a type of action movie.

That would discount the Ox-Bow Incident, wouldn't it?  Not to mention
Brokeback Mountain.  Both two very prominent westerns without much

Well, not the sort of action you mean, anyway. ;-)

Anyway, I still stand behind my belief that a Western is defined by
its setting.

> Science fiction, likewise, is a
> recent invention of the past hundred years that grew out of the need
> for more realistic fantasy.  I realise that "realistic fantasy" sounds
> like an oxymoron but all stories do need to be capable of suspending
> disbelief.

It doesn't sound like an oxymoron at all.  It's a very good point.
But Sci-Fi isn't always about wonder.  It can be, certainly.  But it
can also be about the relationship between people and technology (an
intellectual idea, not an emotion per se), or about fear (aliens
attacking, et cetera), or even about how much life sucks (cyberpunk).
Just because a sci-fi story isn't filed with wonder doesn't make it
any less "pure" or any less "science-fiction".  I feel a subgenre is
just as pure as a genre-genre.  After all, aren't all genre-genres
just sub-genres of tragedy (story ends badly) and comedy (story ends

> > So, while I understand the basic gist of the idea, in actuality it's
> > bullocks and it's somewhat frightening that an English teacher who
> > presumably takes literature seriously would also take that theory
> > seriously.  It's about as bad as those people in the seventies who
> > said there were no such things as authors or even works, but rather
> > products of prevaling socio-economic conditions.
> Well, Tom, I've had enough years of experience to identity bull and I
> frankly don't see it coming from me.

I'm not attacking you personally, Martin, and I wasn't saying that
_you_ persoanlly were _behind_ a theory that I personally disagree
with very strongly.  If someone were to espouse the other theory I
mentioned-- there are no authors, Shakespeare wasn't a genius but
rather a product of his times-- I would still call it bollocks without
meaning in any way to disrespect hte person saying it.

It's not a theory you came up with; it's a theory that's quite popular
in the academic world, like the importance of decoder-ring symbolism.

I think even if you disagree with my opinion, you'll concede that you
at least understand where I'm coming from, just as I disagree with the
genre-defined-by-emotion theory but I understand where you're coming

And, really, this is a case where no one can be 100% right.  We're
talking about abstracts.  You point out flaws in my argument, I point
out flaws in yours, and so on-- and hopefully others will join us in
this invigorating game of What Makes a Genre a Genre?

> Martin


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