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5.3 The borderlands of genre (Advanced)

At which point does a way of representing the world become a genre?

Genres are constantly changing so as to produce new variations on old modes as well as substantially new configurations.

Pope, Rob, The English Studies Book, (1998), Routledge. London and New York,  page 200.

As times change and values change, genres change. What was once a genre in itself, like the novel, now supports many sub genres which in turn can be further divided according to their form, function, context and even audience.

Here is one way in which this process occurs.

Is comedy a genre or is it too broad to be considered one and is it more a mode, a method or a manner that may be applied to any genre?
Student worksheet 5.3.1 Types of genre (Advanced) has a list of some types of comedies. In groups:

  • choose one, research it and find example texts that are well known
  • present your definition and example texts to the class in a two-minute PowerPoint presentation, and
  • consider whether your genre can be broken down into further categories.

Can any of the texts you have chosen as examples of a particular comic genre be considered as an example of a different genre but written in a comic mode?

Satire: Convention as subversion

Genres have been described as categories, identifiable through certain conventions. However playing with genre can be anything but conventional.

The ‘Get Your Hand Off It’ suite of advertisements subverts generic expectations around road safety advertisements (a serious issue deserving serious treatment) for audience impact. Some of the genres used in the suite are, by definition, subversive, intending to challenge accepted behaviour. The advertisers adopt a subversive approach to reinforce social values desired by the community. Here, genre becomes a satiric tool to confront and disrupt human complacency.

Find other texts which use genre as a satiric tool to provoke reflection about what we understand the world to be and how this aligns with our stated values as individuals or as a society.

Share the text or an extract with your group and use the diagram above to inform your commentary on the text. Identify the object of satire and explain the composer’s values suggested through the satire. As a responder to the text, discuss whether this diagram has helped you understand the relationships between composer, responder, text and context.

Bringing it all together

Based on your discussions with the group choose one example of satire that appeals to you. Use its genre, its form and its style to compose a text that raises social awareness about an issue important to you.

Techniques for humour

While everybody laughs, we do not all laugh at the same things. What we perceive as funny depends on our age, our personal taste and our culture. Student worksheet 5.3.2 Techniques for humour lists some ways of creating humour. In your group:

  1. Research one of the techniques of creating humour to find the examples you find most humorous.
  2. Post your examples on a ‘graffiti wall’ in the class.
  3. When other groups view your examples they should work out the effect of the technique in the overall meaning of the text.
  4. At the end of the lesson, all groups share their definitions and choose the most accurate and useful to complete the table in the student worksheet.

Applying humour

With the above techniques in mind, consider the type of humour being used in the ‘Get Your Hand Off It’ advertisements. What kind of humour do you find in the slogan?

To prepare your information for the next section, complete the table in student worksheet 5.3.2 Techniques for humour identifying the kinds of humour used and giving examples from the advertisements.

  1. How effective is the humour in each advertisement?
  2. Is the humour directed against one gender? How do you know? Is this effective?
  3. The rock advertisement has a coda, which is an interview with the band at the end of their performance. You can view this or read the transcript below.

Analysing humour

Transcript of the coda in ‘Get you Hand off it’ rock version

Interviewer: So guys, tell us what does ‘Get Your Hand Off It’ really mean?

Derek: Well it’s actually a really great message...

Band Member 1: If you don’t mind, I’ll take it from here. It’s very simple really. It’s about a mystical awe known as the thunder-sutra. See according to Mayan Myth…

Derek: Look, ‘Get Your Hand Off It’ is a really important safety message. It’s about not texting or using your phone while you drive...

Band Member 2: There’s no such thing as a thunder-sutra.

Derek: With the busyness of our lives and all the technology at your hands these days it’s really important to remember to ‘Get Your Hand Off It’ and stay safe on our roads.

Band Member 1: Well what do you call this?

Band Member 2: It’s a rock from the parking lot.


  • What kind of humour do we see operating in this ending? 
  • What kind of person does each speaker represent? How do we know? (Consider what they say and how they say it.)  Why do we laugh?
  • One feature of comedy is the use of the straight man next to the comedian. How does the contrast between Derek and the band members work in terms of humour?
  • Would the message be as powerful without this add-on?
  • Would the same ending fit in with the other ads? Explain your answer

Bringing it all together

The series of advertisements in the ‘Get Your Hand off It’ campaign play with particular genres by imposing an unusual treatment of an everyday message (incongruity) and by exaggerating the conventions (hyperbole) of the usual road safety message.

Imitate this technique to create your own addition to the ‘Get Your Hand off It’ campaign.

  1. Choose one of your favourite genres (possibly crime, gothic, science fiction, or romance genres), noting the key conventions of the protagonist.
  2. Develop a storyboard using online resources such as StoryboardThat conventions of that genre to sell the ‘Get your hand off it’ campaign. You should make use of incongruity and hyperbole to parody the genre to reinforce the message.
  3. Present this to the class as a pitch for using this new version of the campaign.
  4. As a class vote on who wins the advertising contract.

Last update: 25th October 2018