How Genre Can Help Us All Get Along

I’m currently writing what is, I think, my first explicitly genre piece, a play called Known Unknowns, that I’m billing as a “radicalisation rom-com”. I really, really enjoy seeing those words put together because I think the story premise and the experience it suggests you will have is quite clear.

I’m an unashamed lover of genre stories and particularly rom-coms and I’ve always wanted to write one. Now that I am, I’ve spent a little time thinking about why I love it and how I hope to use genre as part of my broader aim of creating more inclusive stories.

What is so compelling about genre as a tool of inclusion is that, in the mix of elements that will satisfy an audience, the narrative and thematic expectations of a genre tend to overwhelm the need for strong character identification. So if you have a character whose experiences/background you think a broad audience will find more difficult than usual to get on board with, by placing them in a well-wrought genre story you can give them those characters, be truthful to their experiences *and* satisfy reluctant viewers.

The hope then is for a legacy of identification via familiarity. The next time that viewer encounters a similar character, perhaps in something more challenging, (and, being a bit grand, perhaps in real life) they’ll more likely stick with it because of them having a greater pool of empathy, drawing as it will from the previous experience. One they potentially didn’t even realise they were getting.

Genre is just a widely-understood set of story tropes and our innate knowledge of those tropes bridges what ever boundaries exist between us.

Hooray For Hollywood.

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