1. Genre Analysis - Drama
‘Drama’ describes a genre of narrative fiction or semi-fiction intended to be of more serious tone focusing on the
development of realistic characters who must deal with realistic emotional struggles. Drama films often focus on
normal, relatable characters,whichgive the actorsportrayingthemanopportunitytoplayrolesinaccessiblebyother
genres, as the primary focus of a drama is character development in the interest of audience engagement and
empathy.This isalsoaidedbythe use of climaxesandanti-climaxestovarythe level of tensionthroughout the film.
Drama is one of the broadest film genres and includes subgenres such as:
Romantic drama– largely revolvingaround elements of romantic love and affection e.g. Slumdog Millionaire(2008) directed
by Danny Boyle and starring Dev Patel.
Biographical drama– depictingthe dramatized lives of importanthistorical figures or groups fromeither pastor present eras
e.g. Ali (2001) directed by Michael Mann and starring Will Smith.
War drama– focuses on dramatic military events in history e.g. Jarhead (2005) directed by Sam Mendes and starring Jake
Sports drama – plots that centre on the emotional (and physical) struggles of athletes and the consequential impacts e.g.
Rocky (1976) directed by John G. Avildsen and starring Sylvester Stallone.
Melodrama– plots that appeal to the heightened emotions of the audience, generally depending on stereotyped character
development e.g. Titanic (1997) directed by James Cameron and starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Historical period drama – plots based upon historical events and famous people (some more historically accurateportrayals
are referred to as ‘docudramas’) e.g. The King’s Speech (2010) directed by Tom Hooper and starring Colin Firth.
Horror drama – focuses on characters facingrealistic emotional struggles in a horror setting e.g.The Babadook (2014) directed
by Jennifer Kent and starring Essie Davis.
Comedy drama – involves equal or almost equal serious and comedic content e.g. Forrest Gump (1994) directed by Robert
Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks.
Crime/Legal/Courtroom drama– generally follows either those involved in criminal activity or those in law enforcement of
the judicial system e.g. Goodfellas (1990) directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro.
Common dramatic themes include:alcoholism,childabuse,comingof age,drugaddiction,emotion,hope,infidelity,
moral dilemmas,racial prejudice,religiousintolerance,sexuality,poverty,classdivisions,violence againstwomenand
corruption. Oftenthesethemesare takenfromintense, real-life issues,asdramasaimto tell honeststoriesof human
struggles in order to make the audience emotionally attached and engaged with the plot.
Typically, drama films feature a main protagonist who the story centres around and who navigates the peaks and
troughs of their emotional journey,often alongside a ‘best friend’ type companion, a ‘love interest’, and a primary
antagonist or seriesof characters contributingtothe developmentof issuesforthe protagonisttoovercome. A good
example of this convention is in the 2006 drama ‘Kidulthood’, which follows the main antihero Trevor (‘Trife’), his
partner Alisa, and the school bully Sam.
Duringthe earlyyearsof cinema,the transitionfromsilentfilms meantthatmelodramasbecame extremelypopular,
howeverstage actorssuchas Marlon Brando,MarilynMonroe and JamesDean graduallymade dramasmore realistic
and the genre became a way of ‘teaching’ the audience through film about things like the effects of the depression
(Grapes of Wrath - 1940), teenage angst (Rebel Without a Cause - 1955) and the inner workings of a courtroom (12
Angry Men - 1957). During the 1960s, dramas became increasingly more politically-driven, focussing on events like
the SecondWorld War, the Nazis,andthe ColdWar. By the 70s war dramas were the most realisticadaptionsof the
war available atthe time,andthe demandformelodramapaledincomparisontothe hungerfor realism.Dramaslike
Blade Runner(1982) witha science fictiontheme were afeature of the 1980s, howeverthe popularityof wardramas
extended well intothe 80s, as films like Platoon (1986) gave insight into the horrors of the Vietnam War. There was
also significantemphasisplacedonthe emotional themes in filmssuchas Do the Right Thing (1989) whichgave ‘full
character studiesof AfricanAmericancultureandhistory’,andduringthe 1990s, the theme of race relationships was
prevalentindramassuch as AmericanHistoryX (1998) and RubyBridges(1998). Otherdrama filmsof significancein
the 90s included the gritty crime drama Goodfellas(1990), the successful comedy-drama Forrest Gump (1994), and
the animated child-orienteddramaThe LionKing(1994). More recently,inthe 2000s, dramatic biographical films or
‘biopics’were popularamongfilmmakers,andsome romantic dramas suchas SlumdogMillionaire (2008) have been
extremely successful, despite the decline in popularity of romantic drama as a genre.