Is it Proper to Compare One Genre to Another?

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Last week we discussed why audio drama was not inferior to visual entertainment.  We also found that all mediums that continue to be made and enjoyed throughout the centuries are equally powerful in their own way. Sometimes a story fits better in one particular genre. A good producer exploits this to communicate a poignant message that genre conveys best.

And it can work in the exact opposite way as well. Our example from last week’s post was the Invisible Man. This story is particularly difficult to tell using audio drama – for obvious reasons. Books are not usually best suited for action-packed stories. A writer must use choppy sentences to show urgency and lightning-swift movements. A well-executed fight scene can be tremendously impacting, no doubt. Yet movies combine the attributes needed to show such a scene most effectively, if not the more dramatically.

But there are also aspects of each genre that are individually neutral. They neither lean entirely toward being considered a “positive” piece of their genre, nor should they be called a mar. For instance, because audio drama relies so heavily on imagination, an absent-minded listener may miss much of the story. On the other hand, the key part of imagination (inspired with exciting voices, effects and music) is what makes audio drama so amazing. Books rely on words to show and tell their wondrous story, and because readers have certain connotations that they unconsciously apply to those terms it may somewhat alter the original meaning behind the word. It is not a blemish, although it may for some readers harm their interpretation of the story by a slight degree. Neither is it a benefit, though knowledgeable authors will use this to their advantage by being aware of the general connotations of words among the culture they are writing for. It is simply a fact about the genre.

Because mediums are so varied and different, we face a dilemma when we begin to compare them. Sure, when we want to logically review a book versus a movie, we can line up the qualities of each story and fire away. But when we do this we would realize that every genre influences its story. A story told as a movie might have a massive impact on its audience, whereas as an audio drama it completely falls flat. And its because of the reasons we have just reviewed.

Again we are slowly coming back to the same principle that has coursed through the heart and soul of the last two posts.

The challenge in producing audio drama is the same as producing in any other medium – you must use the advantages and unique aspects of the medium to overcome the obstacles the genre presents.”

Only for this post we might say that:

The problem in comparing two genres is that each uses the advantages and unique aspects of its medium to overcome the obstacles itself presents; and change the story as a whole by affecting it in a way that genre alone is able to.”

What are your thoughts on comparing two genres? In what cases is it acceptable?