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How Typical Are X Factor and Csi of Their Genres? Essay

Genre is a way of classifying and then categorising a particular text, they are made up of their own codes and conventions for example narrative, characters and themes which standardise the way in which a story is told. X Factor and CSI have all been huge successes in their own respective genres and this essay will study how conventional these texts are to their genre and how this effects their audience. X Factor is a reality TV programme which attempts to turn an ordinary person into a pop star through its talent contest narrative.

It relates to the ‘American Dream’ ideology in the way that it can turn people’s lives from ‘rags to riches’. A conventional representation of reality TV would feature very ordinary people and often trying to make their lives better, or to fix their problems, and then other conventions are more specific to narrative, for example in this case the conventions of a talent show is a high production value which includes viewing luxuries such a flashy lights, extravagant camera angles (such as Birdseye), special effects, and celebrities. The X Factor is no different and seems to embed all these values associated with reality talent shows.

However, the X Factor started back in 2004 and has influenced the typical representation of other talent shows ever since, so this would include the Two Step Flow theory as the X Factor has acted as an opinion leader, and has set down the modern conventions for reality talent shows. X Factor has clear intertextuality with more early talent shows such as opportunity knocks. Although the main and considerable difference nowadays is the increased production values and technology, there are also conventions across the two that can be linked.

For example the use of a presenter, Hughie Green for opportunity knocks and Dermot O’Leary for the X Factor. Also, the public voting system, opportunity knocks was the original and first talent show to use this method of voting as oppose to having a panel of ‘experts’ or music celebrities. X Factor also has this same public voting system which connotes them to be using typical and previously used conventions in order to attract audience. A talent show relies specifically on audience is order to be a success. The contestants of the show are mainly battling for fame and fortune, and therefore publicity.

If there is no publicity or interest from an audience, then the show is redundant. The X Factor certainly lives up to this typical feature of talent shows, as it has pulled in an average of 8. 4 million viewers in 2012, and although that is a considerable decrease from its earlier years, it is still sufficient for the advancement of the show. However, the X Factor produces much controversy and therefore more media attention. For example, very recently there has been an article in the Daily Mail discussing an incident where a producer whispered in Louis Walsh’s ear just as he was about to make his vote.

His vote was then very unpredicted and controversial causing outrage to the British public. Such articles and outrage to the X Factor, fuels and benefits the show and puts the X Factor in the spotlight. This relates to Social Integration, as people would start watching X Factor to see what all the controversy is about, and to feel up to date with the social media trends. All of this results in increased X Factor ratings. CSI has a thriller type genre, with the main focus on crime and police procedural elements.

Within the crime genre there is always a focus on gathering clues, in modern crime this is viewed as a chase as evidence deteriorates. This has overrun the typical convention of the car chase although this is still used to provide nostalgia the resemblance between the two is symbolic of fast changing crime. This is a form of iconography in CSI where there is a chase to gather and process evidence to solve the crime and restore order. The iconic image of the police which remains constant throughout the genre is one of evidence gathering, uniform, fast cars, hard work, and the criminal underclass all feature in the crime genre.

Vladimir Propp’s narrative theory can be applied to CSI and most other crime investigation programmes as it is standard within the crime genre. The main focus is on the ‘attempt to repair disruption’ and almost every episode ends with the resolution which connotes the programme to have a closed narrative, as the audience are always anticipating that the police beat the crime, and the ‘good guys’ win. It enables channels to fulfil their Public service Broadcasting (PSB) remit whilst not committing to commoditisation, therefore maintaining the realistic aspect which the genre relies upon.

The use of an ensemble cast/recurring list of characters allows the programme to maintain a set structure, some characters appear in all episodes such as Nick Stokes in CSI, allowing the audience to gather ‘evidence’ on the characters and depict their lifestyles. The focus of the audience is maintained on a main character either from episode to episode or series to series. Understanding the main character is key to the crime genre as it helps the audience to understand the programmes and themes. Characters often reflect the characteristics or expectations of the audience and develop with time.

As previously mentioned, the crime genre has many realism conventions, and CSI is no different. The use of lighting is often low key and natural to create a dark and gloomy effect. This connotes realism as it represents reality with all the disruptions present, as opposed to a light and more fantasy world. CSI also uses Noir lighting to give a dark and forlorn mood and again give an element of realism all designed to relate to the audience in the form of personal identity and surveillance according to the uses and gratifications theory.

Overall, both genres follow many of their genre conventions to attract audience and remain stereotypical to the values and ideologies that they represent. However, it should be noted that CSI and X Factor are the leading texts for their respective genres, and this may cause them to have an influence on what is considered a typicality of their genre. Similarities that the genres have are that they both use a reality aspect to relate to their audience (social integration) and this is very common across multiple genres in modern day media.


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