So demands my favorite line in Tag Gallagher’s veritable molotov cocktail of genre criticism, “Shoot-Out At the Genre Corral”. An early inspiration for my own academic work seeking to shape a comprehensive theory of genre, this essay remains at least as relevant today as when it was published three decades ago. Gallagher’s aim was to question the very foundations of film genre theory: in particular the belief, widely shared amongst prominent scholars, that genres individually “evolved” in some biological way, eventually peaking at some perfect expression of the form and subsequently degenerating into mere parody or worse. Supposedly thus, genres were birthed, lived, came of glorious age, and then inevitably descended into dottage and death.
CNN is reporting today, in its usual bemused fashion regarding all things superhero film, that some subset of fandom is losing its collective spit on Twitter over the new Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer containing excessive spoilers. Dear readers, please forgive me, I had neither the time nor the patience necessary to track down exactly which Twitter corners, instead heading directly to check out the object of contention for myself:
When Guardians of the Galaxy was released the summer of 2014, I was frantically at work finishing my doctoral dissertation. I also happened to be living (but not employed) in Amsterdam at that time, due to my partner’s job. I begged my friends and family in the US (getting Guardians a solid three weeks before I did*), not to spoiler me, and they came through. We went to the midnight screening at Pathé Arena, and I laughed and wept and found it an entirely tolerable bargain not to make it home to my flat in the city center until nearly 3:30a (thanks to quirks of Dutch overnight transit).
A staggering percentage of us now conduct our screen media consumption in multi-screen environments, where it’s not uncommon to watch film or television on one screen with another simultaneously illuminated on our laptop, with even a third one active every time the smartphone beckons with a new notification.