Welcome to the second part of my article on Blake Snyder’s genres, a fresh look at putting your story into a relevant genre. Please feel free to argue with me about any of these definitions!
6. Buddy Love
This genre is based on our need to be loved and accepted, whether its romantically or friendship: two people who need to be together to function. The hero/heroine is somehow incomplete, then along comes someone who causes some kind of complication in their life, but they are then revealed to be their perfect counterpart.
Lethal Weapon– Obviously not a romance, but Danny Glover is stuck in a rut: retiring soon, feeling old. Along comes Mel: crazy, suicidal but just the wake up call Danny needs. Gradually they both feel better, and solve the case with their complementary skills.
When Harry met Sally- What on earth do these two have in common? Sensible Sally and drifter Harry. They make a few false starts: other lovers, getting together when Harry isn’t ready. But they NEED each other…
Dirty Dancing- Forbidden Love, a popular topic. She’s a middle class girl, bound for Harvard, he’s a poor dancer from the wrong side of the tracks. But she admires his passion, he admires her strength- they fit together like pieces of a puzzle, despite all the obstacles in their way.
This genre covers thrillers, crime, mystery, noir , gangster and detective films. These films must include the detective, often jaded and put on standard case which turns out to be more than he bargained for. There is also a mystery or secret which motivates the crime- any of the seven deadly sins. Finally there is a dark turn, where the detective throws caution to the wind, tosses morality aside and breaks the rules in order to unravel the mystery.
Bladerunner-Jaded Harrison Ford is given another job chasing replicants. But then he wonders: why did they come back to Earth and what do they want with the Tyrell Corporation. The dark turn: Harrison’s life is saved by a replicant, one of those he was hunting.
All the President’s Men- Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman investigate an ordinary burglary. The mystery is why one of the burglars worked for the CIA. Robert and Dustin are intrigued, and take the dark turn of tricking witnesses to go on record, desperate to find out the answer.
Fargo- a man wants his wife kidnapped, but why? A seemingly satisfied wife/detective investigates but her dark turn is meeting an old friend for lunch- why did she not tell her husband she was meeting him?
8. Fool Triumphant
These films contain a fool who is gentle and bluffs his way through life. There is a jealous associate, which can be a “frenemy” (friends who are really enemies) or a colleague determined to see the fool fail. The fool must travel to an establishment or an unfamiliar world in which he does not fit. Then there is a transmutation, occurring either by accident or by design.
Tootsie– The fool is Dustin Hoffman, difficult actor who can’t see what he’s doing wrong. He comes up against the establishment of the acting world- no on will hire him due to his reputation. So he transforms into Dorothy Michaels, and gets all he wants thanks to seeing the world from another perspective.
Forrest Gump– Probably the most famous of this genre. the fool is Forrest/ Tom and the establishment is ‘society’, which sees him as worthless. When he learns he can run fast, however, he is transformed into someone useful and shows everyone the pleasures of a simple life.
Legally Blonde– Reece Witherspoon doesn’t fit into law school, that much is evident. Mocked as a fool, she shows the establishment how she can transform into a clever lawyer.
These are films defining the struggle as we pit our wits against society or other undesirable factors. At the core of these stories is a group, a family, a corporation or other oppressive system. The hero takes on the establishment to prove a point, a sacrifice is made and they must endurehardship to prove their conviction and enrich their souls. The ending is a sacrifice: either beat ‘em, join ‘em or die trying.
M*A*S*H- The group is obviously, the army and the choice is to go along with their rules or not. the sacrifice in this case is that the hero did nothing. The army continues much as it always did.
Do the Right Thing- The group is the neighbourhood, the choice is whether to join in the riots or not, and at the end, again, racism carries on as always.
Crash- An ensemble cast. The group is society and its racism (again). The choice is whether to join in or not: some characters do racist things, some do not. They each make sacrifices to get their separate endings.
There must be a superhero with a special power, usually used for the greater good. The hero needs a nemesis, a bad guy to represent the ugly side of the superhero. He has powers of equal or greater strength than the hero and knows the superhero’s weakness- the curse.
The Matrix- Keanu has the special power, his nemesis is Agent Smith. His weakness is indecision and self doubt.
Gladiator-Russell Crowe is powered by revenge, and hatred of his nemesis, Joaquin Phoenix. His weakness is his sense of decency and mercy, but luckily, Joaquin is so evil he overcomes that.
Spiderman 2– Spiderman has an obvious power, and in this film his nemesis is Dr Octopus, or is it the Jamesons? His weakness again is self doubt but also the hostility of the public, who thinks he’s bad.
Thanks to this website for great summaries: