Form and Genre

My opinion of genre and form changed even as I wrote this post. Below is my attempt at defining the two, its conclusion differing completely from the thesis with which I began.

Genre and form are fundamentally different terms for fundamentally different things. While they may seem the same, as they both seek to classify works, written and otherwise, into smaller, easier-to-examine categories, they do not achieve their respective ends via the same means.
As a term used to describe the type of work based on the way it communicates its content to the reader or viewer, form is relatively strict. A fiction story written in prose and above a certain length is a novel. A short article detailing the facts of last night’s Black Lives Matter rally is journalism. A short film directed for and set to a specific song is called a music video. These words we use to describe form communicate the way in which their content will be delivered to us, rather than the subject of the content itself.
Genre, however, communicates the opposite. Genre classifies works by their content, whether by theme, mood, feel, plot, imagery, or the like. The point of genre is to give those who wish to experience the work in question some idea of just what they are in for. Movies are listed by genre so that viewers can tailor their choice to their mood; books are listed by their genre so that readers can decide just what they want their chosen book to be about.
The issue with these terms, ones that I described as fundamentally different, is that the more you define one, the more you find yourself also defining the other, for one cannot truly be defined without discussing the other. The more I think about it, the more I believe that while form is a function of the presentation of a work, it is also a function of genre as well.
As genre is a division between categories based upon stereotypes and expectations derived from other works in the same vein, it is not unrealistic to say that as the genre relies on the mood, theme and content of the work, it also relies on the form in which these are all presented. “Mystery” is a widely recognized genre of literature, but without its telltale form, it no longer feels familiar to readers, and no longer can be classified as “mystery.” Film Noir is a genre of film that relies heavily on its own special form as well as its easily recognizable classic plot points.
Seeking to define these two terms separately has only helped me to believe that they can’t be. They are fundamentally different things both comprised of each other- a paradox I have ability to decouple.

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