The genre ghetto

Not sure how I feel about the restored Metropolis “no longer being science fiction”. It seems to me that saying “It’s no longer a science-fiction film,” said Martin Koerber, a German film archivist and historian who supervised the latest restoration and the earlier one in 2001. “The balance of the story has been given back. It’s now a film that encompasses many genres, an epic about conflicts that are ages old. The science-fiction disguise is now very, very thin.” is a not-at-all-veiled repetition of the usual, hackneyed “nothing good can come of genre work” trope.

I hate that trope. And Metropolis is one of the examples I’ve always used of how genre media can, in fact, be great art, and great social commentary, and “worthy literature.”

As someone who’s personally staking a great deal on the power of speculative fiction and genre media, I find the automatic dismissal of genre lit insulting, to say the least.

Speculative fiction can absolutely be transformative; it gives us the space and freedom to explore concepts and make social comment without worrying about being politically correct, or having to craft perfect settings, or all the things that are attendant with literature set in the ordinary world. In fact, the very distance that speculative fiction creates from the ordinary world is what often makes it so powerful – reflection is easier when it’s at just a bit of a remove. You’re not as inclined to have a knee-jerk reaction to what is being presented when it’s presented in a context that isn’t immediately familiar.

This is why we need smaller publishers, publishers willing to take a risk on genre fiction and speculative fiction and things that don’t fit a niche – stries that have power in and of themselves, regardless of what little pigeonhole they fit into. Genre fiction has power. We just need to remind the world of that, and that it’s okay to be science fiction.

All that said, I want to see this restored version of Metropolis quite badly.


2 Responses to “The genre ghetto”

  1. Grace July 17, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    I remember getting seriously ruffled over this rhetoric in regards to the restored Metropolis. I thought we were past that as a culture; that we’d come around to vindicating Bester, Dick, and all those others who suffered through being presumed pulp crap as real literature.

    Transcending genre is what defines great works. On the other hand, just because one cannot easily assign something to a genre doesn’t mean that it has transcended the idea and just because it is connected to a genre doesn’t mean that it’s limited by that tag – their path to the top still runs through that origin – it doesn’t lose its connection there. This, in fact, suggests that these creamy works offer folks who wouldn’t otherwise go near a particular genre inroads to it.

    Then again, I wonder to what degree this genre-prejudice keeps Lang’s American period work out of the spotlight, that its pulpy, noir tone is too based in genre to appeal to folks outside hardcore fans of Lang and film noir.

    Also, restored Metropolis will be playing in Amherst sometime this fall. Tom and I took a day trip to NYC to see it when it first came out, but I am so seeing it again. I’ll keep you updated.

  2. Kate July 19, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

    Please do keep me updated! I really wanted to see the restored version, and knowing it’s coming to the area is great!

    I was absolutely livid over some of the media quotes regarding Metropolis – mostly things saying that it had finally “transcended genre” and made it clear that this “wasn’t really a sci-fi film.” Which is complete bullshit. It transcended genre long ago, and quite frankly, it has a robot. It’s sci-fi. Deal with the fact that sci-fi (and fantasy, and horror, and…) can have beauty and grace and redeeming social value, folks.

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