Within the film and television industry, drama is a genre defined by the in-depth development of realistic characters. In many dramas, this is done by putting the characters in conflict with themselves, others, or society. Often, they are forced to cope with such problems as alcoholism, drug addiction, racial prejudice, religious intolerance, poverty, crime, or corruption. The "drama" genre thus contrasts with the action/adventure genre, which relies on fast-paced action and physical conflict but superficial character development.
A wide spectrum of types of story may be considered to lie within the genre of drama. For this reason, there are a number of well-established subcategories, including:
- Romance: dwells on the elements of romantic love.
- Tragedy: depicts a character's downfall as caused by a flaw in their character or by a major error in judgment.
- Historical drama: focuses on dramatic events in history.
- Melodrama: uses plots that appeal to the heightened emotions of the audience.
- Crime drama and Legal drama: based on themes involving criminals, law enforcement and the legal system.
Origins of the term "drama"Edit
The use of the term "drama" in the film and television industry is a particular development away from the original meaning of the word.
The term drama comes from a Greek word meaning "action" (Classical Greek: δρᾶμα, dráma), which is derived from "to do" (Classical Greek: δράω, dráō).
In genre theory, drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The enactment of drama in a theatre (performed by actors on a stage before an audience), presupposes a collaborative production and collective reception. For this reason, the structure of dramatic texts, unlike other forms of literature, is directly influenced by this collaborative production and collective reception.
The two masks associated with drama, one laughing and one weeping, represent the traditional generic division between comedy and tragedy. They are symbols of two of the ancient Greek Muses: Thalia, the Muse of comedy; and Melpomene, the Muse of tragedy. It is important to see this in its historical context: comic plays and tragic plays were performed as part of festivities celebrating the god Dionysus; and each type was part of separate competitions. Ever since Aristotle's Poetics (c. 335 B.C.)—the earliest work of dramatic theory—drama has been considered as a genre of poetry, using the term in general sense; and the dramatic mode has been contrasted with the epic mode and the lyrical mode. (At the time, all literature was effectively poetic in form, with the use of prose very limited as an art form.)
The use of "drama" in a narrow sense to designate a specific type of play dates from the nineteenth century. In this sense, "drama" refers to a play that is neither a comedy nor a tragedy. When the film and television industry and film studies adopted "drama" as a genre within their respective media, it was in this narrow sense.