Conventions v. Creativity in Genre

Recently, in my English 203 class, Dr. McCoy showed us four videos by Demi Adejuyigbe. On September 21st, 2016 he posted a video of himself dancing to Earth, Wind, & Fire’s song “September”. Adejuyigbe has posted a September 21st video every year since 2016 thus, as stated by Dr. McCoy, he has created a new genre of videos. According to Celena Kusch’s Literary Analysis, a genre is a “category or type of literature, such as poetry, drama, or prose. Recognized by common conventions of length, style, form, content, and other features.” According to this definition a genre needs to have a set of common conventions. Literary Analysis defines conventions as “the set of typical features traditionally associated with a particular literary genre, subgenre, or form.” As a small group we were tasked with identifying the conventions of Adejuyigbe’s emergent genre.

In order to understand the conventions, our group made a list of consistencies between the four videos that Adejuyigbe has tweeted. I noticed that in each video he wears sunglasses and some variation of the same shirt with “September 21st” written across the front. His first shirt had the message “That’s Today” on the back and to keep this convention Adejuyigbe always reveals this message somewhere during his successive videos.

Another consistency is that the tweet is always under two minutes long and released on September 21st. Julia noticed that each video begins with Adejuyigbe out of the frame and entering during the song’s introduction. Ryan identified that the song is not in its original form and that Adejuyigbe makes use of a technique called dubbing. According to the Film Terms Glossary, “Dubbing [is] the act of putting a new soundtrack on a film or adding a soundtrack after production.” Adejuyigbe uses this technique to keep the melody of the Earth, Wind, & Fire’s song “September” but replaces all the lyrics with 21st night of September.            

Joe found that the dubbing of the lyrics and revelation of the message are examples of anaphoric repetition. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms defines anaphoric repetition as “a rhetorical figure involving the exact repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of successive lines or stanzas.” Joe explained that the repetition of “21st of September” as the introduction to every new line, and in fact as the body of every line creates a Pavlovic familiarity for the viewer, that, when satisfied, releases serotonin amongst other pleasure – driven chemicals to the brain. Our group had agreed after first watching the videos that they made us collectively feel happy and we described them as wholesome. Joe’s explanation helps us understand why. The repetition of the lyrics in the dubbed version of the song releases chemicals in our that make us feel pleasure.

This reminded me of a section that I had read in Celena Kusch’s Literary Analysis. It was noted that “literature is a mode of communication, but one deeply concerned with aesthetics as well… An aesthetic experience is one in which your senses are operating at their peak; when you’re present in the current moment; when you’re resonating with the excitement of this thing you’re experiencing.” As a group we determined that the video genre has a wholesome, sweet, comical aesthetic which is created in part using anaphoric repetition. This fun aesthetic along with the release of “happy chemicals” in the brain is what makes viewers come back each year to see the next video.

In another area of the book Celena Kusch draws attention to another aspect of the video. In Literary Analysis it states, “Readers often reject texts that follow the rules of genre too closely. Texts which obey all generic conventions to the letter become predictable and formulaic- in a word, boring.” Relating this idea back to the “September 21st” genre, our group looked for the differences Adejuyigbe incorporated to keep the videos interesting. Dr. McCoy directed us to look up the term diegetic sound. According to the Film Terms Glossary, this is “any sound presented from an originated source in the film’s world.” Adejuyigbe adds diegetic sound when he plays different instruments on the screen. This addition to the genre sparks the viewers interest. They are still hearing the same song, but the source of the music perceived on the screen is different.

Ryan determined that Adejuyigbe also makes use of different visual illusions. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary an illusion is “a misleading image presented to the vision.” One example occurs in the fourth video when it appears as though Adejuyigbe goes into a television and through to the other side. Ryan told us that Adejuyigbe most likely used a technique where he moved around the camera while filming to create this visual illusion. Like the use of diegetic sound, illusions are another way of maintaining the viewer’s interest by incorporating a “new twist” to the genre.

Adejuyigbe’s “September 21st” videos have conventions and consistent aspects that make each video recognizable as being part of the same genre. If each video had just been him dancing to the same song every year viewers would lose interest because the tweets would become too predictable. The use of anaphoric repetition and conventions create a positive aesthetic for the videos which is important for their success. However, while conventions are important to make the videos identifiable, there must also be a balance with creativity and originality. The extra elements of diegetic sound and illusion are what draws the viewer’s attention and leaves them wanting more. An understanding of this balance can be applied to all forms of literature. If an author follows conventions of a genre too closely their work is not appealing because readers feel like they have read the story. On the other hand, if an author veers too far, their story may no longer be classified in the same genre and could overwhelm the reader. Therefore, when forming a genre, one must be aware of conventions but also willing and able to change parts to make the story their own.

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