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What Are the Different Drama Genres?

By Cynde Gregory
Updated May 23, 2024
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Everybody, and not just drama queens, likes to kick back and watch a great show. Whether the show is on a stage or a screen, in a novel, or being acted out by a hysterical couple in the middle of a restaurant, it gives the audience a chance to set their own personal dramas aside and take a break. Life is big, and drama is bigger. There are as many types of dramas as there are dramatic moments.

Drama is passionate, and passion equals love. Romance is not only one of the most popular drama genres today, it always has been. Just as Shakespeare celebrated Romeo and Juliet, the ancient Greeks found dramatic interest in the love affairs between the gods and goddesses, sailors and mermaids, and Odysseus and his mom.

In the case of Odysseus and his mom, those moments of romantic passion led straight to another highly popular drama genre, tragedy. Understanding that Odysseus and his matriarch didn’t realize who they were to each other originally takes a little of the "ewww" out and lends a little sympathy to the situation. A really good tragedy spills a lot of tears, both onstage or on-screen, as well as from the eyes of the beholders. Tragedy isn’t really completely tragic because it serves a useful purpose. It allows spectators to brim with emotion, to be transformed with compassion, and then to get up and leave when the story’s told.

A good sob story leads inevitably to the desire to yuck it up. There’s a fine line, it is said, between the drama genres of tragedy and comedy, which might explain the tragicomic mask that is the symbol of the theater. Whatever the reason, people the world over love to laugh. A really good comedy, like a really painful tragedy, makes the audience laugh because of compassion for the pratfalls, real or figurative, that the drama’s characters undergo.

Television has spawned an amazing range of dramatic styles and types. Viewers everywhere are frozen in horror and glee, eyes glued to the real-life journeys of the overweight trying to shed pounds, the love lost trying to be found, and the dancers and singers who brim with talent, or maybe not so much, waiting to be discovered. Cheaters are caught before the audience’s very eyes, questions are popped, weddings are held, and babies are born in docudrama after docudrama.

The modern world is doubly entranced by both high crime and its legal ramifications. Thus, two more drama genres are born. Television dramas about international espionage, serial killers, Internet hackers, and other criminals compete with cop shows featuring real-life criminals. Once those criminals, whether real-life or fictional, are snagged, yet another in the hit parade of drama genres is ready to unfold. Legal dramas that set the stage in high-powered attorney offices, money-challenged public defender offices, and real-life judge’s chambers leave viewers on the edge of their seats, deciding who’s right and who should hang.

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Discussion Comments
By Viranty — On Oct 08, 2014

While I have never been that big on dramas, I will admit that the cop and criminal shows do a great job at holding my interest. While it's true that they're very dramatic, the drama plays off of it very well, and unlike other drama genres (such as soap operas), it doesn't feel fake or forced.

One drama that immediately comes to mind is the show Criminal Minds. For those who haven't seen it, it's a rather thrilling and terrifying show about crimes that occur all around the city. Even though I do sometimes feel that they try to hard to make the show terrifying and intense, I think one difference in the drama genre of cop shows is that people go in expecting things to be intense. Based on this, all the acting and situations come off as more realistic, more so than soap operas, per se. After all, when it comes to a show like Criminal Minds or Law and Order SVU, those kinds of situations can happen in real life, and they have.

By Euroxati — On Oct 08, 2014

@Krunchyman - Even though I do disagree with you on several points, such as dramas catering to the lowest common denominator, you do make a good point in saying that many dramas (or just forms of media in general) don't know how to balance the comedy and drama aspects.

I find this to be a problem that appears quite often in Tyler Perry's movies. While they're often advertised as a comedy, and in some aspects, they are, there are also the more serious elements.

For example, in Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family, the title is practically an oxymoron. The film only has a few funny moments, and the family can't stand each other. Overall, when comedy and drama are balanced, it plays off really well. However, when it's not, it's nothing more than a huge mess.

By Krunchyman — On Oct 07, 2014

While it may just be because I have a different taste than other people, I have never been that interested than dramas. Also, when I use the term dramas, I'm not referring to what's usually seen on stage, such as in a play or on a theater. I'm referring to what's being discussed later on in the article, such as those who enjoy watching shows about people trying to overcome all the odds, such as their attempts to lose weight or not be the biggest loser anymore. This is just my opinion, but one reason why I don't like these shows is because it caters to the lowest common denominator.

In some ways, I also feel that people only watch them as an attempt to feel better about themselves. For example, if someone is going through a really hard time in their life, and then they were to watch the show called My 600 Pound Life, they might begin to think that their life is better than theirs, and may even end up relishing off of that. While it's just my opinion, it's certainly something to think about. On another note, one reason why I don't like dramas is because they can never seem to be done right, especially in terms of trying to balance the lighthearted aspects with the more serious ones.

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