There is a scene in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery in which the titular character steamrolls a slow-witted henchman to death. We’re supposed to think that the joke is the henchman’s screams, which become more protracted as the steamroller moves very slowly towards him; but then the image of the steamroller crushing the henchman cuts to that of a rolling pin rolling dough in a suburban family home. We discover the real joke: this is the henchman’s home. His wife is about to get a call telling her that her husband is dead and then she’s going to have to explain her husband’s death to her son. What we’re really laughing at, of course, is the fact that we never think of the henchman as anything other than depersonalised cannon fodder (the joke is cemented by the portrait on the wall of the proud henchman in uniform and the reveal that his name is Steve). The scene’s closing line, uttered by the henchman’s wife, is “People never think how things affect the family of a henchman”.Read More »
The idea of genre in literature can get spiky and personal and has more to do with credibility and tradition than with easily being able to find books on a shelf. Why else do we make a distinction between ‘literary’ works and ‘popular’ works? Between ‘classic’ fiction and ‘genre’ fiction?