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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A parody (pronounced /ˈpærədiː/; also called send-up or spoof), in contemporary usage, is a work created to mock, comment on, or poke fun at an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation. As the literary theorist Linda Hutcheon (2000: 7) puts it, "parody … is imitation, not always at the expense of the parodied text." Another critic, Simon Dentith (2000: 9), defines parody as "any cultural practice which provides a relatively polemical allusive imitation of another cultural production or practice." Often, the most satisfying element of a good parody is seeing others mistake it for the genuine article.

Parody may be found in art or culture, including literature, music (although "parody" in music has an earlier, somewhat different meaning than for other art forms), and cinema. Parodies are sometimes colloquially referred to as spoofs or lampoons.



According to Aristotle (Poetics, ii. 5), Hegemon of Thasos was the inventor of a kind of parody; by slightly altering the wording in well-known poems he transformed the sublime into the ridiculous. In ancient Greek literature, a parodia was a narrative poem imitating the style and prosody of epics "but treating light, satirical or mock-heroic subjects" (Denith, 10). Indeed, the apparent Greek roots of the word are para- (which can mean beside, counter, or against) and -ody (song, as in an ode). Thus, the original Greek word parodia has sometimes been taken to mean counter-song, an imitation that is set against the original. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, defines parody as imitation "turned as to produce a ridiculous effect" (quoted in Hutcheon, 32). Because par- also has the non-antagonistic meaning of beside, "there is nothing in parodia to necessitate the inclusion of a concept of ridicule" (Hutcheon, 32).

Roman writers explained parody as an imitation of one poet by another for humorous effect. In French Neoclassical literature, parody was also a type of poem where one work imitates the style of another for humorous effect.


In classical music, parody means a reworking of one kind of composition into another (e.g., a motet into a keyboard work as Girolamo Cavazzoni, Antonio de Cabezón, and Alonso Mudarra all did to Josquin des Prez motets.) More commonly, a parody mass (missa parodia) or an oratorio used extensive quotation from other vocal works such as motets or cantatas; Victoria, Palestrina, Lassus, and other notable composers of the 16th century used this technique; Bach also used existing cantatas for his Christmas Oratorio. The older meaning of parody has been replaced by a meaning analogous to common usage, such that modern musical parody has humorous, even satirical intent, often using recycled musical ideas.

English term

The first usage of the word parody in English cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is in Ben Jonson, in Every Man in His Humour in 1598: "A Parodie, a parodie! to make it absurder than it was." The next notable citation comes from John Dryden in 1693, who also appended an explanation, suggesting that the word was in common use, it means to make fun of or re-create what you are doing. A parody (pronounced /ˈpærədiː/; also called send-up or spoof), in contemporary usage, is a work created to mock, comment on, or poke fun at an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation. As the literary theorist Linda Hutcheon (2000: 7) puts it, "parody … is imitation, not always at the expense of the parodied text." Another critic, Simon Dentith (2000: 9), defines parody as "any cultural practice which provides a relatively polemical allusive imitation of another cultural production or practice." Often, the most satisfying element of a good parody is seeing others mistake it for the genuine article.

Parody may be found in art or culture, including literature, music (although "parody" in music has an earlier, somewhat different meaning than for other art forms), and cinema. Parodies are sometimes colloquially referred to as spoofs or robinson

Modernist and post-modernist parody

In the broader sense of Greek parodia, parody can occur when whole elements of one work are lifted out of their context and reused, not necessarily to be ridiculed. Hutcheon argues that this sense of parody has again become prevalent in the twentieth century, as artists have sought to connect with the past while registering differences brought by modernity. Major modernist examples of this recontextualizing parody include James Joyce's Ulysses, which incorporates elements of Homer's Odyssey in a twentieth-century Irish context, and T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, which incorporates and recontextualizes elements of a vast range of prior texts, including Dante's The Inferno.

Blank parody, in which an artist takes the skeletal form of an art work and places it in a new context without ridiculing it, is common. Pastiche is a closely related genre, and parody can also occur when characters or settings belonging to one work are used in a humorous or ironic way in another, such as the transformation of minor characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Shakespeare's drama Hamlet into the principal characters in a comedic perspective on the same events in the play (and film) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. In Flann O'Brien's novel At Swim-Two-Birds, for example, mad King Sweeney, Finn MacCool, a pookah, and an assortment of cowboys all assemble in an inn in Dublin: the mixture of mythic characters, characters from genre fiction, and a quotidian setting combine for a humor that is not directed at any of the characters or their authors. This combination of established and identifiable characters in a new setting is not the same as the post-modernist habit of using historical characters in fiction out of context to provide a metaphoric element.


Sometimes the reputation of a parody outlasts the reputation of what is being parodied. For example, Don Quixote, which mocks the traditional knight errant tales, is much better known than the novel that inspired it, Amadis de Gaula (although Amadis is mentioned in the book). Another notable case is the novel Shamela by Henry Fielding (1742), which was a parody of the gloomy epistolary novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740) by Samuel Richardson. Many of Lewis Carroll's parodies of Victorian didactic verse for children, such as "You Are Old, Father William", are much better known than the (largely forgotten) originals. Stella Gibbons's comic novel Cold Comfort Farm has eclipsed the pastoral novels of Mary Webb which largely inspired it. In more recent times, the television sitcom 'Allo 'Allo! is perhaps better known than the drama Secret Army of which it is a parody (although a full appreciation of the humour largely depends on a knowledge of the earlier work).

Some artists carve out careers by making parodies. One of the best-known examples is that of "Weird Al" Yankovic. His career of parodying other musical acts and their songs has outlasted many of the artists or bands he has parodied. Although he is not required under law to get permission to parody, as a personal rule, however, he does seek permission to parody a person's song before recording it.

In the US legal system the point that in most cases a parody of a work constitutes fair use was upheld in the case of Rick Dees, who decided to use 29 seconds of the music from the song When Sonny Gets Blue to parody Johnny Mathis' singing style even after being refused permission. An appeals court upheld the trial court's decision that this type of parody represents fair use. Fisher v. Dees 794 F.2d 432 (9th Cir. 1986)

Film parodies

Some genre theorists, following Bakhtin, see parody as a natural development in the life cycle of any genre; this idea has proven especially fruitful for genre film theorists. Such theorists note that Western movies, for example, after the classic stage defined the conventions of the genre, underwent a parody stage, in which those same conventions were ridiculed and critiqued. Because audiences had seen these classic Westerns, they had expectations for any new Westerns, and when these expectations were inverted, the audience laughed.

Perhaps the earliest parody was the 1922 Mud and Sand, a Stan Laurel film that made fun of Rudolph Valentino's movie Blood and Sand. Laurel specialized in parodies in the mid-20s, writing and acting in a number of them. Some were send-ups of popular films, such as Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde (1920)--parodied in the comic Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride (1926). Others were spoofs of Broadway plays, such as No, No, Nanette (1925), parodied as Yes, Yes, Nanette (1925). In 1940 Charlie Chaplin created a satirical comedy about Adolf Hitler: The Great Dictator, which followed the first-ever Hollywood parody of the Nazis, the Three Stooges' short subject You Nazty Spy! .

About 20 years later Mel Brooks started his career with a Hitler parody as well. After The Producers (1968) Brooks became one of the most famous film parodists and did spoofs on any kind of movie genre. Blazing Saddles (1974) is one of his most popular parodies, and Spaceballs (1987) is still presumed to be the best science fiction spoof ever.

The famous British comedy group Monty Python is also famous for its parodies, e.g. the King Arthur spoof Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974) or the Jesus satire Life of Brian (1979). In the 1980s there came another team of parodists including David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker. Their most popular movies are the Airplane!, Hot Shots! and the Naked Gun movies.

More recently, parodies have taken on whole movie genres at once. One famous film parody is the Scary Movie franchise. Other notable genre parodies include Not Another Teen Movie, Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, and Disaster Movie.


A subset of parody is self-parody in which artists parody their own work (as in Ricky Gervais's Extras) or notable distinctions of their work (such as Antonio Banderas's Puss in Boots in Shrek 2), or an artist or genre repeats elements of earlier works to the point that originality is lost.

Copyright issues

Although a parody can be considered a derivative work under United States Copyright Law, it can be protected from claims by the copyright owner of the original work under the fair use doctrine, which is codified in 17 USC § 107. The Supreme Court of the United States stated that parody "is the use of some elements of a prior author's composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author's works." That commentary function provides some justification for use of the older work. See Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.

In 2001, the United States Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit, in Suntrust v. Houghton Mifflin, upheld the right of Alice Randall to publish a parody of Gone with the Wind called The Wind Done Gone, which told the same story from the point of view of Scarlett O'Hara's slaves, who were glad to be rid of her.

Under Canadian law, although there is protection for Fair Dealing, there is no explicit protection for parody and satire. In Canwest v. Horizon, the publisher of Vancouver Sun launched a lawsuit against a group which had published a pro-Palestinian parody of the paper. Alan Donaldson, the judge in the case, ruled that parody is not a defence to a copyright claim.[1]

Social and political uses

Satirical political cartoon that appeared in Puck magazine, October 9, 1915. Caption "I did not raise my girl to be a voter" parodies the anti-World War I song "I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier". A chorus of disreputable men support a lone anti-suffrage woman.

Parody is a frequent ingredient in satire and is often used to make social and political points. Examples include Swift's A Modest Proposal, which satirizes English neglect of Ireland by parodying emotionally disengaged political tracts, and, in contemporary culture, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, which parody a news broadcast and a talk show, respectively, to satirize political and social trends and events. Some events, such as a national tragedy, can be difficult to handle. A 9/11 update of George Orwell's novella Animal FarmSnowball's Chance by U.S. author John Reed—raised the ire of the George Orwell estate, and critics such as Christopher Hitchens. Chet Clem, Editorial Manager of the news parody publication The Onion, told Wikinews in an interview the questions that are raised when addressing difficult topics:

I know the September 11 issue was an obviously very large challenge to approach. Do we even put out an issue? What is funny at this time in American history? Where are the jokes? Do people want jokes right now? Is the nation ready to laugh again? Who knows. There will always be some level of division in the back room. It’s also what keeps us on our toes.[2]

Parody is by no means necessarily satirical, and may sometimes be done with respect and appreciation of the subject involved, while not being a heedless sarcastic attack.

Parody has also been used to facilitate dialogue between cultures or subcultures. Sociolinguist Mary Louise Pratt identifies parody as one of the "arts of the contact zone," through which marginalized or oppressed groups "selectively appropriate," or imitate and take over, aspects of more empowered cultures. [1]

Shakespeare often uses a series of parodies to convey his meaning. In the social context of his era, an example can be seen in King Lear where the fool is introduced with his coxcomb to be a parody of the king.

See also


Historic examples


  1. ^ Canwest Suit May Test Limits of Free Speech, 11 December 2008.
  2. ^ An interview with The Onion, David Shankbone, Wikinews, November 25, 2007.
  • Bakhtin, Mikhail; Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (1981). The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Austin and London: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-71527-7. 
  • Hutcheon, Linda (1985). A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms. New York: Methuen. ISBN 0-252-06938-2. 
  • Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. (1988). The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-503463-5. 
  • Mary Louise Pratt (1991). "Arts of the Contact Zone" (pdf). Profession (New York: MLA) 91: 33–40. "archived at University of Idaho, English 506, Rhetoric and Composition: History, Theory, and Research". 
    • Petrosky, Anthony; ed. David Bartholomae and Anthony Petroksky (1999). Ways of Reading (5th ed.). New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s. ISBN 978-0312454135. "An anthology including Arts of the Contact Zone" 
  • Rose, Margaret (1993). Parody: Ancient, Modern and Post-Modern. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-41860-7. 
  • Caponi, Gena Dagel (1999). Signifyin(g), Sanctifyin', & Slam Dunking: A Reader in African American Expressive Culture. University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 1-55849-183-X. 
  • Harries, Dan (2000). Film Parody. London: BFI. ISBN 0-851-70802-1. 
  • Dentith, Simon (2000). Parody (The New Critical Idiom). Routledge. ISBN 0-415-18221-2. 
  • Pueo, Juan Carlos (2002). Los reflejos en juego (Una teoría de la parodia). Valencia (Spain): Tirant lo Blanch. ISBN 84-8442-559-2. 
  • Gray, Jonathan (2006). Watching with The Simpsons: Television, Parody, and Intertextuality. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-4153-6202-4. 

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PARODY (Gr. 7rapcpSia, literally a song sung beside, a comic parallel), an imitation of the form or style of a serious writing in matter of a meaner kind so as to produce a ludicrous effect. Parody is almost as old in European literature as serious writing. The Batrachomyomachia, or "Battle of the Frogs and Mice," a travesty of the heroic epos, was ascribed at one time to Homer himself; and it is probably at least as old as the 5th century s.c. The great tragic poetry of Greece very soon provoked the parodist. Aristophanes parodied the style of Euripides in the Acharnians with a comic power that has never been surpassed. The debased grand style of medieval romance was parodied in Don Quixote. Shakespeare parodied the extravagant heroics of an earlier stage, and was himself parodied by Marston, incidentally in his plays and elaborately in a roughly humorous burlesque of Venus and Adonis. The most celebrated parody of the Restoration was Buckingham's Rehearsal (1672), in which the tragedies of Dryden were inimitably ridiculed. At the beginning of the 18th century The Splendid Shilling of John Philips (1676-1709), which Addison said was "the finest burlesque poem in the English language," brilliantly introduced a fashion for using the solemn movement of Milton's blank verse to celebrate ridiculous incidents. In 1736, Isaac Hawkins Browne (1705-1760) published a volume, A Pipe of Tobacco, in which the poetical styles of Colley Cibber, Ambrose Philips, James Thomson, Edward Young and Jonathan Swift were delightfully reproduced. In the following century, Shelley and John Hamilton Reynolds almost simultaneously produced cruel imitations of the naiveté and baldness of Wordsworth's Peter Bell (1819). But in that generation the most celebrated parodists were the brothers Smith, whose Rejected Addresses may be regarded as classic in this kind of artificial production. The Victorian age has produced a plentiful crop of parodists in prose and in verse, in dramatic poetry and in lyric poetry. By common consent, the most subtle and dexterous of these was C. S. Calverley, who succeeded in reproducing not merely tricks of phrase and metre, but even manneristic turns of thought. In a later day, Mr Owen Seaman has repeated, and sometimes surpassed, the agile feats of Calverley.

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Simple English

A parody is a special piece of art.

Parodies make fun of another piece of art by mocking it.

The parody is an imitation of the original, but exaggerating it, showing clichés which have been used, to make the original look ridiculous or to make a comment about an issue affecting society.

For example, in a serious Western movie, the good guys always seem to shoot better and faster than the bad guys. In a Western parody, this might be exaggerated by showing a good guy firing a single shot, and a dozen of the bad guys falling from their horses as a result.

Mel Brooks is a director who has made many movies which are parodies:

The website Uncyclopedia is also a parody of Wikipedia.

Parodies can be anything from songs to poems to books to movies.

Newspaper columnists are well-known for their strip cartoons which can very often parody public opinion on major issues affecting society, such as the recent credit crunch.

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