Parody has been a part of contemporary culture for centuries. Whether in literature, theater, film or art, rarely does a day go by when an example of a parody is not widely visible.
Parody: Ridicule or Flattery?
Parody vs. Satire vs. Spoof
Parody is often confused with a spoof or a satire. However, these three terms are different.
- A parody is a comical imitation of another work. It stops at mocking or making fun of one work. For example, Pride and Prejudice With Zombies is a parody of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
- A spoof mocks a genre rather than a specific work. For example, the Scary Movies series is a spoof because it mocks the horror genre rather than one specific film.
- A satire, on the other hand, uses irony and humor to mock political or religious views. A political cartoon would be an example of a current satire. You might also see the tv show, The Daily Show, as a pop-culture example of a satire.
Now that you know what parodies are and how they differ from similar concepts, check out how they began and current examples.
Origins of Parody
It can be said that parody originated with the ancients in Greece. In ancient Greece, a parody was a song or poem that imitated the style and flow of another poem. The word parody has Greek root words, with par meaning "beside" and ody referring to an "ode" or "song."
17th and 18th Century
One of the first examples of parody in English society was done around 1598. An author by the name of Ben Johnson wrote a work entitled Every Man in His Humour. In this work, the word parody (then spelled parodie) was used to describe the work as something "absurder than it was."
Additionally, other examples from centuries past were illustrated by an English author named John Dryden. In 1693, Dryden expanded upon the initial mention of parody used by Ben Johnson. Dryden's definition goes as far as to state that the word parodies refers to satyrique poetic works that were "turned into another sence than their author intended."
Throughout the duration of the 17th and 18th centuries, Dryden went on to create several parodies that illustrated his definition of the word, both of which were poems, which stayed in line with his original definition.
With time, parodies became a part of everyday language. In contemporary society, parodies surround us. Examples of parodies can be found in film, television, music, and books.
Looking for the Famous Parody
Some of the most famous parodies that are easily recognizable come from the contemporary film genre.
Popular movies that fall under the parody category include:
- Austin Powers (character parody of James Bond)
- Spaceballs (parody of Star Wars)
- Young Frankenstein (parody of Frankenstein)
- Robin Hood: Men in Tights (parody of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves)
- Shaun of the Dead (parody of Dawn of the Dead)
- Fifty Shades of Black (parody of Fifty Shade of Grey)
- Vampires Suck (parody of Twilight)
- Meet the Spartans (parody of 300)
- Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (parody of Walk the Line)
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail (parody of the Arthurian legends)
Another medium serving up parody is music.
One major contender, musician and leading parody-man, Weird Al Yankovic, made a career out of his parodies of American popular music. He made popular musical parodies in the 1980s that rivaled many of the artists' work that he ridiculed. His parodies include:
- Eat It (Beat It parody)
- Amish Paradise (Gangsta’s Paradise parody)
- Smells Like Nirvana (Smells like Teen Spirit parody)
- Fat (Bad parody)
- Like a Surgeon (Like a Virgin parody)
- Couch Potato (Lose Yourself parody)
Other famous music parodies include:
- The Chipmunk Song (a speeded-up version of Christmas Don't Be Late)
- King Tut (a 1978 parody by Steve Martin on Egyptian King Tutankhamen, the national obsession of the times)
- Green Chri$tma$ (a 1960s parody of White Christmas by Stan Freberg)
One of the more visible parody examples that the viewing public sees weekly is via television. Many sketch comedy shows have managed to take the initial notion of parody to the extreme - often going beyond merely pushing the envelope.
Such examples of sketch comedy shows include:
- In the late 1980s - early 1990s, the FOX network broadcast a sketch reality show that really pushed the envelope entitled In Living Color.
- Only a few years ago, Comedy Central aired Chappelle's Show, a show headlined by standup comic Dave Chappelle. Chappelle's Show was no holds barred about parody.
- Reno 911! is a TV parody of the show Cops.
- Onion News Network is a parody of TV news.
- Rick and Morty is always crammed with parody episodes including parodies of Titanic, The Purge, and John Wick.
Quite often, you can catch a parody being done on a local radio station. Disc jockeys sometimes make up 20-second spots parodying a rap artist or singer.
Literature is also full of parodies, like these examples:
- Bored of the Rings (Lord of the Rings parody)
- Nightlight: A Parody (Twilight parody)
- Fifty Shades of Earl Grey (Fifty Shades of Grey parody)
- The Hunger Pains: A Parody (Hunger Games parody)
- Barry Trotter and the Unauthorized Parody (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone parody)
- Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (Sense and Sensibility parody)
Whether it is done to pass the time, or just to make people laugh, parody is definitely a part of contemporary society.
Making Fun With Parodies
Parodies are all around us. You can find them in movies, books, and music. Given how well the parody is done, you might not even realize it’s a parody. Keep your funny bone intact by looking at these satire examples.