Parody imitates a writer, genre, artist, political figure, or celebrity (the list is endless as you can make fun of anything). It uses extreme exaggeration for humor/entertainment and is often used in literature, musicals, music, movies, and TV shows. But how does parody differ from satire and when should it be used?
Parody vs. Satire
Parody and satire are similar in that they are making fun of something or someone. However, satire is more critical and is typically used to expose or ridicule the subject at hand rather than just provide a laugh or two, which is the main purpose of parody. Satire often uses irony, sarcasm, and hyperbole, while parody usually only focuses on emphasizing a notable characteristic of a person to poke fun at (i.e., hyperbole).
For example, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is a satirical novel criticizing the Soviet Union through the character of Woland (the devil/Joseph Stalin) and his pals wreaking havoc throughout Moscow. For Bulgakov, employing satire was his only way to reflect on the Soviet Union due to censorship – it provided a creative outlet in a time of extreme oppression.
Another more popular source of satire is the media outlet The Onion. While it appears to be an online news source, you’ll find that the articles are filled with satire on current events, politics, and society.
In essence, parody and satire are closely related in the sense that they are both used to produce humor or comedy. However, how they accomplish this goal differs, with satire usually being more harsh and critical of the subject to inspire change.
Examples of Parody
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies vs. Pride and Prejudice
Seth Grahame-Smith wrote the parody Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in 2010 when zombie culture was at its peak. In it, he keeps the main idea of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but adds in zombies because it’s funny, right?
Vampires Suck vs. The Twilight Saga
Similar to the above example, Vampires Suck was also released in 2010 and made fun of the never-ending hype around vampires at that time by using a very similar plot line to the Twilight Saga. The title of the movie itself is an example of a double entendre, which indicates that it’s a parody. In a literal sense, vampires suck the blood out of their victims. However, it’s implying that vampires suck, meaning nobody wants to watch vampire movies or TV shows anymore.
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
This famous book is a parody of the travel narrative genre that was quite popular at the time (1726). It’s presented as a real-life account of Lemuel Gulliver’s travels when it’s just making fun of other travel writers and authors. Throughout the book, Swift also uses satire to critique British imperialism at the time. This book is a great example of how parody and satire overlap.
When Should You Use Parody in Your Writing?
If you’re a student using parody in a writing assignment or a person looking for creative writing exercises, then you can use any subject for a parody. You can look at what’s going on in the news or a popular movie or TV show for sources of inspiration.
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However, if you want to use parody in a published work, you must be aware of copyright infringement. Due to the nature of parody – taking another person’s work, using the main plot and character attributes, and making fun of it – you’re putting yourself at risk of being accused of copyright infringement. In this case, you must make sure that your work serves as social commentary, not commercial gain.
How to Use Parody in Your Writing?
An effective parody comes from using a strong source. For example, vampire and zombie parodies were great for 2010 because they were culturally and socially relevant at the time. However, if you tried to parody the same topics now, they wouldn’t be as effective because they’re no longer as socially relevant. Here are four tips for perfecting parody:
1. Look at current events, new movies or shows being discussed, societal and cultural issues people feel strongly about, and notable politicians and celebrities that are household names.
2. Identify the defining characteristics or features of these people, shows, or films. What is already funny or comedic about them? Then exaggerate those features.
4. Be sure to always keep the humor lighthearted and playful and avoid being overly critical or harsh.
Parody is a writing style used to mock or make fun of a writer, genre, or artist (anything or anyone) by exaggerating their characteristics or features; politicians, celebrities, and relevant pop culture or media are often the main targets. At its core, parody is lighthearted mimicry or mockery and should avoid being overly critical or harsh of the subject or person at hand.
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