AskDefine | Define parodied

Dictionary Definition



1 a composition that imitates somebody's style in a humorous way [syn: lampoon, spoof, sendup, mockery, takeoff, burlesque, travesty, charade, pasquinade, put-on]
2 humorous or satirical mimicry [syn: mockery, takeoff]


1 make a spoof of or make fun of
2 make a parody of; "The students spoofed the teachers" [syn: spoof, burlesque] [also: parodied]parodied See parody

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. past of parody

Extensive Definition

A parody (), in contemporary usage, is a work created to mock, comment on, or poke fun at an original work, its subject, or author, by means of humorous or satiric imitation. As the literary theorist Linda Hutcheon (2000: 7) puts it, "parody … is , 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."
Parody may be found in art or culture, including literature, music, and cinema. Parodies are 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 treat light, satirical or mock-heroic subjects" (Denith, 10). Indeed, the apparent Greek roots of the word are par- (which can mean beside, counter, or against) and -ody (song, as in an ode). Thus, the original Greek word 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.

Use in classical music

In reference to 15th- to 18th-century 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 motets.) More commonly, a parody mass (missa parodia) used extensive quotation from other vocal works such as motets; Victoria, Palestrina, Lassus, and other notable composers of the 16th century used this technique, also called marichu chollu. Song parodies can be filled with mishearings known as mondegreens. See also the main article on musical parody.

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 not in common use.

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.
blank parody, in which an artist takes the skeletal form of another 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, such as "You Are Old, Father William", are much better known than the originals. In more recent times, the television sitcom 'Allo 'Allo! is much better known than the drama Secret Army that originated it.
Also, 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. It is worth mentioning that while 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. This is to help maintain good relations with others in the music industry, and has become something of a badge of honor for other artists, since many artists parodied by Yankovic felt that he would not choose to create a parody of a song or genre that was not successful. There was, however, one incident in which "Weird Al" did not get full permission. This was because of a misunderstanding that Al had with the agent of another music artist.
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)
New technology, such as MP3 and the internet, have offered new avenues for parody. JibJab, for instance, published a critical video of George W. Bush.

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. A subset of parody is self-parody in which artists satirize themselves (as in Ricky Gervais's Extras) or 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.
Parodying music is legal in the U.K, America and Canada.

Social and political uses

Parody is closely related to satire and is often used in conjunction with it 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. 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: However, satire is usually used when someone is earnestly trying to push for change. Parodies are sometimes 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. Similarly, Henry Louis Gates and Gene Caponi regard parody as an important technique of signifying, the African-American rhetoric of indirect criticism and semantic innovation.
Shakespeare often uses a series of parodies to convey his meaning. In the social context of his era the best example can be seen in King Lear were the fool is introduced with his coxcomb to be a parody of the king.

Educational aspects

Parody is an important element of student writing, David Bartholomae argues, because students imitate and alter academic forms in an attempt to master those forms.
Also, parody arguably sometimes makes canonical works accessible to larger audiences by presenting them humorously; see, for example, parodies of Poe's "The Raven" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" on The Simpsons.


Historical examples

Contemporary examples

Visual examples

Marcel Duchamp's Dadaist readymade L.H.O.O.Q. parodies DaVinci's Mona Lisa by marring it with a goatee and moustache. In keeping with his Dadaist practices, which called artistic conventions and aesthetic assumptions into question, Duchamp paired his visual parody with a low pun; in French, when the letters "L.H.O.O.Q." are pronounced one after the other, the phrase sounds like "elle a chaud au cul", or "her ass is hot".


  • Bakhtin, Mikhail (1981). The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1981. ISBN 0-292-71527-7.
  • 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.
  • Dentith, Simon. Parody (The New Critical Idiom). Routledge. ISBN 0-415-18221-2.
  • Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. (1988) The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-503463-5.
  • Gray, Jonathan. (2006) Watching with The Simpsons: Television, Parody, and Intertextuality. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-4153-6202-4.
  • Harries, Dan. (2000) Film Parody. London: BFI. ISBN 0-851-70802-1.
  • Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms' (1985). New York: Methuen. ISBN 0-252-06938-2.
  • Pratt, Mary Louise. "Arts of the Contact Zone"
  • Rose, Margaret. (1993) Parody: Ancient, Modern and Post-Modern''. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-41860-7.
  • Tnuva Spoof
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