Parody as Film Genre: Never Give a Saga an Even Break

Parody as Film Genre: Never Give a Saga an Even Break

Parody as Film Genre: Never Give a Saga an Even Break

Parody as Film Genre: Never Give a Saga an Even Break

Synopsis

Parody is the least appreciated of all film comedy genres and receives little serious attention, even among film fans. This study elevates parody to mainstream significance. A historical overview places the genre in context, and a number of basic parody components, which better define the genre and celebrate its value, are examined. Parody is differentiated from satire, and the two parody types, traditional and reaffirmation, are explained. Chapters study the most spoofed genre in American parody history, the Western; pantheon members of American Film Comedy such as The Marx Brothers, W. C. Fields, Mae West, and Laurel and Hardy; pivotal parody artists, Bob Hope and Woody Allen; Mel Brooks, whose name is often synonymous with parody; and finally, parody in the 1990s. Films discussed include Destry Rides Again (1939), The Road to Utopia (1945), My Favorite Brunette (1947), The Paleface (1948), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Blazing Saddles (1974), Young Frankenstein (1974), Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993) and Scream (1996).

Excerpt

You're about to read a very important book, because dominant genres reveal a lot about culture. Ours is a time of parody. Wes Gehring's timing couldn't be better, since parody is often associated with the end of a genre's natural life cycle, the step right before it arises like a phoenix from its own ashes. After all, Pale Rider (1985) and Unforgiven (1992) somehow followed the devastation of Blazing Saddles (1974). We're now at the fin de siecle of not only a century, but of a millennium, and the parodies are coming fast and furious. The phoenix may mutate, but it doesn't die.

Part of that mutation is a blurring of the definition of what parody is. Dr. Gehring makes an important distinction between the parody of overt puncturing and the parody of reaffirmation that gets to the heart of the current vitality of the parody form. This is a critical difference, because it separates films and television shows that are clearly spoofs, such as those of Mel Brooks that broadly skewer the idiosyncrasies of their target, from that fuzzier breed of media that adores its object even as it mimics it, such as one sees in Scream (1996) or The Brady Bunch Movie (1995). As Dr. Gehring demonstrates, overt puncturing has been with us for a long time. But that other creature, the reaffirmation, seems to be coming into its own just now.

Pastiche, the affectless, nonsatiric, and seemingly random appropriation of intertextual material, is the main device of reaffirmative parody. It's important because the parody of pastiche is considered by many cultural critics to be a major symptomatic condition of the postmodern age (Jameson 1992). When Disney parodies its own film The Lion King (1994) . . .

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