From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The writer and critic John Gross observes in his Oxford Book of Parodies, that parody seems to flourish on territory somewhere between pastiche ("a composition in another artist's manner, without satirical intent") and burlesque (which "fools around with the material of high literature and adapts it to low ends"). Historically, when a formula grows tired, like in the case of moralistic melodramas in the 1910s, it retains value only as a parody, as in the case of Buster Keaton shorts that mocked it.
In his 1960 anthology of parody from the 14th through 20th centuries, critic Dwight Macdonald offered the general definition "Parody is making a new wine that tastes like the old but has a slightly lethal effect."
Origins and etymology
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" (Simon Dentith, 10). Indeed, the components the Greek word are παρά para "beside, counter, against" and ᾠδή oide "song". Thus, the original Greek word παρῳδία 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". (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 ridickule". (Hutcheon, 32) Old Comedy contained parody, even the Gods could be made fun of. The Frogs portrays the hero-turned-god Heracles as a Glutton and the God of Drama Dionysus as cowardly and unintelligent. The traditional trip to the Underworld story is parodied as Dionysus dresses as Heracles to go to the Underworld, in an attempt to bring back a Poet to save Athens.
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 to produce a humorous effect. The Ancient Greeks created satyr plays which parodied tragic plays, often with performers dressed like satyrs.
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. In fact, the musical use of the word parody is wider than its general use - and while much musical parody does have humorous, even satirical intent, some simply recycles musical ideas.
Song parodies can be filled with mishearings known as mondegreens.
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.
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. 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. 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.
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)
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).
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. One famous film parody is the Scary Movie franchise. Daffy Duck has a talent for film parody-appearing as Stupor Duck (Superman); Robin Hood Daffy (Errol Flynn's classic The Adventures of Robin Hood); Duck Dogers (Buck Rogers); and Sam in Carrotblanca.
A subset of parody is self-parody in which artists parody their own work (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.
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.
Social and political uses
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 Farm—Snowball'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."
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. 
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 jester is introduced with his coxcomb to be a parody of the king.
- Sir Thopas in Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
- Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes
- Beware the Cat by William Baldwin
- The Knight of the Burning Pestle by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher
- Dragon of Wantley, an anonymous 17th century ballad
- Hudibras by Samuel Butler
- "MacFlecknoe", by John Dryden
- A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift
- The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope
- Namby Pamby by Henry Carey
- Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
- Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
- The Dunciad by Alexander Pope
- Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus by John Gay, Alexander Pope, John Arbuthnot, et al.
- Mozart's A Musical Joke (Ein musikalischer Spaß), K.522 (1787) - parody of incompetent contemporaries of Mozart, as assumed by some theorists
- Sartor Resartus by Thomas Carlyle
- Ways and Means, or The aged, aged man, by Lewis Carroll. Much of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass is parodic of Victorian schooling.
- Batrachomyomachia (battle between frogs and mice), an Iliad parody by an unknown ancient Greek author
Marcel Duchamp's Dadaist painting L.H.O.O.Q. parodies Leonardo da Vinci 's Mona Lisa by marring it with a goatee and moustache. In keeping with his Dadist 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", due to the long time she has been sitting on the chair.
- Literary technique
- Parody advertisement
- Parody music
- Parody religion
- Parody science