Have you ever watched a film and got déjà-vu, recognising certain elements form a film previously watched? This may include characters, setting or even dialogue. If your answer is yes to the above, you may find this essay interesting. My main claim for the essay is to focus on how a source text is transformed into a parody and what the similarities and differences are there between the two texts. In this essay I will outline the differences between a parody and satire, define the term parody and compare parody to a brain, as it functions in two dimensions. I will also discuss how the incongruity theory is applied to the parody genre and why audiences find the genre humorous. For this essay I chose to do my case study on the Scary Movie franchise since it is the most known film when it comes to the parody genre and therefore I will define my argument with examples from the film.
Parody is a well-known genre in the world of movie goers; however some viewers are confused by the difference between parody and satire. According to The Sceptical Prophet, parody can be compared to a metaphor, and satires to a symbol in order to define the difference. A parody is like a metaphor, the viewer can clearly identify the connection between the source text and the parody. This is noticeable through the conventions of the original text, which Harries describes as the three axes of a text that I will explain further in the essay. A parody is told in such a way that there is no need for the viewer to make their own interpretation on what the premise of the film is. When a viewer watches the parody version of Scream, Scary Movie, they already know that the film is about a killer, trying to kill Cindy, since they can make the connection to the source text. However, satire can be described as a symbol. The viewer needs to make their own interpretation, as the message of the film is subtle and has no clear explanation. In one of the Simpsons episode, Homer is standing in the grocery store, hearing the shop assistant and one of the customers talking about how they killed someone and dumped the body. During the conversation they also confess that they are selling old donuts for profit. Homer is seen making notes, one expect him to take the story about the murder to the police, however he took the donut story. In the next scene police officers are seen standing in the court, and donuts lying on the table. However not making the message clear, but subtle the viewer should make their own interpretation such as that the police are caring about unnecessary thing, rather serious events such as murder. Therefore text comes from social events going on in the society and one can say the society produces the text. Satire is not based on a source text it is a story created on its own, mostly does not consist of humour, just realization.
A parody can be seen as a simpler form of comedy, since it is made out of something already existing. Several theorists have different approaches to the term parody and how they classify a film to the parody genre. Among these theorists is Ben Johnson who defines it as “the imitation of verses which makes them more absurd”, while Friedrich Nietzsche claims it is as “a lack of originality” and Foucault expressing it as “critical of reality”. By taking the approach of these three theorists into account we can define parody as the process where intentional reproducing of a text, style or genre takes place. It is critical of reality, in order to create humour, through the use of exaggeration or irony, by keeping the three axes of the target text in mind (Bauser 2011:19).
According to King (2002: 115), Dan Harries claims that the text of a film can be divided into three axes in order to create logic for the viewer between the source text and the parody. The three axes include: Lexicon, which refers to the characters in the film, the costumes they are wearing and the set in which the film takes place. The second ax, syntax, refers to the narrative of the film, and the last ax, style, includes all the technical aspects of the text such as the sound titles, film techniques etc. To define the term with Scary Movie as an example one can state that: When a director decides to make a parody film, he or she first has to find a target text they will base the parody on. Therefore one can claim that Friedrich Nietzsche’s claim is accurate since the director uses the format and text of another film, only changing several elements. Furthermore, the director keeps the three axes of the film in mind by adding exaggeration or irony to one or more axes. After adding exaggeration or irony one can refer to Foucault’s claim that the parody version is critical of reality. This can be seen in the parody of Scream, when the film makes fun of people being killed, such as the scene where Drew is chased through the garden, the killer stabs her in the breast, a breast implant is revealed and she dies, which makes her death comical.
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