Published on January 16, 2013 | by Shawna Warmington-Brown

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The culture of the parody

Parodies have become a big part of today’s culture [Flickr]

The parody dates back to the days of Aristotle and has steadily weaved its way through history since then. Literary greats such as Jane Austen and Jonathan Swift played with the parody genre in their works Northanger Abbey and Gulliver’s Travels respectively, showing that it isn’t only reserved for media sharing websites and the cinema screen.

What is parody?

While we are all familiar with the type of parody in which the subject is plainly mocked, it does also come in countless other forms. Many of which we will have recognised seeing at some point or another.

Take the pastiche for instance. These tend to be more light-hearted tongue-in-cheek imitations, done respectfully rather than sardonically. One of the more well-known examples of this would be the Star Wars franchise, which is generally thought of as being an affectionate homage to the sci-fi genre.

“I like to make fun of pop culture, society, stupid people and rich people.” Brock Baker

Renowned satirist and parodist ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic is another example of an industry figure that uses parody to show respect rather than scorn towards his subject.

With a focus on musical parody, his work has seen him lampooning artists from Michael Jackson to Nirvana and Coolio in spoof music videos. In his own words, he calls what he does a ‘tribute’ to the artists more than anything else.

The sartorialist

Colorado born comedian and voice actor Brock Baker is another popular YouTube parody peddler. He believes that while parody can be done both respectfully and disdainfully, anything making fun of something else will of course always be more interesting.

He says “It really depends on what you’re parodying. Some of my parodies are pretty mean, but in a fun way.Some are respectful. I think “ridicule” is more fun. Take movie reviews for example. I’d much rather write a really bad/funny review for a bad movie than a good review for a good movie.”

The subject matter

Reality TV, politics, films, the Royals – nothing is off limits: “The closest things that come to parodies hat I do would have to be my dubs. I like to make fun of pop culture, society, stupid people and rich people. I think I enjoy doing movie parodies the most since I’m a huge movie nerd.” Take a scroll through Bakers playlist and this is clear to see.

“Politics have always been a good source of comedy. Saturday Night Live has been doing it for nearly 30 years.” Brock Baker

His popular video parodying the infamous reality child star and pageant queen ‘Honey Boo Boo’ and her mother is particularly amusing – as is the one satirizing the Hot Problems music video from the female duo Double Take.

Just for some reference, the aforementioned video features two girls singing about the oh-so-trying problems of being hot. For three minutes. Yes it’s real.

With the recent re-election of President Barack Obama, politics has been a word on everyone’s lips as of late. It seems fitting then that one of Baker’s more recent videos is a dub of a debate between Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney.

Politics has always been a rich source of satire.When asked why he has joined the political parody bandwagon, Baker says: “Politics have always been a good source of comedy. Saturday Night Live has been doing it for nearly 30 years. There’s always something to make fun of there.

“I’m not a political person myself; I try to keep politics out of my videos because it really alienates half your audience, unless you make fun of everyone and not choose sides. I did that with my Obama vs. Romney. It really had nothing to do with politics.”

The reasons

So why do people like Brock Baker even create these kinds of videos at all? Though Baker admits he makes them mainly to ‘pay the bills’ his ultimate goal is to simply produce something that will make people laugh: “I only make a video or parody if I think it’s funny, if I think it’ll work.

I try to stay away from ‘I’m going to make a video about ‘flavour of the week’ because it’s popular right now, and I’ll get a bunch of views’ unless I can make it work.” He adds “There are literally a million Gangnam Style parodies, and I just didn’t want anything to do with that. I try to be different with my stuff.”

Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s clear that parody will exist for as long as there are things to be mocked. Seriously, in a culture where shows like Jersey Shore exist, can we really blame when they are?

 

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