Parody Story: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

We all have ever heard, seen or read a parody. East genre has transcended its original format to be depicted in film and television. It may be a powerful critical weaponwhich also works to express admiration. What is its origin and history?

From Greece to the world

the greek philosopherAristotle, affirmed that Hegemon of Thasos invented the parody as we know it today. Hegemon slightly changed the wording of famous poems to exaggerate their meaning and make them silly and entertaining.

A surviving example of his work is Batrachomyomachy (Battle of the frogs and micewrongly attributed to Homer), a composition that reproduces the epic style of the iliad but he replaces the Achaeans and Trojans with frogs and mice.

Hegemon of Thasos invented parody, according to Aristotle | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Some other parodists of the story include the Assyrian satirist Lucian of Samosata, who parodied The odyssey and indicates “with a simulated travel journal that satirized Homer and other classical authors.” Aristophanes parodied the dramatic styles of Aeschylus and Euripides in his play frogs.

This incentive to provide “imitations” as a counterpoint to the originals continued in later Greek playwrights who created satirical plays as well as serious dramas.

In the ancient Greece, rhapsodes—reciters or town criers—sang the first parodies at the same time as the first great epics of Western literature.

The Russian philosopher and literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin explains that the parodies are latent in the original. In other words, parodies are like the shadows of what they parody. Not only can anything be parodied, but as soon as someone creates art, any kind of art, the parody already exists in theory because it is derived from the style of the original.

In medieval and modern literature

In the fourteenth century, The Tale of Sir Thopas by Geoffrey Chaucer, who is part of the canterbury tales is a parody of romances, like the first story in the collection, the knight’s tale.

“Don Quixote” by Cervantes is a parody of chivalric novels | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

During the same time, the stolen curl by Alexander Pope parodied epics such as the Aeneid. In the 17th century, Miguel de Cervantes parodied the style of Spanish chivalric novels in Don Quijote of La Mancha.

In the XVIII century, shamela by Henry Fielding parodied pamela by Samuel Richardson, an epistolary novel about a servant girl who virtuously resisted her employer’s advances.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Northanger Abbey Jane Austen’s style parodied gothic fiction, which is full of horror and the supernatural.

The art of parody was furthered in the 20th century by periodicals such as punch Y The New Yorker. Also the 1939 short story by Jorge Luis Borges, Pierre Menard, author of Don Quixotewhich according to scholars, conceives the ideal of what parody should be.

It was in the 20th century that parody transcended literature and theater, adapting to other formats, such as film and television. Its function, beyond entertainment, as Bakhtin says, is to be a shadow of the original to convey a message.

parodying the present

Literature, song, and drama had a developed trajectory of parody long before film and television were invented, so it is not surprising that as soon as film and television traditions developed, parodies were not long in coming.

In “The Great Dictator”, Chaplin parodies the fascists of the 1930s | Photo: Charlie Chaplin Film Corporation

Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Cantinflas, Tin Tan, Mel Brooks and other actors rose to fame on both screens, using parody to tell stories and engage in social criticism through the characters they created.

Parody is not necessarily satirical, and can sometimes be done with respect and appreciation for the subject matter, without being a sarcastic attack or mockery. It can even be used to facilitate dialogue and defuse tensions.

Therefore, parodies can follow several different strategies, such as trivialization or exaggeration. The first is to take a subject seriously and treat it as if it were silly or insignificant. An example could be Austin Powersa parody that trivializes the serious adventures of James Bond.

As far as exaggeration goes, the parody takes one aspect of the original, serious version and pushes it to the extreme. We can appreciate this in programs as popular as Saturday night Live. In the case of Mexico, we cannot stop remembering The parody either The Privilege of Commandinga program that on August 1, 2022, at 10 p.m., returns to Mexican screens through N+ Media, the television channel streaming of news that you can see exclusively through the platform ViX and from the site nmas.com.mx.

Parody is important because it allows us to criticize and question without being aggressive or malicious. Rather, we use comedy. Parody imitates, emphasizes, and calls attention to certain features, characters, or plot points that are weak, silly, bizarre, or subject to criticism of any kind.

While serious criticism of politicians, works of art, celebrities, or literature can be boring or complicated, parody appeals to an audience with a sense of humor and a lighter take on serious topics. Parody allows comedians to address serious issues while still making us laugh.

Parody Story: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous