Parody is an imitative creation which is meant to either make fun of the original work or use it to make commentary on a social, political, or societal occurrence, to comic effect. Parody achieves this end by utilizing satire, irony, and hyperbole.

Parody is closely related to satire; however, they are not the same, even though they are often confused for one another.

Parody: Definition & Etymology

parody is meant to be consumed, mainly, as a form of humorous entertainment, which utilizes the legal precedence of fair use in order to create a version (usually hyperbolic) of the subject work which is comedic in nature, and does not make any attempt to hide the fact that it uses the source material in order to develop the piece of parody.

etymological tree of the word satire

Parody Compared

Parody if often mistaken for one of several literary devices, but with a bit of attention to detail it can be easily identified and separated from other forms of language.

Parody vs Satire: A parody is functionally different than satire in that a parody is designed to be a form of comedic entertainment without necessarily making any kind of commentary on any topic or person. Whereas satire is consciously designed to not only entertain but to also provide a deeper insight to a given situation through the use of humor.

Parody vs Caricature: As covered previously, parody is the use of comedic imitation developed using literary devices such as irony, and hyperbole. A caricature on the other hand is a pictorial representation of an individual, group, or thing which uses exaggeration in order to highlight physical characteristics of the subject in a ridiculous manner.

Parody vs Spoof: Parody, as covered in multiple sections above, mimics previous works in a humorous fashion. A spoof, on the other hand, is a type of writing, or performance which makes fun of someone or something through light-hearted, and good-natured imitation, but not through the duplication of any work.

Parody — The Legal Stuff

A parody is usually not meant to disparage the original work but to pay homage through the use of humor.

Under U.S. law, parody is covered under the 'fair use doctrine', and allows for the creation of commentary, criticism and humor of a pre-existing work of writing, performance, or visual arts. Fair use is the foundation on which works are parody are based, since obtaining consent from the copyright holder of the original work will usually end in rejection, it is necessary to allow this type of legal freedom to parodists so that they can create such works without infringing on a copyright.

It is important to note that the courts continue to struggle with deciding whether a particular piece of parody is protected by the fair use doctrine, or is in fact copyright infringement.

One famous parodist is Weird Al Yankovic, who is well known for parodying hit songs. He is also known for always contacting the copyright holder and obtaining permission to parody their work, even though he legally doesn?t have to.

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