The Internet has allowed the rise of a large numbers of parodies of popular ‘memes’ including songs, videos and other images that have spread through social media and become ‘viral’ simply by slightly changing an original idea and riding on its coattails. Parodies are often seen positively for being humorous and breathing new life into something that is already well-known and widespread, yet at their core they lack artistic integrity and change little, shadowing the achievements of others for recognition and attention.
In the world of writing, the concept of a parody is generally regarded unfavourably, yet elements of satire are common as authors challenge societal views and values by drawing upon pre-established conventions to create contrast. Satire itself is often imbued with humour as writers poke fun at what we often accept without question, provoking thought by masquerading as something that seems familiar.
A good example of this I recently came across were a collection of Japanese satirical ‘corporate slave fairy tales’ that effectively use parody to draw attention to Japanese society’s often unhealthy obsession with work (to the extent that the word karoshi meaning death from overwork is officially recognised in many English dictionaries). Familiar childhood fairytales become poignant criticisms, comparing idealisations with harsh realities.
American author Kurt Vonnegut is also well-known for his use of satire and black humour to support his views while simultaneously making his novels enjoyable and entertaining to read. Slaughterhouse-Five is one of his best known novels for going against the conventions of war novels, exploring the horrors of war from the perspective of Billy Pilgrim, a soldier who experienced the firebombing of Dresden, becoming ‘unstuck in time’ and reliving his past and present experiences as a comically bad soldier who seems to have survived by chance alone. Vonnegut favours humour – often of the bleak and depressing kind – over gritty realism to focus on how war has become perverted into a display of glorified nationalism and heroics instead of reflecting its true nature.
So if you find yourself stuck for ideas of what to write, as I have recently, using satire and writing a parody can be a way to ease yourself into creativity, or expressing your views more tangibly.