Why Parody Matters

2016 ArtworkWhy Parody Matters Article sketch

As regular readers of this site probably know, I’ve been making yet another continuation to my “Damania” webcomic series recently (you can see the previous two mini series here and here).

Anyway, one of the earliest cartoons I made in this series was a cynical comic about the some of the bizarre censorship that is built into many TV shows from America:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE ] "Damania Returns - American TV Censorship" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE ] “Damania Returns – American TV Censorship” By C. A. Brown

And, well, this made me think about the whole subject of parodies and why they’re so important. In both the EU and America, artists, writers and filmmakers have the legal right to make parodies of things, without worrying about copyright issues.

Although this has been a long-standing legal tradition in America, it’s a much more recent thing in the EU. Of course, both areas define a “parody” in a subtly different way, but it’s allowed in both places.

But, why is parody so important that it has to be protected by law? Well, there are several reasons for this.

The first one is that humour is a brilliant way of making a point and making people think. Being able to point out the absurdities of the modern world or the absurdities of something a politician says in a funny way is a central part of free speech. It’s one of the best rhetorical tactics that anyone can use. As well as making us laugh, parodies also make us think.

To go back to my cartoon about American TV shows, one of the amusing things I’ve noticed in many US TV shows is the absurd censorship rules they have to follow (eg: early-evening TV shows can be incredibly violent, but god forbid that anyone says the word “bullshit”!) and the puritanical values they sometimes try to instil in the audience.

I could have written a long essay about this, but it’s much snappier and more thought-provoking to turn it into a short cartoon. Making people laugh quickly about a subject is one of the best ways to make a point.

Not only that, parody is important because it makes us question everything. It makes us think for ourselves. For example, it makes us realise that the latest heavily-advertised Hollywood blockbuster movie is actually kind of silly. It makes us realise how generic and vacuous a lot of modern pop music and celebrity culture is. It makes us laugh at the absurdities of everyday life.

The right to make parodies is also protected by law for the same reason that the right to write reviews is protected by law. In many ways, a good parody can almost be a type of review. It can point out the flaws in something popular. It can show us how awesome something could have been. It can question the ideas behind something in just the same way that a critic does.

Finally, parodies are important because of fan culture. Most of the time, a parody of something only really makes sense if you’ve seen the thing that it’s based on. In other words, far from being something that tears a movie, TV show etc… to shreds, parodies can often be more of an in-joke between fans.

To crack down on parodies is to crack down on being a fan. To crack down on parodies is to crack down on free thought. This is why parodies matter and why they are protected by law.

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Anyway, I hope this was interesting 🙂

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