Types of Parody
Generic parodies, those spoofing genres defined by sets of conventions and expectations, tend to separate into three categories. The most common category includes straightforward spoofs, or satires, of the sort represented by the film Blazing Saddles. Their humor is broad, obvious, and often bawdy; the audience’s pleasure comes from having its expectations of the genre tweaked, thwarted, contradicted, or grossly exaggerated. This type is by far the most common sort of generic parody.
A second category of parody might be called “parody-plus.” Works of this nature taunt audiences with the expected conventions of the genre, while offering humor that is at once more intellectual and more playful than profane. Moreover, in addition to serving as parodies, the works function much as standard examples of their genres. A good example of this sort of parody can be found in the three Scream films released during the 1990’s. These films play with the conventions of horror films throughout, and the characters frequently make jokes about the expectations audiences bring to the theaters. At the same time, however, the films are also genuinely frightening enough to satisfy fans of the genre.
A third and final sort of generic parody can be called the metafictional parody. Humor in this sort of parody is slight and cerebral. Although generic conventions are often used in playful ways, the works play with the broader conventions and uses of narrative and storytelling in general as much as with those of a specific category or type. An example of this sort of self-conscious, parodistic writing is Stephen King’s best-selling series of seven novels known collectively as The Dark Tower. Those books toy with the conventions of both the Western and horror genres, not to spoof them, but to analyze them and to reflect on how stories are told, what needs narrative fulfills, and how relationships among authors, characters, and readers are structured. Examples of all three types of parodies can be found in the many parodies of mystery and crime fiction.