Discuss the role of parody and pastiche in contemporary genre films with reference to Scream and another film of your choice.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There can be many different ways to read the roles of parody and pastiche in Scream. It is a fine line that needs to be walked and different people will fall on different sides.  In my mind, Scream operates as more pastiche than parody. A workable definition of "parody" is "a mocking imitation…ridiculing the stylistic habits of an author…by exaggerated mimicry."  This indicates that Craven's work would have to take significant and derogatory slights at the horror film industry. Its commentary on the horror genre is more postmodern than ridicule. It is evident that Scream and its sequels are active participants of the genre, as opposed to seeking to subvert it.  Scream can be seen as pastiche because it actively wishes to be a part of the genre upon which it consciously comments.  Its characters are vibrant agents of this reveling of horror films. They do not run away from horror films, even in their criticism of the genre.  The iconic line of "Do you like scary movies?" is not an indictment of the genre, but rather a celebration of it.  Craven, himself, is a part of this with his Nightmare on Elm Street work, and acknowledges it in the film ("The first one was the best!") as another element of pastiche. The characters' self- awareness is not parody in terms of ridicule or mocking as much of it is acknowledgement of the conditions of a genre.  Lines such as Tatum's  "No, please don't kill me, Mr. Ghostface, I wanna be in the sequel!" and "Movies don't create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative!" are reflections of pastiche observation.  Parody is not as much in play as much as a pastiche glorification in which Scream wishes to be a part of the canon.  This is seen in the reception of the film, which contributed to a revival of sorts of the horror genre.  Additionally, the film's "legacy as the creation of a distinct era of 'post-Scream' horror films" is reflective of pastiche that is a conscious imitation and celebration of the horror genre.  I think that these are the elements of pastiche that define Craven's work more than its parodic element.

Craven actively wishes to inject Scream into a genre that he clearly loves. Quentin Tarantino yearns to go back to filmmaking genres that are noticeably absent today.  Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 actively wishes to place itself in genres such as Spaghetti Western and Japanese Samurai films. Similar to Craven's wok that actively and consciously appropriates language from the genre it seeks to both praise and comment upon, Tarantino's work is both fan and active participant in an almost "how to" book on creating cinematic pastiche.  Lines such as "I need Japanese steel" or "When I woke up, I went on what the movie advertisements refer to as a 'roaring rampage of revenge and rage" and the refrain of "You and I have unfinished business" help to reinforce the film's pastiche element.  These lines actively recall genres of which the film seeks to be a part.  Tarantino's different cinematic techniques which range from the use of anime, elaborate martial arts displays, as well as praising and both critiquing the culture of violence that is endemic to both the modern setting and modern cinema are representations of how much he admires different genres that he praises and upon which he offers comments.  The opening with the Shaw Scope logo represents the pastiche approach to the genres of films that are long since absent.  Certainly, as with Scream, some of Tarantino's work can be seen as containing elements of parody, such as with the exaggerated use of violence and bloodshed, as well as The Bride breaking the "fourth wall" and directly addressing the audience at different points in the narrative.  Yet, like Scream, Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2  actively embraces the genre upon which it comments.  Both films are examples of pastiche because they actively seek to be included in the cinematic genres of which they are so aware.

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