Guide to Literary Terms

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What is the difference between burlesque and parody?

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Kale Emmerich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Parody is essentially the act of mocking something in style, by using the elements or literary/dramatic techniques of an individual or genre to make fun of it. Burlesque is a direct mockery of something in particular—either a play, film, or novel.

An example of a parody would be the film series "Scary Movie". Each of these films, while they take some direct references, is imitating and exaggerating the overall style and themes that are typical of the horror genre. A burlesque example would be the film "Space Balls" which is a direct imitation and exaggeration of the Star Wars franchise, mocking specific events throughout it.

The distinction between the two is subtle, and there are other subtleties that make the two different as well.

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stolperia eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Burlesque can be defined as

an artistic composition, especially literary or dramatic, that, for the sake of laughter, vulgarizes lofty material or treats ordinary material with mock dignity.

Parody is defined as

a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing: his hilarious parody of Hamlet's soliloquy.

A parody is most often based on a work that was created with a sincere and serious intent. The parody follows the format of the original piece, using similar word patterns and elements wherever possible, but carries a completely different message that may make fun of the original content. Burlesque is more oriented toward emphasizing a humorous and often vulgar rendition of the original work, which may not be as lofty in original form as a piece that might be parodied. Burlesque is less refined than parody, making use of more bawdy language and imagery and treating the original with less respect than a parody.

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