I want to spend a little more time examining what made up part of my in-class report on Bakhtin’s carnivalesque grotesque and medieval parody. It is the idea of parodies that do not fit what Bakhtin believed was a true parody in that it should degrade a subject but then give it a re-birthing in order to create a new appreciation for it.
In modern North American culture one of the most well known makers of parody is musician “Weird” Al Yankovic. While he has seen great success in his career by writing spoof lyrics over well known music, I submit that the product he creates is not meant to increase appreciation for the original piece of work. Take for example “Amish Paradise” (see below) which is a parody of Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise”.
In Yankovic’s version there is no attempt to bring attention to any beneficial quality of the original work, other than simply using the music and lyrical concepts to fit the mold of the song he was trying to produce. In this case, and the case of Yankovic’s entire catalogue, the parody is missing the “bringing to earth” that Bakhtin refers to. Essentially, if a listener were to only hear the Weird Al version with no reference to the fact it is a remake they would not even realize they were hearing a parody.
Another example of Bakhtin’s non-parody is Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”. I referenced “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” as a an example of a medieval parody of the tale of The Knights of the Round Table because at least one essential theme is carried over: a group of noble men set out on a quest and band together in the process. Where Life of Brian differs is it uses the story of Jesus to insult the Christian religion without any hope of enlightening the viewer as to the original story’s purpose. In Life of Brian, we simply see the original story having holes poked in it, as it were.
All this being said, I think a key point to make is what can be determined as a grotesque/medieval parody is in the eye of the audience. As we saw in class, I believe Family Guy’s take on Star Wars fits Bakhtin’s mold because its purpose was to create a further appreciation for the original while Ken felt that is not the case. This may also happen from this blog post. Essentially I feel it is up to you to determine what fits this idea of “Bakhtin’s Parody” for yourself and decide what it is you take from a work of parody.