Are We The Generation Of Parodies?

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“Weird Al” Yankovic is at the very top of international music charts these days. The guy isn’t a new artist like many of those who have been topping the charts. As a musical parodist, his initial songs included parodies of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Michael Jackson’s “Bad” and “Beat It”. But the kind of recognition he has been getting, in terms of the number of people who know of him, has been phenomenally on the rise in the past year or two. Are we the generation, then that have accepted the idea of parody in the arts as a career option?

If you look at the origin of “parody”, you can practically go as far back as Aristotle’s time or maybe even before that. The existence of parodies, then, would have been mostly in the form of a satire (or satyr, according to its Greek origin), lampoons etc. Over time, however, the definition of a parody has gone on to include the exact imitation of a work of art in a comic manner so as to critique or trivialize it.

From music, movies, books, television shows and political, social and economic conditions around the world, parodies cover almost every sphere of our lives. Such is the influence and reach of something as simple as this, that parody has now developed into an industry in itself so as to explore whose source material will never fall short.

Closer home, we have groups like the All India Bakchod and Qtiyapa who, as those following them on Facebook or Twitter would know, have been quite successful in the recent past. With the initiatives of the comedians Gursimran Khamba and Tanmay Bhatt, AIB has become the funniest collective who have parodied movies like Dhoom 3 and others under the Yash Raj banner;  Nayak drawing parallels with Arvind Kejriwal’s activism. They’ve garnered a huge following of people who are almost always left with tears in their eyes after watching their videos.

The social media definitely plays a huge role in popularizing acts of parody. The Indian comedic collectives especially got their break through Youtube channels. Apart from social and cinematic satires, political parodies have had a longstanding influence in India. After all, much of what we know of middle class suffering and overarching political power comes from our following of R.K. Laxman’s The Common Man cartoon series.

But with a considerable reduction in the readership of newspapers with our generation, political awareness didn’t necessarily go down. Faking News which started out as a blog whose ownership was later acquired by First Post led by the Network 18, is one immensely followed section of the online newsletter that presents a comic representation of current affairs of the world.

What an increase in parodies says about our society is more positive than negative, if you ask me. It should ideally mean that we are getting out the self-satisfied concepts of decorum, and questioning establishments more than ever.  Of course, not all parodies are supposed to achieve the end goal of criticism, but for those that have a potential to, do we, as an audience, really critique things or merely enjoy a laugh?

Perhaps, we can think about that. And perhaps, along with being the generation of the “selfie”, we are also the generation of parodies, and this is our own understated form of rebellion of some sort.

Samiksha Bhan

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