Parody Retcon

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Lesson learned: Don't sleep with your Literature professor.
"I contend that making a film that's only part satire is hedging your bet, in a sense saying 'if you like it and think it's good, then it's a good movie. If you think it stinks, then I meant it to be funny.' It's the coward's way to make a movie."
Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese in reference to Wild Things

So you've made a movie, it's out in theaters, and you're feeling pretty good about it. You pick up the paper one day, hoping the good reviews will confirm your aspirations...only the critics aren't saying what you hoped they would. The audience laughed where they should have cried, cringed where they should have laughed, gagged where they should have gone "aww!", and made a Drinking Game out of the boringly-predictable action sequences that you thought sounded pretty good on paper. Meanwhile the critics ruthlessly vivisected your story, exposing it for the mess of cliches, flat characters, and plot holes it is. What's a filmmaker to do?

Why, you boldly declare that it was a parody all along, of course! Yeah, your insipid plot was actually a snarky send-up of the genre, your actors were performing with Dull Surprise on purpose, and your SFX department fully intended for the costumes to look that cheap. It's just too bad the audience and critics apparently missed the joke, haha! Ha?

...They're not buying it, are they?

Simply put, any work which, once consumer reaction came back negative, had its failings handwaved by claims that it was supposed to be a parody. A relative of I Meant to Do That and "Just Joking" Justification. See also Poe's Law and Author's Saving Throw. Not to be confused with an External Retcon which is a Deconstruction of a previous work. Compare Indecisive Parody. Contrast Springtime for Hitler. Finally, be warned that any legitimate parody that's too subtle can and will be accused of this unless you have some kind of solid evidence to back it up.

Examples of Parody Retcon include:


Comic Books[edit | hide | hide all]

  • All-Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder: Frank Miller has responded to the criticism by saying that it's a parody. No one is entirely sure whether it's true or not, some think it's this trope, others think he's telling the truth. It helps his case that he claimed his comics were meant as parodies when people still liked them.
    • Miller's film adaptation of The Spirit is possibly playing this straight.
  • Inverted by 50s German comic strip Nick Knatterton. Author Manfred Schmidt wanted write an over-the-top parody of American comic books, so he created a ridiculous mass of speech, thought and smell bubbles and little boxes referring to other little boxes. It was intended as a one-shot gag, but because no one in the country knew all that much about comic books at the time, readers took it more or less seriously and created a smash hit. Schmidt was then forced to continue the strip for years as a more-or-less straight super-detective yarn.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Deafula was said to be a parody, and was even renamed Young Deafula in some places. The reason for the conspicuous lack of jokes? Only deaf people will get it, said the director.
  • Independence Day. Roland Emmerich repeatedly claimed that it was supposed to be comical all along.
    • Though, unlike many other films on this page, it was extremely successful with audiences, if not with critics.
  • The Happening. M. Night Shyamalan attempted to downplay its critical curb-stomping by claiming he intended it as a parody of bad B movies. No one believed him.
  • Mommie Dearest started being advertised as a parody a few months after its release.
  • Monster a Go Go Completing the snarky puppet trifecta, Herschel Gordon Lewis claimed it was a parody of some sort, although what exactly it's a parody of is unknown.
  • Rat Pfink A Boo Boo. This occurred during the filming of the 1966 B-movie . It starts out serious, but apparently halfway through, the director (Ray Dennis Steckler, the same guy who directed The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies) got bored and decided to film the rest of it as a comedy/parody.
  • The Room. The most famous example is probably the backpedaling done by Tommy Wiseau (director, writer, and star) after his So Bad It's Good movie was released and critically panned. Taking a page from Showgirls, he decided to pull a Sure Why Not when people asked him if this was supposed to be taken seriously and say it was a black comedy all along, not a poorly written and poorly acted melodrama. It even says so on the DVD case. Most fans of the movie still don't believe him. It doesn't help his case that, even as he uses the "Black Comedy" label, he still describes the content of the film in melodramatic, passionate terms.
  • Space Mutiny Legendary (thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000) the sci-fi stinker's lead actress claimed that the whole thing was in fact a spoof of the genre, which might at least explain the cheesy sets and costumes, as well as the bizarre "ancient dentistry" scene.
  • Stephen King claimed that his So Bad It's Good film Maximum Overdrive (which he wrote and directed) was a deliberate homage to bad movies such as Plan 9 from Outer Space after it received bad reviews. Apparently he was hoping that the audiences had forgotten the trailers in which the film was clearly marketed as a horror film, with King himself promising the audience, "I will scare the hell out of you."
    • However, he later acknowledged on more than one occasion that the film sucked, calling it a "moron movie."
  • Claudio Fragasso tried pulling this off with Troll 2 after the documentary about it, Best Worst Movie, came out.
  • There's Nothing Out There. On the DVD commentary track the filmmakers lampshade their own jocular use of this trope endlessly, chuckling that everything they didn't intend and which didn't work was part of the parody whereas everything else wasn't. (It should be noted that there is no doubt as to whether the film on the whole was a parody.)
  • When Uwe Boll publicly trashed Michael Bay and Eli Roth in a number of interviews, both responded rather loudly and publicly, giving Boll high-profile attention. Boll later claimed this was an engineered publicity stunt to promote Postal. If so, it was probably the only Crowning Moment of Awesome in his career. Except it didn't work, because Postal tanked at the box office.
  • Wild Things is generally seen as a Guilty Pleasure if nothing else, but the sheer volume of unintentional hilarity has lead some to hypothesize that it may have been a Stealth Parody of erotic thrillers all along. It was directed by an indie filmmaker with a history of making clever movies, and it gives a juicy (and funny) supporting role to a well-known comedian (Bill Murray), so the hypothesis isn't unreasonable.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Battlefield Earth L. Ron Hubbard's publishers responded to criticism of the novel by claiming that it was meant to be satirical. Riiiight.
  • Valerie Solanas wrote The SCUM Manifesto, which among other things calls for "the eradication of men". Ten years later, she claimed it was satirical when she became famous for trying to kill Andy Warhol. No word on whether that assassination attempt was "satirical", however.

Music[edit | hide]

  • Alanis Morissette. Isn't it ironic, don't ya think, that when she wrote a song about irony, and everyone pointed out that all her examples of irony were wrong,[1] she suddenly decided that that was, in fact, the irony all along.
    • Though it is ironic that a song about irony contains no examples of it, nobody bought it.
  • Bob Dylan's 1970 album Self Portrait (mainly made up of sloppily-performed cover versions) received the first mostly (and often viciously) negative reviews of his career. In the first few years after its release he defended the album, but since then he's claimed that it was a deliberate attempt to alienate his more obsessed fans. Dylan also made the same claim about his previous album, Nashville Skyline, a country-flavored album where Dylan trades in his nasal sneer for a singing voice that borders on crooning. Ultimately, both albums were Top Ten LPs, and Nashville Skyline even kept the Who's Tommy out of the #1 spot in the UK. Nashville Skyline at least has since been Vindicated by History.
  • BrokeNCYDE, a Crunkcore group pulls a Parody Retcon when they're flopping but switches back to Doing It for the Art whenever they're doing well commercially.
  • Canibus. This has been said about the rapper's disastrous third album, C: Tru Hollywood Stories, after its terrible reception.
  • Peter Gabriel is fond of using this to explain his early lyrics, especially the ones from the Genesis days.
  • Lou Reed. Depending on which day of the week you ask him, his album Metal Machine Music (a double album of nothing but multitracked feedback noise) is either a Take That to his record company, a parody of Serious Music (John Cale in particular), a drug-fuelled mistake, or actual Serious Music.
  • REM's Shiny Happy People was either a legitimately happy song that the band has tried to retcon into being a parody of Chinese Propaganda, or a parody of Chinese propaganda that came off as being a legitimately happy song. Either way, the band hates it and are not willing to discuss it.
  • This is what seems to be evolving around Sergei Prokofiev, whose cantatas lavishing praises upon Stalin have, in recent years, suddenly been determined by some critics to have really been mocking Stalin all along. Somewhat ironic, as, in earlier decades, his political works presented problems for his popularity in the West, with Prokofiev being dismissed as a Soviet propagandist.
  • Averted by Selena Gomez, who said that the name of her band The Scene was a pisstake before they released a note of music.
  • Ryan Pann, the guy responsible for the infamous "Christian Side Hug", has claimed that the song was meant to be a satire.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Internet trolls. Some claim that their antics were "just an experiment." This is so common, that the phrase "Social Experiment" has become both a meme and a trope of its own among the denizens of Fandom Wank.
    • Some people who end up receiving an Internet Backdraft claim they were trolling all along. Not only is nobody fooled, this is basically trying to avoid being called an asshole by admitting that they're a different (possibly worse) kind of asshole.
    • And some try to excuse Jerkass behavior with "satire" or in more egregious cases, call the victim out on "having No Sense of Humor" and/or "being against freedom of speech."
  • LPers that receive the Retsupurae treatment tend to end up evoking this trope. With a few exceptions aside, it's mostly to save face.
  • Succinctly described in the originator of the "troll face" meme.
  • A YouTube video game reviewer under the clever title "G**e D**e" (censored due to his paranoia) made a bunch of poorly-made reviews that amounted to "whiny nit-picking". After he received heavy criticism he started claiming that his reviews were satirical rants not meant to be taken seriously. Nobody bought it.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Jake Knotts, South Carolina State Senator wasn't being an ignorant, racist monster when he called Nikki Haley, a Republican candidate for his state's governor and an ethnic Punjabi that converted to Methodist Christianity from Sikhism, a "raghead" (and Obama a secret Muslim in the same breath). He was being satirical. And just quoting a Saturday Night Live skit that exists only in his head.
    • Maybe he was counting on Refuge in Audacity: "See, of course no one would actually say that in public (especially about a woman who, for all intents and purposes, looks perfectly European-American), so it had to have been meant for humor. Right?"
  • Marmite. During the 2010 UK general election, the makers of the product threatened legal action after the British National Party included a jar of Marmite in one of their videos. The BNP originally claimed their video had been a parody, and only later admitted that it was a mistake.
  • Martha Coakley claims to have been joking when, in a segue from Giuliani to Curt Schilling, she commented that they were both Yankees fans, and when the reporter reacted as you might expect, didn't seem to know who Schilling was. Here's the transcript. You be the judge.
  • Ray Comfort, "Banana-Man," now claims that his infamous "Banana: The Atheist's Worst Nightmare" argument was satire. For those who haven't seen it, in a video released to creationist groups, he makes an argument for intelligent design from how apparently perfect bananas are for human consumption. This ignore the fact that bananas as we know them are the product of centuries of selection and crossbreeding by growers and that wild bananas are much less human-friendly, with thicker skins, less sweet flesh, and large inedible seeds. No matter what your take on the subject, it seems more likely to have just been an unresearched argument than an attempt at satirizing... whatever the hell it was allegedly satirizing.
  • PETA created a videogame about a Tanuki trying to reclaim its skinned fur from Mario and said that the Mario games were sending the message that it was okay to wear fur. After the expected backlash and a even provoking an official statement from Nintendo, PETA later claimed it was all "tongue-in-cheek".
  1. sort of; most of the examples are Wrong Genre Savvy, which sometimes can be called "irony"