Posts Tagged ‘parody’

Today I bring you a different kind of grumpy intolerance, and also some poetry. I’ll probably be a prosaic hippy again later.

So Twitter is this place where people like being funny and making self-referential jokes about stuff. Other shit goes on too, but it’s the bit with all the parodies and creatively amusing pop culture references I’m interested in now.

In particular, there have been any number of accounts created in the name of fictional or historical characters, which emulate their style of speaking and writing. One of my favourite examples from days of English yore is Dr Samuel Johnson, and there are plenty more of that ilk.

And while much of this is great fun to follow and join in with, you can probably guess (even if you aren’t familiar with Sturgeon’s Law that predicts it) that a lot of these accounts are crap.

I don’t want to pick on Shakespeare Lyrics in particular – there are surely numerous worse offenders out there, and there’s nothing that offensive about some dismal “songs in archaic language” – but it’s had the ill fortune of irritating me with its unimaginativeness a couple of times now. Also, it has over 30,000 follows, and got over a thousand retweets for this:

We art never, ever, ever, becoming reunited

Seriously? That’s a sufficiently authentic Shakespearean adaptation of a Taylor Swift lyric to impress over a thousand of you?

I can’t find the tweet now that first bugged me a couple of months ago (I’m not entirely certain it was the same account), but it was a fairly similar cut-and-paste job of some olde worlde vocab into a couple of lines of Sir Mixalot. More or less off the top of my head, I tweeted an example of how it’s meant to be done:

“Rebecca, such a strumpet do I spy! / A hip-hop minstrel’s wench she doth resemble!”

“A curvèd rear’s most pleasing to mine eye / On this point, ’tis beyond me to dissemble.”

Now, I’m not going crazy, that’s pretty good, right? Assuming you know the song, that’s a recognisable paraphrasing of “I like big butts and I cannot lie”, and it’s in actual iambic pentameter, right? It’s not just me?

Anyway nobody noticed because I’m not a Twitter megastar and life moved on.

Today Kirsty goaded me by retweeting another effort from the same account:

Oh Mickey thou art indeterminately divine, thou art indeterminately divine thee explode my cerebellum, greetings Mickey, greetings Mickey.


Okay, first: scientists didn’t even begin to understand the cerebellum’s function until the 1800’s, so it’s unlikely Shakespeare would have mentioned it at all, let alone used it as a casual synonym for “mind”.

Secondly, there’s still nothing that scans. You’re just swapping in some high-falutin’ words with no context and expecting us to be impressed. And thousands of people are, depressingly. Currently 8,129 retweets on that one. Fucking hell. I should start myself one of these accounts.

But mostly, this kind of thing is exactly what would run through any mentally functional person’s mind within seconds of considering how to cross the memes of “contemporary songs people like quoting” and “Shakespeare talk”. “We art never, ever, ever becoming reunited” is what you do to make an anachronism of We Are Never Getting Back Together without even trying. Anyone could do it to that level.

So I had a proper go at turning some modern pop lyrics into very loosely Shakespearean-style poetry, in a way that not just anyone could do without applying some effort, not that they’d necessarily want to. If I truly cared about my art, I’d have stretched it out into a proper sonnet, but life is short.

Dear ladies unrestrained by marriage yet:
If romance be your driving aspiration,
And someday true love falls into your net
And makes you raise your arms in celebration,
Do not risk losing what you sought so long,
And ever tighter to it you must cling.
Draw inspiration from that old love song:
Thou shouldst ensnare their digit with a ring.

That’s how we play in MY house, bitches.

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The video below is of a recent Saturday Night Live sketch.

In case it’s vanished by the time you read this, like several other versions have, it’s a trailer for a fake movie called Djesus Uncrossed, a suitably over-the-top parody of several Quentin Tarantino films, featuring Jesus Christ as a merciless, sword-happy, gun-toting god of vengeance. The juxtaposition of two ideas that don’t obviously mesh well together isn’t a ground-breaking comedic construction, but it’s nicely done. It plays on Tarantino’s style of film-making and directly takes off a few specific scenes, and seeing the lamb of God played by a psychotically violent Christoph Waltz is jarring in the sort of way that makes things humourous. There’s nothing revolutionary about any of this.

Some Christians have decided that it’s the worst thing ever.

And I’m not even exaggerating to make them sound ridiculous.

NBC has produced the worst possible attack on the person and character of Jesus Christ.

Never be surprised at the level of evil man can devise.

If I were a better writer or any sort of cultural analyst, I’d have something to say about this sort of thin-skinnedness, and this capacity for such stupendous missing of the point. Rather than just pointing it out and inviting you to join me in staring in dumb bemusement.

Bryan Fischer, director of the American Family Association, felt the need to obliquely threaten the makers of the sketch with Jesus’s actual vengeance. Other people cried at that sketch because of how mean it was to their omnipotent overlord. Good grief. Nobody tell them what the Romans did to him two thousand years ago; they might have an attack of the vapours from which they’d never recover.

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Tragedy struck across the globe today, as members of a science-based internet cult known as 10:23 committed mass suicide, by taking overdoses of homeopathic medications.

The scheme had been orchestrated well in advance of the appointed time, with the group’s website showing a ticking clock for several weeks previously, counting down to the exact minute at which its members were instructed to swallow “an entire bottle” of the chosen remedy at once.

Over three hundred skeptical cultists are reported dead as a result.

“Dr” Manley Nacik, a homeopathic practitioner who has prescribed these alternative medications for over twenty years, was particularly saddened by this mass misjudgment, but said that perhaps now homeopathy would finally begin to find mainstream acceptance among the scientific community.

She also commented on reports that the 10:23 campaign members are, in fact, all alive and well, and were entirely unaffected by the consumption of a large number of homeopathic pills, except perhaps for a slight increase in blood-sugar levels.

“There may be some anecdotal evidence that, in fact, some of the skeptics who took part in this stunt are still alive,” she told reporters today, “but that’s all it is: anecdotal. Reports from friends and family of campaigners that they’ve been seen walking and talking as usual, and the blog posts and Twitter feeds of the skeptics’ themselves, or other members of the public who claim to have witnessed them in pubs countrywide shortly after the event, consist solely of individual eyewitness account and personal testimony. To draw any definite conclusions from such shoddy and unreliable data, and conclude that anybody is actually still alive just because they claim to be, is deeply unscientific and barely coherent.”

Fake medicine expert “Dr” Ana Dullman agreed, and stressed the importance of scientific rigour and drawing conclusions based only on the available evidence, in determining the fates of the campaign participants.

“There’s no solid evidence to suggest that anyone who took a homeopathic overdose this morning now has a metabolism statistically greater than that of a corpse,” he said. “Whereas there are already double-blind, peer-reviewed trials being published in respected academic journals indicating strongly that everyone who overdosed on homeopathy is definitely dead.”

When pressed for details, “Dr” Dullman suggested that interested parties seek confirmation of the results of these trials in the “American Journal of Mumbletymumble” and “The New *cough*cough* Times”.

Meanwhile, regular updates are appearing on the 10:23 event website itself, including numerous photos and videos purporting to depict the overdosers in a state of inexplicable continued good health.

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Okay… I think we can all relax.

I didn’t watch it the first few times I saw it linked, because I read the summary and it just sounded depressing. Eventually I caved in and witnessed the nightmare for myself.

It really was hideous.

Yes, it’s that video of the American girl sitting down for a chat with “one regular [friend] and one Indian one”, and getting caught up in an extended argument about whether she’s African (and, if not, why she’s so dark) before moving onto religion. The Indian girl, Saraa, is a Hindu, and this fundamental difference in belief is handled with tact and sensitivity by her Christian pals, as they ask searching questions about this unfamiliar faith in order to better understand the worldview and experiences of someone they care about.

Questions like, “Krishna? Is that what you call Jesus in your language?” and “So… you want to go to Hell?”

For a couple of days now the whole internet has been finding it hilarious, in the same way as they might find a fatal traffic accident deeply engrossing. All the obvious stuff has been said, about how worrying it is that someone could be so out of touch with what others think, and so unable to comprehend any alternative viewpoint. And, of course, there was debate as to its authenticity.

I mostly bought it, at first. They all do seem really sincere, and their geographical ignorance certainly plays into my expectations. I was slightly suspicious of the neatness of the comic timing with which they cut away after the “India, it’s an African country in Asia” line, but mostly it seemed depressingly genuine.

Looking at this girl’s profile, she’s also set up an account which seems to be solely for parodying their detractors, in a way which would seem to fit with their image as ignorant, self-absorbed teenagers.

She’s favourited an Edward Current video, but she seems like exactly the sort of person who would entirely fail to spot the satire in his work, and be proudly declaring “Checkmate, atheists!” whenever the chance arose.

But – unless I’ve seriously misunderstood the way YouTube works – the slam-dunk evidence would seem to be in the tags she’s attached to the video. (I’m assuming that they could only have been added deliberately by her when it was uploaded, and not come later from anywhere else.) As people in the comments have pointed out, the tags of interest are “poe’s”, “law”, “Henry”, and “Fielding”.

Poe’s law describes how hard it is to create a parody of religious fundamentalism that won’t be taken seriously, because there are bound to be some fundamentalists who honestly believe even crazier stuff than whatever you can make up. Henry Fielding was a famous 18th century satirist.

So… that has to clinch it, right? Until further analysis explains why I’m wrong, I’m going to assume they’re joking. It’s not the most hilarious parody of Jesus-thumping lunacy I’ve seen, largely because I suspect it’s too accurate a re-creation. The piss-taking is too subtle. But I’m sure I see it in there somewhere. They were lampooning me. It was a simple lampoon.

So, it’s okay everyone. We can all calm down and rest easy, safe in the knowledge that… well, the knowledge that there are thousands of people out there who really are exactly like this, but probably not the ones in this particular video. I guess.


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Actually, from me, they really do.

Crispian Jago posted a brilliant parody earlier of Simon Singh’s BCA hearing, in the form of a Monty Python sketch. (“And who do you sue apart from scientists?” “More scientists!”)

So, obviously, I’ve spent the afternoon since then obsessing over coming up with a Python/CAM routine of my own. I think “The ministry of silly medicines” has great potential, something could probably done with “I’m a homeopath and I’m okay”, and there might even be something in “Alternative Therapist Twit of the Year” (help yourself to any of these if you like). But here’s the one I seemed to be able to get the most material out of.

(You can follow along with the original, if it helps.)

Someone: Trouble at t’chiropractors.
Someone else: Oh no – what kind of trouble?
S: One o’t web sites been tek’n down on’t net.
SE: Pardon?
S: One o’t web sites been tek’n down on’t net.
SE: I don’t understand what you’re saying.
S: [slightly irritatedly and with exaggeratedly clear accent] One of the websites has been taken down from the internet.
SE: Well what on earth does that mean?
S: *I* don’t know – Mr McTimoney just told me to come in here and say that there was trouble at the chiropractors, that’s all – I didn’t expect a kind of Cochrane Collaboration.


[The door flies open and Professor Ernst enters, flanked by two junior academicians. Professor Biggles has goggles pushed over his forehead. Simon Singh is just Simon Singh]

Ernst: NOBODY expects the Cochrane Collaboration! Our chief weapon is science… science and peer review… peer review and science… Our two weapons are peer review and science… and intellectual honesty… Our *three* weapons are peer review, science, and intellectual honesty… and an almost fanatical devotion to the truth… Our *four*… no… *Amongst* our weapons… Amongst our weaponry… are such elements as peer review, science… I’ll come in again.

[The Collaboration exits]

S: I didn’t expect a kind of Cochrane Collaboration.


[The scientsts burst in]

E: NOBODY expects the Cochrane Collaboration! Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: peer review, science, intellectual honesty, an almost fanatical devotion to the truth, and nice white lab coats – Oh damn!

Hmm. Well, I’m no digital cuttlefish. And no, I don’t know why Edzard Ernst appears to be representing the Cochrane Collaboration here. I was just trying to justify the pun. It’s all a bit tortured, but then, perhaps that’s appropriate, given the subject matter.

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