Friday, December 17, 2010

The Parody Process

Yep, I had an inspiration, so count me one day ahead of pace for whatever. I’m not going to do like certain Voldemorts out there and post three one-sentence posts a day just to create artificial spikes in traffic. (Remember, divide their traffic number by three, at least.)
Actually this inspiration was about inspiration. The other day I got my idea for the next tektontv video, which will be about copycat claims between Jesus and Attis. I won’t let loose the surprise, other than to say that I’ll be parodying a popular TV show to relate the message. That’s in a continuing tradition where tektotv has used parodies of Smokey the Bear, The People’s Court, and of course the opposition’s videos.
Something about parody, obviously, appeals to me, but that’s not the point of this post. The point, actually, has to do with how to create parody and what relation it has to all this stuff I’ve been saying about Bauerlein’s Dumbest Generation. (Yes, it’ll seem like two things that can’t be connected. Wait and see. It will be.)
Weird Al Yankovic is the master of parody in the entertainment world. How does he do it? How does he get ideas for songs? I can’t say for sure (his website FAQ doesn’t say), but here’s my guess on how it works.
Al has a fairly broad base of cultural knowledge, as well as a fairly good education. (He has a degree in architecture, so he’s definitely no dummy.) When he wants to parody a certain work, I suspect he makes certain mental associations between words in the song and other words that rhyme with those words. At the same time, he makes mental associations between those rhymed words and current events, or with life issues, or popular movies, or what have you. (He also does a lot of songs that are not parodies, but I’m not talking about those here.)
So how does this connect? Well, if Al were a member of the Dumbest Generation, he would never make those connections between words and words, and then between words and themes. That’s one of the Dumbest Generations main problems. They don’t retain knowledge, and so they also don’t make those vital associations between unrelated concepts. The Dumbest Generation will not just be dumb – they’ll also be creative morons. (Which, on the other hand, might make them very good at producing modern sitcoms.)
Is there any upside to this? Yes, perhaps: It may mean that talented persons can more easily rise to the top and not have to fight off unqualified interlopers. On the other hand, if the gatekeepers of talent are part of the Dumbest Generation, that upside might not be there either.
The more serious question is whether there’s any way out of this in practical terms. The answer is that there is, but it involves a reconstitution of a work ethic among a group that is more interested in Facebook chatting than in serious research.
John Adams reputedly said, ““Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate for any other.” I have not checked if that quote is authentic, but I’d put it this way: “The Internet was made for a conscientious people with a serious work ethic; it is wholly inadequate for any other.” (UPDATE: A reader indicates the quote is accurate and is found in Adams' TO THE OFFICERS OF THE FIRST BRIGADE OF THE THIRD DIVISION OF THE MILITIA OF MASSACHUSETTS. 11 OCTOBER, 1798.)
That’s a bit facetious, yes – but it does express my take on the matter as an information science guy.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I don't know about the "upside" you mentioned. If current and future generations are too dumb to get the jokes, there will be no audience, even for the talented humorists.

    Ah, Weird Al!

    "Where can you go for all your spatula needs at a fraction of retail??

    Spatula City!

    Spatula City!

    Spatula City!"