Deconstructive Parody

"If you are in the market for easy laughs, you learn that two well-tried ways are either to trip up a cliche or take things absolutely literally."

Most parodies work in a light hearted manner, taking the basic plot of the thing they parody, and making it humorous. The giant space station may have wiped out half the Earth in the original, but in the parody only some unimportant Acceptable Targets got destroyed, and Hilarity Ensues.

And then there are these. While the parody might have made the plot silly, and light hearted, the Deconstructive Parody plays exactly like any other Deconstruction, in that everything is treated as if it were to really happen - it's just that humour is still drawn from the original story, while also serving to show what would really happen.

In a Deconstructive Parody the giant space station will still wipe out half the Earth, and while the characters will reflect on this tragedy, and take it seriously, it will still be presented humorously. Maybe all that's left are the Acceptable Targets, or perhaps the doomsday device is entirely ridiculous and non-threatening in conception, yet still works. Either way, what matters is that the plot is still treated as real, and plays out tropes as you would expect from an atypical Deconstruction.

Just to note, a bunch of Lampshade Hangings don't really count, so this may not necessarily include an Abridged Series, or some Webcomics.

Compare with Black Comedy.

Contrast Affectionate Parody, Decon-Recon Switch.


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  • This Sprite commercial gleefully deconstructs and parodies the usage of advertising characters appearing in the real world alongside real people.
  • The "Go Compare" ads in the UK involved an opera singer who would appear whenever people discussed car insurance and start trilling a Crowd Song jingle, in a series of ads that quickly began to elicit howls of rage from viewers all over the UK. They then ran a "Saving the Nation" series where the same opera singer would appear to people discussing car insurance, but they would respond with the same level of terror as a real person would in that situation, to be saved by someone else attacking the singer with weapons. The follow-up to that campaign imagines the same opera singer, who is now not allowed to sing, working an advertising creative, speaking in a soft Northern accent rather than singing, and pitching terrible advertising ideas to cash in on his previous image in shallow ways.

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Deconstructive parodies of comic book superheroes are practically a dime a dozen. These days, if you count all media, it's rarer to see them played straight.

    Films — Animated 
  • Shrek is a deconstructive parody of fairy tales, the Disney Animated Canon, and all concepts and ideas related to them, using characters from the book of the same name by William Stieg.
  • ParaNorman makes fun of pretty much every zombie cliche and horror movie trope in general, until the last third of the movie...
  • The Lego Movie gleefully deconstructs the standard hero's journey/Chosen One narrative, while still being a solid example of the same.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The films Her Alibi and American Dreamer poke fun at Mary Sue-like pulp fiction heroes. The former does it by contrasting the writing with the actual situations which inspire it, and the latter by having a housewife get Easy Amnesia and think she is her favorite literary heroine. Both films are worth checking out for those alone.
  • Mystery Men and The Specials do this with the superhero genre, approaching it from the perspective of a "loser" superhero team.
  • The trailers for Enchanted made it look as though it would do this for fairy tales, but it instead was an Indecisive Parody or a Reconstruction
  • Austin Powers does this to 1960s spy-oriented pulp fiction, namely James Bond.
  • Hot Fuzz for police/action films, but pulls a Decon-Recon Switch later on.
  • The black knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a Deconstructive Parody of the Stiff Upper Lip attitude of British culture, and Arthurian Legend (Terry Jones is an Arthurian scholar).
  • The film Gunless is both a parody of Westerns in general and a deconstruction of the entire gun-slinging outlaw hero character archetype.
  • Scream (1996) did this to slasher movies. Or at least it tried to.
  • The Burbs deconstructs the Nosy Neighbor, and subverts it in the end.
  • National Security did this for cop action flicks. Martin Lawrence's character seems to think he's on Bad Boys.
  • The Other Guys for Buddy Cop movies, with some Cowboy Cop thrown in. The pair of Cowboy Cops leap off a roof in pursuit of criminals, and die pretty early. Meanwhile, the protagonists are partners, but hate each other, one wants to be a Cowboy Cop but is terrible at it, and the crime they are pursuing is financial, rather than a high-stakes robbery or murder.
  • Mean Girls sets up a standard teen movie formula: the poor heroine has her social life ruined by the Alpha Bitch and her Girl Posse, and loses the guy of her dreams, so she sets out to make things right and get her revenge. When she accomplishes this, you get to watch the lead popular girl's life fall apart as her illusion that everybody liked her is shattered... and then the heroine take her place in the social ladder, ignoring her original friends and becoming just as mean herself. The former Alpha Bitch, meanwhile, goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that nearly wrecks the whole school. The clearest turning point is when it's overtly pointed out by one of the heroine's friends that the guy has left the bully, but still doesn't want her (or, for that matter, want anything to do with the whole mess), and yet she's still trying to ruin the once-popular girl's life. When the Title Drop finally rolls around, it refers to the protagonist.
  • Heathers, in the absolute darkest sense of the word "parody," putting some brutal twists on perceptions of teenage society and violence.
  • Last Action Hero did this to '80s and early '90s action movies.
  • Santa movies aimed at adults as well as children usually attempt to deconstruct the Santa mythos — a recent one being Fred Claus, which implies Santa has a bad sex life due to his weight.
  • Mystery Team is arguably this for stories such as Encyclopedia Brown and The Hardy Boys. The movie is sort of a less reverent Dog Sees God in that it shows what would happen when such characters are placed in the real world.
    • As well as aged enough that they're still young, but too old for the "kid sleuth" thing to be cute anymore.
  • Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil does this for Hillbilly Horrors by making the hillbillies the heroic protagonists. The college kids only think that the Good Ol' Boy main characters are evil, and end up killing themselves in Bloody Hilarious ways through their own stupidity, before one of them (the guy who would otherwise be the male hero in a typical slasher film) goes Ax-Crazy out of prejudice against the hillbillies.
  • The Cabin in the Woods is a deconstruction of horror films, with the evil gods who demand bloody entertainment that conforms to established cliches taking the place of the audience.
  • Tropic Thunder is a parody (whether it's affectionate or a poisonous Valentine is up for debate) of the filmmaking process itself and the cliche sort of people involved (the hothead producer, the eager but inexperienced director, the takes-himself-seriously consultant, the pyro guy, the prima donna actor, the agent, the rapper trying his hand at acting, the Lowest Common Denominator comedy actor trying to do serious drama...), in most cases by casting people that partially fill those roles in real life as the respective characters in the film. It loosely parodies Apocalypse Now and its famously Troubled Production as well.
  • Ted is pretty much Toy Story (the first one) mixed with Pinocchio and deconstructed with all the humor one would find in a Seth MacFarlane production (namely Family Guy).
  • The short film The Sleepover is this to slasher movies, particularly slasher franchises, by showing what life is like in between movies when the town has gotten used to having masked slashers constantly coming back. Kids are told to double-check under their beds and in their closets for killers, one needs firearms and martial arts training to get a babysitting license, there exists a three-step rule for escaping slashers, and everybody is armed with at least a knife.
  • Starship Troopers started out as a satirical story called Bug Hunt before it was tied to the novel. Paul Verhoeven hated the novel and felt it had a lot of fascistic elements (a very hotly debated assessment), so he made the film an outright parody of the novel, the Why We Fight WWII propaganda films, and jingoistic warmongering and fascism in general through deconstructing the entire premise. The inhuman enemy that is "Othered" are literally inhuman monsters, even moreso than in the novel. The militaristic society makes the humans so complacent in their superiority that they refuse to even consider the enemy to be intelligent after the Bugs attack them with a Colony Drop from across the galaxy. They try to use horrendous military tactics and their forces are completely slaughtered. The attrition warfare gets so bad that the humans are reduced to using Child Soldiers by the end. The humans only seem like heroes because of the propaganda-like tone of the film itself. They accomplish an (in retrospect) meaningless victory and are clearly losing the war by the end, but the viewer is encouraged to join the Mobile Infantry because every soldier is needed. Yet despite all that, it's done in such an over-the-top fashion that most viewers don't even realize the parodic intent and cheer the humans on as if it were a straight-up action movie.
  • Pain and Gain: Of the American Dream. The film even has most of the visual excess (shot like some of the cheesier music videos of the day) during scenes where Daniel discusses what he thinks the dream is.
  • Deep in the Valley is a Porn with Plot sex comedy where a Nice Guy and his sleazy Bromantic Foil get trapped in the world of adult films. It plays with a lot of stereotypical porn roles, and even features a love interest who's tired of constant casual sex and who wants a meaningful relationship.
  • Neighbors:
    • Of the frat boy comedies Rogen starred in. Namely, it shows how reasonable people would act surrounded by characters from these movies, and how the frat guys are pathetic, petty Man-Children who are unwilling to accept maturity.
    • It also deconstructs The Stoner, with the characters' (both the Radners' and the frat boys') habitual use of both weed and weed jokes with their friends depicted as a major sign of their inability to grow up and let go of their Glory Days.
  • This College Humor video deconstructs elements of Harry Potter by moving the eponymous Wizarding School to...the inner city. The teachers couldn't care less, the school's resources are thin, crime is implied to be very rampant, and series Big Bad Voldemort seems to be some combination of a street gang ringleader and a Fantastic Drug dealer.

  • Don Quixote is most likely the Trope Maker.
  • The Sir Apropos of Nothing books are like this of fantasy, part of the time. The other parts are a more of a straight deconstruction.
  • Several of the Discworld books, for fantasy and whatever other genres Terry Pratchett feels like.
    • Specific example: the series deconstructs Pascal's wager (the notion that it is existentially safer to believe in God than not to) by having Ventre, an Expy of Pascal, die and arrive in an afterlife populated by stick-wielding enemies of the deity he worships. Oops.
    "We're going to show you what we think of Mr Clever Dick in these parts..."
    • Also, Small Gods is one of these for extremist religions, Night Watch is one for Les Misérables, and the many of the Witches (and Tiffany Aching novels) are this for fairy tales in general.
  • Stephen Fry's The Stars' Tennis Balls (or Revenge in America) is a modern retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo that is like this in respect to the original novel. While it's partly a parody of the original (as seen in giving the characters names that are are anagrams/plays on the original — like calling the equivalent of Mercedes Portia), it totally deconstructs the idea that the behavior Dantes engaged in when taking revenge could be seen as just in any way. It does this by making the enemies more sympathetic and the revenge Darker and Edgier, and the ultimate feeling you get is that, rather than being sympathetic or at least a Magnificent Bastard, the Dantes-equivalent is a petty and cruel Smug Snake.
  • Some literary scholars say The Fall Of The House Of Usher is a parody of Gothic Horror, what with Roderick Usher being infected with a disease that heightens his senses making him (and the reader) believe the house is scarier than it really is.
  • The Barry Trotter series has elements of this (for example, its version of Quidditch).
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Glory Road is super hilarious, but at the same time deconstructs the whole The Hero + Distressed Damsel + MacGuffin + Standard Hero Reward thing.
    • The Number Of The Beast, another Heinlein novel, does this for early 20th-Century Adventure novels. Hell, John Carter of Mars is specifically mentioned in the novel several times.
      • If "specifically mentioned several times" = "beaten like a dead horse", then yeah, that's fairly accurate. We find out fairly early on that the character Deety is actually going by her initials. Let's just say her parents really liked the Barsoom novels, and if you're familiar with them, you can probably guess what DT stands for. Oh, and her maiden name is "Burroughs". Guess what her husband Zeb Carter's middle name is. Go on, guess.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series is this for the Sci-Fi genre. The Big Good is just some guy who happens to be friends with an alien, the evil empire style characters are a bunch of horrible marksmen who's deadlist weapon is their horrendous poetry, and the Robot Buddy is a rude, paranoid, and clincally depressed Deadpan Snarker.
    • It's more specifically one of these for Doctor Who, which Douglas Adams was a script editor on at the time he wrote the first book. Particularly, it deals with the concept of a mild-mannered Earth person being taken off into a Human Alien, BBC Quarry-filled version of space as the companion of an oddball, bohemian alien traveller in a stolen time-travelling ship by showing just how boring, depressing and hopeless a universe like that would be to travel in. There are two separate duos with a Doctor-and-companion dynamic, Arthur and Ford, and Trillian and Zaphod. In the case of the first two, Arthur only leaves for space because his home, where he'd rather be, has been destroyed, he almost constantly moans about how much he'd prefer to be there, and both characters have very little idea of what's going on. The one time Arthur does enjoy space travel is the first time he lands on Magrathea, which everyone else thinks is a dump. In the case of the latter two, Zaphod's egotistical, flaky personality, extremely high intelligence and constant attention-seeking isn't redeemed by heroism, like in the case of the Doctor - while there is more depth to him than appears at first, he is every bit as selfish and unempathetic as someone who acted like the Doctor would have to be in real life. Also, unlike the Doctor, who constantly took sexy, clever Earth girl companions with him but was written relatively asexual during Adams's tenure due to the show being at least nominally for children, Zaphod's sexy, clever Earth girl companion is specifically noted to be a hot girl he picked up at a party for her looks.
  • John Scalzi's book Redshirts relentlessly spoofs Star Trek: The Original Series, starting with deconstructing the entire concept of the Red Shirt by making the random ensigns who in TOS would be Red Shirts the protagonists. The tagline of the book is, "They were expendable ... until they started comparing notes." Early on Scalzi makes fun of the idea that the command crew is always on away missions by putting a navigator on the team to study a plague. When he gets infected, Scalzi pokes fun at Star Trek's habitual technobabble by telling the viewpoint character that they need a counter-bacterial, with said character wondering why they don't just call it a vaccine. And that's just the first 40 pages.
  • Umberto Eco's Foucaults Pendulum is this to conspiracy theories and literature based on them.
  • Jane Austen's earlier works Love and Freindship and Northanger Abbey parodied melodramas and gothic romances respectively.
  • Caitlin R. Kiernan's Blood Oranges does this for Urban Fantasy.
  • The novelisation of Development Hell Doctor Who episode "Shada" parody-deconstructs the treatment of young human female companions in the series. When the Doctor charges into the room of Genre Savvy science student Clare to use her as The Watson despite her impressive intelligence, she finds herself bowled over by his force of personality and starts doing what he wants because that just feels like what she ought to do, while constantly noting in her internal monologue that her actions are nonsensical. She also realises that she keeps acting like a Neutral Female despite that not being her normal personality, and so the third time a male character orders her to sit tight and stay out of trouble, she snaps, and decides she's going to take the story Off the Rails and solve the mystery on her own. Her attempts to do so lead to her communicating with the dead Professor Chronotis, absorbing Time Lord knowledge of TARDIS flight and rescuing her love interest, Chris - who keeps noting in his internal monologue that he keeps acting "girly" and "clueless" so the Doctor can explain things to him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Greatest American Hero does this with Comic Book Superheroes.
    • Before that, in the 1960s, there was Captain Nice (NBC) and Mr. Terrific (CBS), both which were made to capitalize on the Batman craze at the time.
  • This was a staple of Chappelle's Show.
    • "Dude's Night Out" was a more realistic beer commercial. Their activities included getting into barfights (and losing), defecating in public and having sex with transvestite prostitutes.
    • The "When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong" skits show why "gangsta" behavior is usually a bad idea.
    • Don't forget the "realistic" versions of movies like Pretty Woman.
  • Glee is this to High School Musical, when it's not being High School Musical done right.
    Rachel: There is NOTHING ironic about show choir!
  • The Good Guys does this to the idea of the Cowboy Cop and other action-movie tropes. (It was created by Matt Nix, the creator of Burn Notice.) The cop in question is an older detective — paired with a young, By-the-Book Cop — who's mentally stuck in The Eighties, unable to adjust to changed police methods or even basic fashion. The only reason he's even still on the force is that he rescued a VIP some time ago, at the cost of his partner having a nervous breakdown when he forced him to jump from one moving car to another, a typical cop-movie stunt. At the end of the first episode, they're both dressed down for the dozens of rules of police procedure they managed to break—including Armed Altruism, BTW—and he asks when they're getting their medal. And all of it is played for laughs.
    • And again with the Gut Feeling in a later episode. The feeling is correct, but the bulk of the police force thinks they were catching the bad guys. What they've actually got are the decoys(who thought they were the only bank robbers), and the real thieves see our heroes at their intended target and flee. With no evidence, Jack and Dan's boss chalks it all up to Dan's crazy rubbing off on Jack.
  • Mitchell And Webb as a couple who are sick of having James Bond show up at their parties.
    Webb: It's Moneypenny I feel sorry for. Did you see when I was going around with the voddy?
    Mitchell: What?
    Webb: Well, I said to Moneypenny, "Can you manage another finger in there?", meaning —
    Mitchell: Finger of vodka in her glass of drink.
    Webb: Exactly!
    Mitchell: Self-explanatory.
    Webb: Yeah! And then James starts rolling his eyes like he's having some sort of stroke and says, "Oh, you can always get another finger inside Moneypenny!"
    Mitchell: HE SAID WHAT?
    Webb: Literally did not know where to look.
    • Later on in this sketch he brutally attacks someone for an offhand comment and then makes a trademark quip about it. The outrage is as much about the fact that the quip wasn't very good as that he threw someone out of a window.
    • They did a similar dialogue with Scooby-Doo.
    Webb: It's a shame, because he's clearly invested so much time in teaching that dog to talk and it just can't.
    Mitchell: Whereas the dog's nephew actually talks quite well.
    Webb: A little precocious though, isn't he?
    Mitchell: Yes, but I think one can forgive that of a talking dog.
    Agent: And Suave? Good luck.
    Suave: I won't need luck.
    Agent: (beat) You're going to a casino.
    Suave: (realisation) Oh God, yes, that's right!
  • The Late Late Show: Instead of having a talk show sidekick to laugh at the host's jokes and spout the occasional Catch Phrase, the show has Geoff Peterson, a robot that laughs at the host's jokes and spouts the occasional Catch Phrase.
    Geoff: Balls!
  • Can a court case be deconstructed? If so, then The Colbert Report's Colbert SuperPAC is playing every aspect of the Citizens United case to its logical extreme for as many laughs as possible, while making a mockery of the US political system.
    • Even more brilliantly, by actually creating a political action committee, he basically conscripted Viacom and the Federal Election Commission into the joke against their will. He does things so ridiculous that they have to respond, then shows that the laws support what he just did. Maybe one of the finest real life deconstructions ever done.
  • Arguably the first season of Batman and Batman: The Movie: In the pilot, the Riddler deconstructs the Super Hero by tricking Batman into falsely arresting him so he can make a Frivolous Lawsuit for a million dollars, exposing Batman’s Secret Identity. The second episode shows the Penguin taking advantage of Batman’s Bat Deduction to commit crimes. Mr. Freeze is Dangerously Genre Savvy. Batman The Movie ends lampshading Reed Richards Is Useless when Batman refuses Robin’s idea to alter the personalities of the world leaders for the betterment of the world (and then exactly that happens). The next two seasons suffer great Seasonal Rot and were examples of Indecisive Deconstruction and Indecisive Parody.
  • The television career of popular UK comedy duo Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer revolves around deconstructive parodies of light entertainment. Reeves' career began in comedy clubs as a surreal exaggeration of the kind of versatile all-round entertainers who had flourished in the 1960s and 1970s, a la Bruce Forsyth and Des O'Connor. This continued with Vic Reeves Big Night Out, a deconstruction of television variety shows, and the sketch show The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer. Shooting Stars was a deconstruction of celebrity panel games, and the duo's subsequent career has mined the same path.

  • Tenacious D once applied the deconstructive parody approach to Author Tract music. After taking over "City Hall", the D are rulers of the world. They issue absurd decrees that show they really are the wrong sort of minds to make big, important world decisions. "From now on we'll travel in TUBES!"
  • The Gregory Brothers song "DJ Play My Song (No, Leave Me Alone)" spoofs the Exhort The Disc Jockey Song by raising the question of what kind of person would make repeated demands of the DJ in such a hyperbolic manner, disregarding his opinions, those of the other patrons, and the club's policies. And what this person must be like once the club closes. It doesn't end well for the DJ.
  • Maddie & Tae's song "Girl in a Country Song" is this to the modern "bro-country" style of country music.

  • A constant theme of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme:
    • For example, one sketch did a deconstruction on The Emperor's New Clothes, showing the Emperor so traumatised by the experience that he now overdresses due to paranoia that everyone can see his 'winkie', and refuses to fund inventions that appear invisible - causing him to turn down inventors who have invented the telephone as soon as they mention that the waves of transmission are 'invisible'.
    • Another sketch parodied Right Behind Me by having a character rant about his boss, ask "he's standing right behind me, isn't he?" and, when people point out that the boss has long left the office, the character admits that he's 'a sitcom character' and, in the manner of someone admitting they have an OCD variant, can't bear it if the situation doesn't resolve humorously.
  • Whatever Happened To does this, taking apart the mythos of popular children's characters. For example, the Susan Foreman episode (from Doctor Who) goes into detail about being a schoolgirl time traveller with two teachers - she hated time travelling because she was missing all her O-levels, Ian developed 'a bloodlust' after killing his first Dalek, it's heavily implied Barbara descended into alcoholism, and she believes the reason the Doctor left her on Earth with her Love Interest (from the Who serial "The Dalek Invasion of Earth") was because she was hindering his capacity to impress young women, which he later improved by 'regenerating younger' (Jo Grant denies that anything happened). Even the Strangled by the Red String nature of her relationship with David is mocked - "I was sixteen! I was in love with someone all the time!" - and she only makes it back to her own time by contacting her family on Gallifrey. When she gets back to Earth she finds Ian and Barbara no longer remember their travels thanks to a time paradox erasing the events from history, and when rumour gets out that she's been travelling with Ian it's treated like accusations of teacher sexual assault. Even when Susan shows someone her souvenirs from time travel, she gets accused from stealing them from the British Museum and sent to a young offender's institute. Of course, it's all Played for Laughs with a spoonful of outright ridiculous, like extremely camp Thals and Barbara being mistaken for a goddess (from "The Aztecs") because of her massive bouffant.

    Video Games 

  • Add in Spinnerette to the list of superhero deconstructions/parodies.
  • The Last Days of FOXHOUND. Sure, there's one metric fucktonne of swearing, and characters are deliberately exaggerated for laughs, but it does an excellent job of analyzing the why and how of the plot behind Metal Gear Solid. Plus, when you can make the characters' deaths in the actual game Tear Jerkers (as noted on the Tear Jerker page for Metal Gear itself), you've done something worthy of Deconstruction.
  • Living With Insanity did an arc where David wrote a story about his Mary Sue (a Rambo copy named Marty Stu) saving a bunch of orphans from Saint Hitler and his stormtroopers (as in, actual Star Wars stormtroopers) who were obsessed with anal rape. It ended with the Marty's sexiness causing a lady Nazi to give up without a fight and Hitler surrendering for no real reason. And they all lived happily ever after. Except for Hitler, who died two weeks later of AIDS.
    • Just so no one thinks it was serious, the entire arc was called "Bad Writing".
  • Overlord Bob does this with viarous fantasy cliches - bunch of adventurers invades Evil Overlord's inner sanctuary and he uses their stereotypical flaws to defeat them and transform into viarous sexy creatures. In the end the same happens to him and his rival, evil sorcerer Tim. Maid's Quest, set in the same Universe, does the same with various stereotypical evil knights.
  • The Non-Adventures of Wonderella to so many superhero tropes.
  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things to many video game tropes and the idea of M Anly Men through showing how people with such severe Testosterone Poisoning would act in a fairly real world.
  • Garfield Minus Garfield is a deconstruction of its source material, but it's a Deconstructive Parody because it's played for laughs and is a parody of the original. Seeing as though Word of God apparently stated that Garfield never talked in the comic, both that and this show just how much of a wreck Jon really is.
  • Hero Material does this to The Hero's Journey. Sure, the characters saved the world, but none of them really learned anything or became better people through it. On top of that the world they ravaged through is left into chaos and destruction.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation