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Parody Retcon
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. 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.

This is the Opposite Trope of Denied Parody, in which a work that is seen as a parody is denied to be one by the creators.

A subtrope of Deliberate Flaw Retcon, which is any case when an artist retroactively claims that a flaw in their work was deliberate. A relative of I Meant to Do That and "Just Joking" Justification. Compare Indecisive Parody and Stealth Parody. Contrast Springtime for Hitler. 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.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Comic Books  

  • All-Star Batman & 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.
  • Joe Madureira has claimed that Red Monika's ridiculous proportions in Battle Chasers were a parody of sexy women in other comics. (And has always done so — even in the original run of the short-lived comic, during which there was little to no controversy regarding said character's proportions — so this is probably true.)
  • Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's Fighting American (who was basically an Expy of their more popular creation, Captain America) started off as a dead serious book about Commie-smashing. When the anti-communist Witch Hunts of Joe McCarthy began to fall out of favor with Americans, Simon and Kirby quickly tried to ReTool the series into a tongue-in-cheek parody of Red Scare stories. It didn't work, and title was cancelled after just seven issues.
  • When Superior Spider-Man came out, author Dan Slott defended all of Otto's evil deeds, claiming they were in some way heroic, up to and including him erasing Peter's lingering consciousness from his mind. In general fans threw complaints that Otto was a Creator's Pet and Villain Sue at the book, with Dan shrugging them off and calling him a hero. When the book began to finish the Otto-As-Peter arc, he backtracked and claimed Otto was always intended to be the bad guy.

    Film 

  • Mommie Dearest is perhaps the Trope Codifier. Paramount Pictures started advertising it as a parody a few weeks after its release, changing its movie posters to proclaim, "Meet the biggest MOTHER of them all!"
  • 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. It's a rare example of a film that was very successful when appreciated straight.
    • It also could be a bit of a borderline example, with humor and shout outs (Brent Spiner/AKA Data as a scientist, flying saucers, Area 51, etc.), and humor, but not a complete parody. Basically, it could be an action-comedy, where the comedy is part parody.
  • 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. See also Deliberate Flaw Retcon.
  • The Concorde... Airport '79 also was re-marketed as a comedy after critics pointed out all of its unintentionally hilarious moments. Still didn't help it at the box office, though. It did pave the way for Airplane!.
  • 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 melodrama was released and critically panned. Taking a page from Showgirls, he decided to pull a Ascended Fanon when people asked him if this was supposed to be taken seriously and say it was a black comedy all along. 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: The legendary (thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000) 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. Although that doesn't explain why, of the three directors that worked on the film, one wanted his name removed, another has his buried deep in the credits, and the third isn't listed at all.
  • 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 much like the games it was based on, 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.
  • The Wicker Man remake by Neil La Bute was widely panned. Nicolas Cage said, "You don’t karate chop Leelee Sobieski in the throat and not know how absurd that is, but it’s just not something I would like to talk about. I would rather let them discover it on their own, but I think I learned a lot of that kind of off the wall kind of stuff watching Stanley Kubrick, because his movies were incredibly funny, but you never really knew how much was planned or accident, you know?"
  • Jeepers Creepers, but not by the filmmakers. In 2013, it got a tv broadcast......on Comedy Central, who advertised it as a comedy.

    Literature 

  • 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.

    Live Action TV 

  • After clips of Jamie Kennedy's disastrous (technical glitches, uncensored profanity, has-been musical guests, etc.) local Los Angeles New Year's Eve live countdown special First Night 2013 went viral, he quickly (and unsurprisingly) invoked this trope.
  • Before the main series of Derek aired, Ricky Gervais spoke repeatedly about how he had "dropped the veil of irony" and had made a sincere comedy/drama. After being tweeted with complaints about the frequent use of narmy montages accompanied by melancholy music, he responded that it was intentional and that they were there to give the verisimilitude of a cloying documentary. This was despite earlier retweeting comments earnestly praising the sequences for their emotional power.

    Music 

  • Beastie Boys. These guys like to pretend that their first album, "Licensed to Ill", was a parody of Rap and frat boy attitudes... despite the fact that the album seems to be a straight example of these attitudes as opposed to a send-up or even a subtle parody.
    • Plus, if you have seen the video album they made it makes it even more painfully clear.
  • 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 not technically irony, she suddenly decided that that was, in fact, the irony all along.
  • 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.
  • Broken CYDE, 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 of Velvet Underground. 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 they 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.
  • Robin Thicke has tried to pass "Blurred Lines" off as this in the wake of its lyrics being denounced as misogynistic. He even went so far as to claim the Anchorman character Ron Burgundy as inspiration.

     Politics  

  • Jake Knotts, South Carolina State Senator wasn't being a racist 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. (In case you were wondering why they took such offense, the British National Party is more accurately described as the British Nazi Party.)
  • During the 2011 US national budget meetings, former Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl spoke in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood by claiming that "over 90%" of the organization's money went to providing women with abortions. After it was revealed that only 3% of the organization's money went to abortions, Senator Kyl claimed that he was exaggerating and that his claim was "not intended to be a factual statement".
  • 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 ignores 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.
  • In 2011, PETA created Super Tanooki Skin 2D, a game 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 even provoking an official statement from Nintendo, PETA later claimed it was all "tongue-in-cheek".
  • Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson claims he was only joking when he was voicing his concern for Guam capsizing.

     Video Games 

  • Far Cry 3 lead writer Jeffrey Yohalem responded to criticism of the game's thoroughly straight use of Mighty Whitey by announcing the plot was a satire. No one believed him.
    • Considering the stories the game is based on, it would indeed be true.
  • When the next-gen version of Call of Duty: Ghosts was revealed, one of the promoted features was "fish that moved out of the way you got near them". Gamers were quick to point out this was not a new thing, specifically pointing to Super Mario 64 (which came out 17 years earlier). They since then said it was a joke, despite not sounding like one.

     Web Comics  

     Web Original  

     Western Animation  


Parody ReligionParody TropesPoe's Law
Outlived Its CreatorTriviaPaying Their Dues
Parents as PeopleExample as a ThesisPassed Over Promotion
Mistaken for PregnantImageSource/Web ComicsPercussive Pickpocket

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