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Biting-the-Hand Humor

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Randy: Network executives, they sure take the cake.
Joy: Plus, they don't let people cuss anymore on TV until a certain time at night. [checks watch] Douchebags.

Congratulations! As a creator who has originated a successful project, you've made it to the top of the Show Business heap, or maybe just the middle. And now that you're there, your bosses will treat you fair... right?

Well... not necessarily. While you might be treated with respect (or even deference), it's luck of the draw. Chances are you'll still be subject to censorship, invoked Executive Meddling, and all sorts of ripoffs. And since you signed a contract, you have no choice but to suffer in silence and put up with it...

...but there's a way out. You can use your creativity to let the world know how you really feel. Better yet, you can make your protests part of the very work that's enriching your employers! They may be mad, but what can they do about it? Talk about Laser-Guided Karma!

This trope is about the creator(s) of a work making jokes at the expense of the company funding that work. It can happen when an embittered creator, or one cynical of the morality of the entertainment industry, inserts into their work a thinly disguised slap to the face of the company that employs them, usually for unsatisfactory royalties or advance payments.

In American television, the favorite target out of the Big Four Networks seems to be FOX, although all networks are Acceptable Targets at some point or another. NBC has seemed to encourage it since about 2006, right around when it became the Butt-Monkey of the four major networks - and also right around the time 30 Rock started getting a lot of mileage out of the non-stop mockery.

A sister trope to Take That! and Writer Revolt. Related to Take That, Audience!. Often overlaps with Self-Deprecation (unless the author is even more correct than he believes about his employers being flawed). Remembering who wears the pants can combine this with End-of-Series Awareness.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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  • Francisco de Goya's portrait of King Carlos IV and his family are an almost Grotesque Gallery where they appear as pudgy, unattractive people. The Queen is standing in the center of the painting, a subtle hint towards the general consensus at the time that she was the one holding the strings in the palace.

    Comic Books 
  • In the first Great Lakes Avengers, Squirrel Girl and Grasshopper appear in an offstage prologue. Grasshopper says "The only people reading comics now are overweight thirty-year-olds living in their mother's basement." Squirrel Girl's sidekick replies in an inset: "Hey, fanboys, don't take that lying down! Write angry letters to Marvel today!"
  • Avengers Academy:
  • Deadpool has been doing this almost since his inception - Issue 4# of his first ongoing had a character mention "that Onslaught thing", only for the Clue from Ed. to simply state...
    Onslaught? What's a Onslaught? — Facetious Mark
  • In Marvel Adventures: Avengers, Doc Samson's "Needs a wife" assessment of Spider-Man when the Avengers go in for therapy.
  • The first printing of Universe X: Spidey #1 contains a Take That! hidden message on a bookshelf: "Bob Harras. Ha, Ha. He's gone! Good riddance to bad rubbish. He was a nasty S.O.B."
  • Marvel relaunched nearly all of their running books with Marvel NOW!, changing the status quos drastically in sometimes controversial ways with the expressed purpose of strengthening their comic line. In the parody "Marvel: NOW What?!", the writer uses the High Evolutionary to explain all these changes in a satirical manner. The High Evolutionary is a villain with the goal of forcibly evolving humanity against their will to make them stronger, and is opposed by heroes trying to save mankind from the inevitable chaos this would cause. The point, of course, is that just like the High Evolutionary, the changes made by Marvel Now and its successors will place Marvel on unstable footing rather than make it stronger, as the fans will likewise be unable to deal with the sudden changes.
  • When Ed Brubaker did a two-issue story on Tom Strong, he produced a Deconstructive Parody of Miracleman, by Tom Strong's creator Alan Moore, arguing that Miracleman was not so much "realistic", as pointlessly nasty and depressing for the sake of it.
  • Hitman (1993), which takes place in the DC Universe, was written by Garth Ennis, and as such it contains many rather unflattering portrayals of DC's superheroes, and by extension at the superhero genre as a whole.
  • In one issue of Young Justice, Arrowette and Wonder Girl are complaining at length about Warner Bros. until one of them whispers something to the other. It's not explicit, but strongly implied that she had to be reminded not to make fun of the corporate parent of DC Comics. In another issue, in a scene also involving the two girls, Arrowette complains about how much she hates Internet service providers (ISPs) when their connection dies. Wonder Girl then nervously replies, "No you don't! You LOVE! ISPs! Especially the biggest one!" And to that end, Arrowette decides to shut up. At the time the comic was released, that "biggest one", America Online, had just completed a merger with Time Warner, the parent company of Warner Bros. and therefore DC, to form AOL Time Warner.
  • New 52 Harley Quinn #8 features Dan DiDio suggesting a new DC relaunch, with all the heroes turned into antelopes and wildebeests by magic, which they'll call the Gnu 52. The DC offices promptly get hit with bags of pet poop catapulted from Harley's building.
  • The first issue of the 2015 run of Howard the Duck had Howard going to Florida. Tara Tam thought they were going to Disney World, but Howard replies "Who'd want to see a bunch of pantless ducks?" Which not only is a swipe at Marvel's owner Disney, but an in joke to Howard wearing pants exactly because decades prior Marvel was threatened due to him being too similar to Donald...
  • Lampshaded in issue #5 of the first She-Hulk ongoing, where She-Hulk and several neighbors get Trapped in TV Land. One of the shows they visit is a parody of Robocop The Animated Series, and the Tagalong Kid, who's seen the original movie, starts complaining about how wimpy the cartoon is, only for She-Hulk to slap a hand over his mouth.
    "Careful what you say, Paul. That's a Marvel show. Knocking it could be more than my book's worth!"
  • In the Uncle Scrooge story The Universal Solvent, Gyro demonstrates said solvent by showing it can eat through some of the most impervious substances in the world: lead, iron, steel - and a Disney contract. Don Rosa was not a happy camper.
  • In The Green Lantern: Blackstars, Earth in the universe where the Blackstars replaced the Lanterns is a rather barbed parody of some of the excesses of the then-recent DCU: Batman's villains have given up actual crime in favour of lining up to break him, as a result of which he gets replaced on a regular basis, but still insists he doesn't need help; Wonder Woman is a Blood Knight with zero interest in diplomacy; Superman ... is still Superman, but his discomfort with this world makes him come across as ineffectual and half-hearted; and the rest of the League has largely abandoned reality in favour of fighting Anthropomorphic Personifications in conceptual realms (yeah, Grant Morrison is making fun of that). Even the Batman Who Laughs and the Dark Multiverse get a more-extreme pastiche as the Depressoverse, home to the murderous cult-leader Batmanson. Morrison calls it "a celebrity roast of modern superhero comics".
  • The miniseries Ambush Bug: Year None mocks a lot of concepts prevalent in DC Comics titles at the time and features a plethora of jokes at the expense of DC Comics' then editor-in-chief Dan DiDio, chief among them being that DiDio is portrayed as a narcissistic supervillain who deludes himself into believing his decisions are good for DC and whose actions will eventually cause catastrophic ruin to the DC Universe if he isn't stopped.
  • In the first appearance of the Mickey Mouse villain the Phantom Blot, he removes his mask to reveal that he looks exactly like Walt Disney, only with a different style of mustache. This appearance, remarkably, has stuck ever since, so apparently uncle Walt could take the joke.

    Fan Works 
  • In an in-universe example, in the essay-fic, Equestria: A History Revealed, the narrator directly belittles her professor who is currently marking her work, and curses at him a couple of times in-text.

    Films — Animated 

  • Showing that this sort of thing is Older Than They Think, many sinners depicted in Hell in The Divine Comedy were still living folks with more authority than he'd have liked over him. The Eight Circle of Hell contained three Popes who were alive during Dante's time, including the current one, and numerous other government officials and noblesnote .
  • In Maskerade, Terry Pratchett manages a dig at the publishing industry and the morality of book publishers by having Nanny Ogg bilked over a publishing deal, in which her payment for a best-seller is the usual gratis author's copy of the book and nothing else. Granny Weatherwax plays catch-up on her friend's behalf and demonstrates that a publisher's worst nightmare is a cheated witch. They leave the offices with an advance payment of five thousand dollars.
  • Sci-fi author Philip José Farmer, in his Riverworld series where all the Earth's population is resurrected into a wholly unexpected afterlife, has the character who is his Marty Stu in the book (legitimate, as we are all characters on the Riverworld) meet a publisher who once cheated him. Near-lethal vengeance is administered. The publisher is given the name Sharko.
  • In Simon Braund's The Greatest Movies You'll Never See, it's suggested that this is the major obstacle against Frank Or Francis getting produced.
    "After all, what industry would fund a project that sets out to expose it as shallow, venal and ethically bankrupt?"
  • Naked Came the Stranger is a hoax novel secretly written by a team of New York Times reporters, which doesn't stop the main character from fuming about a critic in the paper who called her radio show "pablum for breakfast." She even tries to get Morgan Advertising to stop sponsoring the Times.
  • Doctor Who: The Completely Useless Encyclopedia is a spoof Universe Compendium published by Virgin. In the introduction, the writers make a Suspiciously Specific Denial that the book was written in the belief that Virgin will publish "any old crap with the programme's name on it".

    Mythology & Religion 
  • In the Gospel of John, when Philip asks Nathaniel to meet Jesus for the first time, Nathaniel cynically asks if anything good can come from Nazareth, but comes with Philip anyway. When Nathaniel arrives, Jesus says, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!"note 

    Newspaper Comics 
  • A variation occurred in Pearls Before Swine: Stephan Pastis has often credited Dilbert creator Scott Adams with getting him into the syndicated cartooning world. That didn't stop him from making a storyline where Adams is portrayed as an Elvis caricature that ends up dying of a drug overdose in a toilet off-panel.
    • Pastis has mocked his syndicate several times as well.
    • To say nothing of the many In-Universe examples where Pastis' own characters (particularly Rat) have insulted him and the comic itself.
  • Garry Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury, has slapped at his employer several times for making him submit strips six weeks in advance, with characters saying things along the lines of "even though the election happened last week, we don't know who won because this strip was submitted six weeks ago."
  • Bill Waterson did this subtly a few times during his long fight to keep his syndicate from licensing Calvin and Hobbes, something that he did not want, unlike most cartoonists. For example, in one strip, the first panel has Calvin screaming, "I stand firm in my belief of what's right! I refuse to compromise my principles!" In the second panel, his angry mother is coming after him; in the last, he's in the bathtub, and says, "I don't need to compromise my principles, because they don't have the slightest bearing on what happens to me anyway."
  • Berkley Breathed, creator of Bloom County, loved this Trope:
    • One arc had Milo having nightmares about being a syndicated cartoonist, where he was forced to draw cartoons in a dungeon where a sadistic editor-slash-torturer whipped and racked him for grammar mistakes and drawing cartoons that weren't funny. (As a Mythology Gag, Garry Trudeau - whose strip was on hiatus - was in the dungeon as well.)
    • Also numerous highly-unflattering depictions of newspaper operators. The editor of the Bloom Picayune was offended that Milo would even consider bumping his Jack Kemp adultery rumor story to page two in order to cover an oncoming Alien Invasion.
    • Breathed went so far as to introduce a character into to serve this purpose, W. A. Thornhump III, the fictional CEO of Bloom County Industries. Thornhump was a Corrupt Corporate Executive who represented not only the perceived hypocrisy of money-grubbing corporate America, but also the unreasonable demands of the cartoon syndicate bosses. One example of this hypocrisy occurs in a Sunday strip that showed the results of drug tests of employees of the cartoons and even Breathed himself, who Thornhump thinks should be executed because the drug test revealed that he ate "one marijuana brownie six years ago." Thornhump's own test reveals that he is a serious alcoholic (driven home when Opus appears with his six-martini lunch) but declares him to be "drug free." He also used whatever "gimmicks" he could put into the strip to make a quick buck or increase ratings, regardless of legal, moral, or ethical issues, even going so low as to schedule a field trip to the "Acme Stewardess Academy" during a "Nudeness Week" in the strip.
  • As an opening gag to one of the Garfield strip collections, the publisher ran a "headline" proclaiming "Jim Davis a Fraud!" The exposé "revealed" that Garfield himself had been drawing the strip from the beginning and allowing Davis to take all the credit. The accompanying illustration showed Garfield sitting at a desk and drawing a cartoon of Davis in the trademark Garfield style.



    Professional Wrestling 
  • When ODB declared herself the best wrestler in the Ohio Valley and created her own OVW Women's title belt, she claimed to have won it during an event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This was a Take That! to Buddy Rogers "winning" the World Wrestling Federation heavyweight title in an imaginary tournament supposedly held in Brazil. What set this apart from every other company who mocked WWF/E for this was that WWF/E covered 30% of OVW's operating expenses and was using the company as a developmental program.
  • WWE itself has spent the past two decades greenlighting stories in which Chairman Vince McMahon and various other authority figures are bitterly criticized, mocked, and made to look like fools - usually with those authority figures' full complicity. This arguably reached its peak with the "pipebomb" of the summer of 2011, when CM Punk was made to appear to have gone off-script with his live TV rant, even though he really hadn't.
  • For a time, WWE Friday Night SmackDown! aired on MyNetworkTV, a programming service run by Fox to provide a set of programming for stations that would otherwise have to deal with the syndication market. This led John Cena to once quip that "To be honest, I didn't even know I had a network!"

    Tabletop Games 
  • Look at Me, I'm the DCI, from Magic: The Gathering, is a card from the Unglued joke set that lampoons the DCI (the official tournament organization) and its "rigorous decision-making process" when it decides which cards to ban.

  • A rare theatre example happened for one performance of Beetlejuice. Rather than a usual Take That! calling Brigadoon boring and then saying, "Fuck Brigadoon!," the titular character declares The Music Man boring and says, "Fuck Music Man!" instead. This is a reference to Shubert Theatre Organization evicting Beetlejuice from the Winter Garden Theatre before its original closing date so a revival of The Music Man could move in, resulting in a massive backlash from Beetlejuice fans.
  • In Oh, Hello On Broadway, which was hosted at the Shubert Organization's Lyceum Theatre, Gil remarks that he thought they'd booked the Winter Garden Theatre. George replies, "Have you fucking tried dealing with the Shubert Organization?"

    Theme Parks 
  • An overlap with Shameless Self-Promotion and Self-Deprecation in The Simpsons Ride at Universal parks. At one point, the ride train crashes through a billboard reading "SEND MONEY TO UNIVERSAL STUDIOS."
  • The team of snarkers at the Disney Theme Parks' Jungle Cruise, when not poking fun at themselves and their ride, will occasionally take shots at the rest of the park.
    Off to the right of the boat, you can see what we call the Indiana Jones Adventure and the Temple of the Four-Hour Line.
    I wonder where this cave comes out... well, we're in Disney World, so probably a gift shop.
    • Similarly, when Disneyland "updated" note  Tomorrowland in the late 1990s, they also created a short tour film narrated by their new robot mascot "Tom Morrow," who mocked the old Tomorrowland for its overly whimsical predictions of the future.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: BREAKOUT! at the end of the ride, All the guardians thank the audience for their help, Leading to Drax saying "Why are you thanking them they did nothing, You should be thanking me". Mocking the illusion of an audience participation on interactive amusement park rides.
    • When the ride gets to the top window looking out at the theme park Rocket exclaims, "Disneyland? That's thematically inconsistent!" Acknowledging the out of place theme and nature of the ride (especially compared to its predecessor).
  • The preshow for the Incredicoaster has Violet joke about how it was rethemed from California Screamin':
    Violet: Sure, slap our names on an old ride!

    TV Tropes Wiki 

  • Most of the jokes in The Order of the Stick, especially in the first 200 or so comics, are at the expense of Dungeons & Dragons or its publisher, Wizards of the Coast. Rich Burlew, the author, is a freelance game designer who mostly works for Wizards on D&D-related projects. An early strip based on Wizards' slightly bizarre copyright policy is actually titled Biting the Hand That Feeds Me.
    • The OOTS strip in the last three issues of Dragon magazine had the Order discover the dragon from the cover of issue 1, whose subsequent career mirrored that of the magazine itself. The second of these strips was titled Claw/Claw/Bite The Hand That Feeds Me (that being how a dragon's mundane attacks are listed in the first two or three editions of the game).
  • A lot of joke fodder in Learning with Manga! FGO goes to complaining about the game's gacha mechanics, talking about useless or unwanted gameplay, and Riyo's personal pet peeve of the lack of skippable Noble Phantasms. It's even implied through Gudako that Riyo's rejected storyboards contain even more of this than usual.
    • The English translation of More Learning with Manga! FGO Chapter 3 mocks Altria's name, a name insisted by Type-Moon to be the official spelling of her name, despite the team (and the fandom) preferring the name Artoria. Mash made a glanced comment, "We can't do anything about that."

  • Freeform:
    "If you're looking for us, we'll be over at Freeform On Demand or the Freeform App for a little while."
    "The people at Freeform would like you to know we did not make the next program. We haven't even seen it."
    "Freeform is not responsible for what you're about to see on your screen. Watch it or don't. We're okay either way."
    "Freeform has to step away from the channel for an hour. Try not to burn the place down while we're gone."
    "What you are about to see is not Freeform. We can't tell you not to watch. But have you tried literally anything else?"
    "Freeform's taking a short vacay. Join us at a beautiful little spot called Hulunote . Leave the sun-block."
    The disclaimer following The 700 Club has morphed into an excited "And we're back!!! This is Freeform." suggesting that The 700 Club shouldn't be considered a Freeform show at all.
    • The day before the obligatory 24-hour 700 Club telethon, Freeform aired disclaimers saying that the channel wouldn't be airing tomorrow, with one disclaimer noting, "Unrelated advice: Have a lawyer look over any contract before you sign it."
    • They've also created snarky warnings for Family Guy, which airs newer episodes following Disney's purchase of Fox:
    "This show is about a family but super awkward to watch with your family."
    "Kids might not get the jokes. But they will have questions."
    "When it comes to watching Family Guy, we know you have options."
    "Not all cartoons are for kids."
  • The Worldwide Day of Play notice for The N (now known as TeenNick) was full of this. Compare the eager messages to play outside from the other channels to The N's more realistic approach:
    "We'll give you three hours - so enjoy some fresh mall air."
    "Three full hours of play time. We suggest starting the largest game of phone tag."


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Biting The Hand Humour, Take That Executives, Take That Company, Take That Employer, Take That Creator, Take That Crewmembers


A Limo for the Lame-O

Al Franken infamously uses a Weekend Update appearance late in Season 5 as a platform to verbally rip apart then-NBC president Fred Silverman for his inability to get the network out of dead last in the ratings.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

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