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Indecisive Parody

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"DeathSpank is that particular breed of parody that basically just does all the same things as the kind of thing it's parodying, but occasionally points to itself and goes: 'Hey, everybody, look!' (Then the Wayans brothers make a parody of that, full of bodily fluids and pop culture references, and the collective IQ of the general public drops another precious notch.)"
Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, Zero Punctuation

In order for a parody to work, it needs to also take on many of the traits of its target. Action films will, inevitably, have to have some action sequences of its own. If it didn't, it wouldn't be so much of a parody of a genre as it would be Conversational Troping over movie action scenes. A parody of Magical Girls would be required to have a Magical Girl character arc to emulate the patterns associated with the genre. Most of the best parodies actually stand not only as comedy, but also embrace the particular genre they are a creation of.

However, the line for what defines a work as a parody can often get murky. Besides flat-out labeling something as a parody (which is rarely a good sign due to the lack of subtlety involved), the criteria for a parody may be indistinguishable from playing the genre completely straight. Some works straddle the line, unsure of whether it's a parody of a genre or just a comedic story using certain genre trappings. This can often lead to Misaimed Fandom when people take a parody dead seriously (or, perhaps due to Parody Displacement, are unaware that it even is a parody).

This creates the Indecisive Parody, a work that is trying to lampoon certain storytelling conventions but misses the mark by either playing the story surprisingly straight or finds itself targeting something unrelated to the genre in question.

How this happens can vary widely. Perhaps it is just too affectionate of the genre it's a parody of that it lacks any real bite to it. Perhaps it's making jokes the genre has already been making for twenty years. Perhaps it's just too close to its target or doesn't have a fundamental understanding of the target. It could be trying to parody something other than the most obvious subject. Perhaps it was actually meant to be serious, but was too comical (intentional or otherwise) to work. Perhaps the "parody" mostly consists of pointing out it's doing the stuff it's supposed to be mocking instead of more foundational replication. But usually this happens because the creative team couldn't lock in on the right tone due to a lack of unity in vision.

Indecisive Parodies can sometimes come from Values Dissonance where cultural divides changes the perception of the genre, which may have never been taken seriously to begin with. Some Japanese media has an inherently silly premise but then treats it as a dramatic story. Japanese audiences have more tolerance for over-the-top, whimsical silliness in fiction, while Western audiences will often assume fiction with goofy premises is too silly to be anything other than parody if it's not aimed at children.

See Stealth Parody for when something very intentionally evokes this to try and get responses as such.

Compare with Redundant Parody, when a parody of a work ends up coping the humor and meta-commentary the original work already possessed. See also Denied Parody, where a work that is seen as a parody is denied to be such through Word of God.


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  • Despite Cryptoland being a seemingly genuine attempt at establishing a physical place for crypto investors, the animation satirizes the very thing it was meant to promote; from the constant over-the-top crypto in-jokes to repeated Hypocritical Humor like the actual pyramid dedicated to cryptocurrency scams and the name of Connie himself having a Double Entendre as a Punny Name on "con".

    Anime & Manga 
  • Akiba Maid War has been described as a Quentin Tarantino or Takashi Miike film where the gangs are replaced with maids, and it uses the ridiculous juxtaposition of cute girls in frilly outfits with over-the-top bloody violence to poke fun at both yakuza films and P. A. Works' trend of Moe anime revolving around cute girls working—there's no way that a maid slaughtering scores of her enemies in time to a sugary-sweet song, complete with fountains of High-Pressure Blood, could be anything other than Black Comedy. But at the same time, the show plays its protagonist Nagomi's ongoing terror about her life being at risk straight, and later on includes scenes like Nerula and Ranko's deaths and Okachimachi's backstory that certainly seem like you're supposed to take them seriously, even when several of them are tempered by jokes e.g. Ranko's funeral, where her coworkers mourn while onlookers complain that the only photo they have of her is from a baseball game a few episodes prior.
  • Ao Chan Cant Study pokes fun at the Ecchi genre: main character Ao is a total pervert and imagines her relationship with her love interest will proceed in exactly the way it would in an erotic novel, but she doesn't realize she's in a shoujo romance and he's too pure to do anything like that with her anyways, resulting in her failing to read the mood and making things even more awkward thanks to her dirty imagination running wild. Then again, the manga does have its fair share of Fanservice, making it look like it's trying to have its cake and eat it too.
  • The Barakamon spinoff Handa-kun mocks Character Shilling; Handa has groups of people who worship the ground he walks on and will sing his praises to anyone who listens, but he's ignorant of them and instead thinks that they hate him. Then again, he genuinely does frequently save the day, even if it's by sheer dumb luck, making it unclear whether it's supposed to be about mocking the people who blindly praise Handa without even really knowing much about him, or about Handa not realizing what an awesome person he is.
  • Black Lagoon. it's hard to tell, at times, whether it's an over-the-top parody of the Hollywood action film genre or a straight example with a tendency to occasionally take Refuge in Audacity. The series seems to swing a bit back and forth depending on the arc in question.
  • Buso Renkin is also somewhere in between, but often seems closer to a very self-aware shounen entry, especially in the second part when the Cerebus Syndrome sneaks in.
  • Cheat Slayer, a series that was notoriously cancelled after one chapter due to backlash, attempts to parody the shallow power fantasy common to isekai stories by portraying Captain Ersatz versions of various notable isekai protagonists as clique-ish hedonists running high on cheat-based powers as they enjoy gifts they didn't earn to compensate for having been nobodies in their original lives. However, the chapter also involves the main protagonist, who is himself portrayed as a complete nobody, being saved by a Hot Witch who declares herself to be his mentor and tells him everything he needs to know about how to kill them, primarily for the purpose of revenge. Its satire of the typical isekai protagonist ends up with a talentless Audience Surrogate Vanilla Protagonist being plucked from his mundane life to battle utterly unsympathetic antagonists alongside a sexy lady for a self-centered motivation, making it exactly the sort of story it's trying to critique, with the only difference being the exact details of the protagonist's backstory. In addition, there are also quite a few isekai stories that do have reincarnators or transplanted Earth folk who treat the new world as their sandbox—and more often than not those people are also the antagonists (contrast to the viewpoint transplant, who is usually one of the "good" ones).
  • Dragon Ball:
    • People forget that it was originally a parody of earlier martial arts manga, and for good reason, considering that once it became Dragon Ball Z it actually became the basis for every cliché in martial arts manga since.
    • The Ginyu Force stand as a particular example. Everything about them is meant as a parody of sentai tropes: their flamboyant nature, tendency to make random poses in the middle of combat, incredibly flippant handling of fights, and habit of giving every attack a stupid name that often end up so long to say that they get punched midsentence. The thing is, every single one of these tropes (flamboyance, characters striking poses in combat, treating fights like a joke, giving generic attacks stupid overlong names and never being interrupted) are all things Dragon Ball has featured before with no sense of irony. Really, the Ginyu Force is only a slight notch above the rest of the series, with the main difference just being the lampshading of it. One scene involving the Ginyu Force playing rock-paper-scissors to decide who gets to fight the good guys (in its original context, a parody of Mook Chivalry) would be repeated verbatim in a future arc, only with the protagonists doing it.
    • The later Buu Saga is about halfway between being a full-on Self-Parody of the franchise's prior years and being one of the darkest arcs in the series. The main villain, after much buildup, is revealed to be a chubby childlike simpleton, the Uniqueness Decay of Super Saiyan hits the point where small children casually learn it offscreen, and Goku unlocks a new version of it where he has a 'do half the size of his whole body, and you have elements like people being turned into candy or Gotenks breaking out of another dimension by screaming. Yet the arc also has a gigantic bodycount (almost every character is killed off at one point, including the entire human race), the villain ultimately assumes several increasingly violent and humorless identities, the fight scenes are some of the most brutal in the franchise, and nearly every actually dramatic plot point is played dead seriously. Part of the reason for the arc's controversial nature is that it's rather difficult to parse which scenes are meant to be jokes. For instance, the series has the Old Kai Leaning on the Fourth Wall about how they've already done an "old man unlocks potential" powerup before, and the method itself is rather silly (it involves him dancing around Gohan for several hours and then having him sit perfectly still while the Old Kai sits across from him, vaguely holding his arms in Gohan's direction for another 20 hours - he apparently doesn't even need to be awake for the entire procedure). However, it's still treated as a legitimate ticking clock and Gohan's ultimate form is presented as a genuine culmination of a long arc for a major character—making it hard to figure out if said powerup ultimately being All for Nothing is part of the joke, or just Toriyama, as he himself admitted, not knowing what to do with Gohan after the Cell Saga.
  • Fighting Foodons can't seem to decide whether it's a parody of Mons Series or a straight example that happens to have a goofy premise and a Denser and Wackier tone. Although the premise of having food come to life and making them fight each other is inherently ridiculous and feels like a jab at the genre, and the show itself has a silly tone, it does play many tropes common to the genre straight. It also doesn't really play around with genre conventions all that much.
  • Ah, Gintama. The series' bread and butter is satirizing the modern age through Jidaigeki tropes, and its frequent targets are the tropes in other manga that ran alongside it in Shonen Jump, especially the formulas of their battle manga. Once the Cerebus Rollercoaster starts taking its course, the climatic battles and drama bombs pile up to the point where you can't take the series seriously when they take a little break to point at the others and laugh.
  • Kaiju Girl Caramelise is a shoujo manga with Be Yourself themes that tries to parody both by having the heroine's true self be a gigantic, rampaging Kaiju that she transforms into whenever she's in love or flustered. That, and other elements like Kuroe's best friend being sexually attracted to her monster form and her transforming so often around her Love Interest that the news picks up on it, are obviously meant to be jokes. However, the central arc of the series is a pretty standard shoujo romance between a bullied loner girl and the Troubled, but Cute most popular boy in school who falls for her because she sees him for his true self—and later on, it even plays the True Beauty Is on the Inside aesop completely straight when it comes to Kuroe's friend Rairi.
  • Kemono Michi, especially the anime version. The series attempts to parody isekai through its hero Genzou Shibata, a pro wrestler who cares way more about animals than he does people and who actively refuses to save the world he was summoned to, instead deciding to run a pet store full of monsters. Even his close companions don't hesitate in calling him out for being a weird creep with Skewed Priorities whose obsession makes them waste tons of money. Yet, for all the callouts of Genzou's behavior, he's still incredibly strong and never loses or sustains any greater comeuppance than his companion's comments, ends up in situations where he saves the day, even if it's by complete accident, and his judgements of others' character is proven to be right more often than not, with the victims of his frequent rampages being portrayed as Jerkasses who had it coming...even if their only crime was inadvertently saying something that Genzou didn't like. Each one of these qualities makes him more like a typical isekai protagonist than the intent likely was. The anime version makes the parody even more indecisive by adding the subplot of Genzou's rival M.A.O. trying to battle him and several bits of backstory that are certainly meant to be taken seriously.
  • Keijo!!!!!!!!'s main premise — a sport where girls compete to push each other off a platform using only their boobs and butts — is absolutely absurd, and on top of the obvious Fanservice, the series also contains loads of Shout Outs and referential humor to poke fun at Hot-Blooded battle shonen. However, despite how ridiculous the concept is, every character takes it dead seriously in-universe and the story features intense battles along with focus arcs and character development for its leads and side characters — if the central sport of the series were to be replaced with a different, less fanservice-filled one, the manga would likely be indistinguishable from any other Hot-Blooded shonen sports manga.
  • Kill la Kill really doesn't seem sure whether it's a parody of Panty Fighters, a comedic version of same with no attempt to parody, or a dramatic if over-the-top story. The Mini-Mecha that exposes people's asses is obviously meant to be a joke, but then you have Ryuko striking fanservicey poses or getting stripped half-naked in fights with no obvious comedy to it, or dramatic plot beats like Ragyo's abuse or Senketsu's Heroic Sacrifice that certainly seem like you're supposed to take them seriously.
  • KOHA-ACE stars characters that intentionally invoke and parody common Servant types from the Fate Series, and creates Servants that would either be Joke Characters (like Caster) or outright impossible to exist naturally (like Majin Saber). Its main heroines alone are foul-mouthed cute girl Historical Gender Flips; one of them is a Saberface just because, and she is both aware and angry about it. The characters spend their days getting on each others' nerves instead of doing anything cool, living with No Fourth Wall, and crossing over with other Type-Moon characters (Kohaku from Tsukihime being a favorite). Even its attempts at a coherent story arc are riddled with in-jokes and comedy, and some parts are called out in-universe as only getting serious in case games like Fate/Grand Order canonize them — yet the characters are treated sincerely enough to get completely serious elaborations,note  and its most famous story arc got a hotblooded, dramatic, very-much-straightforward-and-not-parodic-at-all remake in Fate/type Redline.
  • Love Hina starts mocking the harem genre hard, inserting audience surrogate Keitaro in a female dorm inhabited by character archetypes from diverse dating games, in an onsen (making every early episode a Hot Springs Episode). It leans so far into comedy that one wonders if the romantic plot will ever resolve, but it still gets very serious when it wants to. It's worth noting that Love Hina was the Trope Codifier for most modern Harem Genre tropes, and has examples of both Unbuilt Tropes and Once Original, Now Common, so it can be hard to tell if it's parodying a genre that it redefined.
  • Lucky Star: It's sometimes hard to tell whether the series is a straight example or a parody of moe in media aimed at Otaku; the mostly-female cast is often played up to be as appealing as possible to the otaku audience, but the concept of moe is also frequently lampshaded and the characters sometimes discuss how certain moe traits are cute in fiction but wouldn't be as appealing in real life.
  • Magical Project S, and intentionally so. It starts off as a clear parody of Sailor Moon...but about three-quarters of the way through the series, an extreme case of Cerebus Syndrome hits. It goes away pretty quickly, but then Magical Project S becomes a Magical Girl show played more or less straight.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico is this for Humongous Mecha shows. For every over-the-top Unwanted Harem scene or bizarre character or situation, there's also real, serious drama (often when those over-the-top characters get killed). Even the Show Within a Show Gekiganger 3 goes from a silly homage of Super Robot shows to a real problem in the show's universe. It's bad enough that the protagonist explicitly states the Aesop in the final episode just to be sure everyone's on the same page: stop taking anime so goddamn seriously.
  • Miss Kuroitsu from the Monster Development Department plays itself as an Affectionate Parody of the Tokusatsu genre by being a Work Com that focuses on the mundane lives of the Punch Clock Villains in the research and development department of the Nebulous Evil Organization that's common in these types of genres. However, toku tropes get played straight just as much as parodied in this series—for instance, there is little to no difference between Hero Antagonist Kenji/Blader and the protagonists of various serious tokusatsu shows, and there are plenty of action-packed fights and moments where the protagonists end up heroically fighting other antagonists. In particular, the final episode plays a Gondor Calls for Aid completely straight in a Grand Finale featuring the protagonists and antagonists teaming up to fight off a group of actually evil villains—something that wouldn't be out of place in any serious toku show. One favorite tactic of the anime is to show various Henshin Heroes that look way too ridiculous to be anything other than parody...only to reveal in the ending credits that they actually exist. The genre it allegedly parodies is not known for taking itself too seriously in the first place, which only muddies the waters further.
  • The Ones Within certainly seems to be a parody of The Most Dangerous Video Game and Deadly Game scenarios at first—none of the protagonists' lives are in any danger at all and there's no incentive for them to start killing each other, they are told from the start that it's an Immoral Reality Show that will end when the requisite number of viewers are reached, the games they play are genre parodies, the characters are exaggerated archetypes (the main character is almost suicidally trusting, the delinquent picks fights with everyone, and the Bishōnen rarely says any words at all but still manages to make everyone fall for him just by looking at him) or Genre Savvy (including the girl who pretends to be a lesbian because she knows it will get them more viewers). However, the characters' backstories are played as seriously as can possibly be, and when they are brought up, the show gets way more serious. This is mainly the fault of an incompetent anime adaptation—in contrast, the manga's horror elements are much more effective and there is more of an underlying mystery that was cut from the anime.
  • Ouran High School Host Club often pokes fun at various tropes in romantic shoujo manga and anime, but has strong romantic storylines as well.
  • One episode of Psychic Squad is a parody of Yuri Genre shows, but the only parts that are actually a parody are that Kaoru and Sakaki are lampshading everything and that it's all actually an undercover mission on Naomi's part. However, almost every visual element associated with the genre is used completely straight, along with other tropes such as one-sided Bait-and-Switch Lesbians, with the teacher actually being attracted to Naomi.
  • Believe it or not, Sailor Moon. It's more evident in the series it spun off from, Codename: Sailor V. Sailor Moon itself was initially only a little less silly than Codename Sailor V, but somewhere along the line it became more serious and codified the Magical Girl Warrior genre.
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross It's said that this happened here, but that the parody elements didn't last much beyond the early development phase, then it became a partial deconstruction and partial homage of the genre, a genre that was practically brand-new, in fact.
  • Tribe Nine has an inherently ridiculous premise (gangs attempting to control a cyberpunk Tokyo with super-baseball) that is nonetheless taken completely seriously by every character in the series, as its over-the-top sport is used for battles with actual life-or-death stakes and serious Character Development arcs. Since the series creator is a noted troll, it's unclear if the anime is intended to be a serious shonen fighting series, a parody, or if the anime taking itself so seriously is the joke.
  • Uma Musume almost seems to be a parody of Idol Genre games and anime at first based on just how over the top it is (the idols in this case are Anthropomorphic Personifications of racehorses that run races and then perform after they win), combined with the fact that every character shown in the anime is an idol genre archetype and the extremely self-aware nature of its first few episodes (Spe, Late for School, ends up running there with a carrot hanging out of her mouth, for example). However, the later episodes largely dispense with the silliness: Suzuka's Game-Breaking Injury and Spe's feelings of Can't Catch Up are played entirely seriously, and season 2 is played as a straightforward Sports Story.
  • Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead parodies zombie series by having the protagonist Akira not take the end of the world seriously and use it as an excuse to play around and get to do all the things he never would have in his ordinary life—and he thrives in the Zombie Apocalypse setting despite having little regard for his own safety. Shizuka, the only character in the series to actually be as Crazy-Prepared as your normal zombie genre protagonist, is frequently made the butt of the joke and subjected to comedic misfortune, and the series features such goofiness as Akira roleplaying as a Henshin Hero and a Shout-Out to the infamous zombie shark from Resident Evil in the same episode. This is interspersed with somber and dead-serious moral lessons about the dangers of the Japanese corporate mentality, showing how Akira's past abusive job nearly pushed him over the edge and the PTSD he and other characters still suffer from—none of which is intended to be played for laughs at all.

    Comic Books 
  • Savage Dragon: The comic tends to lampoon quite a few superhero tropes, from the '90s Anti-Hero type that Image was partly responsible for popularizing, to the generally ridiculous nature of C-list supervillains (Dung and his diarrhea-cannons, for example) — but often-times it's hard to tell whether Larsen is making fun of these tropes or is more-or-less trying to tell a serious story and just has a really weird sense of humor.
  • The Sentry was originally created to be a commentary on the nature of the industry and retroactive continuity, with characters remembering events that had never happened to him. Then he went from being the main character of a brief miniseries to a regular member of the Avengers, and they started playing it straight with constant Character Shilling and not a trace of irony.
  • This trope is a recurring issue for Lobo. He's iconically considered a parody of a comic-book badass — he has no redeeming qualities, his powers are designed to be inconsistent and include a healing ability that's so powerful it makes putting him in danger almost impossible, he has a dark backstory that's entirely his fault, he constantly swears but uses fake swear words, and his "badass" accomplishments include killing Santa Claus. But a lot of people, both fans and writers, see him as less a parody and more an exaggerated version of such characters.
  • The Unbelievable Gwenpool bounces back and forth between being a parody of Audience Surrogate characters and Meta Guys, a deconstruction of such, and a straight (if not very self-aware) take. Her innate knowledge of the Marvel Universe and Genre Savviness both keeps her alive as much as it punishes her for treating her new reality like a comic book, and as she develops her meta powers, the universe forces her into that role to justify her existence. So you'll have one moment where she'll casually refer to a hero by their secret identity while expecting canon to make sure the events aren't permanent, another where people call her out on invoking Protagonist-Centered Morality, and yet another where she'll go along with an issue's plot, but do some lampshading on the way.

    Fan Works 
  • The fanfic Max Wolf Revolutions supposedly is (At least, according with its own author) a direct parody/homage of another fanfic, Christian Humber Reloaded, but as the story advances it turns crazier and even more deranged than the story it is parodying.
  • A Very Potter Musical and its sequel run on Rule of Funny — until they get to a particularly serious moment from the books and play it up as heartwrenchingly as possible before settling back into nonsense again.
  • Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier, made by the same group behind A Very Potter Musical, suffers from the same problem. Ostensibly a retelling of Aladdin from Jafar's perspective, it opens with a straight-up parody of "Belle", and a good deal of the jokes in the first portion are derived from What Happened to the Mouse? elements from the original movie (for example, the Amusing Injuries from "One Jump" are described as horrifically painful and deadly to the guards). Aladdin is also rewritten as a sexist Jerkass, while Jasmine is a Royal Brat with touches of The Ditz. However, the parodic elements fade away as the story progresses, focusing more on Jafar's Freudian Excuse and internal angst at trying to save the kingdom from ruin—only to occasionally delve into fourth wall-shattering jokes again. The finale, a Bittersweet Ending about love, loss, and responsibility, is played straight, and in the end, it's clear that the overall musical is meant to be taken seriously and thus isn't a parody, but it's not a straight-up dramedy, either, resulting in this trope.
  • In My Little Pony: Camaraderie is Supernatural, an abridged parody of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle explains that a proper parody has to stay close to its source material and cannot just go off the rails with whatever the author thinks would be funny.
  • Showa & Vampire attempts parody sometimes, like in one scene where one of the characters is in the shower and narration makes fun of the idea that big spiky anime hairdos happen naturally, or mocking an obvious and extremely vulnerable power source that completely takes out the hero if it's hit once. Thing is, it does this while playing every Shonen Anime and Tokusatsu hero trope you can think of totally straight, and all the main characters have angsty backgrounds that are constantly getting brought up.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Batman Forever takes the Batman films into Lighter and Softer, more self-aware territory but generally manages to pull off the dramatic scenes alongside the over-the-top action sequences, partially because Batman himself remains a largely serious character (with one or two jokes on the side). Batman & Robin exaggerates the comedy aspect to where Batman is considered a public servant and attending charity events, not too dissimilar to the Adam West Batman (1966) show. But the movie uses Mr. Freeze's tragic backstory from the DC Animated Universe while also having a subplot of Alfred potentially dying of an illness with Batman confronting his limitations. In between these scenes has Freeze spouting ice-related puns and Batman flaunting a Batman themed credit card.
  • Baywatch (2017) frequently points out the absurdity of lifeguards taking their jobs way too far and fighting crime, making fun of both itself and the original show. But it stops short of ridiculing the heroes, particularly The Rock's Mitch Buchannon (who is exactly as badass as he thinks he is), which it would really need to do to be a true parody.
  • Big Trouble in Little China can easily be seen as a straight action movie, rather than the parody it's intended to be, especially if one isn't familiar with the Wuxia tropes it mocks throughout (and in the mid-'80s, not many moviegoers were). The idea that Jack Burton is an incompetent parody of an American action hero can get a bit lost when he kills the Evil Sorcerer Big Bad single-handedly with nothing but his trusty knife.
  • Cats & Dogs is honestly no sillier than the Tuxedo and Martini films it's based on, and even with the use of Talking Animals, it fits into the genre about as well as a straight example. The sequel slides out of this trope by taking direct potshots at James Bond.
  • Christmas with the Kranks starts off as a jab against holiday commercialism and conformity, with the titular family deciding to skip Christmas and spend the money they would've spent on it to take a cruise instead, resulting in their neighbors turning against them and trying to bully them into it. Then Tim Allen's character suddenly starts taking several levels in jerkass and the film pulls a 180 and starts painting the Kranks as the wrong ones for not conforming to their neighborhood's demands.
  • Commando can very easily be seen either as a typical Arnie action movie of the era with his trademark tongue-in-cheek humor and awesome action scenes, or a campy, over-the-top and very self-aware parody of the big-name action films that Hollywood had been pumping out at the time.
    Cindy: [trying to avoid a motel-wrecking fist fight] I can't believe this macho bullshit! These guys eat too much red meat!
  • Condorman is an extraordinarily campy Disney live-action spy flick, but it's so absurd and occasionally self-aware at times that it's hard not to see parody.
  • Cry-Baby : The film spoofs regular teen movies effectively in many scenes, but some fans feel it also plays some stock teen movie cliches (like the drag race) straight, and that it can't quite commit to being either campy or edgy.
  • The Dead Don't Die is what you get when Jim Jarmusch takes a crack at making a zombie movie. The violent deaths throughout the film are played for maximum horror and emotional torque while the tone remains straight-faced, even as the plot takes increasingly bizarre turns, culminating in one character turning out to be an alien and leaving Earth on a flying saucer while the two main characters acknowledge that they know they're in a movie just before making their Last Stand. It's nearly impossible to tell when the movie is trying to be funny, or if it's even trying to be funny at all, since the movie plays like someone took a bunch of random and vaguely zombie-related tropes and threw them together with little rhyme or reason behind how they'd flow or connect while starring characters any of whom could be removed without affecting the plot at all. With this in mind, it's also hard to tell if the heavy-handed sociopolitical commentary (the Zombie Apocalypse caused by "polar fracking", the zombies outright baying for the materialistic things they still cling to in undeath, and one Hate Sink character wearing a red "Make America White Again" hat) is meant to be taken seriously or is merely poking fun at how Anvilicious zombie movies tend to be when they try to work in a message.
  • Death to Smoochy seemed to have trouble deciding whether it wanted to be a full-on black comedy about an embittered former kids'-show host (played by Robin Williams) seeking revenge against his replacement, an insipid pink rhinoceros named "Smoochy", or a wacky and only-kinda-dark-humored parody of kidvid shows in general. Then it veered off into a heartwarming ending where Smoochy (or the puppeteer behind him, anyway) and the embittered kidvid host reconciled their differences, and the whole thing became not just an indecisive parody, but an indecisive mess in general.
  • Enchanted has elements of both, thus this trope. While it mocks a lot of the tropes of fairy tales and shows how ridiculous they would be in real life, it also has a happy fairy-tale ending and suggests that life would be better if people did live more by fairy tale ideals of kindness and trust. The only way that a relationship between Giselle and Robert can work is for her to become less of a fairy-tale true-believer (and give up the perfect prince) and him to become more of one (allow himself to love someone again).
  • Feast, a survival horror film starts as an obvious parody of such films, wherein the characters are simply named after their archetypes. However, despite the occasional sex joke, it creates some truly frightening monsters and horrific death scenes. By the end of the movie, no-one's laughing.
  • Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives was part self-parody, part serious slasher.
  • Get Smart attempts to parody the spy genre enough to make it funny while still maintaining a legitimate spy movie plot.
  • The Golden Child can't seem to decide if it's an Affectionate Parody of The Chosen One or a straight use. The movie originally was going to be a straight action movie staring Mel Gibson, then the part was recast as Eddie Murphy so they took out a lot of the dialogue and just let Murphy improvise stuff.
  • Seth Rogen's version of The Green Hornet seems a parody of the comic book heroes that the Green Hornet actually predates. However, parodies by their very purpose exaggerate the outlandish elements of the target. To take the Batman, one finds it outlandish that a man would dress up as a bat and even more outlandish that he would drive around in a huge car with wings on it that would look screamingly outlandish traveling to and from a crime scene. Now look at the Green Hornet who wears a rain coat with a hat (just as numerous undercover law enforcement officials do), and drives around in an ordinary looking Imperial Chrysler. Kind of odd for a parody to jettison the ridiculous elements of its source, making this an indecisive parody.
  • Gremlins: The first film seems to waffle between being a dark comedy and a genuine horror film. Many scenes are played for campy, violent comedy, while others are played for straight horror. This was because the script was written as a horror film, but director Joe Dante decided to take a Lighter and Softer approach without changing the material. The sequel is a more clear-cut case of being a spoof. The scene where Kate tells the story of how her father died encapsulates this. Debate has raged for years about whether the monologue is supposed to be a serious dramatic scene, or a sick joke. Kate's final line "and that's how I found out there wasn't a Santa Claus" is either an unfortunate case of bad writing, or a punchline.
  • The collaborations between Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg sometimes involve this trope intentionally by parodying genre conventions and then reaffirming them.
    • Shaun of the Dead gained some recognition for being a Zombie Apocalypse parody film that actually plays the drama and horror surprisingly straight at critical moments.
    • Hot Fuzz lampoons a lot of typical action cliches and then plays them out in the final act as if they were straight, but with tongue firmly held in cheek.
  • The infamous Dunkaccino ad in Jack and Jill. On paper, it's a parody of Product Placement and celebrity advertisements, only it's in a film loaded with unironic Product Placement, and the scene is not only an uninterrupted, full-length ad, but the writers didn't even make up a drink for the film; the Dunkaccino is an actual drink served in real-life at Dunkin' Donuts.
  • Kick-Ass is somewhere between this, Affectionate Parody, and Deconstructive Parody. Put another way, it starts off as a deconstruction of superhero tropes and plays them straighter as it progresses.
  • Lake Placid took a lot of heat from critics who didn't realize it was supposed to be funny. As though a Cluster F-Bomb from Betty White could be anything else.
  • Last Action Hero postmortems tended to describe this as a reason for the film's poor performance: reportedly, even the creators weren't all that sure about whether it was a parody of Schwarzenegger's typical work or an action film with comedic elements. Behind the scenes, the creators would alternate between talking about how it managed to capture and mock all the cliches of dimwitted blockbusters and speaking fondly of the escapist fantasy in being able to live in one of those worlds. In the past decade alone, Arnold had been in Kindergarten Cop, Twins (1988), and Commando, all of which were pretty comedic or self-aware, which muddied the waters even further. Tonally, Last Action Hero is in-line with those films, so it looks less like a parody and more like a lampshade-heavy version. Even the script writers were confused when certain jokes were added, noting that they made very little sense for an action movie parody.
    "There were suddenly all these little in-jokes that worked against the story. It turned into, ‘Let’s go to a videostore and do a joke about Stallone taking your parts.' I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a Seagal movie where they go to a videostore."
  • Lesbian Vampire Killers At times seems to be parodying the ridiculous oversexualisation of female vampires and vampire clichés, it also has long scenes of gratuitous nudity and a massive phallic sword MacGuffin.
  • Malibu Express is in many ways a parody of 80's action films, and ironically Andy Sideris' later work. The protagonist is named Cody Abilene (seriously), and is not only a terrible shot, he's nowhere near as ripped as your stock '80s action hero, and spouts one-liners that are routinely mocked by the people around him. For example, he once claims that his hands are lethal weapons, and then promptly gets beaten up. Worse, he's driven by a hero complex that nearly gets him killed by sidling the actually competent people around him. In fact, the only time he actually hits a target is with a shotgun, and only when his partner June Khnockers (seriously) flashes the villain, distracting him long enough to get shot. Finally, he bungles the main plot; he is initially sent to investigate the illegal sales of computers to Russia. However, he quickly forgets this and becomes fixated on a murder that he is so determined to solve that he nearly gets arrested for refusing to hand over evidence. However, it ends up being All for Nothing as the killer was a government agent and protected by qualified immunity. What makes it an indecisive parody is that the film is sometimes an Affectionate Parody, sometimes a Stealth Parody, and sometimes plays action movie tropes completely straight.
  • The film version of Leave It to Beaver placed the wholesome fifties family in the nineties like the film version of The Brady Bunch that came out around the same time. However, unlike the other film which was a straight up parody, Leave It To Beaver didn't go very far with it and ended up being an odd mix of parody and a plain old remake.
  • My Favorite Blonde, a satirical take on the Alfred Hitchcock version of The 39 Steps, has nonstop jokes from Bob Hope, a cute penguin waddling around—but after all, there are actual Nazi agents trying to kill the heroes.
  • Mystery Men cannot decide whether it is a ruthless Deconstruction of the Super Hero genre, or an Affectionate Parody. At first, the "heroes" are made to look like some deluded loons in a world without superpowers... until an old mentor and a new member with actual superpowers appear, and then the bunch of losers finally save the day against all odds.
  • Never Say Never Again. The "unofficial" James Bond film can't quite seem to decide if it's a harsh satire of the Eon series or if it's a regular James Bond film. Plainly satirical scenes (such as Bond's discussion with M at the beginning) are side by side with normal Bond-style scenes.
  • Pineapple Express starts out as mushing a stoner movie into an action movie, showing how poorly this type of thing would go in real life. But then Seth Rogen's character Dale takes an offscreen level in badass, and is jumping on top of people and shooting everything.
  • Reform School Girls was intended to be a spoof of the Girls Behind Bars genre, but much of the time it appears to be playing the tropes straight.
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is never really sure whether or not it's serious.
  • Scream (1996) was marketed as a Deconstructive Parody of the Slasher genre, but for all it did to point out as many traits as it could, it just ended up resembling a straight entry of the genre since the victims, while Genre Savvy, were outwitted and killed by an equally Genre Savvy antagonist. Because of its popularity, Scream resurrected the slasher genre, and it's been credited with damaging the "spoof film" genre a lot more by demonstrating that one could make a funny, self-aware film that referenced genre cliches without making it an out-and-out farce. Notably, Scream would get it's own spoof film, Scary Movie (that also contained elements of I Know What You Did Last Summer), which is far more obviously a parody than Scream.
  • Showtime, a 2002 Eddie Murphy/Robert De Niro flop begins as a clever parody of buddy cop movies, then rapidly degrades into a straight action film with dismal results.
  • Spice World can't seem to decide if it's a self-spoof, a harsh satire of the Spice Girls themselves, or just a vapid ripoff of A Hard Day's Night.
  • The Slumber Party Massacre does it unintentionally, where a script feminist parody of the slasher genre was filmed completely straight by a director who didn't realize it as such. The effect is surreal.
  • Starship Troopers: Your enjoyment of the film version may depend on whether you think it's a parody. The movie started simply as a movie about a war with alien bugs until someone pointed out vague similarities with the book, and meddlesome executives insisted they buy the rights to the name to avoid a lawsuit. The director claimed that he found the book too slow and depressing to get through, so he decided to make the whole thing a Stealth Parody of fascist propaganda, which he felt the book was leaning towards.
  • This is Spın̈al Tap A lot of people didn't understand that the "rockumentary" film was a parody of the burgeoning heavy metal scene of the time. People thought it was a documentary of a real band. Much of this was probably because of how much Truth in Television it had (Eddie Van Halen is quoted as not finding it funny because "everything in that movie had happened to me"... Which just goes to show how serious Eddie Van Halen takes himself). Confusing things further, Spinal Tap actually toured. After opening act The Folksmen.
  • This is generally agreed to be why Sucker Punch failed in the box office. Nobody could figure out whether it was supposed to be a straight Animesque action film or a Deconstruction of that genre. The result was an Audience-Alienating Premise; nerdy audiences turned away because they felt they were being insulted while audiences who'd be interested in a deconstruction thought it was just another action movie. The misleading trailers also meant that most people didn't know what they were getting into, and in some cases, weren't happy when they found out. The film is actually about girls in a mental asylum being physically and sexually abused and trying desperately to escape from it; the Animesque action scenes are a figment of the main heroine's imagination.
  • True Lies: Either a '90s action comedy, or a parody thereof.
  • Unmasked Part 25 is at the same time a satire of the unending sagas of slasher film icons, a Shallow Parody of the Friday the 13th series and a legitimate slasher film with gruesome murders, with a hint of The Toxic Avenger added in.
  • Van Helsing couldn't decide if it was an Affectionate Parody of old fashioned horror movies, a straight parody, or a Massive Multiplayer Crossover of the genre (though it might be considered "pulp" like The Mummy Trilogy). Interestingly, whether or not a person likes Van Helsing seems to be determined a great deal by whether they thought it was a parody or not.
  • Wild and Woolly: When a city slicker in 1917 who is obsessed with The Wild West goes on a business trip to an Arizona town, the townsfolk make it over as a Wild West Wretched Hive, staging The Theme Park Version of the wild west for the city slicker—Bullet Dancing, Blasting It Out of Their Hands, shootouts, a beautiful damsel, a Train Job, all faked. But then in the last act a crook decides to kidnap the damsel and use the masquerade to rob the train for real, and everything is played perfectly straight, as the city slicker rides to the rescue, catching the bad guy, rescuing the Love Interest, and raising a Posse to capture the Indians.

  • The Clique books have a hard time deciding whether or not the Alpha Bitch protagonist and her Girl Posse are a precautionary tale about the dangers of shallowness, conformity, and bullying while at the same time almost always giving them happy endings regardless of how cruel and manipulative they are to their classmates and, oftentimes, each other.
  • Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life? can't seem to decide whether it is a self-aware parody of isekai light novels with overpowered protagonists, or a straight example of one that happens to be self-aware. This leads to an odd flip-flopping between joking and serious tones, such as when characters immediately are subjected to slapstick after Reina recounts her sad backstory, when the characters perform a Sailor Moon parody right after the abuse Pauline and her family would suffer under the evil count is detailed, or when a villain that resembles a caricature is introduced and the characters even comment on this absurdity, only to expect the reader to take his evil deeds dead seriously.
  • The Eminence in Shadow stars a chuunibyou as its main character who invents a ridiculous Ancient Conspiracy to try to fool his dim-witted companions, and the series certainly doesn't hesitate to point out how cringeworthy his act is and how stupid the girls in his harem are for falling for it—the twist of the story is that the evil secret society he thought of on the spot is actually real, and he remains clueless the whole time. That said, he is still an incredibly powerful hero who always saves the day (which fits the typical Wish-Fulfillment of many isekai works) and the parts of the story that don't involve him play out exactly like they would in any other dark isekai—so a character that's intended to mock over-the-top, hammy isekai ends up as no less over-the-top than the world he inhabits.
  • The Fruit of Evolution is a series that certainly comes across as a parody of Isekai by making jokes such as the protagonist learning skills and powers at such a ridiculous rate that even he gets exasperated by it, the adventurer's guild being full of various types of perverts, and his harem simply not caring about being rivals for his affections, instead sharing him equally — two of them even first met and became attracted to him as a pink gorilla monster and a donkey, respectively. That said, the series does play the protagonist helping the girls with their personal problems pretty seriously, and plays the Prejudice Aesop straight several times throughout, so whether exactly this show is poking fun at the typical isekai formula or actually is a typical isekai punctuated by dirty jokes every now and then is not exactly made clear.
  • JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter, claims that Quidditch was created as a jokey parody of British sports culture, which can be seen in its goofy names, weirdly broken ruleset, and the fannish obsession of it that characters in the story treat it with. However, the narrative never actually presents it as anything less than a serious affair; nobody points out the absurdities, Quidditch matches eat up whole chapters in earlier books and are played as legitimate and perilous setpieces, Harry himself is shown to be a big fan and a masterful player, even tying it to his father, and Rowling even released a whole supplementary book dedicated to Quidditch, which, though hardly free of jokes, suggested a level of very real investment into the sport. Consequently, there's practically a cottage industry in low-hanging pop-culture critique in pointing out that Quidditch doesn't make any sense, as despite that having been the originally intended joke, few readers seem to have actually read it as such.
  • I Kissed A Zombie And I Liked It parodies YA Paranormal Romance, eg. The Twilight Saga and its ilk. The message it sends is that it's silly to give your life just to be with a guy, yet Alley would have gladly done so had Doug not been torn apart by feral zombies he created himself. From the author — "Nah, they would have broken up in about six months. But I didn't have time to write a book that long."
  • Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon opens with an absurd and borderline ridiculous scenario that seems to poke fun at common isekai cliches: a guy with a love of vending machines (implied to be a sexual fetish) tries to save one from falling off the back of a truck and down a cliff on a windy mountain road while he's riding his motorcycle, is crushed to death by it, and is reincarnated as a sentient vending machine that can't fight, use magic, move, or do anything other than dispense ordinary goods and speak in a few pre-programmed sentences. However, the story and characters don't play around with genre conventions much or poke fun at isekai tropes often, so it comes across less as a parody of isekai and more like a standard isekai that happens to have a sentient vending machine in the middle of everything. The main character is even subject to the same Character Shilling as any isekai protagonist, being treated as a beacon of hope that brings the surrounding community together despite being a vending machine—whether or not that's intended to be a joke poking fun at the constant praise that normal isekai protagonists get or a straight example is unclear. Likewise, the residents of the Standard Japanese Fantasy Setting treating bog-standard packaged food and drinks as unfathomably delicious may be a gag, but it's also something that many other isekai series like Restaurant to Another World have featured with no sense of irony.
  • A Sister's All You Need: Main character Itsuki is generally laughed at and called a pervert for having an open sister fetish and expecting things to play out in his life as they do in light novels, and in addition, he's a lazy bum who causes no shortage of trouble for his publisher because he expects his life to be all fun and no work. Then again, the series is not above indulging in light novel cliches itself (specifically of the Fanservice kind), which makes it particularly strange when the cast talk about how unrealistic and ridiculous certain light novel character types and cliche plots are, only to be greeted with situations and characters that are exactly as ridiculous as the ones they laughed at.
  • Snow Crash is an Indecisive Parody of Cyberpunk. In places it feels like a checklist of all the cyberpunk tropes ramped up: instead of the MegaCorp being as powerful as governments, corporations replace governments. The Hero Protagonist is named Hiro Protagonist, and is both the world's greatest hacker and the world's greatest katana-duelist. Raven is the epitome of badass, complete with a whole passage explaining in detail why he is the world's greatest badass. There are infodumps about various subjects, from toilet paper to Sumerian mythology, thrown in at random. From the mock-epic first chapter to the insane climax, it oozes Rule of Cool. It's considered a landmark work of Cyberpunk, a parody of Cyberpunk, and a herald of Post-Cyberpunk.
  • Sword Art Online initially can't seem to decide whether Kirito's character is being Played Straight as a dark, tortured Badass, or Played for Laughs as a fedora-tipping tryhard who picks bad options just because they look cool. Later arcs (and the SAO: Progressive rewrite/interquel) gradually stabilise his character into more of an ambiguously autistic Bunny-Ears Lawyer whom his friends tease but know they can depend on, while the Animated Adaptation tones down his dorky traits to play up his competence.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs can't quite decide if it's trying to be a straight Isekai Harem Series or a parody of same. The series has a Genre Savvy First-Person Smartass for a protagonist who frequently comments on the bizarre logic or lack thereof common to the Otome Game genre, and who unknowingly becomes the butt of the joke by sending the game plot Off the Rails and never internalizing that he's now become The Hero instead of the background character he thinks of himself as. At the same time, it does play a lot of genre conventions, particularly of male-targeted Media Transmigration isekai, very straight: Leon cheats his way forward with out-of-character knowledge of the game world and manages to get both the original game's protagonist and villainess as his girlfriends by the end of the first Story Arc, he is portrayed as a reviled underdog in a way that wouldn't be out of place for any isekai protagonist, and the villains are exactly as petty and shallow as you'd expect them to be in any straight example of the genre. (The author is in fact a male fan of the female-targeted otome genre, which explains some of it.)
  • Tremor of Intent was written as a parody of Tuxedo and Martini spy fiction. Readers liked it, but didn't exactly see it as a parody...

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 7pm Project can't decide whether it's a satire of news, a news parody which looks at amusing stories, or an ordinary news show that happens to be hosted by comedians.
  • Under Ryan Murphy's peculiarly indecisive umbrella of creatorship is American Horror Story, which sometimes comes across as a deliberately silly Horror Kitchen Sink anthology and sometimes seems to take itself too seriously for a series where all anyone does is have kinky sex and/or rape everyone. In the end, one could pretty safely classify all of these shows not as parody but as self-aware examples of the genre with a dose of camp.
  • Big Time Rush can't seem to decide whether it's a parody of musical tweencoms or a straightforward example of one. As for the band itself, the first episode pokes fun at the stereotype of boy bands only singing about girls, and has the main characters refuse to sing an example of such a song. Guess what the majority of the songs featured in the rest of the series are about? Girls.
  • Death Valley was a parody of both Reality Television and horror shows as it’s about a COPS-like reality show in a world with vampires, zombies and werewolves, but most episodes play the horror part straight.
  • Desperate Housewives: When it premiered, it straddled the line between parody & nighttime soap before landing on the side of soap (albeit with a good dose of comedy).
  • Glee seems to be sliding in here. Is it a quirky teen drama with dark comedy elements and Awesome Music? Or is it a dark comedy parodying teen dramas with intentional Soundtrack Dissonance? Nobody seems to really know. Indeed, one of the main criticisms of the show is that it both wants to be a goofy hyper-skewed version of high school, while at the same time wanting to "really speak to the kids" and seriously "be a voice to the voiceless", something that smacks of eating one's cake and having it too.
  • Other than the pilot, the first few episodes of The Middleman weren't very clear on whether their intention was to parody Disney Channel-style heroes or to join them. Halfway through the first season, though, it solidified on the side of parody.
  • The '80s Stacy Keach version of Mike Hammer, which is too serious to be a straight-up farce of Film Noir, but most of it is played incredibly tongue in cheek.
  • The Orville in its first season was criticized for lack of jokes and an inability to decide whether it was a straight parody or a replica of TNG. The second season swung much more strongly towards being a TNG homage, responding to criticism that a lot of the first season's Family Guy-style humor wasn't landing.
  • Ryan Murphy's high-school show Popular. One minute the show would be an over-the-top parody of high school shows complete with on-screen graphics and pop culture references and then the next it would be a serious drama about cancer, eating disorders, and sex. The show hypocritically tried to condemn bullying while routinely making the bitchiest girls in school (Nicole and the fabulous Miss Mary Cherry!) the funniest and most entertaining parts of the show.
  • Power Rangers RPM In a definite case of Tropes Are Not Bad, it manages to be one of the most depressing parodies of Power Rangers ever. The show constantly varies between lampshading PR tropes ("Sometimes when I morph, a giant fireball appears behind me for no apparent reason..."), and dark storylines (Dr. K's past).
  • Nobody seemed to get that She Spies was an action-comedy series bordering on parody, mainly because to the untrained eye, it looked like just another trashy syndicated action show. Which is probably why it got retooled into a straight action show for its second (and last) season.
  • Space Force, in its initial advertising was presented as a satirical Work Com parodying government excess and space travel as pointless. However, the show treats the actual topics of space exploration and scientific advancement with complete seriousness, and presents them as worthy endeavors.
  • Ugly Betty could never really decide if it was an affectionate send-up of soap operas and telenovelas or if was a dramatic example of one.
  • Rumor has it that part of the reason for the limited success of Ultraman Tiga in the US was 4Kids couldn't decide whether to make the show into a Gag Dub or make it serious. This isn't too far out of the realm of imagination, given that sometimes in the dub, one second the GUTS team would be comparing deadly monsters to their mothers-in-law and then treat a situation in which Daigo could have died with the utmost seriousness.
  • The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window, as articles like this one argue, comes across as a genuine thriller with a few dark comedy elements instead of a parody of specific titles, and the aspect of Anna grieving the loss of her daughter is played completely seriously, in a way that would be out of place in a comedy.

  • "Yer Blues" by The Beatles. Lennon wrote it as a parody of the English blues scene, but the song rocks so hard that it succeeds on its own terms as a straightforward rock tune. Lennon would later state that he really was feeling suicidally depressed at the time, but hid it behind the overdramatic lyrics of the song. Beatles scholar Ian MacDonald characterized "Yer Blues" as "half-satirical, half-earnest".
  • The Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps" is supposedly a parody of misogynistic mainstream rap.
  • The video for "All the Small Things" by blink-182 parodies Boy Band videos perhaps a little too well. Not helping matters, the video became a fixture on MTV's TRL.
  • Dethklok, the Defictionalized Death Metal band from Metalocalypse, border on this. While certainly satirical, the virtual band's music is actually quite good, with drums from the Metal veteran Gene Hoglan from The Devin Townsend Project. Admittedly, while it would be entirely possible to either interpret the over-the-top guitar solos as straight over-the-top guitar solos or parodies of over-the-top guitar solos, the lyrics are fairly unambiguously parodic.
  • Jethro Tull's 1972 effort Thick as a Brick was intended to be a parody of Progressive Rock, in response to Ian Anderson's discontent of their previous album consistently being called a Concept Album. Today, the album is deemed one of the essential classics of the genre, so depending on how you look at it, they either did it right or terribly, terribly wrong. A sequel came out 40 years later in 2012.
  • Kesha's pre-Rainbow output might appear as this to some listeners. She claims it was meant as an intentional parody of modern pop music, but aside from a few notable lyrics, she didn't go as ridiculous as Spinal Tap or The Rutles, so she often just came off like any other pop starlet.
  • Poppy is either a Mind Screw conceptual art project satirizing shallow image-obsessed pop music, or a satire of shallow Mind Screw conceptual art projects.
  • Frank Zappa:
    • In the album Cruising with Ruben & the Jets a straight forward parody of extremely greasy and corny Doo-Wop or a genuine homage to a genre he held near and dear? No one really knows for sure, especially considering the album was surprisingly popular with some radio stations who believed it to be an actual Doo-wop record from a long forgotten band.
    • Joe's Garage is either a pastiche of overlong, absurd rock operas with excessive, masturbatory soloing and ridiculous storylines, or a genuine attempt at telling a story that just happens to feature an excessive amount of showoffy guitar.
  • Eminem:
    • The line between Eminem changing his style to stay on trend, and mocking the style he's changing to, is often somewhat blurry.
      • Bits of The Marshall Mathers LP (e.g. "I'm Back", "Under The Influence", "Criminal", "Marshall Mathers") sound like the kind of Turn of the Millennium pop Max Martin would do, although the lyric content is far more offensive. It's unclear whether he just making fun of these groups, or trying to angle towards his new MTV pop audience.
      • Kamikaze contains a lot of Copycat Mockery of generic modern trap and mumble rap, but also served as a pretext for Eminem to update his style to angle for a modern, younger audience who might even have been born after "My Name Is" came out.
    • Eminem has claimed that his Boastful Rap "Rap God" is 'tongue-in-cheek' and has expressed frequent surprise that people took it as a great artistic statement of G.O.A.T.hood and one of his Signature Songs (or an Answer Song to Kendrick Lamar's laying down of the gauntlet in his "Control" verse). The thing is, while the lyrics are silly and funny, they're not even close to being the silliest and funniest lyrics Eminem has written, and the song shows a total mastery of his technical craft that few rappers alive can match. Even in his own Word of God denial that the song was to be taken seriously, he couldn't resist comparing it to Kendrick's "Control" verse, suggesting that even if it wouldn't qualify as a full response, it was at least on his mind.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Church of the SubGenius. One Church text openly taunts the reader with this: "A joke disguised as a religion? Or an actual, secretive religion, disguised as a joke disguised as a religion? Or an incredibly complex joke, disguised as an extremely ambiguous religion, disguised as a joke disguised as a religion?"
  • The Church of Satan: most of the public image projected was a deliberate take on the Hollywood Satanism stereotype in order to mock the general conception of religion and superstition (LaVeyan Satanists considered themselves atheists) but other elements of the Church are straightforward religious like the belief in magic and the Church's organization.


    Pro Wrestling 
  • One Warrior Nation is an indecisive parody of Ultimate Warrior. Like Gilberg to Goldberg, One Warrior Nation is less impressive than the original in every conceivable way, having neither the physique, genuine intensity and or unique promos of Ultimate Warrior. Unlike Gilberg, One Warrior Nation is not a jobber and is booked to win almost as much as the original.
  • It's hard to pin down whether Giant Baba's match against the egregious WrestleCrap inductee Raja Lion was a horribly botched but serious effort to do a Different Style Fight or a total mockery of this kind of fights, which were made popular by Baba's rival Antonio Inoki. On one hand, both Baba' and Lion's (though specially Lion's) attempts to work the match are so deeply clumsy than nobody sane would believe a booker as talented as Baba had called them to be other thing than a parody. On the other hand, Baba never did comedy wrestling or parodies of any kind. It may be Stealth Parody by Playing Against Type.

    Puppet Shows 


    Tabletop Games 
  • The creators of F.A.T.A.L. have variously claimed it to be a work of "historically and mythically accurate scholarship" and "controversial humour".
  • The original Hackmaster was clearly a parody, with convoluted rules, doofy names, ridiculously extensive charts, and a Lemony Narrator. As time went on, though, the world and design was reworked and became more serious, in the name of actually creating a game that people would want to play. The 2011 rerelease was downright functional, having smoothed away a lot of the Loads and Loads of Rules and swapped out the setting from "Garweeze World" to the deathly dangerous Crapsack World of the Kingdoms of Kalamar.

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream. Particularly the scenes with the Mechanicals, who are performing a self parody of Romeo and Juliet; it's possible those characters are parodies of some of the Lord Chamberlain's Men.
  • The Broadway version of Tanz Der Vampire, retitled Dance of the Vampires. Tanz is a serious rock musical, albeit not without humor. Dance tried to make the show into a straight-up musical comedy, since the producer thought this would go over better with an American audience. Unfortunately, due to an incredibly dysfunctional creative process, many of the songs didn't fit in with the new approach, so the show wound up swinging between Camp and seriousness, leaving no one satisfied. To quote the Variety review: "It's not an outright comedy [...] but as a serious musical — well, it's pretty damn funny."
  • The play Done to Death is an Affectionate Parody of the Mystery Fiction genre. However it combines drastically different styles and the first scene of Act 1 is extremely different from the rest of the show.

    Video Games 
  • High Voltage Software claimed that Conduit 2 is supposed to be "tongue-in-cheek". Some portions the game are clearly taking the piss (half of Ford's dialogue, for instance), but other parts of the game are done completely seriously (like the conspiracy objects), and still others are ambiguous (the ending where George Washington and Abraham Lincoln show up in an alien spaceship, which somehow is both a logical development of the game's backstory and right the hell out of nowhere).
  • Borderlands
    • The first game was a bit unsure as to whether it wanted to be a parody; on the one hand, you've got screaming midgets and bandits yelling about how you killed their friends before they got a chance to. On the other hand, the final boss is a straight-up Sealed Evil in a Can, and the Precursors sideplot is also completely straight. By the time the DLC's came out, they had made their decision—parody all the way. General Knoxx spends most of his DLC calling you up to complain about his boss, who is five, and warn you that he sent assassins after you.
      Knoxx: Oh, hey, I sent Gamma team over to kill you. No hard feelings. Love!
    • The Zombie Island of Doctor Ned and General Knoxx's Secret Armory (DLC 1 and 3 respectively) both leaned more on the parody side, while Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot (DLC 2) went mostly straight. Claptrap's New Robot Revolution (DLC 4) apparently decided once and for all that the series was meant to by parodic.
    • The second game is also a shameless parody. More midgets, more nonsensical enemy banter, and a Big Bad who calls you up to gloat about how awesome he is. Such as the time he got a pony made out of diamonds, which he named Butt Stallion.
      Handsome Jack: It's not a statue or anything, it's an actual living pony—you know, I'll just show you. Butt Stallion! Get over here! Say hello!
      Handsome Jack: Butt Stallion says hello.
    • Although the sidequests and enemies stay largely hilarious throughout the game, the main quest of Borderlands 2 gets dark near the end. There's the fight against Bloodwing, the fight against Angel, the abrupt murder of Roland and kidnapping of Lilith, and a bit of torture that isn't Played for Laughs (there's lots of torture, just only a little bit that isn't funny).
  • Bulletstorm seldom seems to know whether it's sending up over-the-top macho he-man shooters like Gears of War or just exaggerating them.
  • Duke Nukem Forever attempts to parody modern shooters and hold up itself and Duke as a proper hero from the Duke Nukem 3D era. A good number of people pointed out that, for all the schoolyard insults and dated jabs, DNF's gameplay is very clearly more inspired by those modern shooters than by the original game, with its two-gun limit, ego bar, slower speed, turret sections, very low threshold of exploration, and quicktime events. A microcosm of this comes early on in the game, when Duke is told to look for a keycard and instead wrenches the door open. This would be a funny subversion of a common gaming cliche, if the game came out anywhere near when it was originally supposed to—by the time it actually came out in 2011, not only had searching for keycards already been abandoned for years, but the way he opens the door, with a quicktime event requiring mashing a button, had become an even bigger cliche by then.
  • Evoland starts off as a pretty clear Deconstruction and Affectionate Parody of RPG tropes... until about 3/4 of the way through when it settles down and becomes one.
  • Far Cry 3 was supposed to be a satire/deconstruction of typical video game power fantasies, by having the player character indulge in these fantasies only to slowly find himself turning into a tribal savage, but spent so much time playing them straight (and doing a very good job of it) that it's hard to actually parse out the intended satire. The lead writer, Jeffrey Yohalem, wound up on the interview circuit trying to explain to people what the story really meant.
  • Half-Minute Hero was a simple, clear-cut parody. Its sequel, however, can't decide what it is from minute to minute. Put it this way: towards the end of the game, the Time Goddess rewinds the end credits because she doesn't want the game to end before she gets petty revenge. But during the final boss fight, the characters give long speeches about how they'd rather wipe out all existence than live in a world governed by determinism, and they are dead serious.
  • It's not always immediately clear whether Iron Brigade is supposed to be Rated M for Manly or Testosterone Poisoning. Some aspects seem to be firmly mocking over-the-top manliness, while others seem to be playing it straight. The Word of God isn't very helpful either — when citing over-the-top men's magazines like Man's Life as a source, they both refer to how warped their values are, and how awesome they were.
  • Minecraft: Story Mode seems really uncertain as to whether it's a parody of Telltale's other adventure games, or just another one of Telltale's adventure games. There are parts where it makes fun of Press X to Not Die sequences, or of the silliness of making a linear story-focused adventure game out of a property with no story whose main appeal is limitless creativity (particularly in the first episode), but then it jumps into a "serious" story featuring character deaths and linear setpieces and QTE sequences, and plays them dead seriously. It makes one wonder, considering that their games were mandated to follow the formula of The Walking Dead (Telltale).
  • No More Heroes was an unabashed parody. No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, meanwhile, almost attempts to deconstruct the previous game, but still being similar enough to the previous game on its face that it ends up in here. No More Heroes III goes back to being a parody.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic Colors is a Denser and Wackier installment that pokes fun at aspects of the Sonic universe, while the story revolves around an out of place plot involving Eggman imprisoning, exploiting and experimenting on an alien race.
    • Sonic Lost World focuses on a band of cartoony, colorful villains made up of various over-the-top stereotypes, with the story cutscenes alternating between showing their silly antics, and dealing with Eggman's latest invention slowly sucking the life force out of everyone on Earth.
  • Danmaku Amanojaku ~ Impossible Spell Card is presumably attacking modern gaming nuisances like intrusive tutorials, RPG Elements, and achievement systems... but it does this by playing these things more or less straight.
  • Fate/Grand Order likes to try its hand at self-parody, only to then use the self-parody to continue doing what it was already doing. When it's not going for parody, some of the characters that originally came from parodies tend to get treated seriously. Much of this owes to the fact that it's part of a franchise that turned Elizabeth Báthory into a half-dragon pop idol with a tragic backstory in complete seriousness (or at least, only making fun of the character for being stupid and shallow rather than her backstory for being contrived and ill-fitting); it's very difficult to parody the franchise without creating something it would actually do.
    • Mysterious Heroine X (originally from the Saint Seiya spoof Back-Alley Satsuki) was created to make fun of Saber's Overused Copycat Character status and the countless variants of her, being a Hunter of His Own Kind from a Bad Future where Saberfaces have taken over the world. Then two variants of MHX were created who were also Saberfaces - an Alter version who was created to hunt her "normal" self but is too lazy to bother, and an older version who had to get a real job after Saberfaces stopped being a threat - meaning that the franchise parodied its overuse of the same character design in a manner that "coincidentally" added three more characters who shared it to the pile.
    • The world Heroine X came from, a sci-fi setting where everyone was a Servant due to having Saint Graphs inside them, was a parody of the increased focus on the Servants in other Fate series and the Nasuverse generally. Not only did the events focusing on her give a legitimate backstory to the place, but one of the sequel events introduced another Servant, Space Ishtar, who was treated just as semi-seriously.
    • Okita and Nobunaga were originally created as gag characters for a completely silly manga (definitively male historical figures being turned into silly catchphrase-spouting waifus, one of whom is an Identical Stranger to Saber because her artist got lazy and is the biggest Saber fan in the world besides). They ended up being so indistinguishable from non-gag efforts like Nero (a definitively male historical figure who was turned into a silly catchphrase-spouting waifu, who is an Identical Stranger to Saber to intentionally contrast their personalities) that they were added into the game unchanged, and have since participated in fairly serious storylines.
    • Jeanne Alter Santa Lily was made to poke fun at the many alternate forms a single Servant can have by combining several of them into one character. Her introductory event, on the other hand, played her existence extremely, and surprisingly heartwarmingly, straight.
    • Learning with Manga! FGO is a 100% comedic parody, laden with Biting-the-Hand Humor, absurd Original Generation characters, and bawdy sexual humor. When it did a crossover with the main game, it did keep the jokes heavy on the ground and relentlessly mocked the devs, the mechanics, and the game's structure... but it also had one of its characters (Bunyan) become playable. There are still a lot of jokey elements to her: she was molded out of udon dough in the hopes of getting a free SSR, with an inexplicable genderswap that even the game points out is stupid, she inexplicably changes into an unnervingly sexual outfit upon ascending and gets a pink-patterned chainsaw as her weapon, and her Limit Break is something that she insists is wielding the power of the United States as a conceptual attack but is actually just her growing big and stomping on something. But her self-doubt and abandonment issues are played in a reasonably heartfelt light, and much of her new background and personality suggests a prior unheard-of serious side, best typified by her Bond Craft Essence's musing on colonial devastation of the environment.
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is meant as a parody of classic Nintendo Hard gameplay tropes, and it's sure to lampshade whenever possible how troublesome it is to deal with those elements: random instant-death hazards, irritating platforming challenges with disappearing blocks, enemies appearing out of nowhere over bottomless pits, the works. However, all these elements are still presented to you as legitimate obstacles to your progress, with no real twist or way to circumvent them: remove the lampshade, and it's just your standard Nintendo Hard challenge platformer.

    Visual Novels 
  • The prologue of the freeware Visual Novel Ristorante Amore was meant to be a parody/deconstruction of otome (i.e. girl-oriented romance game genre) stereotypes (ex: clumsy and not-too-bright heroine, Nice Guy and bad boy love interests, Alpha Bitch who only exists as a romantic complication for the heroine, etc.) with the post-prologue part revealing that the "prologue" was only a Show Within a Show with the characters' actors having vastly different and less stereotypical personalities. However, a combination of the prologue actually being relatively well-written, the lack of overt parodic jokes causing the prologue to feel not all that different from other straight-up otome games, and several visual novel websites categorizing it as an otome game in spite of the majority of the game having a male protagonist, led many a player to not realize the prologue was intended to be a parody and become genuinely disappointed when the Halfway Plot Switch to a male protagonist occurred.


    Web Original 
  • TV Tropes: The Real Life tropes page can't seem to decide whether to pretend that reality is a TV show, an MMORPG, or a Tabletop RPG, or whether to simply list examples of tropes occurring in reality. As examples on said page can change drastically in style Depending on the Writer, there may never be a unified vision for that page.
  • Ben "Yahtzee" Crowshaw often discusses this trope in Zero Punctuation. In his mind, a game that points a trope out but then plays that trope completely straight doesn't count as parody; it's just pointing out that the game plays its tropes straight and it knows so.
    Yahtzee: It isn't parody if you lay down, fart in your own face and then roll eyes at the camera while saying "Look at how I'm farting in my own face!" - No, you just farted in your own face!
  • Demo Reel's general setup—a production company with No Budget and a Prima Donna Director—seems purpose-built to create Stylistic Suck parodies of amateurish passion projects, and there are many remarks to that effect in-series, frequently showing off the Troubled Production behind the camera. However, the actual production values of the series are indistinguishable from Doug Walker's other work, it includes a lot of in-universe comedic jabs and critiques of major blockbuster films that seem to be written in earnest, and by the end, it starts dipping into actual serious drama. Not helping is the fact that the series had major behind-the-scenes troubles itself, which makes it difficult at best to discern which parts are meant to be deliberately bad and which parts are the result of those production woes.
  • Power/Rangers can come across as this to some viewers. While theoretically a parody of Darker and Edgier Hollywood re-imaginings of popular franchises, specifically by applying the approach to a property to which it is clearly ill-suited, it doesn't really do much to ridicule or point out the flaws of what it's supposedly parodying aside from a few notable plot points, and as such can come across as little more than a straightforward Dark Fic.
  • CinemaSins goes back and forth between a parody of shallow, anal-retentive film criticism and being largely indistinguishable from it. The creators have claimed to be satirical, but have also claimed to be genuinely critical of the films they discuss at times, and often express similar views to the ones in the videos. At points, they've even claimed to get facts about the movies wrong on purpose, which makes it difficult to determine if a clearly inaccurate detail in a video was a jokey Easter Egg or a genuine gaffe; they're certainly not framed any differently from the stuff they get right.
  • This is how the Game Grumps feel about The Garfield Show: Threat Of The Space Lasagna. With such an utterly ludicrous premise, that is lasagna aliens (which look and sound as stereotypically Italian as humanly possible) coming to Earth in an oven-themed starship and attempting to "stop Garfield from eating their Earth brethren" by hypnotizing mice to do their dirty work, they feel there's no way the people who made it don't get how silly it is and aren't making fun of the show. However, the game itself doesn't seem even remotely self-aware and consists of a collection of very mundane "cat vs mice" minigames that play like your most averagely mediocre Shovelware minigame compilation, and are in fact so unrelated to the alien plot that you could remove it completely and the games would still make sense since they all only involve mice either stealing food or pestering the cat. So in the end they're left utterly baffled by the tone of the game and can't figure out if it was meant to be a parody or not.

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy loves to mock the way disadvantaged groups were given the shaft by the media...only to then turn round and play those jokes exactly straight themselves.
    • The writer often used Cleveland to lampoon the way American culture treats black people, except their own main black protagonist is easily the least developed of Peter's group and most of the jokes centered around him and his family rely on their race (and he was voiced by a white actor for a very long time).
    • Jasper, Brian's gay cousin. Seth MacFarlane went on record stating that he was supposed to be a positive character that gay audiences could identify with. The writers instead rolled up every offensive gay stereotype they could think of into one character.
    • Quagmire's mom/dad Ida is, allegedly, a positive portrayal of a transgender woman. Even if Ida had any semblance of personality beyond "I am a woman who was born with a male body", the same episode that introduces her is stuffed with troubling jokes like Brian vomiting for almost a full minute after discovering one of the women he slept with is trans, and complaining that "nobody went around the neighborhood and told everyone" that she was trans (i.e. that nobody treated her like a sex offender).
  • Neo Yokio: It's not known if the show is meant to be a true parody of anime, given that most of the anime tropes it uses are generally played straight. According to an interview with the producers, it was originally intended to be an outright parody of anime with every episode spoofing a single series in particular. However, during production, the crew wound up unironically loving the cast of characters they made, hence why the parody elements seem rather indecisive.
  • This is at least a chunk of the reason that "The Principal and the Pauper" episode of The Simpsons got such a cold reception. The episode centers on the idea that the Seymour Skinner audiences had spent the better part of a decade with was actually an impostor named Armin Tamzarian, and deals with the trouble that results when the "real" Skinner comes back. Ken Keeler, its writer, claims it was intended as a parody of silly retconned backstories. However, while the ending (where the entire town comes together to ditch the "real" Skinner and agree to just call Armin Skinner from now on) is definitely a joke when viewed in that light, most of the rest of the episode seems to play Armin's angst, backstory, family strife, and conflicts with the real Skinner for drama. The result is that instead of coming across as a meta parody of retcons and how audiences hate change, it just ended up looking like an actual retcon and got people very annoyed, with the joke ending looking more like a hasty Deus ex Machina.
  • The Total Drama series started out as an animated parody of Reality TV. The later focus on shipping and other such plot tumors made it a pre-scripted (read: slightly more scripted than usual) reality show that happens to be animated.
  • Velma mocks and lampoons multiple of the tropes associated with the Scooby-Doo franchise, teen drama series and "woke" reboots... the issue being that it seemingly has no problem playing those tropes straight at the end of it, such as playing Velma and Daphne's revamped relationship completely straight, and the naked shower scene, which still exists despite the show lampshading how unnecessary and cliche it is.