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Parody Retcon

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Lesson learned: Don't sleep with your Literature professor.

"I contend that making a film that's only part satire is hedging your bet, in a sense saying 'if you like it and think it's good, then it's a good movie. If you think it stinks, then I meant it to be funny.' It's the coward's way to make a movie."
Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese in reference to Wild Things

Simply put, any work which, once consumer reaction came back negative, had its failings handwaved by claims that it was supposed to be a parody. Be warned that any legitimate parody that's too subtle can and will be accused of this unless you have some kind of solid evidence to back it up.

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

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



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     Comic Books 
  • The notorious All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder was intended, claims Frank Miller, as a parody. No one is entirely sure whether it's true or not, some think it's this trope, others think he's telling the truth. It does help his case that he claimed his comics were meant as parodies when people still liked them.
  • Joe Madureira has claimed that Red Monika's ridiculous proportions in Battle Chasers were a parody of sexy women in other comics. (And has always done so — even in the original run of the short-lived comic, during which there was little to no controversy regarding said character's proportions — so this is probably true.) Whether or not it was effective parody is another story.
  • Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's Fighting American (who was an Expy of their more popular creation, Captain America) started off as a dead serious book about Commie-smashing. When the anti-communist Witch Hunts of Joe McCarthy began to fall out of favor with Americans, Simon and Kirby quickly tried to ReTool the series into a tongue-in-cheek parody of Red Scare stories. It didn't work, and the title was cancelled after just seven issues.
  • When Superior Spider-Man came out, author Dan Slott defended all of Spidey-Ock's evil deeds, claiming they were in some way heroic, up to and including him erasing Peter's lingering consciousness from his mind. In general fans threw complaints that Otto was a Creator's Pet and Villain Sue at the book, with Dan shrugging them off and calling him a hero. When the book began to finish the Otto-As-Peter arc, he backtracked and claimed Otto was always intended to be the bad guy.
    • This occasionally happens in comics, especially when someone switches sides/identities, making it hard to determine what's a parody retcon and what's just a writer not wanting to admit that everything is going to get reset later.

  • The Room is probably the most famous example. Tommy Wiseau (director, writer, and star) did some serious backpedaling after his So Bad, It's Good melodrama was released and critically panned. Everyone else involved with the production claim that Wiseau treated the project with the utmost seriousness during filming and suspect that the whole affair plot was based on a previous bad relationship he was in. He decided to pull a Ascended Fanon when people asked him if this was supposed to be taken seriously and say it was a black comedy all along. It even says so on the DVD case. Most fans of the movie still don't believe him. It doesn't help his case that, even as he uses the "Black Comedy" label, he still describes the content of the film in melodramatic, passionate terms.
  • Mommie Dearest is perhaps the Trope Codifier. After its poor initial reception, Paramount started advertising it as a parody a few weeks after its release, changing its movie posters to proclaim, "Meet the biggest MOTHER of them all!"
  • Deafula was said to be a parody, and was even renamed Young Deafula in some places. The director's reason for the conspicuous lack of jokes? Only deaf people would get it.
  • Independence Day was supposed to be comical all along, according to Roland Emmerich. It's a rare example of a film that was very successful when appreciated straight. It does have enough humor and Shout Outs (Brent Spiner [AKA Data] as a scientist, flying saucers, Area 51, etc.) to be an edge case.
  • M. Night Shyamalan claimed that his The Happening was a parody of B-movies as an attempt to downplay its critical curb-stomping. No one believed him. See also Deliberate Flaw Retcon.
  • The Concorde... Airport '79 was marketed as a comedy after critics pointed out all of its unintentionally hilarious scenes. Still didn't help it at the box office, though. It did pave the way for Airplane!.
  • Monster a-Go Go was claimed to be a parody of some sort by Gordon Lewis, although what exactly it's a parody of is unclear.
  • Rat Pfink A Boo Boo starts out serious, but apparently halfway through, the director (Ray Dennis Steckler, the same guy who directed The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies) got bored and decided to film the rest of it as a comedy/parody.
  • The lead actress of Space Mutiny claimed that the whole thing was in fact a spoof of the sci-fi genre (possibly trying to save face after its appearance on Mystery Science Theater 3000), which might at least explain the cheesy sets and costumes as well as the bizarre "ancient dentistry" scene. Although that doesn't explain why, of the three directors that worked on the film, one wanted his name removed, another has his buried deep in the credits, and the third isn't listed at all.
  • Stephen King claimed that his So Bad, It's Good film Maximum Overdrive (which he wrote and directed) was a deliberate homage to bad movies such as Plan 9 from Outer Space after it received bad reviews. Apparently he was hoping that the audiences had forgotten the trailers in which the film was clearly marketed as a horror film, with King himself promising the audience, "I will scare the hell out of you." However, he later acknowledged on more than one occasion that the film sucked, calling it a "moron movie."
  • Claudio Fragasso tried pulling this off with Troll 2 after the documentary about it, Best Worst Movie, came out. The people who worked with him on the film say otherwise; he apparently thought he was a genius. There are moments in the film that are meant to be amusing in their own right, such as Elliot abruptly appealing to diplomacy in a showdown with the Goblins or the reveal of a secret weapon as being a double-decker boloney sandwich, but they were clearly written as a counterpoint to a genuine attempt at horror.
  • There's Nothing Out There. On the DVD commentary track the filmmakers lampshade their own jocular use of this trope endlessly, chuckling that everything they didn't intend and which didn't work was part of the parody whereas everything else wasn't. (It should be noted that there is no doubt as to whether the film on the whole was a parody.)
  • When Uwe Boll publicly trashed Michael Bay and Eli Roth in a number of interviews, both responded rather loudly and publicly, giving Boll high-profile attention. Boll later claimed this was an engineered publicity stunt to promote Postal. If so, it was probably the only positive moment in his career. Except it didn't work, because much like the games it was based on, Postal tanked at the box office. Boll might well be drinking his own Kool-Aid, since he kept up the "publicity stunt" angle long after it even made sense to when being interviewed by then-little-known LoadingReadyRun.
  • Wild Things is generally seen as a Guilty Pleasure if nothing else, but the sheer volume of unintentional hilarity has lead some to hypothesize that it may have been a Stealth Parody of erotic thrillers all along. It was directed by an indie filmmaker with a history of making clever movies, and it gives a juicy (and funny) supporting role to a well-known comedian (Bill Murray), so the hypothesis isn't unreasonable.
  • The Wicker Man (2006) remake by Neil LaBute was widely panned. Its star Nicolas Cage insists that it shouldn't be taken seriously, noting that he stopped doing so himself when he punched out a woman while wearing a bear suit.
    "You don’t karate chop Leelee Sobieski in the throat and not know how absurd that is, but it’s just not something I would like to talk about. I would rather let them discover it on their own, but I think I learned a lot of that kind of off the wall kind of stuff watching Stanley Kubrick, because his movies were incredibly funny, but you never really knew how much was planned or accident, you know?"
  • Secretariat was largely well received, but one reviewer, Andrew O'Hehir of, gave it an extremely bizarre negative review. Among other things, he accused the movie of being racist (and pro-Tea Party) simply because the Hispanic "villain" was "terrorist-flavored" and his horse's name, Sham, implies evil. (This despite the film being Based on a True Story, so those elements all happened in Real Life.) He also used the director's Christianity to compare the movie to the works of Leni Reifenstahl. When Roger Ebert, himself a liberal, took issue with the review, O'Hehir tried to claim he was just being hyperbolic, and that it was "supposed to be funny, and also to provoke a response." Few believed him; if nothing else, Poe's Law would have been working against him.
  • It's now claimed that R.O.T.O.R. was a parody all along, despite the poster, video box, description, and advertising not saying a word about it.
  • George Clooney made the mistake of playing it straight in Batman & Robin, unlike virtually all of his co-stars - though ironically this does fit the tradition of Batman's character being depicted as The Comically Serious. Clooney, however, has subsequently claimed that he played the character as gay.
  • Released as a horror movie, "Manos" The Hands of Fate resulted in laughter in the face of how unimaginably bad it was. The director himself suggested that perhaps it would do better redubbed as a Gag Dub. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode doing exactly this would prove him right, as it became the series' most popular episode and launched the movie into popular culture awareness.
  • United Passions: Tim Roth certainly didn't take the movie seriously, because he stated he tried to make FIFA chief Sepp Blatter as foolish and corrupt as he could without being obvious, despite the screenplay doing just the opposite.
  • Showgirls was savaged by critics and audiences when it came out, but has since attracted a fairly large cult following, with some of its fans seeing the movie as So Bad, It's Good, and others seeing the movie as a satire of the Vegas entertainment scene, or even fame and pop culture itself. It's also seen by some as a deconstruction of traditional Rags to Riches stories using elements of A Star Is Born and All About Eve.
  • Inverted with The Incredible Melting Man. The director has gone on record to say that he intended it from the start to be a parody of monster flicks (which considering its ridiculous premise and being made about 20 years after the heyday of such movies in the 1950s, isn't hard to believe), but that the final product isn't one. It ended up being a hot mess thanks to Executive Meddling, when the studio insisted that he play it all totally straight against his wishes.
  • A meddling executive wanted to call Back to the Future Space Man From Pluto for some reason, and sent Spielberg a note with this suggestion, and a list of Title Drops that could be added to get round the fact the title had nothing to do with the movie. The story goes that Spielberg thanked the exec for the joke note, and told him everyone on production had found it really funny. The exec decided to go along with this.

  • Battlefield Earth: L. Ron Hubbard's publishers responded to criticism by claiming that it was meant to be satirical. Riiiight.
  • Maradonia Saga: Following the release of a book trailer that could charitably be called "amateurish," Gloria Tesch's publicist responded to criticism by classifying the trailer as "obviously comic satire." Much like her books, nobody bought it.
  • Valerie Solanas wrote The SCUM Manifesto, which among other things calls for "the eradication of men". Ten years later, she claimed it was satirical when she became famous for trying to kill Andy Warhol. No word on whether that assassination attempt was "satirical", however.

     Live-Action TV 
  • After clips of Jamie Kennedy's disastrous (technical glitches, uncensored profanity, has-been musical guests, etc.) local Los Angeles New Year's Eve live countdown special First Night 2013 went viral, he quickly (and unsurprisingly) invoked this trope.
  • Before the main series of Derek aired, Ricky Gervais spoke repeatedly about how he had "dropped the veil of irony" and had made a sincere comedy-drama. After being tweeted with complaints about his use of narmy montages accompanied by melancholy music, he responded that it was intentional and that they were there to give the verisimilitude of a cloying documentary. This was despite earlier retweeting comments earnestly praising the sequences for their emotional power.
  • Douglas Adams inverted this trope. In the early 1980's academic work Doctor Who - The Unfolding Text, he defended his work as script editor on the series and said he had meant to look more, not less seriously, at the tropes of Doctor Who. Adams had envisioned a serial in which the Doctor (temporarily) decides to give up saving planets, but the producer Graham Williams had vetoed the idea. note 

  • The Beastie Boys like to pretend that their first album, "Licensed to Ill", was a parody of rap and frat boy attitudes — despite the fact that the album seems to be a straight example of these attitudes as opposed to a send-up or even a subtle parody. The video album makes their intentions painfully clear.
  • Alanis Morissette. Isn't It Ironic?, don't ya think, that when she wrote a song about irony, and everyone pointed out that all her examples of irony were not technically irony, she suddenly decided that that was, in fact, the irony all along.
  • Bob Dylan's 1970 album Self Portrait, mainly made up of sloppily-performed cover versions, received the first mostly (and often viciously) negative reviews of his career. In the first few years after its release he defended the album, but since then he's claimed that it was a deliberate attempt to alienate his more obsessed fans. Dylan also made the same claim about his previous album, Nashville Skyline, a country-flavored album where Dylan trades in his nasal sneer for a singing voice that borders on crooning. It helps, though, that Dylan was always a renowned troll. Ultimately, both albums were Top Ten LPs, and Nashville Skyline even kept The Who's Tommy out of the #1 spot in the UK. Nashville Skyline at least has since been Vindicated by History.
  • Broken CYDE, a Crunkcore group, consistently pulls a Parody Retcon when they're doing poorly, but switches back to Doing It for the Art whenever they're doing well commercially.
  • This was said about Canibus' disastrous third album, C: Tru Hollywood Stories, after its terrible reception.
  • Peter Gabriel is fond of using this to explain his early lyrics, especially the ones from the Genesis days.
  • Lou Reed of Velvet Underground. Depending on which day of the week you ask him, his album Metal Machine Music (a double album of nothing but multitracked feedback noise) is either a Take That! to his record company, a parody of Serious Music (John Cale in particular), a drug-fuelled mistake, or actual Serious Music.
  • This is what seems to be evolving around Sergei Prokofiev, whose cantatas lavishing praises upon Stalin have, in recent years, suddenly been determined by some critics to have really been mocking Stalin all along. Somewhat ironic, as in earlier decades, his political works presented problems for his popularity in the West, with Prokofiev being dismissed as a Soviet propagandist.
  • The Lemon Demon song "The Satirist's Love Song" is about someone using this trope to explain a failed relationship:
    I've been satirizing ever since
    The first day we met
    Our love is a great work of satire
    That you just didn't get
  • Averted by Selena Gomez, who said that the name of her band The Scene was a pisstake before they released a note of music.
  • Ryan Pann, the guy responsible for the infamous "Christian Side Hug", has claimed that the song was meant to be a satire.
  • Robin Thicke has tried to pass "Blurred Lines" off as this in the wake of its lyrics being denounced as misogynistic. He even went so far as to claim the Anchorman character Ron Burgundy as inspiration.

  • Jake Knotts, South Carolina State Senator wasn't being a racist when he called Nikki Haley, a Republican candidate for his state's governor and an ethnic Punjabi who converted to Methodist Christianity from Sikhism, a "raghead" (and Barack Obama a secret Muslim in the same breath). He was being satirical. And just quoting a Saturday Night Live skit that exists only in his head.
  • During the 2010 UK general election, the makers of Marmite threatened legal action after the super far-right British National Party included a jar of the product in one of their videos. The BNP originally claimed their video had been a parody, and only later admitted that it was a mistake.
  • During the 2011 US national budget meetings, former Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl spoke in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood by claiming that "over 90%" of the organization's services were abortions. After it was revealed that only 3% of their services (and 11% of visits) were abortions, Senator Kyl claimed that he was exaggerating and that his claim was "not intended to be a factual statement".
  • Ray Comfort, "Banana-Man", now claims that his infamous "Banana: The Atheist's Worst Nightmare" argument was satire. The video argues for intelligent design by showing how the banana is apparently perfect for human consumption — ignoring the fact that this is because of centuries of selection and cross-breeding by humans, and that wild bananas are much less human-friendly (with thicker skins, sour flesh, and large inedible seeds). No one on any side of the debate could figure out what it was even supposed to satirize; it was very clearly just an unresearched argument that blew up in his face.
  • In 2011, PETA created Super Tanooki Skin 2D, a game about a tanuki trying to reclaim its skinned fur from Mario, and said that the Mario games were sending the message that it was okay to wear fur. After the expected backlash and an official statement from Nintendo, PETA claimed it was all "tongue-in-cheek". PETA did the same with Pokémon, as shown here.
  • Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson claims he was only joking when he was voicing his concern for Guam capsizing.
  • In late 2013, Slate's Aisha Harris made a case for more inclusivity when it came to who portrayed Santa Claus, prompting then-Fox News commentator Megyn Kelly to offer her take on the issue, including her saying "Santa just is white." Several pundits, including notably Jon Stewart took her to task for it, leading her to clarify on her remarks, saying they were "tongue-in-cheek." Stewart found that part rather difficult to believe.
  • Thomas Friedman got some attention for his Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention—"No two countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald's", basically a folksy attempt to express the logical (but not foolproof) opinion that economically stable countries have few incentives to go to war. First published in a 1996 New York Times column, he also featured it in his 1999 book The Lexus and the Olive Tree. Weeks after the book was published, forces of the McDonald's-happy NATO countries bombed Yugoslavia, with a few McDonald's locations sustaining damage. Critics also found earlier cases of conflict between two countries with McDonald's. In response, Friedman claimed that his theory was done "with tongue slightly in cheek".

     Video Games 
  • Far Cry 3 lead writer Jeffrey Yohalem responded to criticism of the game's thoroughly straight use of Mighty Whitey by announcing the plot was a satire. No one believed him.
  • When the next-gen version of Call of Duty: Ghosts was revealed, one of the promoted features was "fish that moved out of the way you got near them". Gamers were quick to point out this was not a new thing, specifically pointing to Super Mario 64 (which came out 17 years earlier). They since then said it was a joke, despite not sounding like one.
  • For many trashy Steam Greenlight games that gets negative feedback, creators tend to lash back or preemptively attack by saying their game is a parody, even though this makes their games in question becoming the very thing they were "making fun" of.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • A lot of Final Fantasy V's fans argue against criticism of the game's Lighter and Softer nature, daft Cliché Storm elements or its Large Ham boss by insisting it's a parody of Final Fantasy. There's a few sequences that qualify as parody of how these games tend to go down (Bartz waking up from a meaningful dream about his destiny to discover his party staring at him freaking out, the whole Soup Cans sequence with the Ronkan door switch), but for the most part it's a normal Final Fantasy with jokes in.
      • This trope was, however, Invoked for the Game Boy Advance remake, which retranslated the game in a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek fashion, with such gems as Bartz declaring a giant crab enemy has "been served" and a librarian's advice to "take a look, it's in this book."
  • After the pornographic Atari 2600 game Custer's Revenge received heavy criticism, the president of the company that created it said "our object is not to arouse, our object is to entertain". This despite the fact that its cartridge calls it "erotica".

     Web Comics 

     Web Original 
  • Whenever The Irate Gamer makes a mistake and people call him out on it, if he doesn't have the comments deleted or re-edit the video and pretend the mistake was never there, then he'll claim the mistake was intentional.
    • He's also started claiming that his early reviews (the ones full of plagiarism) were parodies of people like The Angry Video Game Nerd and Armake21.
  • Discussed in the Folding Ideas episode, "Asian Girlz": Dan thinks this is not really that good of an excuse because satire can done badly. The example he uses is the eponymous song "Asian Girlz." It was accused of fetishizing Asian women. So the band claimed it was satire, but the song doesn't offer any criticism of said fetishization and thus fails at satirizing it.
  • The creators of CinemaSins have usually responded to critique of their videos by claiming that they're intended to be satirical, and that the narrator of the series is more of a "character" who represents internet nerds that get anal-retentive about tiny details. This is generally a claim that seems to only come up when someone calls them out on getting something wrong; at all other points, the complaints expressed in the videos seem to be basically the same as the ones the creators have, including the outright inaccurate ones, as evidenced in Jeremy's personal review channel. (A handful of "sins" are clearly jokes, but they're either making fun of the movie or just random pop culture references rather than something to make fun of their "character".) They also occasionally acknowledge mistakes (such as claiming there's no gravity in space) and have also contradicted themselves by stating in various interviews, on Reddit and even a rant about Winnie the Pooh that the channel is not satire and should be taken seriously, which reinforces the impression the "it's satire" and "he's actually a character" arguments are an attempt to deflect criticism.
  • The "social experiment" meme, which typically arises when someone makes a post that is met with a lot of negative reactions, only for the original poster to try and Hand Wave it as a "social experiment" and that they didn't really mean what they said. Without exception, no one is fooled. This has happened so many times on sites like 4chan and Reddit to the point where the phrase "social experiment" alone has become a meme of its own.
  • In those same communities, claiming that one's sincere but idiotic comment was actually clever Trolling and mocking people for having "fallen for it" is an idea that goes as far back as the concept of trolling itself. Like "social experiment" above, it's gotten to the point where the phrase "I was only pretending to be retarded" is a meme.
  • Let's Play channels known for making errors or playing poorly, such as Game Grumps or The King of Hate, often use the defense that they're playing poorly on purpose, because them failing is more entertaining than them succeeding. Though it's not unlikely that they're playing more casually than they otherwise might, many of the results of this poor play are things that would be baffling if meant to entertain (such as getting stuck and making the audience wait tediously, or ignoring major mechanics), and it's often coupled with fairly sincere-sounding critique of the game's problems.

     Western Animation 


Example of: