Parody, by its commonly perceived nature, tends to mock the subject it mirrors, but the best examples also express a love for, and kinship with, the mocked. For example, even though Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles rips into violence, race relations, the sexual tensions of the early ‘70s and the dangerous business of bean ingestion, the story remains a western in an oddball way. The characters aren’t blasting on the form as such, but on the characters that tend to populate it.
There are thousands of examples of the job not being done well. In the late ‘80s and throughout the ‘90s, published parody experienced a glut of books, magazines and like-minded material cashing in on skewing the icons of the day. There was a Playboy Magazine filled with pictorials of pugnacious and preening pups, a Martha Stewart-esque home improvement tome featuring cats, and scads of how-to books devoted to topics no one ever would want to learn how to. For most, these bits of pop culture detritus went by unnoticed, and I think the reason why is because, by this time, nobody cared to jab Playboy in the ribs. It was already a parody.
In order to pull it off, the trickster involved ought to have some positive engagement with what they’re, essentially, mocking. Adam Mansbach (writer, Angry Black White Boy, The End of the Jews) and Ricardo Cortes (illustrator) have done that in a most explicit way with their book, Go The F**k To Sleep. The friendly, non-threatening typeset, the concise verses that make up the text, the lovely artwork that accompanies it all are exactly what you’ll find in a quality children’s’ book. And then Mansbach drops the F-bomb.
This book is, in fact, a rather verbally-obscene vignette of when two opposing forces collide: the tired parent, at the most vulnerable position imaginable, and the child that has been wound up for hours and, frankly, isn’t even close to winding down yet.
You may notice that I’ve been pretty diplomatic so far about the language being used. Well then, here is an example to drive home the point.
“The cats nestle close to their kittens.
The lambs have laid down with the sheep.
You’re cozy and warm in your bed, my dear
Please go the f**k to sleep.”
Another prime example:
“The eagles who soar through the sky are at rest.
And the creatures who crawl, run and creep.
I know you’re not thirsty. That’s bulls**t, stop lying.
Lie the f**k down, my darling, and sleep.”
- Popdose at Kirkus Reviews: Simon Pegg, “Nerd Do Well” (popdose.com)
- Popdose at Kirkus Reviews: For Sucker Punch, Nothing Ever Goes As Planned (popdose.com)
- Popdose At Kirkus Reviews: For Those About To Dish, We Salute You (popdose.com)
- Popdose at Kirkus Reviews: “21: The Story of Roberto Clemente” (popdose.com)
- Popdose At Kirkus Reviews: You’re A Stand-Up Guy, Charlie Brown (popdose.com)
- Popdose at Kirkus Reviews: Del Quentin Wilber, “Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan” (popdose.com)