Parody and Music Videos, Is It a “Bad Romance”?

With every viral music video, from Rebecca Black’s “Friday” to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” there are people who will rework the song and change it.  The reworking of these songs have within themselves a varying degree of purposes.  The songs may simply be silly versions of the original, such as misheard lyrics (where a song is given lyrics that sound close to the original but are wrong) or renditions of children’s songs like “Deck the Halls (With Gasoline).”  The reworked songs may make fun of the original song or music video itself, such as literal versions (where the video points out what happen in the original video), or the songs may be reworked to make a point, notably seen in parodies of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” where the men and women’s role in the video are switched (i.e, the women are in suits and the men are “nearly” naked).  With all of the reworking, I begin to think of how these reworkings affect the originals.  Granted that some, such as the previously mentioned videos, like “Blurred Lines,” are direct attacks at the artist, the question is how the ones that make fun of the content the original.

Since there is a variety of parodies, I will focus on two parodies of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance:”  LittleKuriboh’s “Leather Pants”  and “Bad Romance:  Women’s Suffrage” by Soomo Publishing.  I will walk you through these parodies, highlighting how they mimic the original and thus affect the original.

As a frame of reference, here is the original music video of “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga.


Now before we move on, I want to cover what parodies and satires are, since both of these words will come up within the essay.  (The parody of Women’s Suffrage does border on the aspect of satire.)

Parodies and satire both use humor to mock something.  However, the purpose for both parodies and satires are different.  How you may ask?  For a brief overview, I’ll let Mr. Johnson explain.


Now let’s break it down, starting with parodies.  Like Mr. Johnson says, parodies mimic a specific person or, I’ll say, genre to comment on that person or genre.  To go further, parodies are intended to make fun of what they are mimicking.  The key word here is fun: Parodies are playful in tone, commenting on the flaws of what it mimics.

So, what about satire?  Satire, as Mr. Johnson explains, is making fun of something in general, to comment on it in general.  I’d like to break this down further, however: While satires make commentary on something “in general,” there is a tonal difference between this and parodies.  Whereas parodies are light in tone, focusing on making others laugh and breaking down the aesthetics of a genre, satires are darker, as Avner Ziv states in his essay “Social Functions of Humor in Interpersonal Relationships:”

Satire, both written and acted, works in a similar way.  The satirist is not content with the world as it is; or, more precisely, he is not content with certain things in it, which to him seem black.  In his attack he blackens them yet further, in the hope that after blushing with due shame they will turn white (16).

Satires are used to change society; they deliberately attack a subject in hopes of changing society as a whole.  Consider the “parody” of Blurred Lines where the gender roles were switched, having the men be “naked” and the women clothed.  This, because of the tone of the video, is what I would consider a satire, because it attacks a “social function” in the hopes of changing it.

So to sum up the differences, parodies mimic something specifically (in our case, music videos) to comment on it and create a comic effect.  Satires also mimic something, but what it mimics is something general for the purpose of

Now before we dive into how they affect the original, let’s discuss how these parodies comment on the original.  To save your sanity, I will generalize how each video mimics the original (lyrically and visually) and highlight aspects of the videos.  I’ll start with internet personality LittleKuriboh’s “Leather Pants.”  (LittleKuriboh is known for creating abridged series.)


For the purpose of this essay, we will observe the two videos side by side in the video below.  This will be the reference for when I discuss the “highlights” in each video.


Off the bat, the parody mimics the story of “Bad Romance,” but instead of having to deal with the idea of selling yourself to an industry, the story is ridiculous, having the villains Marik, who is in the sleeveless shirt, and Bakura, who is in the stripped blue and white shirt, plotting to steal the source of the show’s main character’s power: his “Leather Pants.”  Throughout the parody, it mimics similar scenes to comic effect from the original, such as having the Marik dressed in black (with the crown) and looking into the mirror as well as being set in a  “spa” like area.  Both depict the lead singer wearing similar clothes, such as having Marik wearing the net-like clothing.  The parody also mocks the Thriller moves the backups do, and, more for comic effect, the parody replaces the “ra’s” and “oh’s” with sillier words like “mama-mia.”

The parody comments on the original more specifically around 2:45, parody mocking the lyrics “I want your psycho/Your vertigo stick/Want you in my rear window,” and changing them to “I have watched Psycho/And I liked Vertigo/The Birds was ok/Ooo! I loved Rear Window,” referring the Hitchcock movies that share the same name (Psycho, Vertigo, Rear Window).  This is commenting on the coincidence of the lyrics sharing the same names as Hitchcock’s movies, furthering the joke by adding the Birds which was not mentioned in the original song.

As mentioned before, throughout the video, the parody has mocked the nonsense words that are littered throughout the original (rah-ah-ah’s, oh’s, la’s and such), replacing them with nonsense words like na na, fla fla, cha cha.  It is at 3:15 in this video that the parody purposely makes fun of this aspect; first by having the words appear upon the screen, and later having Marik point out the words on a chalkboard.  When he is finished, he states “I like these silly noises.”  Unlike most of the parody, which lines up with the original (as seen in the reference), this part is added in to comment on Gaga’s usage of “silly noises.”

Finally, at 4:23 both videos start to speak French, with “Bad Romance” saying “J’veux ton amour/Et je veux ton revanche/J’veux ton amour” which means “I want your love/and I want your revenge/I want your love” and Leather Pants saying “Je voudrais son/pantalon cuir/son pantalon,” which roughly means “I want his/leather pants/ I want her.”  In the latter, this is coupled with the lead reading a book titled “Egyptian to French,” and with him wearing the stereotypical French attire of a beret, which may explain the rough translation.  In the parody, after the lead sings the French lyrics, he immediately sings “Why am I speaking French (x2)/ I don’t wanna be French” which is directly making fun of the snippet of French in “Bad Romance” which is never referred to again in the song.

This parody follows the usual trend of parodies, mocking either the lyrics or actions of the music video for a comic effect.

“Bad Romance: Woman’s Suffrage” has a different form.  Unlike the first music video, this one does not mimic the original for comic effect.  There are no exaggerations or lines changed for comedic affect; instead, it mimics the original, using it as a backdrop to relay Woman’s Suffrage.  Second, this parody is more serious than the first, serving as a teaching tool about Woman’s Suffrage, as it states below the video:

“Bad Romance: Women’s Suffrage is a parody music video paying homage to Alice Paul and the generations of brave women who joined together in the fight to pass the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote in 1920.”

Now the message is serious, but it does still constitute as a parody as it mimics the actions of the original, which is what parodies do.  Additionally, it is not being used to “attack” something, which is what a satire would do, but convey a message.  It’s just that in this case, the mimicking is less for humorous effect but more for a backdrop.

The beginning of the two videos are similar:  both start in a white room, with the women in white clothes, except the woman’s suffrage video portrays the woman wearing white veils, which cover most of their faces, and attire similar to their portrayed era.  Staying true to what a parody does, the actions are mimicked in the parody.  The back-up dancers in the parody repeat the moves from the original, except they are dressed in attire appropriate to the era it is set in.  The scenes centered on Gaga in the original are mimicked by the main singer in the parody.  The scene where Gaga is wearing black and looking in the mirror is mimicked by the main character, who also wears a black gown and hat and looks in the mirror.  Later, the scene where Gaga is surrounded by glass is mimicked by the main character surrounded by glass stars.

There are some interesting ways this parody has translated the actions from the original.  For one, at 1:49 in the parody, the main character is pictured in an asylum wearing a strait jacket.  As it progresses, we see that she is being forced to drink something by the nurses.  This parallels the similar forced drinking in the original.  But in keeping with the era that it is set in, the parody makes it fit, by having the action repeated in an asylum, which is a usual occurrence (at least for that time).

Of course, as it mimics the original, it too, plays upon having a line in French, with the line in this one reading, “Comme dirait le Français:/c’est Démocratie/Permettez-moi participer!” which translates into, “As the French would say:  This is democracy!  Let me participate!”  Instead of following the original usage of the French – which, it wasn’t fully explained why it appears – the parody, in a way, comments on it by having it state “As the French would say,” making it fit better within the song.

Though it does not make a comic effect upon the original because of the mimicking and changing of lyrics, as well as the nature of the parody being more playful and less hypercritical, it constitutes as a parody.


So how do these parodies affect the original?  Directly, they don’t technically affect the original, since none of them are attacking the original.  However, there is an indirect effect that the videos have on the original.

First, the parodies lower the hype of the original music video.  One of the functions of parody, as cited by Russian critic Tomashevsky, is to “ridicule an opposing literary group, destroying its aesthetic system” (Nunning 128).  In other words, the function of a parody is to, in a sense, knock down the ‘higher ups’ a couple pegs.  They are there to deflate the hype around something and show its flaws.  This is especially true for the first parody, as it ridicules “Bad Romance.”

That being said, parodies also pay tribute to the original; after all, parodies are a mimicking of something else.  If there is nothing to mock, then the parody cannot exist.  All of these parodies in some way bring awareness to the original as well as provide tribute to the original.  The Women’s Suffrage video, for example, relies on the original, since it gave it a frame to help teach others about Woman’s Suffrage, even telling others to see the original.

Third, the parodies bring together a group of similar-minded people.  LittleKuriboh’s parody, for example, bands together fans of his with fans of the abridged genre, having characters from his abridged show appear in their storyline, with an appearance of a character from another series.  Parodies also bring together not only fans of a particular person, but of people with similar interest.  If a parody comes out about a song that is “horrible” and makes fun of that song, it brings together those people who hate the song.  This bringing together of people follows one of the social functions Ziv brings up in” The Social Functions of Humor in Interpersonal Relationships,” being that humor helps strengthen the relationship within a group.  To put it simply, humor helps to form the bond between a group of people connect, and can be shown through things like ‘inside jokes.’

Parodies are meant for fun, it’s true.  They are not meant to change something, but just tease it.  Yet, despite this, they do have an impact on what they tease.  Like a sibling or a good friend who makes sure you don’t get too large of a head and help correct major flaws you may not be aware of, parodies lower the hype of what they mock.  If the original is despised, parodies will bring together those who hate the original, allowing them to share in the debunking of the original.  So the next time you listen to another parody, be thankful that the original came to inspire it.

Work Cited

“Bad Romance Lyrics.” Metrolyrics. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2013.

“Bad Romance: Woman’s Suffrage.” Soomo Publishing. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2013.

“Difference Between Parody and Satire | Difference Between | Parody vs Satire.” Difference Between Parody and Satire | Difference Between | Parody vs Satire. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2013.

“Leather Pants.” Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged Wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2013

Nunning, Ansgar. “The Creative Role Of Parody In Transforming Literature And Culture: An Outline Of A Functionalist Approach To Postmodern Parody.” European Journal Of English Studies 3.2 (1999): 123. Academic Search Complete. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

“What’s the Difference between Satire & Parody?” English Language FAQWhat’s the Difference between Satire & Parody? N.p., 15 Sept. 2013. Web. 03 Dec. 2013.

Ziv, Anver. “The Social Function of Humor in Interpersonal Relationships.” Society 01 Jan. 2010: 11-18. Print.

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