Though Scary Movie may linger in the collective nostalgia of our minds as a laugh-out-loud spoof, it certainly wasn't perceived that way at the time. And since then, spoof movies of its ilk have been fewer and further between.
Scary Movie was by no means the first to take a film – Scream – that had sewn itself into the fabric of pop culture history and turn it on its head for laughs, and it wasn't the last. But it's emblematic of a certain kind of scattershot, reference-heavy movie that just isn't being made any more.
You might think it's because they just got worse and worse (did you pay to see Scary Movie 5?), but the answer is actually more complicated than that. It's not (just) about quality.
Some of the most formidable early 2000s spoof films come from the Wayans family, whose production company is responsible for things like Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, and Not Another Teen Movie.
The Wayans were undoubtedly inspired, at least in part, by trailblazers before them. Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, for example, was released in 1974, and the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team gave us Airplane! and Police Squad! in 1980 and 1982 respectively.
But the early 2000s were full of this kind of niche spoof that has, since, died out.
Scary Movie, Not Another Teen Movie, and Don't Be A Menace aren't trying to say anything clever about the source material they're parodying. Instead, they rely on the touchstone of cultural references to be funny.
For Scary Movie, this meant the suspension of disbelief needed for most horror films (why would a character wander alone into the woods while a masked murderer is on the loose?) and ups the ante so far that the whole premise becomes ludicrous.
By laughing at the protagonists of a spoof, we're also laughing at ourselves, and the fact that we enjoy films like The Blair Witch Project and Sixth Sense.
Yet with each new Scary Movie release came the sense that we've seen this all before. Because we have. This kind of exaggerated spoof can only really be done once before it becomes tired and thus each movie has diminished returns in comparison to its predecessor.
Why would you want to watch Shaun of the Dead 2 when the best zombie-evading jokes were already made the first time round? (Don't worry, there isn't a Shaun of the Dead 2)
The line between spoof and satire isn't, perhaps, as thin as some people want it to be. Satire teaches us something, either about ourselves, society, or the source material it is mocking. Spoofs rest squarely on the shoulders of familiarity.
The types of films that the Wayans brothers parodied were also becoming thinner. The proliferation of content – there are a lot of movies out there! – meant the references were diluted.
For those who didn't catch the reference. pic.twitter.com/JzzbyPaGo1— Arianna Rees (@AriWRees) October 10, 2019
And then there's the real villain (hero?) of the piece: meme culture. We live in a spoof machine. Trailers hardly have to air for ten minutes before they've been satirised, spoofed, dubbed and otherwise messed with to make a broader cultural point or simply make us laugh.
It is the public who have their hands at the wheel of spoof culture now. And despite the constant concerns over copyright and intellectual property, social media shows no signs of slowing down. We even dabble in it at Digital Spy.
Toy Story 5 should begin with a tight closeup of Woody’s face when he hears his owner tell Marie Kondo that he doesn’t spark joy— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) January 15, 2019
Spoof content is now both exceedingly specific and highly universal. Twitter and Instagram mean that the reach of any given meme or parody content goes beyond the niche and into broader society – so much so that we're spoofing parody content in a weird, meta twist on ourselves.
In some cases, the source material for the meme doesn't even have to be recognised. The 'butterfly meme' comes from a 1990s Japanese television series, which the majority of people have definitely never seen. But the meme itself is so widely recognised that knowing the source content has become irrelevant. This is how far we've come.
So we don't need the Wayans brothers, or Mel Brooks, to spoof things for us. We're doing it plenty fine for ourselves.
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