The ubiquity of intertextuality in internet culture has ignited long-standing debates about the cultural significance of parody as a device of commentary and as civic speech. It also raises concerns about the legal implications of unprecedented uses of copyrighted material. This paper examines how YouTube videos, self-labeled by their creators as “parody” reframe the meaning structures of copyrighted material. Focusing on representations of gender in the music industry, it probes 100 music video parodies through a qualitative textual analysis. The paper offers a typology of five interpretive configurations underscoring the relationships between originals and their renditions. While the majority of parodies did not convey the critical commentary that their label promised, most of them did aspire to transform the meaning of the music videos. The typology, which presents a discrepancy between textual and societal forms of critique, is discussed in relation to its contribution to broader evaluations of media audiences and user-generated-content.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
I am grateful to Edith Boxman, Noam Gal, Wendy Griswold, the journal’s editor and reviewers for their insightful comments on previous versions of this article. The School of Communication at Northwestern University provided funding support through the Graduate Research Ignition Grant. Lillian Boxman-Shabtai is a PhD candidate in the Media, Technology, and Society program at Northwestern University. Her main research interests include theories of interpretation and reception, media audiences, polysemy, and digital humor.
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