This article analyses the ways in which parody and imitation operate in Mel Brooks’ wildly successful Young Frankenstein. Filmed in elegant black-and-white and unanimously regarded as a high-water mark in comedy history, this film is both a loving tribute and an irreverent parody of the original Universal's classic horror films. By creating a continuous oscillation between similarity and difference in relation to the lexical, syntactic, and stylistic categories of the 1930s Frankenstein films, all their formulaic conventions are subjected to ribald, surreal humour and fresh comic twists. Relying as it does on irony and low comedy, parody here is closely related to the modern notion of the burlesque, an umbrella term to describe different kinds of humorous imitation. Through a system of irresistible reversals – there is no emphasis on the Monster’s destructive rage and hideousness, nor on his creator’s punishment for his hubris – Brooks’ humorous parody is mainly achieved by means of hyperbole, distortion, and especially incongruity, which derives from expectancy violation and is viewed as the essence of laughter. Punctuated by slapstick humour, rapid-fire wordplay, and double entendres, Young Frankenstein is also interspersed with a relentless succession of gags and obscene jokes serving the purpose of exposure, versus hostile jokes, serving the purpose of aggression, satire, or defence. Drawing on Freud’s relief theory, which maintains that the most relevant characteristic of humour is the pleasure that it produces, on the self-disparaging nature of Jewish humour, and finally on the Schlemiel character, Brooks’ film highlights the compensatory nature of humour, its liberation principle, as well as its intimate connection with the unconscious mechanisms of dreaming.

“The Uses of Parody and the Practice of Laughter in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein"

M. Vanon Alliata
2020

Abstract

This article analyses the ways in which parody and imitation operate in Mel Brooks’ wildly successful Young Frankenstein. Filmed in elegant black-and-white and unanimously regarded as a high-water mark in comedy history, this film is both a loving tribute and an irreverent parody of the original Universal's classic horror films. By creating a continuous oscillation between similarity and difference in relation to the lexical, syntactic, and stylistic categories of the 1930s Frankenstein films, all their formulaic conventions are subjected to ribald, surreal humour and fresh comic twists. Relying as it does on irony and low comedy, parody here is closely related to the modern notion of the burlesque, an umbrella term to describe different kinds of humorous imitation. Through a system of irresistible reversals – there is no emphasis on the Monster’s destructive rage and hideousness, nor on his creator’s punishment for his hubris – Brooks’ humorous parody is mainly achieved by means of hyperbole, distortion, and especially incongruity, which derives from expectancy violation and is viewed as the essence of laughter. Punctuated by slapstick humour, rapid-fire wordplay, and double entendres, Young Frankenstein is also interspersed with a relentless succession of gags and obscene jokes serving the purpose of exposure, versus hostile jokes, serving the purpose of aggression, satire, or defence. Drawing on Freud’s relief theory, which maintains that the most relevant characteristic of humour is the pleasure that it produces, on the self-disparaging nature of Jewish humour, and finally on the Schlemiel character, Brooks’ film highlights the compensatory nature of humour, its liberation principle, as well as its intimate connection with the unconscious mechanisms of dreaming.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, 1818-2018
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3726765
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