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The little train robbery / Thomas A. Edison, Inc. 1905.

[Detail] The little train robbery / Thomas A. Edison, Inc. 1905

Parody and Satire

The Great Train Robbery (1903) was a wildly popular commercial and critical success about outlaws in the American West. Two years after its release, the parody, The Little Train Robbery (1905), featured children holding up a miniature train and stealing candy before being brought to justice. A search on the term, parody, yields satires such as European Rest Cure (1904), which depicts the misadventures at a European spa and Terrible Teddy, the Grizzly King (1901), a lampoon of Theodore Roosevelt featuring a man hunting a black cat while a photographer and press agent document his every move.

  • How do these films exaggerate the nature of their subject matter?
  • What is the relationship between a parody and the original work upon which it is based? What is the purpose of a parody? What makes a parody funny?
  • Do you think that it is necessary to be familiar with the original subject matter to appreciate a parody?
  • How do you think that audiences might have responded to these parodies?
  • What is the purpose of a satire? What makes it funny? What kind of message does it convey and how?
  • How is a satire different from a parody? What are the similarities between the two? What types of comic techniques appear in each?
  • Choose a popular contemporary film and develop a parody.