Parody and Pastiche

“The meaning of any image was not of its author’s making or necessarily under his or her control, but was determined only by reference to other images or signs.”
– Michel Foucault (Cotton, 2004)

Postmodernist critiques acknowledge the cultural understanding photography mediates, along with how artists of the modern age have made profitable work from direct links to past images. Whether this be a parody for comic affect or to raise a point, or whether it’s a pastiche used as a tribute to the original image rather than satire, past images have been revived in the present to a high extent.


This art piece is created by graffiti artist Banksy. It revives the photograph of the Nick Ut’s Vietnamese girl made to hold hands with both Ronald Mcdonald and Mickey Mouse and is of course controversial, especially in America. For one, it contrasts the stereotypical happiness for children – characters that depict happiness and our respected amongst children, especially in Western culture – against the sorrow and turmoil of the napalm struck Vietnamese girl. In some senses, the image manages to convey two happy-go-lucky family symbolism smiling off the distraught girl’s terror. The other concept I see Banksy convey in this image, is the depiction of two of America’s most successful and recognised corporations – McDonalds and Disneyland – alongside the unsuccessful dark melancholy of America’s past with the Vietnamese war. With this in mind, it’s as if the photo is showing the horrors created from unjust actions in the war, and satirically exploiting respected western corporations in an attempt to sugar coat some of the west’s regrets. With these aspects alone, Banksy’s piece would be seen as controversial due to the subject matter being seen as disrespectful, and is especially hard hitting to America and could be seen as an insult. However in my opinion, I would consider this image to be well composed, smart and meaningful. Although I would say Banksy is certainly being mischievous, in presenting such in image aimed at America, I would also say it’s very brave, creating more impact in the piece due to confronting the superpower about such circumstances. However, the main reason I really like this image would have nothing to do with the controversy, but simply the concept. In my opinion, the image is very powerful, and you do not need any explanation to understand the emotion and meaning in such an image, just like the majority of Banksy’s amazing work.


This image (of which unfortunately I cannot find the creator of) depicts Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” with the subtle change of turning the surreal tower into that of Barad-Dur; Sauron’s tower from The Lord of The Rings. This subtle change could come under parody, but in my opinion, it’s more of a pastiche image. The image is more of a tasteful tongue and cheek imitation, becoming a tribute to both Lord of The Rings and Van Gogh rather than mock at either parties. Pastiche certainly gives more of a respectful homage vibe, appealing to all audiences, where parody falls under a select audience, yet can become very powerful in its meanings and motives.


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