The next time you enthusiastically walk into a movie theater and end up being disappointed by watching a medley of cheap imitation of an earlier blockbuster, you can easily dismiss the movie like a harsh film critic by calling it a ‘Pastiche’.
One of the most famed pastiche work in literary world is the book Exercices de style or Exercises in Style by French novelist Raymond Queneau. The book retells the same short story in 99 different styles!
In our everyday life, we admire art, movies, celebrities, and fictional characters; and try to integrate some of their ways in our daily lives. But some talented earthlings go as far as paying tribute to their favorite works by means of creative expression. This mimicking of famed masterworks is known as Pastiche.
A pastiche can on certain occasions be successful, and sometimes a total disaster. Some sources are genius at weaving in many themes and concepts to create a rich and complex work, while others create a melange of items which feel inconsistent and do not work together. Cited below are some notable examples of such works.
Pastiche: is a potpourri of literary, artistic, or musical composition made up of bits from borrowed sources intended to imitate or caricature another artist’s style wholly or chiefly of motifs mostly in a bid to honor the original work in a subtle satirical way.
Pastiche comes from the Italian word pasticcio, which in turn is derived from the 13th century Latin word pasticium. The meaning of the word is – a pie or pasty. The Italian pie normally consists of a mixture of ingredients, such as meat and pasta, hence the word reference. The word is also said to have been descended from the Greco-Roman dish pastitsio, which is made out of a variety of different ingredients.
Characteristics & Functions
★ A tongue-in-cheek way of presenting old wine in a new bottle, ‘pastiche’ is used from centuries to depict famous art, literature, music, and movies like a fan epic or fan work or fan fiction. It may reflect a single piece of work by a single artist, or a body of work by one or more artists, or even an entire genre. The only difference between a fan fiction and pastiche is fan fiction reuses characters or settings from another work; and a pastiche copies the tone, style, and flavor of the original work.
★ Unlike parody, its purpose is not to ridicule but to accolade the literary piece it imitates though it may be comical in content.
★ The idea behind it is that it integrates themes, ideas, and characters which have already been seen and used before. These details are incorporated in a new work because the author finds them occupying, compelling, or useful. It is not plagiarism or outright imitation, but a more complex literary concept. A work is pastiche if it contains multiple acknowledgments of original masterpieces, hence the Oxford English Dictionary aptly defines the term as ‘a medley of various ingredients’.
★ The pastiche pieces that exist are a highlight of the original pieces and are accepted by a vast majority of audiences as landmarks of their age. These faux works celebrate the bodies of work by great writers, playwrights, directors, and artists of the past.
Examples in Literature & Books
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a tragicomedy written by Tom Stoppard and is developed from two minor characters who appear for a brief moment in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The title is adopted from Hamlet’s Act 5, Scene 3 when an ambassador from England announces, ”Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.”
Robert Benchley’s Christmas Afternoon an eccentric family’s story about a chaotic Christmas afternoon is laced with subtle sarcasm and pays homage to Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. It also mentions Tiny Tim, a character from Dickens story in the end.
David Lodge’s The British Museum Is Falling Down is a comic imitation of ten different novelists. He mentions the particular writer in the text before he starts imitating their style. For example in chapter 3, ‘Adam Appleby’, hero of the novel gets stuck in the traffic on his way to the British Museum Library and he mentions ‘Mrs. Dalloway’s (a reference to Virginia Woolf’s novel) booming out the half hour’. Other author styles include Franz Kafka, Ernest Hemingway, and James Joyce.
Philip Jose Farmer’s The Jungle-Rot Kid on the Nod is a short story with simultaneous references of two very different writers named Burroughs: Edgar Rice (creator of Tarzan) and William S. (Naked Lunch and Junky).
Cloud Atlas is written in six different genres, all of which are introduced as loving genre pastiches. Chronologically: Period Drama, Genteel Interbellum Setting Satire, Mystery Fiction, Kafka Komedy, Cyberpunk Space Opera Dystopia, and Science Fantasy Adventure. It’s most illustrious in the sci-fi club, and the characters all over the novel comment on the similarities between the stories and the works they extract.
Elizabeth Aston’s The Second Mrs. Darcy describes the story of a Darcy cousin taken right from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Also Alexandra Ripley’s Scarlett is homage to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.
Examples in Music
Nerd Alert – SCV Love Song – Featuring – KurtHugoSchneider – HuskyStarcraft is a pastiche of Boy Band music written about Starcraft II.
The rock band Queen have paid homage through their music to various artists including Crazy Little Love- Elvis Presley, Innuendo- Led Zeppelin, and Somebody to Love- Aretha Franklin.
Michael Jackson’s Thriller incorporates styles from the 1950s horror movies and 1980s zombie movies, it is also directed by John Landis who made the 1981 horror movie An American Werewolf in London.
Radiohead’s Permanent Daylight is considered to be a respectful deference to Sonic Youth.
Examples in Movies
Quentin Tarantino maker of movies like Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, and From Dawn Till Dusk states that his movies are a medley of many popular movies and genres.
The Star Wars series by George Lucas are medleys of 1930s science fiction series like Flash Gordon.
Shaun of the Dead pieced from various horror movies, including An American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead 2 and Night of the Living Dead.
The Artist is a massive tribute to silent films, as well as Hitchcock, Ford, and other early black-and-white filmmakers.
Monsters vs. Aliens and Pacific Rim are inspired from sci fi and the kaiju and mecha genres respectively.
Examples in TV & Video Games
Ugly Betty is the popularly adapted from the famed Hispanic Soap Opera.
The cult series Supernatural incorporates famous medleys in its episodes including Hell House which mimicked paranormal reality shows complete with found footage, camera abuse, and partially effective censorship. Monster Movie reprized old black-and-white horror films, Changing Channels references Grey’s Anatomy and CSI.
Dead Space takes inspiration from sci-fi and sci-fi horror genres, in particular 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris and Alien.
The Let’s Go To The Mall dance in the 3rd Just Dance represents the 80s style of dancing.
Magical Diary takes tropes and elements from Harry Potter fanfiction, though it mixes in elements of Parody and Deconstruction as well.
Examples in Art & Fashion
Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s ‘De Dulle Griet’ is imitation of Hieronymus Bosch’s art.
Modern artists have always paid homage to Grant Wood’s ‘American Gothic’ in their own unique ways.
Marc Jacob’s Spring Collection 2013 is inspired by 1960s style of Brigitte Bardot.
Vivienne Westwood mocked the traditional notions of being a royal British by wearing a combo of traditional and punk styles.
Fashion divas Lady Gaga and Katy Perry take inspiration from goth, Egyptian, Japanese, and steam punk cultures for their concerts.
Life is an imitation and pastiche is just a way of saying I like your work and I’m a fan by the means of creativity.