HOLLYWOOD – Does the 1980 disaster parody movie hold up to a new generation of film makers who apparently have never watched anything or understood anything that they watched?

Less than 15 minutes into 1980 parody-comedy ‘Airplane’, and already we’ve seen airport security workers using an x-ray machine to gawp lewdly at women’s naked bodies, while the male passengers walk through the machine and appear clothed! It is only going to get worse. A woman is hysterical and not only does she get her face slapped, but a queue forms to smash her in the face, including a boxer, and someone with a baseball bat. Is this supposed to be funny?

I wanted to watched Airplane because I knew airplanes from flying on them and I knew films because they show them on planes sometimes. So it was like a  perfect combination. So what happened? Is our generation really as hyper-sensitive and monumentally stupid as everyone seems to think we are or is Airplane the comedy version of Auschwitz and everyone involved should be sent to re-education camps?

The problem is not simply the treatment of women, although this alone would be enough to condemn it. There are ‘racial’ jokes, Jokes about religious minorities. A little boy is allowed into the cockpit where the pilot starts to ask him questions of what we can only call a Leaving Neverland nature. At another point someone said ‘Surely you’re not serious’ and the doctor said, ‘I’m serious and don’t call me Shirley’. But the guy hadn’t said Shirley, he’d said Surely. How insecure do you have to be in your toxic masculinity to think people call you Shirley and not surely? And we’re the snowflakes!?

I had high expectations for Airplane. A lot of people had told me that it was the height of zany comedy. But I watched disgusted, vomiting repeatedly on myself  as my roommates – all of them looking like underwear models and eating Hagen Daas – vomited spirals of what could only be described as diversity vomit high into the air. I like my comedy not to punch down. I don’t even like my comedy to punch up. I’d prefer my comedy – if has to do anything – to sort of do Tai Chi moves without obviously culturally appropriating Tai Chi.

My advice is if you want to watch a comedy about a disaster you should spend more time on twitter.


In the third of our series Thinking Comedy, film comedian Marlon Wayans ruminates on the anxiety of influence in parody.

My comedies have always been rooted in the tradition of parody and this is not something I’ve always been comfortable with. The etymological link between parody and parasite is enough to give me, having read a great deal of Jacques Derrida, pause.

Aside from the obvious need for a parody to endlessly recycle and reuse a host text or a series of host texts, there’s also the fact that parody has to in some way negotiate other parodies, often better parodies. Is it necessary to – as Harold Bloom argues in his monumental work of literary criticism – ‘kill your antecedents’? Or is this just overworked Freud?

My films, for instance, and I’m thinking specifically of the Scary Movie franchise, but also of White Chicks, Dance Flick and A Haunted House owe a lot to Airplane and Police Squad. They are essentially zanies, a series of jokes that seek almost to beat into submission as to entertain. Anyone unfamiliar with the work that is being parodied cannot hope to understand the comedies. The topicality also makes these works highly prone to decay. Will people still watch Scary Movie ten years from now? I highly doubt it.
And yet it was with some relief that David Zucker agreed to come on board to write and direct Scary Movie 5. As part of the team along with his brother Jerry and Jim Abrahams that brought us those classics of early eighties parody, I feel his involvement retrospectively gives my work an imprimatur of approval and quality. So thank you David, and, yes, the money is in the mail!
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