Weekly World News - Satire or Parody?
July 30, 2007 8:29 PM   Subscribe

Is the Weekly World News satire, parody, something in between or something else entirely? And how does it compare to or contrast with other similar works of media such as The Onion?
posted by christopherious to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
According to this article, the WWN is shutting down:

The Weekly World News had long specialized in the sensational and weird — Elvis sightings, UFO abductions, the continuing adventures of Bat Boy — and in attention-grabbing headlines like “Garden of Eden Found: Original Apple Recovered!” and “Grossed-out Surgeon Throws Up Inside Patient.” But its circulation began to lag as competitors turned to full-color (The News remained defiantly black and white) and to celebrity news.

In a March earnings statement, American Media said that single-copy sales of The News had dropped to 83,000 in 2006, down from 153,000 in 2004. Recently, the parent company has been slashing its staff numbers and cutting publications, while struggling with heavy debt.

posted by Forktine at 8:35 PM on July 30, 2007

I'm not sure your question really has an answer. It's not like "Mad" or "Cracked" (or the Onion) in having a specific charter.

Ultimately it was a business venture, which produced original (heh) material as a means of delivering paid advertising. The material was whatever they thought would convince readers to buy it.

Probably the best way to put it is that the WWN was "The Enquirer" with anything even faintly libelous removed.

(Note the past tense. They're shutting it down.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:38 PM on July 30, 2007

It started out as neither satire nor parody, but was closest to parody in its ever more blatant disregard for the factual basis of what it printed. In its earlier years it was much closer to the Nat. Enquirer, and I knew of people who were recruited from the British tabloid press to go and work there (allegedly it employed more lawyers than journalists).

As time went on it veered into full-bore self-parody, which could I suppose be seen as a satire on the other 'bloids, if you wanted to be hypersophisticated about it...
posted by unSane at 8:43 PM on July 30, 2007

I envision the WWN publishers as the kind of folks who really didn't care what you thought about their rag, as long as you paid up.

(btw, the Enquirer used to be more like the WWN, or at the very least The Star, before it decided to "go legit" a few years back)
posted by mkultra at 9:06 PM on July 30, 2007

It's a mockery of journalism, then a parody.
posted by rhizome at 9:15 PM on July 30, 2007

Friend of a friend that actually worked for American Media claimed the WWN was never intended to be anything but a rag to make you pick it up and go, "Huh. Weird." If it was a satire or a parody, it was never intended as such. At best, you could call it a sideshow, or perhaps a freak show, given that a lot of things in the paper were actually true (i.e. there really was a Hogzilla, there really are such things as conjoined twins, etc.), but blown wildly out of proportion or otherwise distorted.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:04 PM on July 30, 2007

Boy, I really want to answer this question seriously, but I'm not sure if I can describe the WWN succinctly, and I don't think that parody or satire describe the content. I think that parody and satire both suggest that there is some kind of basis - something that is being parodied or satirized.

I guess in my opinion it doesn't warrant being described as anything other than "fiction". A particular type of fiction with a particular presentation, to be sure, but just fiction.

And I'm not using the past tense because the WWN has only discontinued their print publication. They will continue publishing online.
posted by chudmonkey at 10:04 PM on July 30, 2007

Just as professional wrestling is "sports entertainment", the WWN is "journalism entertainment". I love it and will miss seeing it on supermarket shelves.
posted by DWRoelands at 6:09 AM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

rhizome has it. It's a parody of journalism (appealing to readers who feel disenfranchised from mainstream journalism).
posted by rottytooth at 6:54 AM on July 31, 2007

Technically, I think it fits the definition of travesty -- a serious work (i.e., a newspaper) presented in a ridiculous, "low culture" populist style.
posted by ourobouros at 7:13 AM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Interesting (legit newspaper) article here by former WWN writer.

Excerpting the most relevant part:
The creative process went something like this: I would e-mail my editor ideas, culled from pop culture, my imagination and my personal experiences. He'd then tell me which ones to write - or assign me something entirely different. For example, "Mermaids bare all" - that was mine. "Nancy Reagan flooded with marriage proposals" was his. Checks would arrive in the mail and the process would start over.
posted by Jaie at 9:18 AM on July 31, 2007

Response by poster: There is something, I think, that differentiates WWN from The Onion that I have never been able to put my finger on. Would anybody care to contrast the two?

One thing I can say is, The Onion does something that leaves the reader with less doubt about whether or not it is being serious. Almost like a comedian smiling or winking. In fact I would submit that WWN's commitment to staying in character is every bit as consistent as is that of certain comedians who come to mind, such as Peter Sellers, Andy Kaufman and even Sacha Baron Cohen.

This sort of distinction is more or less what I am looking for, but I am unsure which label(s) would be most applicable to sum that up in a word or two.
posted by christopherious at 1:39 PM on July 31, 2007

Here's an interesting comparison.

Art Bell.

Is Art Bell serious? Is Art Bell a satire? If so, what exactly is Art Bell satirizing?

I submit that the WWN was an old-school sideshow, preying on the gullible, just as Art Bell does.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:35 PM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I would agree with these claims. So if you had to classify it in an encyclopedia or linguistic reference (alongside 'parody', 'satire' and other related forms), what taxonomic label would you pick?
posted by christopherious at 2:52 PM on August 1, 2007

what taxonomic label would you pick?

Sophistry and chicanery.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:30 AM on August 2, 2007

Response by poster: Sophistry and chicanery

Yes, those are totally valid adjectives too but as far as getting a formal taxonomic designation goes, I'm still unsatisfied!
posted by christopherious at 3:47 PM on August 2, 2007

Yes, those are totally valid adjectives

Some people would label both sophistry and chicanery as nouns. But hey, YMMV. ;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:52 PM on August 2, 2007

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