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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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February 07, 2004

Parody of a Parody

Posted by Ernest Miller

The Trademark Blog posts a interesting disturbing image of Miss Piggy with a breast baring pose obviously reminiscent of Miss Janet at the Super Bowl (Warning: the image may upset the sensitive) (Parody - Discuss Amongst Yourselves). Marty asks whether the image is a non-infringing parody (which comments on Miss Piggy) or an infringing satire (which merely uses Miss Piggy to comment on Miss Jackson). The case is point is the famous Dr. Seuss case which held that a satire of OJ Simpson in the style of Dr. Seuss was infringement.

Tech Law Advisor is quick to take up the discussion and quickly concludes that (Not Parody):

Miss Piggy baring her breast does not comment on Janet Jackson's exposed breast. The work shown here is quite simply infringement.

The problem here as in the Dr. Seuss case that Marty cites is that the supposed parodist merely use the work [Miss Piggy] as a vehicle to satirize something completely different [Miss Nasty]. [comments/links in original]

I disagree. To me this is a fairly clear case of parody of a parody.

Miss Piggy, afterall, is a sanitized, child-friendly parody of celebrity divadom, of which Miss Janet Jackson is an example. Miss Piggy was originally called "Miss Piggy Lee" after diva singer Peggy Lee. Since then, Miss Piggy has vamped in parodic versions of Calvin Klein, Guess? Jeans, Pulp Fiction, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, and Pretty Woman, not to mention so many, many others, including a Pigtoria's Secret shoot.

Miss Piggy clearly is meant to parody the sexuality of modern female celebrity-dom. Nevertheless, like all the Muppets, Miss Piggy's parody is sanitized for family consumption. Clearly, such sanitized family entertainment is itself ripe for parody, see, for example, directorial genius Peter Jackson's Muppet parody Meet the Feebles, in which Muppet-like creatures do drugs, porn and engage in other degenerate acts.

How better to parody Miss Piggy then to push her parody of female celebrity-dom into the realm of the absurd? The humor of this parody lies not simply in its reference to Janet Jackson's breast episode, but to our recognition of Miss Piggy as following in Janet's footsteps (as Miss Piggy has followed in the footsteps of so many other divas). The image is funny because it pushes our expectations of the sanitized parody of Miss Piggy beyond what her creators would have chosen. In the words of the Dr. Seuss decision, this image of Miss Piggy "mimics an author's characteristic style and holds it up to ridicule."

Comments (2) | Category: Copyright | Freedom of Expression | Trademark


1. Derek Slater on February 7, 2004 07:08 PM writes...

I thought I was the only person who's ever seen Meet the Feebles. "Drugs, porn, and ... other degenerate acts" does not even begin to describe how messed up that movie is - it's brilliant.

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2. ijsbrand on February 9, 2004 03:49 PM writes...

As a sow has thirteen teats, the parody could have been a bit stronger than it is right now.

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