Parody and Decorum: Permission to Mock

  • Jerry Palmer


The central character of the Monty Python comedy Life of Brian is a carpenter from Nazareth at the time of the New Testament events, who is mistaken for the Messiah. The biblical reference is obvious, and the story contains clear allusions to events recorded in the Testaments, such as the Sermon on the Mount, as well as the Crucifixion itself. On its release the film was accused of blasphemous parody by Christian and Jewish organisations; in the UK, various local authorities banned the film on the grounds that it was offensive (Guardian, 2003). Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses (Rushdie, 1988) received essentially the same judgement from Muslim organisations: as is well known, the Ayatollah Khomeini, the then religious leader of Iran, issued a fatwa in 1989 condemning Rushdie to death for blasphemy. The novel was seen as a ‘blasphemous parody of Islam’ by the Iranian religious leaders (Beaver, 2003) or as a ‘simple-minded parody of Islam’ (Samuel, 1989), it was ‘a serious parody of militant Islam’ (Calico, 2004), criticised in so far as it ‘paints nauseous grotesque absurd accounts of incoherent events, mostly with cartoons and caricatures’ (Roy, 2002).1


Modern World Jewish Organisation Textual Meaning French Edition Official Culture 
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© Jerry Palmer 2005

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  • Jerry Palmer

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