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—Chris's disclaimer page appearing in every episode, and read before every videobook
—Chris, contradicting his own disclaimer
Parody is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialize an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation. The concept dates back to Ancient Greek literature, as Hegemon of Thasos was credited with being the first guy to change the words of poems to make them funny.
In a broader sense, parodies need not be humorous as long as they provide some sort of commentary on the original work. In that sense, a parody can be considered a sort of critical analysis of the original work.
For Chris, the word "parody" is basically a way to secure copyrights for other people's ideas. You see, parody falls under "fair use" in copyright law, so if Sonichu is a parody of Sonic the Hedgehog and Pokémon, then it's perfectly legal for Chris to turn Sonichu into a multimedia empire.
Why Sonichu is not a parody
How do we put this lightly? Well... unless you believe that badly ripping off other media constitutes as "parody", Sonichu is not a parody.
The issue of whether or not Sonichu meets the criteria for fair use is academic. As it stands, Chris is simply one of thousands of lame Sonic fans trying to make a name for himself by "creating" shitty recolors. For all of Chris's big dreams of developing Sonichu games, cartoons, and merchandise, he can barely muster the motivation to produce 2 issues of the comic book each year, despite the quality of his workmanship.
Still, the question remains: is Sonichu a parody? If humor is to be chief criterion, then the answer is obviously no. Nearly all of the humor to be found in the series is purely unintentional by the author. A good example of this principle in action is the infamous "Family Guy skitch" of Sonichu #7. At first blush, this could be interpreted as a sardonic imitation of Family Guy-style humor, with Chris initiating a needless flashback to a joke that depends on slapstick and nostalgia references. The problem is that Chris isn't that clever, as demonstrated by the way he shamelessly offers the gag to Seth MacFarlane to use in the show itself, indicating that Chris believes his imitation is tantamount to the genuine article.
In terms of commentary on the original work, Sonichu is virtually devoid of this. Early issues would poke fun at Sonic and Pokémon characters, but this wasn't particularly insightful. Indeed, characters like Team Rocket and Doctor Robotnik are often mocked in the original works, so Chris was most likely just repeating what he'd seen. In Sonichu #1, Amy Rose meets Rosechu, but the scene is little more than a dry comparison of the two, who wind up being more alike than different. Even Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer understand parody better than Chris.
Speaking legally rather than artistically, in the United States a valid parody should demonstrate reasonable usage with regard to "the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole" to fall under fair use. In other words, the hypothetical defendant should be able to show that they have not "taken any more of the original work than was necessary to achieve the purpose for which the material was copied from the original work". If Chris really does have some parodic "purpose" in mind for Sonichu, the sheer volume of ideas he has simply appropriated from other sources is weighted against him; aside from using characters with names and appearances mostly or completely lifted from other works, the main storylines themselves are far too derivative of the original materials to qualify as pastiche or homage. Chris merely chooses to mix and match entire ready-made plots, such as the Quest for the Sonichu Balls (Sonic the Hedgehog/Dragon Ball) or the plight of Zelina (Zelda II: The Adventure of Link), making only superficial changes and avoiding any decent narration along the way. Ultimately the main difficulty in proving this point against Chris would be delineating the numerous works he has used and where. Unfortunately for him, this has been done.
Perhaps by sheer coincidence, Sonichu has evolved into a shell of what a true Sonic/Pokémon parody could be. Like the Sonic characters, the cast is composed of cutesy-looking animals who have gradually sloughed off the veneer of innocent video game mascots to engage in angsty dialogue and crude romantic entanglements. And, like Pokémon, the Sonichus and Rosechus are super-powered animals who battle in the service of a bossy, whiny human. In short, by combining the two franchises, Chris has wound up depicting a darker, more infantile reflection of each. The problem is that he fails to realize this, and so the actual commentary on Sonic and Pokémon is never properly realized. During an IRC chat with Clyde Cash and BILLY MAYS, Chris spends an inordinate amount of time trying to explain how Sonichu is a parody of Sonic (though he entirely forgets Pikachu), but all he does is list their similarities. Even after the definition of "parody" is spelled out to him he completely fails to find any element of Sonichu that is a legitimate parody of Sonic: he continues to insist that Sonichu is a parody because he's fast, but also has electricity powers. In his PowerPoint presentation, Chris even describes Sonichu's story as "an Untold Chapter of one story, so it is additional, yet not a major plot change," which plants it quite firmly in the territory of "derivative work".
The irony is that by refusing to embrace Sonichu as a derivative, one-dimensional Sonic recolor, Chris fails to live up to his assertion that Sonichu is a parody. But Chris can't have it both ways. It's either original, or a parody. The closest Sonichu ever comes to true parody is in its satirical depiction of Encyclopedia Dramatica in #8. Instead of simply portraying ED as a website, Chris represents it as some sort of business housed in a physical building, with its users working there as some sort of staff, churning out slanderous content as an end unto itself. For once, Chris actually has a point to make: that ED is a bunch of mean-spirited JERKS who waste their lives hurting people. This message is ham-fisted, but at least it's not the usual subtext like "I think hedgehogs are way past cool!" and "I'd sure like to have sex!" Then again, given his belief that "lulz" is an acronym for "Laughs Under Lucricities", it's quite possible that he literally believes ED is a business.
Chris also believes that stealing real peoples' names and basically portraying them as he sees them is "parodic". This is, of course, untrue, and it's a complete miracle none of those portrayed in the comics have sued Chris for slander.
Further demonstrating Chris's ignorance of the true nature of parody is his belligerence towards artists who have imitated his work. In particular, Chris has vehemently denounced Jimmy Hill for claiming credit for Sonichu and merchandising the character in Europe as an openly homosexual cartoon character. What Chris can't (or won't) understand is that Hill's use of Sonichu is exactly what a parody is supposed to be, since his version deliberately alters Sonichu to humorous effect. In a court battle, the law is more likely to favor the work of trolls as parody, though there's some question of what happens when you parody something that's already stolen.
But even if Chris understood fully what parody means, it likely wouldn't matter. "Parody" is simply a word Chris uses as one of many excuses he comes up with to do whatever he wants. When he tried to strike a deal with Vivian to get a cut of her Audiobook money, he said he was doing so despite not being happy that her work was "parodic." While the Audiobooks straight-up mock Chris and his comic rather than act as parodies, to him it's not okay for him to be subject of "parody," but it's okay for him to make "parodies" of works that others create. So it seems that he understands on a basic level that a parody is intended to make fun of something, but he changes the meaning of the word to suit his needs when he's called out on how Sonichu is plagiarism.
Sonichu as a meta-parody
On the other hand, Chris's narcissism makes him a virtuoso at self-parody, so if he ever sues himself, he's covered.
When Chris takes Patti-Chan to CWCville, he leads her through a portal in his bedroom. Upon seeing the disheveled state of his quarters, Patti remarks that it's no wonder Chris needs a woman in his life.
By Sonichu #6, Chris believed he had completed his Love Quest by befriending Megan Schroeder, and eventually mocked his former bitterness over not having a girlfriend. When the heroes discuss the plight of Crystal the subject soon turns to how jealous men can be, and Megagi wryly echoes Chris's statement that he despised nearly all the men on Earth, simply because he couldn't get a girlfriend. A hilarious inside joke, if you're Chris.
Chris leads a squad into the year 1996, where he relives the moment when he created Bionic the Hedgehog, in the next issue. As lockers played a role in his inspiration, Chris extended the scene to include a gag lifted directly from an episode of Beavis and Butt-head, where the two slam a locker door over and over for fun.
In Sonichu #8, Sonichu discovers Rule 34 pictures on 4-cent_garbage.com, and expresses amazement that he and his friends were photographed in such intimate moments. Rosechu pointedly informs him that the images are drawings, even though they look "lifelike" to Sonichu, because Chris himself drew the sex scenes on Encyclopedia Dramatica (some of which he recycled in Sonichu #8).
The Spring Break feature in #8 features Blake getting fooled into having unprotected sex with a "tranny", which most analysts agree is a reference to Chris's own experiences getting tricked by various trolls posing as would-be girlfriends. Intentionally or not, Chris does a pretty good job projecting his own hormone-fueled foolishness onto Blake.
Also, Chris attempted to impress Encyclopedia Dramatica by creating the You know what, I HATE ME TOO gallery.
Chris does not understand the concept of parody
Despite his adamant declarations that he fully understands parody, Chris has repeatedly proven himself incapable of recognizing it in the face of the genuine article. The Jimmy Hill arc was a perfect example of what a parody is: taking what he had made canon and turning it around as commentary.
He makes the same error in the Adult Swim posts. He posts a rant admonishing Robot Chicken, a show centered around parody, that the canon Autobots wouldn't act the way they were portrayed, which was exactly the point. He goes on to give them a suggestion for a skit using random-access humor, which thankfully was ignored. Robot Chicken actually received a lot of such complaints, and made another sketch about the Go-Bots acting out of character, with the addition of a whiny, bespectacled, overweight fanboy living with his parents interjecting with complaints about inaccuracies... coincidence!!??... probably. It's less likely that they would reference Chris himself as it is that Chris is such a perfect example of everything wrong with cartoon-obsessed adults.
To cement the fact that Chris really doesn't understand parody, one only needs to take a look at a comment he made on a certain Hotdiggedydemon video. This comment has him spewing venom at the author for having "murderous intent" and denying that Sonic is dead (the video shows Sonic doing a comically long jumpstart and careening into the sun). It completely sailed over Chris' head that the video was done as a joke, instead making him take the video seriously and believing that Hotdiggedydemon actually wanted to murder Sonic the Hedgehog.
In another Sonic-related example of how Chris does not understand parody, he was enraged by a parodic fictional news story (which Chris thought was real) about Sega dropping Sonic as their mascot.
While Chris is quick to justify the existence of his abomination by claiming "parody", he also uses the term as an attack on parodies of his own work, particularly Asperchu. He doesn't just use the term "slanderous mockeries" or "troll works": he specifically describes them as parodies, using the term as though it were an insult and justification for his rage. When challenged on why the parodic nature of Sonichu is okay but that of Asperchu is not, he was unable to provide an appropriate response. Humorously, this is the only thing he has ever accurately described as a parody, whereas his own comics are at best fanfiction and at worst theft of intellectual property.
- IRC (20 January 2009), 21:30
- Sonic: Too Fast?
- Facebook#Sega Mascot Contest
Links to actual parodies
- The Official and Original Sonichu Site from Jimmy Hill (Link dead.)
- Sonichu: The Animated Series
- Sonichu Finale by Mr. Harry D.http://sonichufinale.canalblog.com/
- Sonichu animated promos by Timmys1984 http://www.youtube.com/user/timmys1984(Link dead.)
- Sonichu is Dead(Link dead.)
- "The Last Sonichu" by Vivtheg(Link dead.)
- "The Real Adventures of Sonichu" by Spencer Price(Link dead.)
- 'Sonichu: The TRUE and HONEST Comic Series' on DeviantART
- Sonichu Unleashed by HCAnderson