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7+ of the Best Self-Parodies in TV and Movies

What's your favorite in-universe parody?

Thor: Ragnarok: Matt Damon plays an Asgardian actor playing Loki in a stage retelling of the Thor movies' plots.

You either die a serious story or you go on long enough to parody yourself—and we love these shows for it. From Avatar: The Last Airbender to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, these are the best in-universe parodies from our favorite shows and movies.

The King’s Play on Game of Thrones

HBO's Game of Thrones: The King's Play.

As awful as the show eventually became, this play was a spot of light in one of the later seasons. Not only did it show how the “common man” viewed most of the early events of Games of Thrones—or, at least, how the Lannisters want the common man to see them: Ned as an uncivilized, foolish traitor; Cersei as a loving mother, wife, and queen; Tyrion as the trickster/evil uncle who has more in common with Petyr Baelish than his true self—but it also gave us Essie Davis as Lady Crane, the actress playing Cersei, who develops a surprising friendship with Arya during her training to become a Faceless Man.

The Ember Island Players of Avatar: The Last Airbender

Sokka and Suki showing the poster for "The Boy in the Iceberg": "The Boy in the Iceberg is a new production from acclaimed playwright Pu-on Tim, [Cut to a close shot of the poster as the camera pans up.] who scoured the globe gathering information on the Avatar, from the icy South Pole to the heart of Ba Sing Se. [Shot changes to show Team Avatar.] His sources include singing nomads, pirates, prisoners of war, and a surprisingly knowledgeable merchant of cabbage."

This is the parody to end all parodies. The best part is that most recaps of shows building up to the finale are clip shows of the group’s greatest successes and defeats. But this episode raised the bar, making fun of itself and its characters, while again expanding the world by showing how the Fire Nation and, arguably, the world at large views the Gaang.

(Also, the fact that many of the characters’ reactions sound like them reacting to the live-action movie is hilarious in hindsight.)

Rogers: The Musical and the Thor plays of the MCU

Both Rogers: The Musical and the Thor plays deserve Tony awards. From the stunt casting—Matt Damon appearing as another “Loki,” Luke Hemsworth as Thor, Sam Neill as Odin—to the general hilarity of these parodies and the characters’ reactions to them, they’re great recaps of/throwbacks to the past MCU movies and how the world sees these larger-than-life events.

Perhaps the best thing to come out of Rogers: The Musical is the 16-minute mockumentary about Rogers: The Musical that features a wealth of Easter eggs for Marvel fans and Broadway fans alike.

Stab series in the Scream franchise

Spoilers for Scream 3 and Scream (2022)!

The Stab series is unique in that the events of the movies begin to affect Sidney and co.’s real lives in later movies; the Ghostface of Scream 3 ends up being the director of Stab 3 (and Sidney’s secret half-brother), and the Ghostface of Scream (2022) ends up being two superfans who want new, better Stab movies to be made by providing new source material. All the Scream/Stab movies have interesting things to say about the entertainment/news industries and how they can exploit people (victims, actors, etc.) and tragic events in order to get the best story (which is especially ironic given Ghostface is arguably based on a real killer). Scream 3 deserves special mention for being a big middle finger to Harvey Weinstein and the other predatory producers of Hollywood (despite being a film made by his production company).

Batman the Musical of Batman Beyond

Batman the Musical with Joker, Two-Face, Penguin, Hawley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman flanking Batman
(Kids WB/WB Animation)

Though we only ever get to hear the first two songs of this musical, it is as laughable as it is heartbreaking. Terry McGinnis, the new Batman, gets to poke fun at his predecessor while Bruce deals with an onslaught of regret and nostalgia that comes from both another birthday passing and seeing this parody of himself. My only regret is that we couldn’t see all the other characters’ reactions to the musical versions of themselves. (Dick Grayson would have probably pulled an Aang and raged over being played by a woman. “I wasn’t even that young when I became Robin!”)

Every movie/show in The Boys

Though technically not in-universe parodies, it certainly feels like it to us, as we see a wealth of trailers for Citizen Starlight and Dawn of the Seven, which expertly satirize both our universe and superhero universes. The Citizen Starlight one feels particularly egregious because it shows how companies can co-opt movements to save face and pretend they aren’t the perpetrators of the problem. The whole Vought International YouTube page is filled with wonderful parodies. Go check them out!

Every Supernatural fandom episode

The Supernatural cast—kind of.
(The CW)

In a show that ran for 15 seasons and had one of the largest fandoms of the 2010s, of course Supernatural would reference that. And they did, often. What’s more unique is the fact that many of these in-universe parodies are as much about the fandom as they are about the show. The musical episode, actor Misha Collins interacting with Sam and Dean, and a fanfiction author getting to meet the characters she writes about all pay tribute not just to the show, but to the viewers. While some of them could come off as being a bit mean-spirited by making fun of the fans who kept the show going for so long, others still felt like an ode to the fans who made the show what it was.

Honorable mentions:

These are some “sort of” parodies that comment on the shows/events of the shows but aren’t extensive enough to really qualify.

The Hillywood Show Supernatural parodies: Technically not in-universe, but the fact that they got so much of the cast to reprise their roles for these parodies was something truly special.

Duck-tective in Gravity Falls: The in-universe duck detective TV series isn’t technically a parody of Gravity Falls itself, but some of the characters’ discussions of it mirror comments from fans of Gravity Falls. Notably, Stan Pines says, “I’ll have you know that Ducktective has a big mystery element with a lot of humor that goes over kids’ heads!”

Joker’s performance at the Villy Awards on HBO Max’s Harley Quinn series: Very brief, but the fact that they recreated Jason’s murder for the Joker’s introduction to the Villy Awards is brutally dark humor that is very in-line with this show’s Joker and its version of Gotham.

What are your favorite in-universe parodies? Let us know in the comments!

(featured image: Marvel Entertainment)

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Kimberly Terasaki is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She has been writing articles for them since 2018, going on 5 years of working with this amazing team. Her interests include Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Horror, intersectional feminism, and fanfiction; some are interests she has held for decades, while others are more recent hobbies. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan.