Culture

From 'Downton Abbey' to Fifty Shades of Grey: A Golden Age of Viral Musical Parodies?

Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey © Carnival Films / Giles Keyte
Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey © Carnival Films / Giles Keyte

As if in response to last week’s tragedies, the internet gods have bestowed us with the gift of laughter in the form of this week’s bounty of obscenely funny video spoofs.  It’s rare enough for one of the snide shtick-fests -- which often pack more huh than ha-ha moments -- clogging our collective feeds to merit the four-minute investment.

But this week delivered a double feature of inspired internet ingenuity, first in the form of Michael Shannon’s dramatic reading of the Delta Gamma sorority screed. But the arrival of the surgically precise “Downton Abbey” musical spoof (below), featuring a cast of Broadway’s best and brightest up-and-comers, raised the bar for past and future disposable diversions considerably. We defy any Downton devotee to come away from this spoof without reckoning with the way we’ve all fetishized this fantasy of the last gasp of the British caste system. And extra credit goes to the casting director who found dead ringers for Michelle Dockery and Jim Carter to play Lady Mary and Carson. Though we’ll betShirley MacLaine put in an angry call to her agent after watching her ample-chinned doppleganger spit out her bilious bon mots.

This Downton roast can be seen as the culmination of a recent wave of musicalized pop culture phenoms. Here are a few of the most noteworthy efforts to aid your procrastination once you tire of Julian Fellowes talking about hitting the “gay notes” and Michael Shannon’s rage filled pronunciation of the rhyming epithet that ends with punt.

In addition to "Spank!" the parody musical that debuted off-Broadway in March, Fifty Shades of Grey has spawned an entire playlist of parodies. But “Fifty Shades of Blue,” Funny or Die’s take on E.L. James’ bestselling sex-soaked saga of an everywoman held captive in an insatiable bachelor’s pleasure palace, nails the novel’s indiscriminate titillation factor.

Even though this spoof of "The Wire" arrived some four years after the critically lauded vérité depiction of Baltimore’s meanest streets, there is nothing but pure pleasure in watching much of the key cast reunite to sing their way through a vaudvillian take on the war on drugs.

Finally, things get really meta in this musical parody of the most popular musical of all time. Gangnam Style meets Les Miserables in “Les Militaribles,” a South Korean take-down of the populist Broadway sensation. No further explanation needed.