I have said before that there is something about a cultural object when it crosses over into parody. It can either signal that the object’s legitimacy is so established that it’s ripe for poking a few holes. Think about a comedy sketch about bloviating Harvard professors, for instance. No one thinks the joke undermines Harvard’s prestige. In a weird way, the joke being rooted in privilege, no matter how annoying or out-of-touch, mostly reaffirms the cultural belief that Harvard is elite. That’s a net win for a place in Harvard’s position.
But, let’s say your product hasn’t quite achieved the golden ticket that is “taken-for-grantedness” in our culture. That’s the idea that something is seen as so natural and “right”, that challenging it’s rightness would be a social violation. For example, few people question anymore that college is a “good” thing. Sure, we ask if it should be so expensive, if it should look the way it does, etc. But the idea that college is a right, normal thing to aspire to and to achieve is pretty well established…for some colleges.
–-excerpted from a blogpost by the incisive Tressie McMillan Cottom, in which she discusses what makes something “real” and how Saturday Night Live‘s send-up of for-profit colleges may define them before they define themselves.