What goes on in the comments section below parody reviews on Amazon?

Have you ever wondered about whether or not anyone ever writes anything in that “Comments” section that’s found under each review on Amazon?  As far as most reviews go, I’ve noticed that some readers assign a vote of “helpful” if they like a particular review; however, I’ve also observed that the “Comments” sections usually remain pretty empty.

In the last year or so, I’ve been researching different aspects of parody reviews on Amazon.  And I’ve found that although users don’t typically comment on normal reviews… there are, in contrast, many comments in response to parody reviews of products like the following.

Over the last few weeks, my undergraduate research assistant, Chelsea Lo, and I have been building a data set of comments responding to parody reviews.  Our sample consists of nearly 300 comments responding to reviews written about 6 popularly-parodied products on Amazon.  Chelsea and I have found that the most common types of expressions that appear are ones which show a reader’s appreciation of the review writer’s creativity and cleverness, such as:

BEST. REVIEW. EVER.

or:

I keep coming back to giggle at this post.

or (one of our personal favorites):

I hope you got some college credit for this.

A few even took the form of mock wedding proposals:

Marry me. You are the man?/woman? of my dreams.

The next most common responses are those which pose some kind of a reply that’s directed to the review’s author. Often, these types of responses play along with joke, acting as though they inhabit the same fictional world that’s been created by the parody review writer.  For example, this commenter asks the author of one of the Three Wolf Moon T-shirt parody reviews for more information about the missing ending of the narrative he has crafted:

Hey what’s the end what happened between you and the asthmatic???? Don’t leave us all hanging!!!!! Did you end up ordering the shirt in newborn size? Hmmmmm???

These 2 types of responses account for over 80% of the comments in our sample. The remaining 20% of comments are things like: a reply to another commenter in the same strand  (“I second that impulse to “like.””); stand-alone laughter tokens, for example “LOL!! ” or “BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA“; or random popular culture references, like references to Star Wars, or to lyrics of popular songs.

We found only 2 instances of “policing behavior” (e.g., “Seriously?” , “GROW UP”  ) – and these followed some of the more political parody reviews of Avery Binders, which were associated with Mitt Romney’s now-famous “binders full of women” comment.

By and large then, Chelsea and I conclude that vast majority comments in response to parody reviews on Amazon are favorable, showing affiliation with and appreciation of their authors’ creativity and humor.

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