‘Unofficial –since there wasn’t such a thing as “official” –Werther merchandise filled the cultural landscape’
Goethe, for all the wealth and fame and success that Werther brought him, began to distance himself from the work. He wrote letters to friends and relatives about his embarrassment with the work, often mocking the fans who didn’t appreciate his newer poems and plays.
He even made fun of Werther himself. He wrote a comical play called The Triumph of Sensibility which is so desperately trying to prove that he is in on the joke that he tried to cast Mel Gibson as a tattoo artist. Not one of his better plays –- meaning not Faust — the kindest way to describe it is a sort of Airplane! version of emotional literature.
Still, the begrudging self-parody was a sign. Like a much-mocked politician appearing on Saturday Night Live, one of the most beloved and prominent writers of his or any era gave in to the backlash by gritting his teeth, waving at the crowd, and taking a pratfall.
Parody, and comedy, had won. And the modern model for pop-culture mockery had been created.