American Gothic Couple
A subtrope of Art Imitates Art.
American Gothic. No, not the show, the 1930 Grant Wood painting with the dour, Alan Greenspan-esque man with a pitchfork and his equally dour daughter (often mistakenly assumed to be his wife). It is actually a portrait of Grant Wood's sister and his dentist. The house in the painting still stands today. Along with Leonardo's Mona Lisa and Edvard Munch's The Scream, it's one of the most parodied, imitated and referenced paintings in media, both real and fictional (there's even a blog devoted to collecting these parodies).
Incidentally, the "Gothic" refers to the architectural style of the window behind the couple.
A gigantic compendium of parody images can be found here.
- In the early 1960s, the iconic couple sang "They won't wilt when you pour on milk" as part of a commercial for General Mills Country Corn Flakes.
- Paul Newman and his daughter Nell reproduced the pose for the packaging of Newman's Own Organics.
- As part of the long running "If Norman Rockwell depicted the 20th century" series, Mad magazine printed a parody of the picture titled "American Gaythic," featuring two men.
- The first issue of the 1990s version of Mister Miracle with the title character assuming the position of the daughter while his wife, Big Barda, is assuming the father with her horned helmet taking the place of the pitchfork.
- The cover of Crossed: Family Values #2 depicts the couple as Crossed with Slasher Smiles, bloodstained weapons, and the house behind them on fire.
- The cover to issue 16 of Route 666 does a version of this with the two protagonists.
- The movie Good Fences starring Whoopi Goldberg also has a parody of the painting on its cover.
- In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 'Riff-Raff' (Richard O'Brien) and 'Magenta' (Patricia Quinn) pose as the couple in front of the arched church doors during the song "Dammit Janet", after the wedding of Brad and Janet's friends Betty Monroe and Ralph Hapschatt. At the end, when they reveal their alien identities, the pitchfork has turned into a trident-shaped raygun. The painting can also be briefly seen on a wall in the castle.
- The picture is also parodied in the film poster for the 1988 slasher film American Gothic starring Yvonne De Carlo and Rod Steiger.
- In the first Men in Black, a spoof version of the painting (the man's head is a skull with eyes) appears on the cover of a tabloid magazine Kay buys while investigating the disappearance of Edgar.
- For Richer or Poorer, a 1997 comedy film starring Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley, makes a direct reference to the painting in its cinematic poster.
- In Night at the Museum 2: Battle at the Smithsonian, the couple (along with pretty much everything else in the museum) come to life and the man has his pitchfork taken by Larry in order to fend off Kah Mun Rah's Mooks.
- As part of the Credits Gag sequence at the end of the Over the Hedge film, RJ and Verne take up a silly pose with a spork. They're drawn; the result is the two as if in this painting.
- Main villains of Motel Hell pose like this on the film's original poster.
- The cover of Son in Law.
- After a resemblance was noted between Late Night With Conan O'Brien's host Conan O'Brien and Finland's President Tarja Halonen, occasional gags would pop-up comparing the two; one recurring one would be the two replacing the couple in American Gothic occasionally aired before cutting to a commercial, or as they return.
- Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie pose as the couple during the title and opening credits of The Simple Life.
- Green Acres also had the lead couple pose as the couple in the painting during their opening credits.
- In an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, "The Masterpiece", Rob and Laura Petrie bought a painting from an auction. The painting revealed a different version of "American Gothic" in which the couple was smiling compared with the original version seen in the book in their living room.
- Rove Live replaces the couple with Melissa Doyle and David Koch.
- It is used in a Showcase on a May 2007 episode of The Price Is Right with a live-action model replacing the daughter and trying to excite the father with prizes that are in the showcase.
- In Oz, A Town Without Pity, likenesses of the two prominent figures of the painting are featured in a narrative of how prisons in the US are mostly located in rural area of the country.
- In one episode of Boy Meets World, Eric dresses as the farmer to try to ambush his brother's girlfriend.
- In Desperate Housewives, the couple appear briefly in the opening credits.
- In the Doctor Who episode "Gridlock", The couple in the Motorway at the start of the episode are based on the farming couple in the American Gothic, both having identical hairstyles, glasses and fashions.
- A million dollar question was answered correctly related to the painting on the American version of the popular game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. Nancy Christy, a high school teacher, correctly answered this question and won the million dollars, as she remembered that the man in the painting was based on Grant Wood's dentist.
- In one episode of The Drew Carey Show, during a Halloween party at Drew's workplace, a male and female employee both dressed up as the respective subjects in the famous painting, complete with an oversized picture frame attached to their bodies.
- In an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway, Drew and Ryan did this pose during a game of Props when their prop was a vaguely pitchfork looking thing.
- In Xena: Warrior Princess, Ares copies the pose with Gabrielle (Old Ares had a farm).
- In the Suite Life On Deck episode "Mulch Ado About Nothing," Cody's re-creation of the Mulch Festival for Bailey includes a couple of passengers posing as the couple from the painting. Lampshaded by Cody:
Cody: More American, and less Gothic.
- The painting is briefly spoofed by the band Warrant in their music video for "Cherry Pie."
- The cover of American alternative rock band Everclear's 2000 album Songs From An American Movie Vol. 1: Learning How To Smile. It shows the band's members holding guitars in front of a house and not smiling.
- The title was borrowed by The Smashing Pumpkins for their 2008 EP American Gothic.
- Elton John and RuPaul portray the couple on the video for "Don't Go Breaking My Heart".
- The music video for "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked" by Cage the Elephant has a cameo.
- Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman posed for a parody photograph of the painting with Palmer holding a floor cleaner and Gaiman holding a BBQ fork. The photo was taken by Kyle Cassidy.
- American Gothic by Gordon Parks. The couple is replaced by a maid, the gothic house is replaced by the back of an American flag, and the pitchfork is replaced with a broom.
- The artwork on the Magic: The Gathering card Orcish Settlers parodied this painting with green orcs replacing the couple, a piece of toast impaled on a broken pitchfork, and the house on fire.
- An old issue of Dragon magazine had a version of this on the cover, with the subjects holding D20s in their outstretched palms.
- This Munchkin promo card.
- In The Music Man, a brief visual reference is made during the "Iowa Stubborn" number as two workmen moving a pool table packing case frame stop in front of a farmer and wife, who strike this pose as they sing.
- Anthony Weigh's play 2000 Feet Away, which had its London premiere at the Bush Theatre in 2008, is primarily set in Eldon, Iowa. The play opens with a scene featuring the painting at the Art Institute. American Gothic is thereafter a key motif throughout the play.
- In Kingdom of Loathing, one monster in the Haunted Gallery is "a guy with a pitchfork, and his wife."
- World of Warcraft features a parody of this painting (there's one in the inn in Vengeance Landing, and I'm pretty sure some other Forsaken towns might have one too), where the couple is replaced by a pair of equally dour-looking undeads.
- All undead look dour. They're undead.
- With the shattering, a pair of orc NPCs were added into the orc starting area. They stand, completely immobile (as opposed to the majority of other NPCs who breathe and occasionally shift their weight) arranged in custom positions that mimic the painting, and that is all they do. The male orc is even holding a pitchfork in a vertical position, when an NPC holding an item would normally hold it horizontally.
- In episode 3 of Telltale's Back to The Future game, there is a portrait of First Citizen Brown and his wife Edna in the former's office that looks like American Gothic.
- The traditional first panel of webcomic San Antonio Rock City by Mitch Clem.
- Beauty and the Beast has a brief image of the clock Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts looking like this during the song Human Again.
- A reference to the characters in the picture appears in Mulan, in a scene where Mulan's ancestors argue about what to do about her situation. It's complete with the man saying "Not to mention they'll lose the farm."
- In the series Histeria!, the American Gothic couple frequently appear as characters. In one sketch they were Joan of Arc's parents. Sometimes the farmer appears without his wife, often with a voice similar to Don Knotts or Pat Buttram, actors noted for their portrayals of rural sitcom characters.
- In the classic Looney Tunes short "Louvre Come Back To Me!", Pepe Le Pew and Penelope Pussycat hide in the Louvre's air conditioning, his scent pervades into a gallery above, reaching American Gothic, and the figures' heads disappear into their costumes.
- In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Artist Unknown," Squidward Tentacles is revealed to have made a version of the painting, with the two figures drawn in his likeness.
- In fact, all of Squidward's art is just his face drawn in various degrees of abstractness.
- In The Simpsons episode "Bart Gets an Elephant", Bart is seen cleaning the wall with a cloth. Without looking, he makes his way across the American Gothic painting, removing the paint to reveal the message: "If you can read this, you scrubbed too hard. Signed, Grant Wood"
- The second disc of the Beavis and Butthead Mike Judge Collection Volume 1 has a cover depicting Beavis and Butthead as the characters in American Gothic.
- In the Hey Arnold! episode Stinky's Pumpkin, the picture is presented as a photograph of Stinky Peterson's grandparents and their farm in Arkansas.
- In one episode of Arthur, Arthur and Buster parody the two farmers in the painting in an episode that focused on famous artwork.
- On the Adult Swim show Metalocalypse, Toki Wartooth's parents resemble the painting, albeit much darker and sinister looking.
- In Superman: The Animated Series Mr. Mxyzptlk turns Ma and Pa Kent into an American Gothic-inspired painting for "safekeeping."
- They show up toward the end of the eagle's flight (about 1:14) in Vincent Collins's "200."
- The Johnny Bravo episode "Bravo Dooby-Doo", which is a send-up-slash-crossover with Scooby Doo, has him and Shaggy hiding from the Monster of the Week in such a painting during the chase scene.
- The opening sequence of King of the Hill ends with this (plus Bobby).
- In the The Backyardigans episode "Newsflash", the first shot we see of Pablo and Tyrone at their farm (unintentionally?) resembles the "American Gothic" painting.
- The Apple family has a ponified version of this painting hung up on a wall in their house in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic.
- The cover of John Sweeney's book The Art of the Laugh.
- Lavender Magazine parodied the work for a special gardening issue (April 27, 2007), featuring drag queen Wanda Wisdom and podcast producer Bradley Traynor.
- At Ohio State Buckeyes football games (usually after a touchdown), the scoreboard will sometimes display the painting, and a few seconds later, the mans eyes bug out and his tongue waves all over the place.
- One of the pieces in the book The Art Of Discworld features Death taking the place of the man, from his brief retirement in Reaper Man. The woman, therefore, is Miss Flitworth.
- A collection of Muppet parodies of famous artworks, under the title The Kermitage Collection, included Kermit and Miss Piggy in American Gothique.
- The portrait book The People of Pern depicts Menolly's parents, Yanus and Mavi, as an American Gothic pastiche.
- A sculpture by J. Seward Johnson entitled "God Bless America" features the American Gothic couple with a suitcase covered with international travel stickers at their feet. Originally put on display in December 2008, the sculpture was located on the Magnificent Mile of Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, just south of the Tribune Tower, but has since been moved to Hamilton, NJ, where it "lives" in between leases to cities.
- Postcards replacing the couple with sitting US Presidents and Presidential nominees (and their spouses) are often popular products, for instance Ronald and Nancy Reagan or Bill and Hillary Clinton.
- In the town of Bulls, New Zealand, a mural featuring the couple with the head of a cow and a bull covers a garage door facing a main street. The town's mushroom-shaped water tank is in the background, transplanting the scene to Bulls.
- The Red Robin chain of restaurants has the painting featured on the wall—but with a burger added to the farmer's pitchfork.