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American Gothic Couple

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"Stop staring at them, Pa. You're making me downright jittery."

"Wow. From the size of that fork, I think it means that guy was hungry!"
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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 (who's often mistakenly assumed to be his wife). It is actually a portrait of Grant Wood's sister and his dentist. Incidentally, the house in the painting still stands today.

It's very well-known, and 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.

Incidentally, the "Gothic" refers to the architectural style of the window behind the couple.


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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • 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. Grant Wood's sister, who was still alive at the time, was not amused.
  • Paul Newman and his daughter Nell reproduced the pose for the packaging of Newman's Own Organics.
  • The Red Robin chain of restaurants has the painting featured on the wall — but with a burger added to the farmer's pitchfork.
  • Brilliantly spoofed at the end of this (banned, NSFW) IKEA commercial. (Also contains copious amounts of the Amazingly Embarrassing Parents trope...)
  • The dating website Farmers Only recently started using a caricature of the couple in their commercial, but rather than looking dour they're happily carrying vegetables with hearts around them. And that's the least bizarre part of the commercials.

    Arts 
  • 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.
  • A sculpture on the Magnificent Mile of Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois entitled "God Bless America" and featuring the American Gothic couple was put on display in December 2008. The sculpture is located just south of the Tribune Tower.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Orcish Settlers parodies this painting with green orcs replacing the couple, a piece of toast impaled on a broken pitchfork, and the house on fire.
    • Rotten Reunion has a version where a pair of zombies in tattered clothing, a woman and a man holding a pitchfork, stand in front of a ruined house.
  • Munchkin: A promotional card, Monstrous Heritage, parodies this with a version where the man is replaced by a many-eyestalked creature.
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    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • One issue of The Flash has a montage of people who've hired a particular mercenary; one panel has a pastiche of the couple, intoning:
    Man: We would've lost our farm...but he shot the banker.
    Woman: Good riddance, too.
  • She-Hulk and Man-Wolf become the couple on the cover of issue #11 of her fourth solo series.
  • The cover of Superman #42, part one of "Bizarroverse", shows Bizarro and Bizarro-Lois in front of a burning barn, with the addition of Boyzarro and the Bizarro Super-Pets.
  • The 17th issue of Green Lantern: Mosaic depicts a pastiche of the painting with John Stewart and Katma Tui standing in for the farmer and his daughter and the pitchfork replaced by John Stewart's ring projecting the image of one of the Green Lantern Corps' lantern-shaped power batteries, while the house in the background is surrounded by dragon-like creatures that are fought by Kilowog, the Flash, Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, J'onn J'onzz and Power Girl.
  • The cover of the 11th issue of the 2004 Plastic Man series depicts a pastiche of the painting with Agent Morgan as the farmer's daughter, Chief Branner as the farmer and Plastic Man taking the shape of the farmer's pitchfork.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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 painting appears in Mulan, of all things, in a scene where Mulan's ancestors argue about what to do about her situation. Two of them are revealed to look just like the characters, albeit Chinese, complete with the man saying "Not to mention they'll lose the farm."
  • "American Gothic" is one of the paintings parodied in the "Tigger's Family" song sequence of The Tigger Movie.
  • A picture of the couple as robots appears on Fender's bedroom wall in Robots.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The movie Good Fences starring Whoopi Goldberg 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.
    • In the sequel Shock Treatment, it can be seen hanging on a wall in the prop room as a reference to the first movie.
  • 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.
  • Main villains of Motel Hell pose like this on the film's original poster.
  • The cover of Son in Law.
  • The animated sequence of Stay Tuned features the characters in the painting screaming as the house is destroyed around them.
  • During the "Iowa Stubborn" number of The Music Man part of the shipping crate (a "frame") for the new pool table is moved past a farm couple, temporarily creating this sort of tableau. They're wearing similar clothes to the people in the painting and the man is holding a pitchfork just in case you thought it was a coincidence.

    Literature 
  • The cover of John Sweeney's book The Art of the Laugh.
  • 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.
  • The portrait book The People of Pern depicts Menolly's parents, Yanus and Mavi, as an American Gothic pastiche.
  • Ingeborg Refling Hagen actually wrote a poem called American Gothic, referring to this picture. While she presumed the woman was the wife of the man, she also stated this expression was almost generic - she claimed the looks of the man was similar to several Norwegian immigrants she had encountered in the United States. Then, she proceeded to explain his backstory, and how he had come to look so haggard and stern.
  • Spoofed in Woody Allen's short story A Twenties Memory (in Getting Even) - the protagonist claims that the pair were actually Scott and Zelda, but Scott kept dropping the pitchfork during the sittings.
  • The cover of the children's book, ''Old McDonald Had An Apartment House," has a simplistic cartoon rendering of McDonald and his wife in this pose before an apartment building.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of Boy Meets World, Eric dresses as the farmer to try to ambush his brother's girlfriend. He has a one-sided "conversation" with the woman in the painting, mistakenly believing her to be his wife as he comments "I don't know why I married you."
  • In the Chuck Halloween Episode "Chuck Versus the Sandworm", two of the Buy More employees dress up as the farmer and his daughter. It's Jeff and Lester.
  • In Desperate Housewives, the couple appear briefly in the opening credits.
  • Dexter and his older brother pose in front of a poster with the house in it. Dexter is holding a freshly bloodied pitchfork.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: In "The Masterpiece", Rob and Laura Petrie bought a painting from an auction. They discovered another painting beneath the visible painting. The uncovered painting was revealed to be 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. The reason was, the painted-over painting was a forgery rather than an actual Grant Wood.
  • Doctor Who: In "Gridlock", the couple in the Motorway at the start of the episode are based on the couple in the painting, both having identical hairstyles, glasses and fashions.
  • 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.
  • Eerie, Indiana: In "Mr. Chaney", the parents of the 1979 Harvest King are dressed identically to the couple.
  • Green Acres also had the lead couple pose as the couple in the painting during their opening credits.
  • The Incredible Dr Pol: Charles commissions a "Dutch Gothic" painting of his parents for Jan's 70th birthday.
  • 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.
  • On My Name Is Earl, Darnell paints himself and Joy like this.
  • The pilot episode of Nowhere Man shows the protagonist's self portrait photograph which is him and his wife posed the same with a camera on a folded up tripod in his hand in place of the pitchfork.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Rove Live replaces the couple with Melissa Doyle and David Koch.
  • A Saturday Night Live sketch with host Anne Hathaway shows the couple's "outtakes" of the famous pose.
  • Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie pose as the couple during the title and opening credits of The Simple Life.
  • 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.
  • Tales from the Crypt: George and Luisa on the faux comic cover for "Four Sided Triangle;", although Luisa is the one holding the pitchfork.
  • 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.
  • 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 Xena: Warrior Princess, Ares copies the pose with Gabrielle (Old Ares had a farm).

    Magazines 
  • MAD:
    • As part of the long running "If Norman Rockwell depicted the 20th century" series, magazine Mad printed a parody of the picture titled "American Gaythic", featuring two men.
    • They parodied this painting on the cover of an issue using The X-Files characters Scully & Mulder.
    • They parodied the actual painting in a faux comic strip ("Harrie & Carrie").
  • An old issue of the official Dungeons & Dragons magazine, Dragon, had a version of this on the cover, with the subjects holding D20s in their outstretched palms.
  • Lavender Magazine parodied the work for a special gardening issue (April 27, 2007), featuring drag queen Wanda Wisdom and podcast producer Bradley Traynor.
  • The June 2019 issue of The New Republic, featuring two well-known American politicians with Socialist leanings, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

    Music 
  • 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.

    Music Videos 
  • The painting is briefly spoofed by the band Warrant in their music video for "Cherry Pie."
  • Briefly invoked in Sara Evan's video for "Born to Fly," when the lyrics talk about the singer's parents.
  • 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 an old couple dressed similarly to the American Gothic couple, complete with the pitchfork.
  • Used in the framing device of The Hooters satire of eighties style televangelism "Satellite".
  • The music video for The Stupendium's "Rogue's Gallery" has a forged American Gothic painting, with a sausage stuck on top of the man's pitchfork.

    Puppet Shows 
  • A collection of Muppet parodies of famous artworks, under the title The Kermitage Collection, included Kermit and Miss Piggy in American Gothique.

    Sports 
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 

    Theatre 
  • 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.

    Theme Parks 
  • In the queue area for The Time Machine ride at the Futuroscope, you have a Raving Rabbids version of this painting, along with many other artwork parodies.

    Video Games 
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, one monster in Spookyraven Manor's Haunted Gallery is "a guy with a pitchfork, and his wife."
  • World of Warcraft:
    • It features a parody of this painting. There's one in the inn in Vengeance Landing where the couple is replaced by a pair of equally dour-looking undead. 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: The Game, there is a portrait of First Citizen Brown and his wife Edna in the former's office that looks like American Gothic.
  • Terraria has a painting in it called the Terrarian Gothic, featuring the Mechanic and Goblin Tinker.
  • Darkest Dungeon has a random event in the Hamlet called "Bumper Crop", where the farmers increase efforts to supply the heroes. During this event a familiar looking couple can be seen standing in the center of town along with their harvest.
  • The front cover Animaniacs PC game "Crazy Paint" shows Wakko Warner painting the picture with his siblings Yakko and Dot.
  • Death Road to Canada has the rare "Gothic Farm" event, where you can rescue the American Gothic couple, referred to as Ma and Pa, from a farm overrun by zombies. If you can rescue them both, you get options for training in medical or mechanical skills (from Ma and Pa respectively), a stash of food or a sickle, a decently strong light weapon with multi-target that never breaks. Curiously, Ma and Pa are rare characters that cannot be played as by the player at all, not even in O*P*P mode.

    Web Comics 
  • The traditional first panel of webcomic San Antonio Rock City by Mitch Clem.
  • War and Peas: The compilation release War and Peas: Funny Comics for Dirty Lovers spoofs the painting, with Slutty Witch in the position of the woman, the Grim Reaper in the position of the man, and the Reaper's sickle in place of the pitchfork.

    Web Original 
  • There's a blog devoted to collecting these parodies.
  • A gigantic compendium of parody images can be found online.
  • Kitboga is a scambaiter popular on YouTube and Twitch. He usually sets videos of his calls to fake backgrounds using Chroma Key. One of these backgrounds has this, with his character Nevaeh as the daughter and himself as the father.

    Western Animation 
  • In 101 Dalmatians: The Series, The couple who run the local market resemble the American Gothic Couple. The store sign even has an image of them resembling the painting.
  • During the song "The Pusher" in "Raisin the Stakes: A Rock Opera in Three Acts" of Clone High, Abe's parents are depicted as the American Gothic Couple to show how uncool parents in general are.
  • 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.
  • A series of Rocky and Bullwinkle VHS volumes had covers and titles parodying famous paintings. Canadian Gothic consisted almost entirely of "Dudley Do-Right" episodes, with Dudley and Nell on the cover in the American Gothic pose and Dudley's horse standing behind them.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
    • In "Artist Unknown", Squidward Tentacles is revealed to have made a version of the painting, with the two figures drawn in his likeness. All of Squidward's art is just his face drawn in various degrees of abstractness.
    • In "FarmerBob", SpongeBob is sent to work on Old Man Jenkins' farm. Early on, there's an image of Jenkins holding a pitchfork and SpongeBob dressed as the wife, facing forward with the barn behind them.
  • 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 Butt-Head Mike Judge Collection Volume 1 has a cover depicting Beavis and Butt-Head 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 Hank and Peggy posing together, plus Bobby in front of them, as the logo forms around them.
  • 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.
  • One of the end credits alter-egos for season five of Daria depicts Daria and Tom as the characters in the painting.
  • The House of Mouse short "Mickey and the Color Caper" features of the Phantom Blot's parents is a Blot-ified version of the portrait.
  • The beginning of The Mr. Men Show episode "Farm" has Mr. Grumpy and Miss Scary in the position of the painting.
  • In the Ready Jet Go! episode "The Mindysphere", Sunspot shows a picturenote  on his tablet of Carrot and Celery posing as the American Gothic couple, with Carrot holding a rake instead of a pitchfork.
  • The Addams Family (1992) episode "Hide and Go Lurch" had a gag where Gomez and Fester were hiding from Lurch inside a similar painting, with Gomez disguised as the daughter and Fester disguised as the father.
  • The Beetlejuice episode "Brinkadoom" has Beetlejuice and Lydia fly past a pair who resemble the farmer and his daughter, but with icicles hanging off their bodies. BJ refers to them as Uncle and Aunt Arctica.

    Real Life 
  • 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.
  • And there is a photograph of the models from the painting themselves regarding the painting and (kind of) recreating their pose.
  • The house still stands today. Until 2014, the State Historical Society of Iowa and the National Register of Historic Places would rent it out to tenants, on the condition they maintain it as close to its original form as possible. Naturally, the first thing most tenants do is pose like the painting.

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