Being something of a hot topic, evolution has been a popular target for satire and parody.
The easiest way to do this is to take Rudolph Zallinger's illustration: March of Progress and draw something else over it. Instant Parody!
The other way to do it is a montage of creatures morphing into each other. This type is more common in animation.
Considering what we now know of Ardipithecus ramidus, this trope is an example of Science Marches On; chimpanzees and gorillas probably developed knuckle-walking after their genetic split from human beings.
- A poster for Flight of the Gibbon has a tourist riding the zipline as the final stage in evolution.
- Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto has the titular character do this as a run in physical education. His aim was to run in the ideal way each of the evolutions would run in, then devolve back into the oldest and loop until he was done. And despite this nonsense he still runs faster than most kids.
- The cover of MAD #238. The most short and simian version of Alfred E. Neuman has a thought bubble saying, "What... me furry?"
- The first comic book based on Oggy and the Cockroaches has a segment wherein Oggy goes from shaggy sabre-toothed quadruped to his modern-day appearance. For added laughs, partway through, he smells food and searches for it, ultimately leading him to a fridge.
- The Far Side did this, going from monkey to hunched ape-man to neanderthal to seven-foot-tall muscular giant-jawed shaved Rahan-type man to short wimpy Bob from Accounting-looking guy waiting at the bus stop.
- Gary Larson also presented us with the evolution of the stickman.
- An installment of Paul Kirchner's surreal comic strip The Bus shows a series of creatures, from monkey to caveman, boarding a bus. The caveman stops to politely allow the main character (a balding office-worker type) to board before him.
Film - Animated
- Seen in Ice Age, with Sid the Sloth as the apex.
- The movie poster for The Croods: A New Age shows the cast of the original movie in order from least to most erect coming face to face with the fully upright Bettermans.
Film - Live-Action
- The one-sheet◊ of Dumb And Dumberer.
- The poster for Encino Man.
- One of the posters for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, "Evolution Becomes Revolution,"◊ which has Homo sapiens held on a leash by a brutish gun-toting ape.
- Played for drama in The Titan when the wife of a volunteer test subject (for a project to genetically modify humans so they can live on Titan) breaks into the scientist's office and finds this picture, with a note at the end saying: Homo Titanien.
- Most covers for Darwin Awards books have spoofs on this concept, usually with the "evolved" man suffering a comically fatal injury like being crushed under a safe or falling off a cliff.
- The inside front cover of The Now Show Book Of Records shows Jon Holmes as hunched ape-man, Steve Punt as neanderthal and Hugh Dennis as modern man. The inside back cover shows them in reverse (obviously, Dennis has to hunch a lot more than Holmes does).
- The vampire-themed edition of the Discworld Diaries contains an illustration of the evolution of Igors. It starts with a normal-looking human butler and gets progressively more hunched and grotesque with each subsequent image.
- Mentioned in The Science of Discworld where the picture is compared to someone getting out of bed in the morning. The wizards who are looking at the picture state that the ape/human's main achievement is getting from one side of the page to the other without showing any genitalia.
- The cover of Unnatural Selection by Katrina van Grouw, a book about how human breeders shape animals, shows a series of skeletons documenting the development of the common duck into the more upright Indian Runner Duck. The picture is called "Ascent of Mallard".
- On an episode of Mock the Week, while the players were standing around waiting for "Scenes We'd Like To See" to start, Frankie Boyle, Hugh Dennis and Greg Davies reenacted the picture. Frankie (the shortest) was completely hunched over at the back, while the incredibly tall Greg was at the front.
- The two "Myth Evolution" episodes of MythBusters used a cartoon of this on the initial blueprint shot.
- Caprica. The "Evolution of a Cylon" poster starts with a kitchen toaster and ends with Caprica Six.
- The Supertramp album cover for Brother Where You Bound is a multi-colored straight example, but the inside artwork shows an Abbey Road Crossing pose by the members of the band, all not too dissimilar to how the "man" figure is walking.
- The the album The Evolution of Robin Thicke features this in both its cover and name.
- Daniel Amos: The Doppelgänger liner notes feature a picture of "the evolution of mannequin". It's four mostly-identical mannequins, the leftmost one bending over at the waist, and each subsequent one standing up a bit straighter. The last one has sunglasses and a smarmy grin.
- Not Any Older, The second album by the Buffalo NY indie rock band The Press Tones, features this progression on the cover, with the final man carrying a Press Tones guitar case and approaching a mic.
- The cover art◊ for Take That's "Progress" album plays this completely straight with each member of the band as one of the stages in the sequence.
- In Kurenai Enishi, one of the Harpo Does Something Funny moments happens when the members of Procella have been captured by ninja, and as they're lined up in the back of the stage, about to be taken into the dungeon... well, it's these dorks, so they can't pass up the opportunity to do silly poses. In one performance, they did these poses.
- One of the images shown when you complete the Super Smash Bros. Melee single-player mode with Donkey Kong is four progressively larger DKs and one Samus arranged like this.
- A common piece of graffiti in Half-Life 2 shows the usual, three part progression; but a fourth part shows a human-turned-combine that looks much like the second part.
- Splatoon depicts this in Sunken Scroll #10, with a squid gradually evolving into an Inkling, after humanity was washed away 12,000 years prior to the game.
- One of Kat & Ana's microgames in WarioWare: Twisted!, "Survival of the Quickest," begins with the ape on the far left and has you button-mash A to create more transitional images until you reach the human at the end. The medium-difficulty version features a dog turning into an anthropomorphic dog, and the hard-difficulty version begins with the monkey as usual, but it becomes a robot monkey instead of a human.
- Cracked's #14 Science Lesson As Taught by Famous Video Games has an allusion to "March of Progress" done with game sprites from successive console generations.
- In The SCIENCE! episode "No Cowboy is Safe! Red Dead's Biggest THREAT!" (a review on Red Dead Redemption II), Austin Hourigan uses Zallinger's "March of Progress" to describe the evolution of tuberculosis, placing a TB cell on top of a head of each creature in human evolution, ending with the current Homo sapiens itself.
"So, this is a disease that's been hunting us basically as long as we've existed, and in all likelihood co-evolved alongside us."
- A frequent variation is a modern man, turning around to face his neolithic ancestor and saying some variant of "Shit, turn back!"
- The title card of an episode of Fairly OddParents has this, with the last person as Mr. Crocker.
- The "Ascent of Bot◊" from the Futurama episode "A Clockwork Origin".
- This picture◊ about the HD remake of arcade classic Toki (that ended up not being made).
- A caricature parodying evolution in the different parts of the world, depicts Evolution in Korea using the original sequence, but including a Hydralisk at the end.
- The same is done for Japan, but the Hydralisk is replaced with a Gundam
- A T-shirt design for a Threadless competition to create a The Muppets shirt shows the evolution of Kermit - starting with a green coat and a couple of ping-pong balls.
- A Fun T-Shirt (worn by one of the sign-holders in Mitch Benn's "Proud of the BBC" video - appropriately enough the one holding the sign for The Ascent Of Man) has the line of protohumans on the Abbey Road zebra crossing.
- Transhumanists, fans of the famous futurist Ray Kurzweil and other supporters of the technological singularity are often seen wearing shirts with a cyborg or robot coming after the upright human as the next logical step in evolution of mankind will be likely deliberate and a result of humans augmenting themselves with artificial biological and technological components.
- A common parody has the last man sitting down at a computer, hunched over his keyboard. Variations also include being fatter and slightly smaller, but carrying a coke can instead of a spear.
- Another common parody is to show a man slumped and wearing a backward cap, with the "evolved" human saying that humanity screwed up and that it's going backward
- As shown in this◊ Lab Initio.
- This satirical picture◊ from Italy that combines the concept of evolution with the de-evolution of Italy's leaders and statesmen. Julius Caesar is seen as the pinnacle of evolution, and it's all downhill from there.
- Guinness's "Noitulove" (aka "Rhythm of Life") commercial, as the name suggests, shows backward evolution.
- Garfield: His 9 Lives used this in the first chapter.
- In Howard the Duck, Phil Blumburtt presents a series of still images of the evolution of sapient ducks as a theory of Howard's origin; the first image is an egg.
- The Adding Machine has a version of this in dialogue, when Charles is telling Mr. Zero what his forthcoming reincarnation means in terms of the evolutionary process:
"For millions of years the nebulous gases swirled in space. For more millions of years the gases cooled and then through inconceivable ages they hardened into rocks. And then came life. Floating green things on the waters that covered the earth. More millions of years and a step upward—an animate organism in the ancient slime. And so on—step by step, down through the ages—a gain here, a gain there—the mollusk, the fish, the reptile, then mammal, man! And all so that you might sit in the gallery of a coal mine and operate the super-hyper-adding machine with the great toe of your right foot!"
- One of the glitched creatures you can catch in the original Pokémon will result in a series of impossible evolutions.
- One version of Humans had an intro scene that animated evolution among the various pre-human periods. The penultimate was a tall, large creature wearing sneakers, pants, and a shirt, and took a bite from an apple in a tree. This form then morphs into a human.
- Used very, very strangely in Oggy and the Cockroaches: The Movie. In the intro, Oggy evolves from a microbe into a cat. The problem? He evolved straight from a fish into a cat. However, the earlier segments are somewhat more accurate, which he evolved into a Pikaia (?) and then an early fish.
- The Simpsons did it on the season 18 episode "Homerazzi" note parodies this (showing Homer as a single-celled organism and progressing through many pre-historic and historic eras until he enters the present and comes home to Marge, who asks him, "What took you so long?" note ) in what is now considered the longest (and, in some viewers' eyes, the most epic) Couch Gag to date.
- The Dilbert television intro shows a full version, from microscopic life, to proto-dinosaur walking out of the water, ending in Dilbert himself. All of which are wearing his trademark glasses
- An animation short mixed the two, showing primates evolving into men in the exact position as the March of Progress image, only to revert to a hunched-over Three-point Football stance.
- Done beautifully (without parody) in Allegro non Troppo in one section. Set to Bolero, it starts with a coke bottle.
- The fossil section of the museum in Animal Crossing: New Horizons manages a less-used variant based on the presence of many humanoid animals in the setting. Guidelines on the floor trace the prehistory of evolution from the Paleozoic (first room) to the Mesozoic (second room) and finally the Cenozoic (final room). In that final room, the various evolutionary lines lead upward to a series of silhouettes based off many of the various animal villager types it's possible to get, with an empty spot for humans on the right (allowing for a photo op for your villager or any visitors to the island).