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 split from human beings.
- A poster for Flight of the Gibbon has a tourist riding the zipline as the final stage in evolution.
- A computer company inverted the parody which ends with the nerd slumped over his computer, by having them evolve from the desktop computer to standing upright thanks to the laptop and finally the tablet computer.
- Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto has the titular character do this as a run in physical education. His aim is to run in the ideal way each of the evolutions would run in, then devolve back into the oldest and loop until he's done. Despite this nonsense, he still runs faster than most kids.
- The Bus: An installment 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.
- The Far Side:
- One strip's sequence goes 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.
- One strip shows the evolution of the stickman as a progression from stick-snake through several stages of upright stick-lizard-things to stick-caveman to modern stick-about-town.
- MAD: The cover of #238. The most short and simian version of Alfred E. Neuman has a thought bubble saying, "What... me furry?"
- Oggy and the Cockroaches: The first comic book based on the series 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.
Film — Animated
- The Croods: A New Age: The movie poster shows the cast of the original movie in order from least to most erect coming face to face with the fully upright Bettermans.
- Ice Age: While the herd is crossing the ice caves, they comes across numerous primordial beings frozen in the ice. In one area, Sid the Sloth finds a frozen progression of a ciliate microorganism, a primitive fishlike creature, a fat-bodied amphibian, an apelike knuckle-walking sloth, and himself as the apex.
Film - Live-Action
- Dumb And Dumberer: The one-sheet◊ parodies this by showing the main characters slouching along at the base of this sequence, before progressing into upright apes and then a caveman.
- Encino Man: The poster shows a progression of apes ending in a slovenly skater.
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes: One of the posters, "Evolution Becomes Revolution"◊, has Homo sapiens held on a leash by a brutish gun-toting ape.
- The Titan: Played for drama 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.
- Darwin Awards: Most covers for the 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.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School: Greg illustrates how humans have come to depend on the comforts of modern life with a parody of "The March of Progress", in which the upright-walking human is followed by Greg wrapped in a blanket playing video games.
- 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.
- The Science of Discworld: Mentioned when 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 Now Show Book of Records: The inside front cover 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).
- Unnatural Selection by Katrina van Grouw, a book about how human breeders shape animals, shows a series of skeletons on its cover documenting the development of the common duck into the more upright Indian Runner Duck. The picture is called "Ascent of Mallard".
- Caprica: The "Evolution of a Cylon" poster starts with a kitchen toaster and ends with Caprica Six.
- Impractical Jokers: One game puts Q in the "March of Progress" at one step below modern man.
- Mock the Week: On one episode, 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.
- MythBusters: The two "Myth Evolution" episodes use a cartoon of this on the initial blueprint shot.
- Supertramp: The 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 (Band)'s "Progress" album plays this completely straight with each member of the band as one of the stages in the sequence.
- Tsukiuta: 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.
- Half-Life 2: A common piece of graffiti shows the usual three-part progression, but a fourth part shows a human-turned-combine that looks much like the second part.
- Splatoon: The first game 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.
- Super Smash Bros. Melee: One of the images shown when you complete the single-player mode with Donkey Kong is four progressively larger DKs and one Samus arranged like this.
- WarioWare: Twisted!: One of Kat & Ana's microgames, "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.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:
Kelly: Really? A "Descent of Man" joke?
- This strip parodies this by making it circular — at the last step, the human nukes himself back to the four-legged shrew-creature stage. The troe's pervasiveness is also lampshaded in the Alt Text:
Zach: Every cartoonist does it eventually.
- Another strip shows the upright human at the penultimate step reading a book about cloning extinct animals, before ending in him partying with his resurrected ancestors.
- Cracked: #14 Science Lesson As Taught by Famous Video Games has an allusion to "March of Progress" done with game sprites from successive console generations, starting with the linear paddle of Tennis, then Pac-Man's stylized mouth shape and the early creature shape of Frogger, before progressing through Mario, Duke Nukem, a soldier from Call of Duty and finally Master Chief.
- Game Theory: In The SCIENCE! episode "No Cowboy is Safe! Red Dead's Biggest THREAT!" (a review on Red Dead Redemption 2), 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!"
- Fairly OddParents: The title card of an episode has this, with the last person as Mr. Crocker.
- Futurama: The "Ascent of Bot◊" from "A Clockwork Origin", a museum exhibit on a planet of Mechanical Lifeforms, shows a sprig with googly eyes, then a robot trilobite, R2-D2, a robot monkey, a robot Frazetta Man, and finally a robot urbanite smoking a pipe.
- This picture◊ about the HD remake of arcade classic Toki shows the exact same ape-man but in progressively better graphics.
- 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
- 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.
- 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 by portraying the progress of evolution as leading to a life of mindless factory work.
"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!"
- Pokémon Red and Blue: One of the encounterable glitched creatures 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 takes a bite from an apple in a tree. This form then morphs into a human.
- Gutsick Gibbon, a paleoanthropologist who frequently debates Young Earth Creationists, uses a tongue-in-cheek parody of the March of Progress in the opening animation of many of her videos, with Altialasius morphing into Notharctus and progressively more modern primates. It's intended as an "Of course we know this isn't how it happened" parody.
- Allegro non Troppo: In a section set to Bolero, it starts with a coke bottle falling from the sky. The coke bubbles and froths, before emerging as a blob creature that crawls across the landscape before splitting into a cluster of strange animals. These chase and eat each other across the landscape, gradually transforming into more complicated creatures. These gradually become dinosaur- and mammoth-like beasts, which march on across changing landscapes while bedeviled by ice ages, disasters, and cruel apes. Eventually they progress past a pyramid, the Cross, a ruined tank and a tangle of highways, before high-rise buildings start erupting under their feet. In the end, a huge human statue surveys the scene, before crumbling to reveal an ape.
- Dilbert: The 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.
- Oggy and the Cockroaches: The Movie: Used very, very strangely. 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: The season 18 episode "Homerazzi" shows Homer as a single-celled organism, becoming a jellyfish and then a fish, dodging the tentacles of a Mr. Burns-faced octopus before crawling onto land to become a lizard and then a sail-backed reptile, evolving into a ratlike mammal and hiding from the extinction of the dinosaurs, emerging back onto the surface to progress through monkey, ape, and caveman stages, and — after encountering Moe, who is walking the other way and progresses back through apeman, ape, and primitive mammal — passes through several historic periods 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 Couch Gag to date.
- An animation short mixes 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.
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons: The fossil section of the museum 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).