Appropriation in Popular Culture

This image is an appropriation of the original painting The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali. Dali was a surrealist painter from the early twentieth century. Although it can be difficult to determine the actual intended meaning of a painting, there have been several interpretations by both art critics and simple viewers of the painting. Dali was a very secretive man and did not reveal his influences openly to the public, thus creating widespread curiosity. He even went as far as to fabricate ridiculous motives behind his carefully executed paintings. Various interpretations include those saying that the melting clocks evoke this feeling that time is irrelevant when we are sleeping. We are not aware of time only memories run through our brains. One could say that as we sleep, dreams project variations of our memories. Some even go as far as to compare these clocks to cheese that has been left out too long[1]. As a typical admirer of this painting, I find this interpretation very interesting. In my opinion, the drooping clocks represent how time is melting away from our lives. Instead of being irrelevant, time is slipping right through our fingers like running water.

Sturken and Cartwright (Practices of Looking 2009) define appropriation as “taking something for oneself without consent (83).” Of course the artist of the new image could not ask permission of Dali to appropriate the ideas. Furthermore, the authors go on to describe cultural appropriation as “borrowing and changing the meaning of cultural products, slogans, images, or elements of fashion” (83). The entire painting has been replaced with elements from Matt Groening’s popular television series The Simpsons (1989-present). This very well-known painting has been transformed with elements and characters from an almost iconic Simpson family in parody or a satirical fashion. The entire series has become popular for its satirical and humorous style.  Although the show is animated, the characters, such as Homer Simpson and Bart Simpson, will not hesitate to bash any celebrity or current issue. The loophole around violating media laws is the satirical nature of the show.

Having said this, the entire meaning of the original painting has vanished. The image no longer represents time as literally as with the melting clocks. Instead, the artist Matt Groening has replaced the clocks with melting faces of his own characters. This re-appropriation of the original image brings us a lot closer to how our culture is today. The Simpsons has become a cultural icon in today’s society. Many people can recognize these yellow-skinned characters. In a way, one could say that Matt Groening created a montage of two separate cultural icons (the original painting and the Simpsons family).

Furthermore, I find the new meaning of the image to be rather ironic. Instead of expressing that time is wasting away, the image now depicts such things on which we waste time. The image has now become a juxtaposition of precious time and mindless television on which we waste our time. Television remains prevalent in today’s society, and its hegemonic messages become ingrained in our minds. Homer’s expletive D’oh! has even been added into the dictionary since 2001. As previously stated, although the show is animated, it is far from innocent as other children’s programs.

[1] The Persistence of Memory (Meaning) by Salvador Dali. (2011). Authentic Society. Retrieved February 09, 2013, from

2 thoughts on “Appropriation in Popular Culture

  1. Here’s my interpretation, I’ve put a lot of thought into it. I agree with your idea of peristience of memory but for this I think it’s all about the setting for every character. Also the fact the Simpson’s represent the common American family. It’s the ideal that that the “suburban white American family” is slipping away from the world.

    Homer – the common dad is no longer going to watch his life fade away from him over the abuse of a substance (alcohol)
    Marge – shell no longer be getting curb stomped by society because she is just a “wife”
    Bart – the first born won’t be getting as spoiled then left out to dry when he wasn’t taught any true values of life
    Lisa – the one whom wanted nothing more than to be the most successful is seen unaltered because she is just living in the moment. But because of that there is a clock next to her which is literally referencing the persictence of memory. Shell just watch her time fade in front of her because she never took the time to appreciate life.
    Maggie – the youngest in the family will no longer have to hang onto life by a limb.

    How do Bart, Lisa and Maggie end up when they show future tense scenes? Bart is a loser, Lisa is a successful women, and Maggie is the quiet punk.

    I am Maggie and my family was that common white American family. Sure my life wasn’t funny, but I did get to watch the progress of time and the fact that persistencs of memory no longer exists. We are entirely conscious of time and whether or not it is spent wisely.

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