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Even if illustrator-cum-post-modern-artist Norman Rockwell initially titled his iconic work about Thanksgiving, “Freedom From Want“ and never mind that it was published in March 1943, the painting has come to exemplify the picture-perfect American Thanksgiving according to the dominant narrative of American culture.

Many of the individuals in Rockwell’s scene were real-life Vermonters who lived in Rockwell’s town, but what’s more inspiring about this work is the mocking, funny, sweet, and corny parodies it has inspired — many of which I posted below.

Even if the scene is staged, the emotions feel real, with a fatherly figure being served by a matron who is presenting a turkey (a very American food) to a family that is barely visible and in fact marginalized. Sure this is the stereotypical American nuclear family, and anyone who has watched TV knows what they represent, they really are more myth than reality. Gone are the eccentricities for the families most of us belong to, whether it’s the no-one-understands-him bachelor uncle, aunt who is overly critical of everyone, the drop-out cousin who is going nowhere, the super-refined grandmother who speaks four languages, or the quiet niece who most of us know does a little too much drugs. Even if you spend your Thanksgiving with friends or a family of choice, the warmth of Rockwell’s scene is familiar and that’s why it remains popular in the public imagination, that is until someone finds something that can replace it.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Image sources
Top row: Original Norman Rockwell painting, Redneck, iThanksgiving
Second row: Trashy, Mad Magazine, George W. Bush White House
Third row: Modern Family TV show, Gay family, Madoff et al.
Fourth row: Anime, Robot, DC Comics
Bottom row: Fantastic Four, Simpsons, Disney

And if you want even more, there’s more at Toner Mishap. And some good real-life recreations here, here, and here.

Those in the New York area may be interested to know that there is currently a Norman Rockwell exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. Titled Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, which opened last week and continues until April 10, 2011. Though the museum is closed Thanksgiving Day, it is open the rest of this weekend.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

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