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“Just What is it That Makes Today’s Homes so Different, so Appealing?”

richard_hamilton_pop_art_remake_of_just_what____by_kennethchan-d4p56lq

This image, by Kenneth Chan, is a modernized digital-art remake of the 1956 version of Richard Hamilton’s, “Just What is it That Makes Today’s Homes so Different, so Appealing?” As the title suggests, the focus of the artwork is of modern culture within the home. Rendered in pop art, the image is imbued with references to modern society that seems to construct every bit of the projected home life.

One of the first things we may notice when looking at this image are the two human figures, one male, the other female. Both are displayed in ways that are commonly seen in modern advertising. Their poses mimic models who use their bodies to sell products. The male figure is young, and very strong looking, although not overly-so in a way that seems impossible to attain. For the most part, he is standing in the foreground of this image, portraying a traditional role of male dominancy in advertising compared to the female figure who sits near him at a lower level. Both of their bodies are subjected, such as the male figure’s lack of clothes showing off his built body, and the female figure’s pose suggesting sex. What is significant to note about both figures, however, is their young age.

Modern American society’s fixation on youth is jokingly depicted in Horace Miner’s “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema.” His ethnography puts American society in the perspective of a fictional tribe called the “Nacirema” to portray American’s obsession with pharmaceuticals related to anti-aging. Miner writes, “The fundamental belief underlying the whole system appears to be that the human body is ugly and that its natural tendency is to debility and disease. Incarcerated in such a body, man’s only hope is to avert these characteristics through the use of the powerful influences of ritual and ceremony. Every household has one or more shrines devoted to this purpose” (503). The shrine of such rituals is implied to signify the medicine cabinet. In this way, Miner is commenting on the American focus to obtain pills to achieve a young body that can avert the characteristics of a “debilitated and diseased” body. Chan’s young, fit, and sexualized American figures represent the kind of body the Nacirema would try to attain through their “rituals” of pill popping.

Aside from the model figures, another prevalent theme in the image is film, which is heavily associated with American culture. The large movie poster above the TV is of “The Notebook.” The “young love” between the two characters depicted on the poster reiterates Miner’s commentary on American obsession with youth. Then we have the TV itself, which is posed on TV film series, “Modern Family.” This show projects the idea of a family, but as it is portrayed by media for entertainment purposes. Next we have the Cinema shown outside through some doors at the back of the room, which highlights the overall theme of film.

Next to the film poster above the TV, there is a poster of Obama with the words “Progress” at the bottom. The cartoon-like version of his image compliments the overall style of pop art in the same kind of satyrical and symbolic artistic format. Nothing says “America” like the word “Progress.” The fast-paced American culture strives to come out bigger and better than before. This is one reason why Americans are obsessed with anti-aging: to make the body capable of functioning longer. Being disabled in the kind of society that constantly strives to do more faster, can be threatening. Therefore, we have prompted ourselves to come up with artificial ways to keep pushing. Our lives have become so fast-paced, we originated the fast food restaurant McDonalds so we can get our meals on the go.

Looming over the entire scene is the ceiling that has been cut out where the moon has taken its place. This addition creates an atmosphere of fantasy that relates to advertising. The projected home life is essentially multiple advertisements or other cultural references that creates one large advertisement: what the home looks like according to pop culture. In this way, the “home life” is cultivated by, for example, what TV says the “modern family” looks like. From this point of view, the question in the title of the image is ironic, because there’s nothing different or appealing about a copy of an image that is pop culture, which the image’s “home life” depicts.

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