Seeing as it was painted by Leonardo DaVinci in 1503, I’m not really sure that I can call the Mona Lisa pop culture. However, perhaps more than any painting on the planet — the Mona Lisa entered our collective consciousness and took hold.
This week, I was surprised to be scrolling social media to see headlines saying “Mona Lisa smeared with cake in apparent climate protest.” What?!
Before we go any further, let me clarify, since I fell for the clickbait. While the Mona Lisa was in fact smeared with cake, it has a glass covering. So, there was no damage. Also of note, the smearer was apparently a man dressed as an old woman? The intrigue continues.
Now, I found this notable for a few reasons.
What the cake smearer apparently said was, “Think about the Earth. There are people who are destroying the Earth. Think about it … all artists, think about the Earth — this is why I did this. Think about the planet.” Nowhere, does he mention climate. I actually see it as a win that many reporters jumped from destroying the Earth to the climate crisis. This shows how we’ve increasingly dominated the messaging narrative as climate activists. For instance, in the past, a statement about the Earth may have just made people think of toxic water pollution.
The way that this took over the news shows the risks and promise of public action. When we are bold in our convictions, we can get the climate crisis in the news. However, we want to be very careful about what we are doing. Do we have a clear target and demands? Does our target have the power to make the changes we want to see? Will people be sympathetic to our tactics? This “protest” none of those things, and I will admit that I got a put in my stomach seeing it, because I thought it might set the movement back. Thankfully, this particular stunt seems to have been absurd enough, and unharmful enough, that most people are letting it slide by with a laugh.
Weeks like this — where the viral climate moment was an incognito cake assault on the Mona Lisa — remind me of how far we have to go. The climate crisis is here and now, and our culture needs to reflect that.
Until next week! Hope this gave you a laugh, something to ponder, and that you’re hoping for a cool new song or movie to drop soon.