A colleague pointed out this most interesting title to me the other day so i thought i might give it a read. The 101 most influential people who never lived: how characters of fiction, myth, legends, television, and movies have shaped our society, changed our behavior, and set the course of history by Allan Lazar, Dan Karlan, & Jeremy Saltar. Here are the 101 ranked in order of (authors’ considered) importance (all quotes are the authors'~except as noted~the rest is my oh-so-inspired wisdom, and, believe it or not, there are a few i have nothing really to say about, which doesn't mean i don't believe them influential they just seem to speak for themselves):
The Marlboro Man~did you know? "Previously marketed by Philip Morris tobacco as a ladies brand of cigarette called 'Mild as May,' Marlboro's new image boosted it's sales four-fold from 1955 to 1957, and by 1972 it become the top cigarette brand both in the nation and the world." Behold the power of Image. And once they have you hooked, you're hooked.
Hamlet~somehow the theme for cops is running through my head~Hamlet, Hamlet what ya gonna do? what ya gonna do when they come for you? I once memorized the entire script of Hamlet, every single line (no real reason, i just really like the play) Shakespeare (whoever he/she was) was a genius. I did a character study of Hamlet for my stage makeup class final (we had to do some fantastical creature, or the opposite gender, or some other completely different character) so i choose the melancholy Dane. When i was assigned Ophelia as an acting workshop project once i was extremely disappointed because i saw her as a weak character. This opinion changed over time (partly, i believe, due to my cat of that name starting out as a weak replacement who i grew to love more than any other~funny how life imitates art imitates life). Sometimes i think my dream job would be to be a librarian in a Shakespeare library.
Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster~Victor is a bad, bad parent
Siegfried~can't you just hear that Wagnerian strain rising in your ears, stirring in your blood? Valhala, Aryan Heil. . . maybe not. . . Best, not . . .
Sherlock Holmes~he noticed every little detail and was The Original forensic investigator (there would be none of those ever-popular television shows around today if it weren't for this gumshoe.
Romeo and Juliet~this is a story of young, adolescent love pure and simple and i argued such in one of my term papers for a Theatre History class. My beloved ninth grade English teacher (My most inspirational teacher) called it true love and used Romeo's description of his love for Rosalind and its difference to the description of his love for Juliet as proof as such. So i think he felt what he felt for Juliet much More So, Deeply, Strongly, Whatever, but the only time i ever saw it as true love was there, when we read it in class in ninth grade. (and what was i then, fourteen, An Adolescent, do you see my point here?) And, no Mr. Wesley Mathis, best ninth-grade-honors-English-teacher-that-ever-there-was wherever you are, i am not calling you adolescent, maybe you're just much more of a romantic at heart than i am~quite possible since i'm not much of one. And i still think of you anytime i pick up a thesaurus when writing poetry (because you said a poet Never does) or use the second person (because one doesn't do that either). Yes i very consciously break your rules (just as cummings would~a poet you introduced me to~thank you, thank you, thank you~have you ever noticed my 'i's?) but, the point is, even 26 years later, i'm still reminded of you each time. And you awakened my ABSOLUTE ADORATION for William Shakespeare, and the beautiful Romeo and Juliet which, tho it may be a tale of true love is a tale of that first, passionate love we all long for and long to relive.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde~multiple personalities, psycho-active drugs, opening the door for insanity defenses and FDA interventions, oh my...
Robin Hood~the rich just keep getting richer and the poor just keep getting poorer, and good as he sounds, Robin is just a hood.
Oedipus~what can be said other than fate will always get you in the end. Or, maybe if you hear something from an oracle, or a prophet, or a fortuneteller, or a man a mountaintop, or the voices in your head you should just stay where you are and not try to change That Which is Foretold if you actually believe in that stuff. Has anyone ever tried that?
Ebenezer Scrooge~"Scrooge doesn't become poor by giving money away, receives the joy that should have been his all along by embracing the lives of those around him." Awe, how sweet. Dickens is at his best when he's short. No Bah humbugs here, tho that is such a fun expression, i'm all for bringing it back.
Don Quixote~okay, confession time, for the longest time i thought this was a children's literature character named Donkey Hodey and i could never figure out why my Spanish teacher was always talking about him. I did figure it out when i had to read the novel over the summer between sophomore and junior year~in Spanish~it took me almost as long to read when i read it again about five years later~in English~but i got much more out of it. Great novel, though it's always said when people have to truly grow up, give up, step into reality.
Mickey Mouse~Oh Mickey, you're so fine, you're so fine, you blow my mind. Hey Mickey. Hey Mickey. Okay, i'll spare you but i'm a big fan. When we had to wear name tags at The Pizza Place mine said Mickey for the black and white dude with the big gloved hands (and i'm not talking Michael)~well that was after i made them take off the lil' red they had started with. One of my high school teachers speculated that future archaeologists might speculate that this civilization worshiped some giant mouse god because we had large temple grounds dedicated to them on either end of at least one large continent.
Prince Charming~everything a woman is looking for "Yet there is hardly a more enigmatic, less deserving character. He has no personality, no accomplishments, no skills, no character. . . only a castle and a dream."
Smokey Bear~i remember having a Smokey Bear doll. I didn't know the feds were promoting Fire Suppression because wood was such a valuable resource. But, oh well, our government always knows what's best for us doesn't it? (apparently they were a little too successful, natural fire is a natural part of our ecosystem~and Title 16 of the United States Commercial Code declares that it is Smokey Bear not Smokey the Bear as i always called him.
Robinson Crusoe~Robinson as "The Great Emancipator"?
Apollo and Dionysus~the Apollonian side of life is order, reason, truth and virtue; Dionysus being the god of wine, revelry risks, disorder, and freedom; the key is to balance to two~sounds like the basic reason vs. passion to me.
Odysseus~the authors make the interesting observation that the tales of The Odyssey are a tribute to the dying bronze age. (and i can't help but wonder if Penelope is truly an image of absolute loyalty to a wandering husband or just relishing her independence)
Cinderella~apparently this is a very damaging image that tells us to stay meek, toil and drudge, and some mystical force will reward us. (Hmmm, does that sound vaguely like someone's religion, oops, my bad) Also, do you feel like a wicked step-thing when you tell someone to clean their room?
Shylock~think on this: Antonio defaults on a loan. Shylock (a legal money-lender mind you, one of the few professions open to him) turns to his legal recourse and is forced to give up half his fortune AND convert to Christianity. Now does that seem fair to you? Why have i never noticed this before? Now, given, the terms of the contract were never fair to begin with and Shakespeare probably only had stereotypes to work with as Jews had been expelled from England in 1290 and were not readmitted until 1655, but still...
Midas~i always tend to forget the second Midas story~i guess only gold has that "staying power" (tho i never wear gold!)
Hester Prynne~Hester is strong and very cool, she is to be emulated. Dimmesdale is a simpering, whimpering idiot, he is not to be emulated. I've often wondered how the two of them got together. She is obviously too good for him.
The Little Engine that Could~i loved this story as a child but i had forgotten the engine was a she (is that not cool?)
Archie Bunker~expressed what many people were thinking behind closed doors. 'Meathead' was just as closed-minded. I think, for at least some people, hearing things come out of his mouth might have illustrated just how stupid some of 'his' views were (at least i hope so). Perhaps we could use someone like him again, just to clear things up for us.
Dracula~supposedly the count almost didn't make the list, can you imagine. Vampires might never have clawed their way out of Eastern European legend if it weren't for this caped seducer. Or they might have taken a very different form, and so much of our world and subversions would be so very different...
Alice in Wonderland~apparently the message Alice gives us is "be prepared for the ridiculous, be prepared to be surprised." Isn't it interesting that i tend to live by that motto (somewhat subconsciously). I am so rarely surprised by Anything. And one symptom of migraine is the Alice in Wonderland syndrome. Is there a relation, i wonder?
Citizen Kane~Charles Foster that is (i won a Scene It game with that one once) Will you ever forget the meaning of 'Rosebud' once you know it? (well, i think i did once, but i must not have been paying that much attention on my first viewing or something...)
Faust~sell your soul to the devil get into heaven anyway, sounds like a deal
Figaro~a servant who dares defy his master by Not letting him sleep with his new bride on his honeymoon night? What is the world coming to? Apparently the French Revolution.
Godzilla~radiation can be good, radiation can be bad. Godzilla can be good, Godzilla can be bad depending on who he's up against!
Mary Richards~"She was the first television star to portray an unattached woman living an independent life while doing a man's job where she was treated as an equal." Maybe the reason why she was so successful at it was because she was so very, very feminine, and Lou couldn't stand to see a woman cry.
Don Juan~not a lover but a seducer, a rogue, a scandal!
Bambi~i slept on Bambi sheets for the longest time (in fact i think they might be part of a quilt for one of my nephews now). I, like millions of other children, loved this movie; unlike millions of others, for some reason i do not have the loss of his mother seared into my brain (is it one of those traumatic memories i have blocked out? I really don't know, there are much more traumatic memories that actually happened to ME that i have not blocked out, so whatever) I mostly just remember animals romping through the forest, and the fire. I also have the original book. I am pro-gun control but i think that has more to do with my politics.
William Tell~may be just a myth but don't say that to a true-hearted Swiss nationalist~it may earn you a death sentence (i didn't actually know the real story of William Tell until i read this).
Barbie~i was not allowed to play with Barbie until i was eight~i'm not sure what the significance of that age was~but boy did i make up for it then~tons-o-Barbies-and-Barbie-accessories. When Mattel announced her breakup i was terribly disappointed, not because of an emotional attachment i had to the relationship, but because they are taking the imagination away from children. Children should be able to create their own worlds (i always did~and i suppose they still can, but its a bit like throwing cold water on the whole thing if some big company announces the Way It Is.)
*****Buffy the Vampire Slayer***** (must do a little cheer and dance here~but of course) My boy Joss set out to create a cultural phenomenon with his Buffy. And, genius that he is, that's exactly what he did (notice that she's about the newest creation on this list~does that not speak to absolute genius???)
Prometheus~whose name means "to think before acting" (though some of his actions seemed a bit poorly thought out if not impulsive to me~he is on the list for all those who refuse to bow to authority (though i like to include myself here i'm not sure how very thoughtful it is~then again, i'm Incredibly thoughtful!)
Pandora~isn't it interesting that this first human woman in Greek Mythology is the original scapegoat? Does that mean that was what woman was created for? to point that accusatory finger at?
Tarzan~"Burroughs writes that Reason is the spark that seperates man and brute. He believes that this faculty is innate, a part of the inherent biological unigueness of the human species." Silly, Silly man, Burroughs. Apparently in 1962 a Los Angeles librarian tried to have the books banned because of Tarzan's cohabitation with Jane without benefit of marriage. Bad, Bad librarian, have you no ALA instilled shame?
Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock~it took me quite some time to be won over by Star Trek though i watched them all as a child, i had to, my father loved them. He would come home from work and it was HIS time to spend with his little girl, unfortunately it was also his time to watch tv, so we would go downstairs to the den, he would sit in his chair, i would sit on the floor next to him, and i would have to be absolutely quiet unless a commercial was on (no tivo in the late 60's). This was all before the age of six so, though my attention span may be longer than most and i suffer from a great and vast intellegence, my comprehension of his shows was not the greatest. I tended to resent science fiction and Star Trek speciecally until my adult years when i began to discover their merits for myself.
James Bond~oh so debonaire, Bond, James Bond, you can talk about your technogadgets, adventures, blah, blah, blah, but James Bond is evocative of so many things to me. My dad loved James Bond and the only movie that i can ever recall giving me nightmares (i have very few nightmares, bad dreams, strange dreams, yes but they all work out in a strange kind of way) was Live and Let Die something about that laughing skeleton on the train creeped me out like no horror movie ever has. One time my family and i saw a Bond film at a drive-in theatre (kids ask your parents about those) my stepfather and mom fell asleep in the front seat while i was wide awake and paying close attention in the back. Suddenly, at a very climatic moment, an explosion, or some other incredibly loud occurance, jerked my stepfather awake and he started up the car and drove away, the speakers falling away from the windows, my weak little voice in the back crying "Wait, Wait, the movie's not over, Go Back, Go Back!" He didn't, and my mom slept through it all. Goldfinger taught me that you need to leave a certain amount of space at the base of the spine for the skin to breathe if you cover someone completely with spraypaint. Bond also makes me think of martinis and the time my friends and i tried to be so adult by drinking them like they did in Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf (interestingly enough we all seemed to morph into those characters as we screamed at each other and the evening evolved into tears...) ahhh...good times...
Hansel and Gretel ~likes to perpetuate the idea that stepmothers are evil and can talk a supposedly loving father into abbanding his children to starvation (or worse)in the unforgiving woods (a terible stereotype perhaps, but in my experience the reality lives up to the myth so there you have it). There is also the still repeater maxim "Never trust strangers with candy." Still a good idea. Hansel and Gretel also reminds me of a discussion that has been going around PUBLIB of late concerning what to do with unattended children left at the library after closing, various policies have been tossed about and discussed when one of our members contributed this:
Long ago, children left in libraries were collected by the woodcutter from the dark forest, taken away and made to labor for many days with only dark bread crusts and stale water to sustain them. If they complained, they were taken to the home of the witch, who baked them into pies to sell to travelers. It was a clumsy sort of system, but it worked just fine and employed a lot of librarians until computers came along and changed everything. Now there is hardly a librarian around who knows how to cut wood, and you can't find children's librarians who can bake kids at all.
~M. M. (sorry there M.M. but i'm not sure how else to credit you)
- Captain Ahab~a man obsessed, driven to distraction, dragging others along with him
Richard Blaine~NEVER, EVER SAID "PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM"...now that i've gotten that out of my system, if there's somebody out there who can play As Time Goes By on solo saxaphone, it makes my heart melt. My sister once promised to play it at my wedding but she gave up the saxaphone for the oboe, oh well the marriage is looking a bit doubtful anyway...
The Ugly Ducklng~hadn't really thought of this until the book pointed it out but this really isn't such a pretty story. It's not talking about hidden talents or beauty being in the eye of the beholder or anything of the kind, it's more like "maybe if you wait long enough, you'll bloom, and it really is all about appearance" Bad, Bad Hans.
Loch Ness Monster (Nessie)~what stamina! I'd like to see you live so long and through so many proven frauds!
Atticus Finch~we should all aspire to such quiet strength
Batman~"Batman puts an intelligent head on a vengeful soul and leaves us with a sense of power and protection. Giants still walk the earth." now i wish i had said that, it really is a phrase beautifully turned.
Nancy Drew~all i want to know is When exactly did Nancy become a blonde??? Was it during those ill-advised politically correct rewrites which apparently happened starting in 1950 (and if it was that early why do I remember titian coloured hair) which is as it should be. Titian! Titian! Titian! Redheads do it best.
J. R. Ewing~if you were alive and aware of television in 1980 can you ever forget the phrase 'Who shot J.R.?' (it was Kristen, in case you don't know the answer~should i be ashamed that i do?)~the authors say that Larry Hagman played J.R. with oily charm but i can't help wondering to the sweet, handsome astronaut who was in love with Jeannie (which i always prefered over Bewitched though i watched them both)
Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn~"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is one of the most innocent adventures of all time, its sequel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the most controversal" The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was okay (in fact Tom was a bit of a role model for my younger self) but i found The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn somewhat boring. I much prefer The Mysterious Stranger.
HAL 9000~"He becomes the first computer to humanize itself. Sadly, the human traits that emerge are paranoia and schizophrenia." HAL's is another voice that once heard will never leave your mind (actually it's Douglas Rain's voice).
Kermit the Frog~its not easy being green~or black, or brown, or yellow, or anti-war, or non-christian, or gay, or in any other way straying from the norm~can't we all just get along~if only for Kermie's sake?
Sam Spade~the original private eye
The Pied Piper~did you know that 130 citizens really did disappear from the town of Hamelin, Germany on June 26, 1284? I didn't until i read this book, fascinating the things you learn, huh? I think so. Apparently the legend sprang from that real event (though children could refer to any town members)
Peter Pan~grownups seem to have that annoying habit of always asking what you want to be when you grow up. Well if you must grow up at least be happy. I guess Peter didn't really see that as a choice.
Hiawatha~noble savage~enough said? We white people love to justify our wrongdoings (well i guess everybody, except maybe sociopaths, need to find some way to justify their wrongdoings.)
Othello~jealousy may be the green-eyed monster but it sure is blind in its rage
The Little Tramp~if you've never seen a Chaplin film please treat yourself to one, he was a genius.
Norman Bates~and he seemed like such a nice, normal young man....
Joe Camel~here's an idea our teen market seems to be slipping away from us, so let's market a giant cartoon phalic symbol to kids. Yeah, that'll work (and apparently it did for awhile).
Icarus~never, ever fly too close to the sun, don't use wax wings, and always use the route that daddy gave you (on second thought, not my daddy)
Sindbad~"brings us the message that murder and mayhem are a normal part of the business world," now i always thought that was an all American idea, guess not...
Amos ‘n’ Andy~my mom grew up listening to this show~i think the radio show was something everybody could relate to reguardless of race (though it was two white guys Playing two black guys). The television show raised some hackles and i guess by that point Amos and Andy were just part of an ensemble.
Luke Skywalker~same old story: young farmboy intercepts message from a princess; sets out on a journey to save said princess; takes up with a questionable bounty hunter, some metal-heads, and other nare-do-wells; learns how to use nice shiny sword from sensei master; trains in zen meditation with an-oh-so-wise muppet, confronts his father/dark lord; ultimately triumphs over himself when he learns life is a balance of both light and dark only to find out that the princess is his sister. Basic hero's journey that led our own Movie Star President into the nuclear age.
Perry Mason~my mom was (and still is) a huge Perry Mason fan (and if anyone wants to buy some vintage Erle Stanley Gardners...) we really need some defense lawyers like him around nowadays. I mean not only could he get his innocent client off, but he could figure out who did it, and, most importantly and amazingly, get them to confess, on the stand, without invoking their fifth amendment rights, or taking a plea agreement (what a man, what a man, what a man...) Betcha didn't know that Gardner founded the Court of Last Resort-an organization to help people falsely accused of a crime-and forerunner to the Innocence Project.
Dr. Strangelove~how can you go wrong with Stanley Kubrick, Slim Pickens, George C. Scott, Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers, and Peter Sellers (but did he really learn to stop worrying or just go round the bend)? And here we have yet another neurological syndrome (like Alice) named for one of My favorites (luckily i don't have This one)
Madame Butterfly~some say its anti-American, some anti-Asian. Maybe its just those bad, bad men who abandon those they should take care of? Maybe not, Maybe its just a story.
Hans Beckert~i must admit when i first saw this name on the list i confused him with the little boy who stuck his finger in the dike who apparently didn't even have a name, but Beckert is a very different character, the first serial killer depicted in the cinema according to the authors (although i question this as Hitchcock made The Lodger: a story of the London Fog in 1926 while M was released in 1931). And i'm not sure that i ever sympathize with Lorre's character as the authors seem to.
Dorothy Gale~can you think "There's no place like home." without hearing Judy Garland's voice, or make a list of three scary things without following it by "oh, my", or start singing some of Those songs given one of Those situations. And wouldn't it be sad not to have a Somewhere Over the Rainbow to dream of?
The Great Gatsby~this seems to be a book people either like or don't. I didn't like it much in high school but i loved it when i reread it a few years ago. Phonies, Phonies, Phonies, Fitzgerald still had a few things to say about them.
Buck (Jack London, The Call of the Wild)~just think a bit about (or give a second thought to) who you have bring you your slippers at night (or sits purring in your lap~those felines are even further from domesticated life)
Betty Boop~"As no one had before, she brought jazz, drugs, and sexuality to the cartoons of her day." boop-oop-a-doop...
Ivanhoe~this is one of those books i keep starting, never finishing (well i haven't started it for quite some time now~and i never was assigned it, so contrary to the authors' suggestion i have no former lit teacher to impress)
Elmer Gantry~isn't it amazing how a character written in 1927 can so perfectly prefigure televangists everywhere?
Lilith~the Real First Womyn~and the first liberated womyn at that~too bad Adam couldn't handle her. I first heard about Lilith when some novel came out i think in 1992 or 1993 about a woman who left her children behind, or something (very vague plot details here~i know it mentioned something about the legend Lilith~new to me at the time, Adam & Eve, etc.~was new hardcover fiction at the time) i was a poor bookseller working at B. Dalton preparing to go to library school and had many other books on my plate so i thought i might pick it up another time. I have used all of the tools at my disposal to try and find that title since, but to no avail. Moral: either buy the damn book at the time OR AT THE VERY LEAST make a note of the title!!!
Paul Bunyan~I'm a lumberjack, yes i am...Paul and Babe were so large their tracks made the thousand lakes...He dragged his axe and formed the Grand Canyon (was he lazy or what?)
~and for my very best friend in the world who, when she started reading this blog called me obscure (and “how did she pick up a friend who was so obscure because i liked Buffy and such” and maybe she was the more obscure one if you want to use that term back in the day but Anyway …) might i point out, number 44 on this list!!!
And here are twenty that were considered but didn’t make the cut (this listing is alphabetical):
Lolita~one of the greatest novels ever written, Nabokov is a genius, everything he has written. And i liked both movie versions~Kubrick being one of my favorite directors his vision is interesting, but the 1998 version (Dominique Swain, Jeremy Irons, Melanie Griffith) was much truer to the novel.
Medea~I remember when i was a junior in high school and my mom telling me about this poor woman in Oregon who had been out for a drive, been stopped by a man with bushy hair, who then shot her three children. It was all over the news, they couldn't find the guy who did it. What a horrible story. "Maybe she did it herself," i suggested, matter of factly. "The Mother?" my own mother was shocked (this was before the days of the Susan Smiths and the Andrea Yates. "Yeah, it happens sometimes," i told her about the plot of Medea which we currently reading in English and how she would do anything to get revenge on Jason. But of course this was real life, and in real life Diane Downs was found guilty of two counts of first degree assualt, one count of attempted murder in the first degree, one count of attempted murder in the second degree, and one count of murder, i guess the man she was in love with didn't want kids. Funny how life is.
I have a friend who would be greatly offended that Mickey is here but Donald is not. Both Lilith and Pandora, but no Eve? Maybe some people are incorparated in the people already on the list? The book is divided into categories of Greek and Roman Myths, Folktales, Legends, Monsters, Stereotypes, Adventure, Crime, Americana, Literature, Children's Literature, Theater, Movies, Women's Liberation, Comics and Animation, Commerce, Propaganda, and Television, though, obviously there is quite a bit of overlap. It also includes interludes in which the authors pontificate on various subjects like how they choose their subjects, how they categorized them, etc.
This book is written with intelligence, wit, and great energy. I even learned a few things. Given the subject mater, i think it could have been a few thousand pages longer, and it can provoke conversation for months. These are some of my thoughts, read the book, tell me yours, anyone you think they missed, could have left off?