Pop icon: Wikis


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A pop icon is a celebrity, character, or object whose fame in pop culture constitutes a defining characteristic of a given society or era. Although there is no single definitive test for establishing "pop icon" status, such status is usually associated with elements such as longevity, ubiquity, and distinction. Moreover, "pop icon" status is distinguishable from other kinds of notoriety outside of popular culture, such as with historic figures.[note 1]



Usually, the pop icon status of a celebrity is contingent upon longevity of notoriety.[3][4] This is in contrast to cult icons, whose notoriety or recognition may be limited to a specific subculture. Some pop icons have left a lasting and indelible mark in the area of their career, and then gone on to attain a lasting place of recognition in society at large.[5]


A common element of pop icon status is the ubiquity of imagery and allusions to the iconic figure.[note 2] It is common for the figure to be recognized and even celebrated in areas outside the original source of celebrity status.[note 3] An example of this is Albert Einstein, a physicist whose image and legacy have been represented in comic strips, T-shirts, greeting cards and many other contexts.[6]


Often pop icon status implies distinguished association with a societal ideal or archetype. It is not uncommon for iconic figures to have a nickname or sobriquet that is used to emphasize this association. Sometimes the very name of such individuals is even used as a synonym for common words or ideas. Einstein, for example, is routinely associated with genius and ingenuity. Marilyn Monroe is associated with sex appeal.

A number of pop icons are distinguished for having died at a young age. These include James Dean, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, River Phoenix, Jean Harlow, Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., Bruce Lee, Janis Joplin,Selena and Marilyn Monroe, among others. Other deceased celebrities cemented their status as pop icons by virtue of their role in captivating the ethos of their era, as is the case with Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy. Many celebrities also attain the status of pop icon while still living; solo recording artists such as Cher, Britney Spears, Tina Turner,[7] Madonna, David Bowie and Janet Jackson as well as musical groups such as Nirvana, The Doors, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, U2, and Spice Girls are examples.

Some pop icons, such as Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, Mario, Winnie the Pooh, Bugs Bunny, Shrek, Pikachu, Superman, Spider-Man, Batman and Homer Simpson, or even Sherlock Holmes are fictional characters. Even inanimate objects have been recognized as pop icons.[8][9][10]

Some figures attain transitory or context-specific "pop icon" status for particular events that captivate public attention, such as in the case of the O.J. Simpson trial.[11]

Short list of selected pop icons

See also


  1. ^ Note, however, that some historic figures are recognized as having reached "pop icon" status during their era, and such status may continue into the present. World famous and recognized pop icons of our day include Michael Jackson, Madonna, Britney Spears and others. Pop icons of previous eras include Benjamin Franklin[1] and Mozart.[2]
  2. ^ Kaku,[6] p. 11
  3. ^ See e.g., Kaku,[6] Chaplin,[1] et. al.


  1. ^ a b Chaplin, Joyce (2006). The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius. Basic Books. ISBN 0465009557. 
  2. ^ Nettl, Bruno (1995). Heartland Excursions: Ethnomusicological Reflections on Schools of Music. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252064682. )
  3. ^ Dearborn, Mary V. (December 9, 1999). Mailer: A Biography. Houghton Mifflin Books. ISBN 978-0395736555. 
  4. ^ Gottesman, Ronald; Brown, Richard Maxwell, eds (1999). Violence in America: An Encyclopedia. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0684804875. 
  5. ^ Ratcliff, Ben (November 6, 2002). The New York Times Essential Library: Jazz: A Critic's Guide to the 100 Most Important Recordings. Times Books. ISBN 978-0805070682. 
  6. ^ a b c Kaku, Michio (April 2004). Einstein's Cosmos: How Albert Einstein's Vision Transformed Our Understanding of Space and Time. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393051650. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Danesi, Marcel (2007). Popular Culture: Introductory Perspectives. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 112–113. ISBN 074255547X. http://books.google.ch/books?id=rcBR7u5wRTgC&pg=PA113&lpg=PA113&dq=%22pop+icon%22+Humphrey+Bogart&source=bl&ots=yglrVht2nh&sig=S9gCehIK-PB8HXcxcCweR230jno&hl=en&ei=YZdwS8bBOJrbsAbJ8en_CA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CBcQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=%22pop%20icon%22%20Humphrey%20Bogart&f=false. 
  8. ^ Vail, Mark (April 1, 2002). The Hammond Organ: Beauty in the B (2nd ed.). Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0879307059. 
  9. ^ Sheff, David (April 27, 1993). Game Over: How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved Your Children. Random House. ISBN 978-0679404699. 
  10. ^ "The Liberty Bell: From Obscurity to Icon". Teaching with Historic Places. National Park Service. October 16, 2006. http://www.cr.nps.gov/nR/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/36liberty/36liberty.htm. 
  11. ^ Boot, Max (1998). Out of Order: Arrogance, Corruption and Incompetence on the Bench. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0465053759. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab "Beckham 'greatest pop icon of all time'". BreakingNews.ie. Thomas Crosbie Media. November 12, 2003. http://www.breakingnews.ie/archives/2003/1112/entertainment/kfcwkfaugbql/. Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  13. ^ Schmidt, Robert (Februaary 24, 2004). "The 200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons". Blue Corn Comics website. http://www.bluecorncomics.com/popicons.htm. Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  14. ^ a b "Beatles named 'icons of century'". BBC News. BBC. October 16, 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4344910.stm. Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  15. ^ a b c "Icons of the century". Variety100.com. Variety. 2005, presumably. http://www.variety.com/index.asp?layout=variety100&content=jump2&jump=iconIndex. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  16. ^ The Canadian Press (August 17, 2008). "Pop icon Celine Dion wows her Canadian fans". CTV News. http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080817/celine_dion_080817. Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  17. ^ http://www.popculturemadness.com/Entertainment/PR/Janet-Jackson.html
  18. ^ Pareles, Jon; Sisario, Ben; Stelter, Brian; Barnes, Brooks (June 25, 2009). "Michael Jackson, 50, Is Dead". Arts Beat. The New York Times. http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/25/michael-jackson-hospitalized/. Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  19. ^ a b c ""Pop icon" Michael Jackson dead at 50". ECHOROUK Online. 26 June, 2009. http://www.echoroukonline.com/eng/index.php?news=7070. Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  20. ^ Tagliaferro, Linda (March 2000). Bruce Lee. Lerner Publications. ISBN 978-0822596882. 

Further reading

  • Danesi, Marcel (2007). Popular Culture: Introductory Perspectives. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 112–115. ISBN 074255547X. 
  • Cullen, Jim, ed (2001). Popular Culture in American History. UK: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0631219587.

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