In 1986, the Tom Cruise starring action drama film Top Gun was released in theatres across the globe. It amassed a total of 35.73 crores us dollars at the box office. 36 years later, paramount pictures released Top Gun: Maverick, which amassed a total of 806.3 million dollars at the box office. No doubt it was a well-made sequel.
But the initial hype came from the nostalgia that the image of a fighter plane pilot Tom cruise bought. An exemplary icon of Pop culture.
Pop culture, the abbreviation of popular culture refers to all significant events, images, objects, traditions, people, and knowledge that have a broad appeal amongst the masses.
These forms of expression are widely accepted and approved of and are constantly evolving due to the ever-shifting society. A celebrity, character, or object that is known to have left an indelible mark on society and will be remembered for ages to come is known as a pop culture icon.
There are icons in every category of pop culture, be it entertainment, sports, news, politics, fashion, and technology
Pop Culture Icons in Movies
The Hollywood film industry sees millions of people vying for fame and admiration from the public. Yet only a meager 2 % is able to live off their acting careers. And even fewer reach the level of success required to become a pop icon. Be it either their immense skills or a popular father, these celebrities will be known for their work and presence long after their deaths.
This is already the case with some icons. Marilyn Monroe was a revolutionary of her time, her iconic role as the ‘Blonde Bombshell’ resulting in a whole new era of women confident in their sexuality rather than being just shy and demure.
Charles Spencer Chaplin in his entire acting career spanning 75 years barely spoke in his movies. He is the record holder for the longest-standing ovation at the Oscars. James Dean left women swooning after the movie ‘Rebel Without a Cause’.
Unfortunately, he was able to work for only five years before his tragic passing, but the heartthrob was never forgotten as Brands like Dolce and Gabbana and Monte Blanc paid homage to him and garnered ample public attention.
The King of Cool, Steve Mcqueen, Denzel Washington, Paul Newman, and Audrey Hepburn are just a few other pop culture icons, their deaths lamented to this day.
There are several other pop culture icons that are currently alive and active as well. Pamela Anderson, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jackie Chan are just some examples of living legends, and they know their worth too.
Robert Downey Junior, often better known as the Genius, playboy, billionaire philanthropist Tony Stark, was paid an amount akin to that of a lead actor for simply appearing in a two-minute cameo.
Betty White was everyone’s favorite on-screen grandmother, a title she wore with pride and carried out so well that often it was impossible to discern between the actor and the character she played. Will Smith and Jaden Smith are the most iconic father-son duo in the present day.
It isn’t just people who become Pop culture icons. Several movies have a special place in the hearts of people be it because of the topic covered, the actors’ chemistry, the director, or even the cinematography and VFX.
Titanic, Avatar, The Godfather, Parasite, Star Wars, Lawrence of Arabia, Jaws, Casablanca, Back to the Future, Pulp Fiction, and many more such films are celebrated as pioneers of different genres of the film industry.
Pop Culture Icons in Music
As for the music scene, sure artists come and go, but once in a while such phenomenal musicians show up, and their legacy often outlives them. Michael Jackson the King of Pop and Elvis Presley the King of Rock and Roll, are long gone but are still inspiring youngsters. Freddie Mercury and band queen?
More than just pop culture icons, they were queer icons and inspired a generation full of youngsters to be brave and be unapologetically themselves. As for bands, it was almost as though the Beatles redefined what it meant to be a boyband. The Beatles members John Lennon and Paul McCartney found success even after the group disbanded.
Spice Girls, the pop group from the UK, dominated the music charts from their very debut. They created a feminist alternative to the boy bands of that time, and their upbeat dance music remains unparalleled to this day. Michael Buble, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Louis Armstrong, and Bob Marley; Posters of these icons would be found in every student’s college dorm rooms.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Frank Sinatra and his deep baritone have a legion of loyal fans to this day. Prince legally changed his name to a common noun and the world happily went along with it. Marvin Gaye was without doubt the most famous soul singer/ songwriter of all time. Guitar-wielding Bryce Adams ended up creating a heart-pumping, awe-inspiring youth anthem- We didn’t start the fire
Presently, it is artists like Taylor Swift whose range of genres in albums is unprecedented, and the K-Pop band BTS, whose relatable lyrics and unique music have made each of the members pop culture icons in their own right, despite being in Korean, a language spoken only by 1.004 % of the world population.
Other pop culture icons like Britney Spears and Dolly Parton are well and alive, but inactive or retired and riding the waves of success they achieved in their youth.
Many of Britney Spear’s songs resonate strongly with queer teenagers and are anthems. Spanish artists like Shakira and Selena carved their niches in history, and despite not being natives are beloved icons in America.
Iconic Television Shows
The Sopranos, a crime saga that kicked off a golden age of television set the standard for all ambitious TV shows. The Wire, Breaking Bad and Mad Men were all inspired by this show. Seinfield redefined comedy as people knew it. The Simpsons with its dry humor and scarily accurate future predictions quickly became a cult classic.
The Unique yellow characters in the show became pop culture icons in their own right. F. R. I. E. N. D. S, the show about 6 dysfunctional friends navigating through life and relationships with the help of each other became archetypal of friendship. Shows like Doctor Who and Star Trek made the Science fiction Genre appealing to the large masses.
Pop culture icons in Sports
In a time where microaggressions against Dark-skinned people were rampant, Tiger woods established his name in the sport of golf, a sport considered to be that of the elite, by winning the Masters in 1997, he was considered a pioneer for Black people in the sport.
Apart from Tiger woods, many other such pioneers have become pop culture icons for their galvanizing performances in their respective sports, such as Muhammad Ali, The Williams sisters, Michael Jordan, Vishwanathan Anand, Viv Richards, Simon Biles, and many more.
David Beckham apart from being just a sports icon is also one half of a power couple, alongside his wife Victoria Beckham, who herself is quite popular from her brief stint as a vocalist in the Spice Girls.
At the same time, some sportspersons are so incredibly charismatic that their talent is often overshadowed by their Magnetic personalities. LeBron James, Christiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Maria Sharapova, and Tonya Harding are some such celebrities.
When Martin Luther king assumed leadership of the civil rights movement in 1955, little did people know that he would change the course of American history forever. His speeches were some of the most iconic speeches of the 20th century.
The only people to come close to his level of greatness and distinction were Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, pop culture icons in their own right, with each of their freedom struggles inspiring people all over the world, be it in the form of media such as music and movies or individuals’ thought processes, shaping the minds of youngsters decades after passing, through their teachings and speeches.
Princess Diana needs no explanation. Even while she was alive she was known as the princess of the people, so it is no surprise her popularity skyrocketed after her tragic passing. The case of John F Kennedy is something quite similar.
Some politicians will be eternal in history as memes and bedtime stories to scare children into sleeping thanks to their ridiculous decision-making processes or Tyrannical reign. Donald Trump, Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro and many such exceptionally disliked politicians fall in this category.
Icons In Design
Media that have mass accessibility and appeal are considered popular. Therefore it is no surprise that Andy Warhol and his collection of artworks lead to the pop art movement, especially his collection of Campbell soup paintings. are considered icons. The Helvetica font, although just a font, gained recognition like no other thanks to its legibility.
A revolutionary typeface. The cultural impact of the Apple iPhone, quite like the prop design on Star Trek was irreplicable. Only one such design existed in the world and everything else around it would aim to get on that level.
Britney Spear’s iconic all denim look, Marilyn Monroe’s white dress, Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress, Princess Diana’s revenge dress, Lady Gaga’s meat dress, and Blake Lively’s Met gala look all have one thing in common. They have influenced multitudes of designs and styles in the fashion world. For what is a celebrity without an Iconic look.
Charlie Chaplin, Mickey Mouse, James Bond, Lara croft, Harry Potter, The Joker, Batman, Captain Jack Sparrow, Indiana Jones, Michael Scott, Romeo, Juliet, Darth Vader, Gandalf, Gollum, Cinderella, Prince Charming, Jessica Rabbit, Wolverine, Spiderman, Shrek, Bugs Bunny, SpongeBob. The list of Fictional Pop culture icons is endless.
They have trademarked logos and symbols and are easily recognized by people no matter their age or gender. Regardless of whether they are heroes or villains or even morally grey characters, regardless of whether they are humans, humanoids, or personified animals, regardless of whether they are the brainchild of a writer or a director, these characters are the most popular. Come October, these characters are everyone’s top Halloween picks.
These pop culture icons, whether we realize it or not, are everywhere. They are referred to in ads and other movies and shows. The icons currently alive are under constant scrutiny. Their actions if morally right are heavily applauded and if wrong, are often just as severely criticized.
People gain fame through them simply by association. The news and publicity surrounding them could be negative too. But it does not stop them from becoming the topic of conversation in every household at every thanksgiving dinner.
Long-lost friends would bring up these celebrities as icebreakers They will be remembered for decades. Whether they will be viewed in a positive light in the future remains to be seen, but it will regardless make them Pop culture icons.