Friday, October 20, 2006

101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived

Updates and Enhancements in Progress on This Post.

The other day at the lunch table at work, a friend of mine mentioned a new book coming out that listed the 101 most influential people who never lived -- that is, mythical figures, fictional characters, anthropomorphizations, etc. who have impacted the rest of us either by virtue of their archetypal natures, or as a reflection of the innovation of their creator(s). This set us to thinking about what 101 figures each of us would pick, and so we agreed to avoid trying to learn what the actual book contained, avoid excessive discussion of potentials with each other, and list our own choices. There were 20 names on the list that were known to us due to their being discussed in the radio interview that sparked this discussion; those 20 (which I am told are in the book) are alphabetically listed first below. The other 81 (my choices) are listed alphabetically after that.

A couple of issues:

  • Do you count Romeo & Juliet as one choice or two? I went with one.
  • Do you include biblical figures? I think that Jesus, Paul, Peter, et al. were historical figures. I don't have as much faith in Job's actual existence. So, in that grey area, I picked some archetypal biblical characters who may or may not have lived.
  • What do you do about, say, Mars and Ares? Is the Roman version of a Greek god the same character or a different character? I generally went with them being the same, although I did list both Zeus and Odin. If Odin can be Norway's contribution to this list, then that's just how it is. If you don't like it, make your own list.

Now I know that these choices are Western-centric (specifically America-centric) and focus a lot on the 20th Century. Well, guess what? Those are the country and century in which I was born. Not only that, but there are a lot more people around now to be influenced as compared to the 16th Century or something, and we are all a lot more connected to each other now than our ancestors were, so ideas flow throughout the world a lot more efficiently now than they ever have in the past. (Speaking of which, feel free to comment.)

Hyperlinks and rationales to follow as needed in updates; I reserve the right to substitute names onto a revised list, although the names given below will stay here for reference.

So, my list: (Well, #s 21-101, anyhow.)

  1. Barbie (Here through Tarzan are the ones that we heard were on the list before we decided to make our own.)

  2. Betty Boop

  3. Big Brother

  4. Citizen Kane

  5. Dracula

  6. Ebenezer Scrooge

  7. Hercules

  8. Icarus

  9. James Bond

  10. King Arthur

  11. King Kong

  12. Loch Ness Monster

  13. The Marlboro Man

  14. Paul Bunyan

  15. Peter Pan

  16. Prince Charming

  17. Rosie the Riveter

  18. Santa Claus

  19. Siegfried

  20. St. Valentine

  21. Tarzan (My picks start on the next line.)

  22. Adam/Eve -- I have to say, they're pretty influential. Who do you think Commander Adama was named after?

  23. Agamemnon

  24. Alfred E. Neumann

  25. Alice

  26. Anansi

  27. Archie Bunker --An Archietypal figure.

  28. Beowulf

  29. Betty Crocker

  30. Big Bird -- One of the only American Sesame Street characters to be in many of the overseas Sesame shows as well.

  31. Cain/Abel

  32. Capt. Ahab -- OCD poster boy.

  33. Carmen

  34. Charlie Brown

  35. Christian (From Pilgrim's Progress)

  36. Clippit -- Taught how many millions of people how to organize and present information more efficiently?
  37. Col. Blimp -- Personification of British stiff-upper-lippedness.

  38. D'Artagnan

  39. Darth Vader

  40. Davey Jones

  41. Don Quixote -- Has a commonly used adjective made from his last name.

  42. Dr. Frankenstein/Prometheus

  43. Faust -- Excerpt: The German-speaking people saw Goethe’s Faust character as a reflection of themselves as well as a reflection of the life of their emerging hero Goethe. "Over time, the term Faustian and Faustian Man became widely used in the German culture to represent a person who was prepared to "defy morality, society and religion and to enter a pact with the devil" to achieve his desires (Dabezies 433). Today however there is still disagreement as to whether the term’s meaning is positive or negative – i.e. does it mean becoming dissatisfied with the limited nature of human knowledge and then selling one’s soul to the devil in exchange for worldly experience and power or does it suggest striving for knowledge, mastery and higher spiritual satisfaction (Webster's Third International Dictionary).

  44. Figaro

  45. G.I. Joe -- Not just the action figure!

  46. Gertie the Dinosaur

  47. Gilgamesh

  48. Gloria Saunders

  49. The Golem/Frankenstein's Monster

  50. The Good Samaritan

  51. HAL

  52. Hamlet

  53. Hawkeye (Natty Bumppo) -- First protagonist of major American novels.

  54. Helen of Troy

  55. His Master (RCA) -- Anything that revolutionizes communications and upsets the existing order gets on the list. Why? Influential by definition.

  56. Homer/Bart Simpson -- Remember when there were only three national broadcast networks?

  57. Huck Finn

  58. Jim Crow -- Excerpt: The term "Jim Crow" originated in a song performed by Daddy Rice, a white minstrel show entertainer in the 1830s. Rice covered his face with charcoal paste or burnt cork to resemble a black man, and then sang and danced a routine in caricature of a silly black person. By the 1850s, this Jim Crow character, one of several stereotypical images of black inferiority in the nation's popular culture, was a standard act in the minstrel shows of the day. How it became a term synonymous with the brutal segregation and disfranchisement of African Americans in the late nineteenth-century is unclear. What is clear, however, is that by 1900, the term was generally identified with those racist laws and actions that deprived African Americans of their civil rights by defining blacks as inferior to whites, as members of a caste of subordinate people.

  59. Job

  60. John Henry

  61. Johnny Appleseed -- Oops! A real guy...

  62. Johnny B. Goode

  63. Jonah

  64. Lady Justice

  65. Lucy Ricardo

  66. Macbeth

  67. Mickey Mouse

  68. The Missing Link -- Without the Missing Link, how would there have been a Flying Spaghetti Monster?

  69. Mother Nature

  70. Mr. Tibbs -- White audiences accustomed to Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson scampering around now had to contend with a black man with a badge and a gun who was accustomed to being addressed as "Mister."

  71. Norman Bates

  72. Odin

  73. Odysseus

  74. Oedipus

  75. Osiris

  76. Othello

  77. Pac-Man -- All those quarters must have represented a lot of R&D $$$ going into computer graphics. Excerpt: "This was the first time a player took on a persona in the game. Instead of controlling inanimate objects like tanks, paddles and missile bases, players now controlled a `living' creature," says Leonard Herman, author of Phoenix: The Rise and Fall of Videogames. "It was something that people could identify, like a hero."

  78. Phileas Fogg -- Made the world shrink.

  79. Poor Richard

  80. Robin Hood -- The basis for the entire philosophy of Marxism. Later to be emulated by the Russians, the Democratic Party, the Chinese, and then finally the Republican Party.

  81. Robinson Crusoe

  82. Romeo/Juliet

  83. Romulus/Remus

  84. Ronald McDonald -- Billions served.

  85. The Sandman

  86. Sen. Jefferson Smith -- How many people you know shake their heads/think it's hysterical/don't get it when they show a member of the Senate or House talking to an empty chamber on C-Span?
  87. Sgt. Pepper

  88. Sherlock Holmes

  89. Sinbad

  90. Snow White

  91. Superman

  92. Sweet Georgia Brown

  93. The Boogeyman (Oops - Should be under "B")

  94. Tintin

  95. Tom Sawyer

  96. Uncle Sam

  97. Uncle Tom

  98. Vito Corleone

  99. Yankee Doodle

  100. The Yellow Kid -- The first major comic-strip character. Had he been called "The Purple Kid," Hearst and Pulitzer might have been known for "Purple Journalism."

  101. Zeus

They're all more influential than you, and they aren't even real.

Update: OK, here is the list that the book's authors came up with. (The authors, btw, are Dan Karlan, Allan Lazar, and Jeremy Salter -- Here's their website.) USA Today article here, USA Today's PopCandy blogpost here. As I mentioned, further enhancements of this post are forthcoming.

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Blogger getalife said...

Clippit? C'mon! No way!!

Missing Link? I've never thought of that as a real "one unit" entity, like Mother Nature, but understand your rationale for adding it.

I looked at the official list as well, and saw many I would add plus a few surprises.

"Buck" for example. I would pick Black Beauty for Sewell's ability to anthrowherespellcheck horses, but will concede COTW captured the American imagination due to its theme that savagery lies beneath domesticity.

10:31 PM  

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