Monday, July 28, 2003

Top 200 Pop Culture Icons
This weekend, I spent more time than I care to admit watching "VH-1's Top 200 Pop Culture Icons" countdown, but there were so many things blatantly wrong with this list that it was like a bad car accident - I couldn't look away. They should have just named it "Pop Culture Icons of the Past 20 Years," because according to my calculations, nearly half have really only become famous or made their mark since the '80's. And there are some who wouldn't even be on this list if VH-1 had compiled it a year ago (Ben Affleck, this means you.). In general, the list was very short-sighted.

I realize that when any type of "all-time" list is compiled, there is always disgreement and criticism, but I just felt that this list really missed the mark. I tried to find something on VH-1's website about how the list was compiled, but I could only find a brief mention of "our panel of experts," although it didn't name who they were or what they used as the criteria to define a "pop culture icon of all-time." One caveat before you read my rants - I did not watch the entire program, but only saw groups of five or ten here and there throughout the weekend, so I didn't always hear the "rationale" for choosing an icon. That being said, let the review begin:

I disagreed with most of the choices in this group. "The Rock" at #200, but no Hulk Hogan? There would be no "The Rock" or any other wrestlers you see today on WWE without Hulk Hogan. Judge Judy (#197), but not Judge Wapner? He's the original TV judge. And who could forget Doug Llewylyn? Maybe Russell Crowe (#190) deserves to be on this list because he won an Oscar, but I'm going to say no, mostly because I really don't like him all that much. Dolly Parton (#189) and Joe Namath (#188) were good choices. But Broadway Joe is the only football player on the list. What about the other Joe - Joe Montana, or Brian Piccolo. And, although I'm sure no one wants to admit it, O.J. Simpson belongs on this list. He's become engrained in American Pop Culture in more ways than one. Winona Ryder (#183) probably wouldn't be on this list without the shoplifting incident. Reese Witherspoon (#181) is too new.

Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing (#180) - an excellent choice to fit my criteria of icon. I don't think Gianni Versace (#172) would have made the list if he hadn't been killed so tragically. #166, Betty Ford, is a questionable choice, but I'll let it go because she's older than 21 and including her showed a little bit of thinking on behalf of the listmakers.

Ricky Martin at #159 is also questionable. Yes, he did help bring about the current popularity of Latin music, but in reality, he's just a one-hit wonder at this point. Harry Potter (#154) was another good choice for icon status (and I've never even read any of the books). Bob Hope at #152 should have been ranked much, much higher. I'll admit, I never really understood his appeal and sense of humor, which is a generational thing, but give credit where credit is due. I'll agree with Garth Brooks at #150 and I'm glad to see VH-1 include Dolly Parton (#189) and Johnny Cash (#88) as well for the country music category (please note: Shania Twain is not a country act - never has been, never will be). Gwen Stefani (#142) is questionable, but I really think she's one of the coolest people ever and I can't knock a vote for Girl Power.

James Gandolfini (as Tony Soprano) at #140 - that's the way it's listed, with the character in parens - should really be "The Sopranos," the TV show itself. The icon that has become The Sopranos in our culture is the entire show, not just the character of Tony Soprano. This mistake will be repeated later on. I'm not sure about the inclusion of Molly Ringwald (#139). I'm one of the biggest "Sixteen Candles" fans you will find, but her lack of longevity makes me question her. My bias toward "The Breakfast Club" may be coming into play, too. I think I'm the only thirty-something out there who absolutely hated this movie. I hated it when I first saw it and I've hated every time I've tried to watch it again to see why, but it just doesn't do it for me. Anyway, Dick Clark should be way, way, much, much higher on this list. He would be in my Top 10. How can he not be? He is the epitome of American pop culture for the past 40+ years. And Bob Denver as Gilligan at #122 should really be "Gilligan's Island," the show, a la "The Sopranos." Walk up to anyone on any street in America and ask them to name the seven castaways and it can be done.

Continuing with the TV mistakes, #120 should be "Sex and the City," not just Sarah Jessica Parker. The show itself is the star and the icon that has made its way into our culture. And now, for the biggest mistake on the entire list, #119 Ben Affleck should ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, not be on this list! What a joke! If this list had been compiled a year ago, he wouldn't even be in the running to make the cut. He's only on this list because he's the soon-to-be Mr. Jennifer Lopez and that's it. As for #117, William Shatner, his listing should have included "Capt. Kirk" in parens, but it didn't. Why not? I don't think he's on the list for T.J. Hooker. Justin Timberlake (#112) is too new for this list, or else Jordan Knight would be on here, too.

Henry Winkler as "The Fonz" is a good selection, but he would be higher than #99 on my list. And Penny Marshall as "Laverne DeFazio" at #84 should not rank higher than The Fonz. His leather jacket is in the Smithsonian! Exactamundo! Clint Eastwood should also be higher than #90, especially when you look at some of the male leading actors ahead of him on the list (Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise). Stephen King at #97 was the only author to make the list. What about John Grisham or pop culture characters created by authors that have become engrained in our culture by coming to life on the big screen, like James Bond or Hannibal Lechter?

I can live with Pamela Anderson at #80 (atleast Anna Nicole didn't make the list), but not Susan Lucci at #74. She represents the whole Daytime Soap market on the list, but I don't think it was a good choice. There should have been atleast one show in the rank, like "Days of Our Lives" or "The Young and the Restless," that have been on the air for ages, but no one seemed to consider that.

Loved Kermit & Miss Piggy as #60. Whenever I catch reruns of "The Muppet Show" as an adult, I can't get over how smart and intelligent the shows are. I'm tempted to buy all of the episodes on DVD. #54 John Wayne also deserves to be ranked much higher in the grand scheme of things, as does Elizabeth Taylor (#49). I question Michael J. Fox at #44. I love him in just about everything he has done and what he stands for. But I have to wonder if this is a pity vote?

I'll let The Osbournes slide at #40. Even though the ratings have dropped drastically, even if they don't survive another season, I don't think any of us will ever forget them. Katie Couric at #39, along with Barbara Walters back at #89, are curious. I can accept Barbara Wawa, but why Katie and not someone else? Where are the news men? Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America, should be on this list. Or atleast Tom Brokaw. James Dean at #26 should be much, much higher as well. In my opinion, he is the true definition of an American pop culture icon and would be in my Top 10. And JFK Jr. at #24 shouldn't be ranked higher than his father (#32) or mother (#47). Also, Tom Hanks at #22 deserves to be higher.

Now we get to the big boys - and girls. Britney Spears is ranked too hight at #20. In my opinion, she's still bordering on flash-in-the-pan status. Same with J. Lo at #15, even though I love her and she's a great success - so far- in both music and movies. Jerry Seinfeld at #13 needs to be higher, along with the TV show itself. A day rarely goes by that I don't make some kind of "Seinfeld" reference. Tom Cruise is also ranked way too high at #5 - I would flip him with Tom Hanks. And at #3, my choice for #1 - The King, Elvis Presley. Without him, half of the people on this list wouldn't be there. And quite honestly, I'm really undecided about the #1 pick - Oprah Winfrey. Baltimore has always loved Oprah and include her as one of ours, and anyone who known only by their first name has definitely achieved icon status. I wouldn't have her as #1 on my list, but I think she might make my Top 10.

There, are you exhausted yet? I am! But just a few more thoughts on people I thought were missing from the list:
Aaron Spelling - how can his contributions to America television and Pop Culture be overlooked?
David Hasselhoff and Baywatch - the most popular TV show in the world and it's not on this list?
The Beach Boys - they epitomize the American dream of fun in the California sun, surfing, girls and hot cars
Dale Earnhart - the legacy he has left behind in his sport is overwhelming and very obviously overlooked by the listmakers

Okay, I'm finished with my rant. But I'd love to know what you think. Agree or disagree with me? E-mail me and let me know.