Week 2, Test Your Icon

How to test whether a person or thing is an icon:

  • Famous: Do more than a couple of hundred thousand people know of and constantly refer to this thing or person?
  • Memorable, over time: Does this person have endurance?  Bands/singers like Stephen Bishop, Player, or even Christopher Cross had number one hits…  but do we remember them today?
  • One name test: If I use only one of this person’s names, will others know instantly to whom we are referring? (ie. Dylan, Marilyn, Lennon, Brando, Cobain, Tupac, Britney)
  • The Picture test: If someone sees an image of this person, will he/she know immediately whom the picture is showing?
  • Halloween: If your icon is a human, can somebody dress up as him/her for Halloween and have people recognize the identity of the icon?
  • Represents another thing: Is your icon symbolic of something else?  Is he/she a sign or symbol or metaphor for another thing or ideology? (ie: Elvis is the American Dream; Tupac is Hip Hop).
  • Has a system of values: Does your icon have a value system linked to him/her? Pac represents “thug life.” Britney or Madonna are “sex symbols.” Bono represents someone who is critical of right-wing politics.  Michael Moore is a staunch critic of American corruption and a proponent of conspiracy theories.  What does your icon represent?
  • Unique: Is your icon likely to be confused with any other icons?
  • Simple, then, Complex: At first, simple in meaning; Then, on later inspection, multi-layered: Most great icons have their values, their meaning, and their causes understood by all, at a quick glance.  Yet, on second analysis, the truly great icons are rather complex, and mean different things to different people.  What are the multiple meanings, for different perceivers, of your icon?
VH1’s 200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons: Criteria of an Icon:

  • Do they pass the one-name test?
  • Can you dress up as them for Halloween?
  • Did they blaze a trail in pop culture?
  • Did they create a signature character in pop culture?
  • Can you quote them, or their character, in 10 seconds or less?
  • Did society imitate their sense of fashion? Hairstyle?
  • Did “SNL” create a sketch satirizing them?
  • Did someone write a song about them?
  • Was or is there merchandising or paraphernalia that bears their image?
  • Can they be connected to Kevin Bacon?