Friday, 13 April 2012

Movie Icons: A Very Interactive Post

What is an icon?  I start this post with a question because I wish to begin as I intend to continue.

'A person or thing regarded as a representative symbol of something: e.g. "an icon of manhood".'

That's one of the only answers you'll get today.  Wikipedia says 'Some writers say that the terms "icon" and "iconic" have been overused. A writer in Liverpool Daily Post calls "iconic" "a word that makes my flesh creep", a word "pressed into service to describe almost anything."'

I can understand their point.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember knowing that an icon is a representative symbol of something.  But when I use the word iconic, I think I'm actually thinking more along the lines of 'unforgettable'.  I think somebody once told me that icons could always be recognised by their silhouette.  So in Hitchcock's final film, Family Plot, we recognise his cameo appearance just from his silhouette for example.

But then I type 'movie icons' into Google images and I get this:

I guess these little pictures are just icons because they are representative of the actual characters that they stand for.  Is that right?  And could somebody enlighten me as to who the last one is please?  I was expecting actual pictures of Monroe, Bogart, Chaplin but not these little ladies and gentleman.

In fact I scroll down and the first actual pictures of people I get are quite a way down:

Which gets me thinking?  Is there room for debate about who our movie icons are?  Or do some higher powers have to bestow the term 'icon' before us common muck can use it?  Why are the above characters iconic?  How long does it take to become iconic?  Is it instant?  Was Ledger and Nolan's Joker instantly iconic?  Was the Joker already iconic before The Dark Knight and therefore any fresh incarnation of the villain will always be iconic?

What is Frankenstein a representative symbol of?  The undead?  The arrogance of man messing with the powers of God?

I am aware I'm rambling but I wish to get to the bottom of this.  Can I say that any film character is an icon if I feel s/he is a representative symbol of something to me personally?  Do I have to justify my use of the word iconic to anybody?  I recently heard a blogger ranting about the over use of the word masterpiece.  Do we really need to hold back on using words like iconic and masterpiece and save them for only the specialist occasions.  I'm sure most people do but doesn't it all come down to opinion?

What about stars?  I can clearly see how characters can be iconic.  Many characters are written to be symbols.  But stars?  How can they be iconic?  I mean really iconic?

MSN thinks they can be:

In the 00's we have: Will Smith, Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman, Will Ferrell, Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Clooney, Winslet and Jolie.

In the 90's we have: Pitt, Hanks, Willis, Thurman, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, Jim Carrey, Winona Ryder, Meg Ryan

In the 80's we have: Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Schwarzenegger, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Molly Ringwald, Kathleen Turner

The list goes on and on, check here for the 70s, the 60s, the 50s, and apparently MSN then decides there were no icons before this last decade.  So no Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy etc.

I'm just not sure if all of these stars are really iconic.  I mean what is Brad Pitt a representative symbol of?  Now Tyler Durden maybe... but not Brad Pitt himself surely?  And what about Johnny Depp?  Edward Scissorhands I can see being iconic, Captain Jack even maybe at a stretch... but not just Johnny Depp.

So another question for you and I hope you are making a note of all these because I NEED answers!  What makes a star iconic?

Finally, I'm more interested in iconic images than I am with iconic stars or even iconic characters.  So what do you think are the most iconic images of cinema?  For me it just doesn't come any more iconic than this.  I could talk about this image all day but I'll leave that for another post.

Over to you!  Please give me some answers to my endless questions and I will be forever in your debt!

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