Exeter, Devon UK • May 27, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home LifestyleCulture Pop Icons Through the Decades

Pop Icons Through the Decades

Agata Koralewska, Online International Editor, delves into some of the iconic pop culture figures that transformed the 20th century.
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Image: Jarvik Joshi via Unsplash

Throughout the years, pop culture icons have been there to entertain us, lift our spirits up and transform the way we perceive the world as a society. It could be argued that they even hold the power to change one as a person, setting examples of behaviour and worldview. Certainly, each decade or even each year has one (or even more) of those influential people who transformed the times they lived in forever. Nowadays, it seems that there are many well-known pop culture icons, for example, Taylor Swift, who became viral online over the past few years and has a crowd of dedicated fans.

Pop culture dates as far as the 1920s when, after the threat of the First World War was over, a new era of entertainment started. It was characterised by the growing popularity of jazz music. Since then, each decade has brought something new to the mix, sometimes revolutionising the way people had fun and expressed themselves. Some of those ‘rising stars’ are still recognised today for their social impact. It is still important to tell their story as it can reflect the reality of the past and help us compare it to the one we live in now.

Pop culture dates as far as the 1920’s when, after the threat of the First World War was over, a new era of entertainment started.

The concept of high-popularity stars has become the most prominent in the years of 1950-2000 and continues until now. Starting in the 50’s, a woman who changed popular culture forever, Marilyn Monroe, has had her moment. The actress, whose real name was Norma Jeane Mortenson, and who survived a turbulent childhood, started her career as a model and was discovered as a performer, to then play in various comedies. Her iconic persona was soon born and the controversies surrounding her, for example, the naked calendar that she posed for in 1949, made her gain the title of a ‘sex icon’. Her seductive “Happy Birthday” directed at President Kennedy has to this day been considered a revolutionary cultural moment.

The 1970s were changed by the success of John Travolta who starred in films such as “Grease” or “Pulp Fiction”. The actor has become recognisable for his dancing skills which he revealed while playing in “Saturday Night Fever” and he indirectly initiated the disco craze, obtaining the title of the ‘disco king’. The artist who was relevant in the field of music, David Bowie, has amazed audiences with his strong vocals and personality. His stage outfits, often extravagant in their use of texture and colour, shocked and changed the way that rock was perceived forever. The glam rock singer and music writer has described himself as bisexual, representing the LGBTQ+ community around the world. He was generally considered a voice for the underrepresented and he wasn’t afraid to address the industry’s problems of alienating Black artists.

The 1980s were marked by the singing career of Michael Jackson. The musician is considered one of the biggest stars in the world and the father of rock ‘n’ roll. Coming from a musical background, he started to sing when he was only 6 years old. He became successful when his album “Thriller” was released. It appealed to various listeners and consisted of songs that became the most recognisable hits of all times. Various urban myths surround him until today, for example, that he allegedly bleached his skin to appear whiter, denying his claim that he suffered from vitiligo. Many argue that the disease would not make him appear completely white, however, one possible explanation is that he used monobenzyl to treat his skin, which would explain the drastic colour change. Nevertheless, even with all of those speculations surrounding him, his energetic dance moves and influential music have definitely changed the course of cultural history.

There are, of course, countless icons that could be included in this article, as it is hard to determine who was truly the most representative celebrity of a given period. It can also be argued that many of them are not so different in a sense that they worked to inspire the masses and became the most popular faces in the world. Whether it was Marilyn Monroe inspiring women to break social conventions or John Travolta challenging the dance scene trends, in a sense they both provoked societal change. And today, with the rapid exchange of information due to social media, the celebrities that are yet to be discovered, have the opportunity to spread their messages even further and faster.

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