Posts Tagged ‘Icon’

‘Superman’ is one of the most well known superheroes across the world. His iconography has continued to be popular with numerous comic books,  TV shows, films and merchandise being made in his name. The success of his persona is based on the idea of American masculinity. Superman reflects the triumph over evil and the fact that America as a superpower has the ability to defeat enemies across the world.

However, like most icons, Superman is not all- American figure and it can is understood that he is in fact an immigrant. Shuster and Siegel who created the character and were Jewish immigrants themselves wanted to create an immigrant figure that could be transformed into an American icon.  Superman’s masculinity is present through his muscles, his superhuman abilities and through his actions of saving the world. Hence, Superman is the only  figure who can do this effectively, not because of the trains just mentioned, but primarily because he is a man.

The idea that Superman has two identities, one normal and one superhuman is very interesting for the idea of masculinity. It almost hinting to the idea that men should always aspire to something better as they had the ability to reinvent themselves in 20th Century America. This ideal is alien to femininity  at this time, women could dream about  better life but they could not achieve it. Women unlike men did not have the ability to save the world like Superman, they only had the ability to be saved by men and this explains Lois Lane’s character in the Superman chronicles.



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Newcastle Brown Ale (NBA) was the largest alcoholic drink in the UK in the 1990s and by 2000 the majority of its sales were in America. NBA broke the US by targeting the increase in Anglo/Irish bars, and as Richard Fletcher says in The Journal, ‘NBA was a dark beer and it tapped a niche in the US market.’[1] This shows the difference in the market, in the UK, the beer was seen and promoted as a working man’s drink, whereas in the US it was a much more niche market. Andy Pike said in Transactions of the institute of British Geographers, ‘Geographical entanglements in the place of Newcastle are evident in NBA’s origins.’[2]  However there’s also evidence to prove that the brands connection to the North East resides very little with the US, a staff member of NBA said, ‘The Americans couldn’t give a shit if it was brewed in Sunderland, Gateshead, wherever it is…they want English beer.’[3] The US cared more about the ‘Imported from England’ label. NBA’s advertising in the US have been a major selling point, the blue five point star became iconic and more recently the ‘No Bollocks’ campaign. Buzzfeed said recently ‘the campaign is especially brilliant when placed side by side with the bad, base beer advertising of America’s big spenders – Budweiser.’[4] Its recent ‘fake’ Super Bowl advert allowed the brand to tap into the Super Bowl advertising phenomenon at very little cost. The brand had to find a niche in the biggest market in the world and change its advertising strategy to compete. The beer still sells 100 million bottles in the UK each year with very little advertising however the brand had to change its strategy for America.  

[1] “How Newcastle Brown Ale earned its stripes in America,” The Journal, accessed February 15th, 2014, http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/how-newcastle-brown-ale-earned-4400775

[2] Andy Pike, “Placing Brands and Branding: a socio-spatial biography of Newcastle Brown Ale” Transactions of The Institute of British Geographers, Vol.36, No. 2 (2011), pp. 206-22

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Best Beer Advertising in The World,” Buzzfeed, accessed February 15th, 2014, http://www.buzzfeed.com/copyranter/the-best-beer-advertising-in-the-world-right-now

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American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford, played a vital role in American culture. With a simple Google search of ‘Henry Ford’ a mountain of related web pages and images appear of the man himself coupled beside his cars and achievements. This bounce back of information correctly encapsulates the legacy and iconic status of Henry Ford.

When browsing any biographical site in regards to Henry Ford, including the biography.com site and Wikipedia, there are sections completely dedicated to his achievements such as the assembly line means of productions, the Ford Model T (although it was not the first motor car it was the first designed specifically for the everyday American people) and for his equality measures placed in the workforce for women and African Americans.  Ford is also represented on the internet for some of the things which he said such as ‘I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work. Had I worked fifty or ten or even five years before, I would have failed. So it is with every new thing. Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready and then it is inevitable,’ being one of his most famous quotes.

Furthermore in Jason DeParle’s ‘Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs’ in the New York Times, Henry Ford is presented as one of the iconic American figures to accomplish the true American Dream. Within the first lines of the article Ford is joined with Benjamin Franklin to emphasise that having faith that others could start from humble origins and rise to economic heights makes it possible for everyone else to accomplish the same thing. Although not mentioned for the rest of the article the mention of Ford at the start is enough to create the wanted image in the minds of those reading it.

Overall there is an overwhelming amount of information on the internet regarding Henry Ford and he is presented not only for his achievements but for what he represents in American culture.

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There are many websites dedicated to the legacy of Rudolph Valentino and a documentary  to portray his short life. On the internet it seems that Valentino’s life is shrouded in glamour and mystery despite coming to America as a humble emigrant.  His status on the internet is marked with controversy surrounding his death which forms a huge part of the websites dedicated to him. One website in particular recites different conspiracy theories surrounding the death of the star aged 31.  Conspiracy theories in general can cause a bigger interest in celebrities lives and therefore his popularity undoubtedly rose after his death.

Most of the websites display his iconic status with various pictures of the silent screen actor displayed throughout the page.  However some websites are more sophisticated than others. I especially like the ‘Falcon Lair’ website as it places a Valentino quote in the corner of the page in order to present him as some sort of inspirational leader of the era. However, due to the nature of this website, that is to promote a book on the actor, I think that the You Tube documentary is the most effective form of history of Valentino. This  documentary, which you can watch online for free, is well composed, using video clips, pictures, music of the era and is commentated by historians.  

Valentino in general is portrayed as a sophisticated, talented and handsome man who threatened the traditional  image of the American man. These websites are good sources for understanding his role in American culture as they explain the hype surrounding the actor both in life and death.

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Source : Salon News Website, USA :4th February 2012 http://www.salon.com/2012/02/04/how_madonna_changed_america/

I have used 3 images of Madonna to convey her role as an American icon. I will admit she is not a conventional American Icon and often her actions through both music, film and even her private life have been slated by American media. However, her influential role in the pop music industry in the 1980’s and her iconic images will live on in a positive manner. The image in the middle of her 1990’s ‘Vogue’ music video can be viewed as a replication of another American icon, Marilyn Monroe. This image of Madonna and the ‘Vogue’ dance in the video catapulted  her as a gay icon during this decade and therefore she came to represent a star that was inclusive of all realms of society and this aided her popularity. The image on the right was much more controversial as it was her look in the video “Like a Virgin” that led to questions surrounding pre-marital sex in America and the sexualisation of women in the pop industry. She broke boundaries in this video as its meaning often created an unsavoury image of the singer however I believe it she can still be classified as an American icon  as many applauded her effort to break the status quo in America  regarding sexual relations especially due to religious influence in the country.  The final image on the right came much later in Madonna’s career with her cover of “American Pie” which depicts her solely as an American icon wearing a crown with the American flag in the background of the video. This video solidified her success at the time with the Guinness  Book of World Records in 1998 stating that ‘ “No female artist has sold more records than Madonna around the world.” Overall, these 3 images although very different convey high points in Madonna’s career and her interesting role in American culture.

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mohammad and malcolm

It is interesting to compare and contrast two American icons such as Mohammad Ali and Malcolm X as although they were similar in many ways, their lives took drastically different paths. Both men had the qualities associated with many of the other icons, both were very controversial and outspoken but what is most striking about these two icons is that they were close friends at one stage.

Of course there are the obvious similarities which exist between the two men in that they were both African American Muslims growing up in America during a period that was extremely difficult for black Americans. Both men also changed their birth given names as they believed it was a slave name given to them by white men. It is also known that neither had an easy upbringing as neither were well off and Malcolm X’s father was killed by white supremacists and his mother was placed in a mental hospital. Both men had a particular way with words also which no doubt helped them to achieve their status as icons.

One particular similarity which also adds to their iconic image was their determination to speak up for what they believed in even if it was not what everyone wanted to hear. Eric Foner’s book speaks of this when describing freedom of speech during this period and this desire to speak up for your beliefs is common among American icons.

Malcolm X was a human rights activist and was seen as a very courageous man by his supporters. Ali, being the youngest ever heavyweight champion of the world was also seen as extremely brash and brave taking on the heavyweight elite. Both had radical views within their own lives in it is probable no coincidence, since both were also Muslim, that their paths did cross when Ali decided to join the Nation of Islam in 1964.

The main difference between the two men is where they ended up. Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam and 3 years later was assassinated by 3 of it’s members. Mohammad Ali continued his boxing career and is still alive today.

Their legacies are also similar. Malcolm X has been described as one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. He is credited with raising the self-esteem of black Americans and reconnecting them with their African heritage. In the late 1960s, as black activists became more radical, Malcolm X and his teachings were part of the foundation on which they built their movements.  Ali is also a huge role model in America and an example to people everywhere. In 1993, the Associated Press reported that Ali was tied with Babe Ruth as the most recognized athlete, out of over 800 dead or alive athletes, in America. The 2001 movie, Ali, received an Oscar nomination for Will Smith’s portrayal of the lead role. Both men are clearly American icons for a number of reasons and this is still despite all the controversy which surrounded them such as Ali’s rufusal to fight in Vietnam and Malcolm X’s black supremacist beliefs.


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