Icon or Moneymaker: What Do Americans Really Want?
John Wayne, Mickey Mouse and Elvis. What do these three have in common you ask They are each American icons that have captured the hearts and minds of my fellow citizens across the nation. What is an icon? An icon is a fancy way of saying hero, or celebrity. All three are constantly copied, and there are even costumes of them that you can wear for Halloween. These celebrities, are both human and cartoon, but they still have a lot in common. Have you ever wondered how they became so popular?
You might not know John Wayne, but he was a movie actor that began acting in films in 1928. He is remembered mostly for the types of characters that he played. From war hero to cowboy, he showed us that America can overcome the evil enemies of war, and that the good guy always wins. He is associated with patriotism and strength, values that Americans, especially during WWII, could identify with. After the war, he continued making movies, helping Americans build on their postwar identity of prosperity and happiness. From these movies, Americans had found a hero. Everybody likes a hero, but Elvis and Mickey weren't heroes, why are they so popular?
In November 1928, Mickey Mouse appeared in Steamboat Willie, the first animated film to include sound. From that day forward, his popularity just seemed to spread. Maybe it was because he was the first animated character to have a real personality. Maybe it was because he was always getting himself into trouble and coming out of it with a big grin on his face. Or maybe it was the fact that both television and Disneyland, were created in the 1950s.
This meant that as soon as most families could afford a TV in their homes, they could watch Mickey Mouse cartoons. Disneyland itself, also called "the happiest place on earth" was an instant success. Along with the theme park, Walt Disney also created the Mickey Mouse club. The club had a TV show that was very popular. Young kids would send away and receive a membership by mail. In less than thirty years Mickey Mouse had gone from a cartoon character, to a mouse loved by millions.
Also loved by millions is Elvis. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, he was a perfect example of the American dream. A small town boy with a mischievous grin, he sang and danced his way into the hearts of American teenagers. He performed as if he knew that he was the coolest thing around. Some say he invented rock 'n' roll, or at least he helped make it what it is today. After appearing on his show, Ed Sullivan said, "I don't know what he does, but it drives people crazy." Even now, more than two decades after his death, he still drives people crazy. Tourists from not only America, but from around the world, come to Graceland, the home where he and his family lived for most of his career.
These three stars have been famous for many years, and will be around for many more. One of the things that helped them out was that each in their own way caused things to change. Without Elvis, Rock and Roll might not have been as popular as it soon became. Mickey Mouse was the first cartoon character with sound. Once that was proven to be a success many more followed. The characters that John Wayne played helped strengthen America's belief itself. These accomplishments have in their own small way, helped us to have the America we have today.
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Links to Other Dispatches
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Irene - That's not just an orange you are eating. It's history