Friday, July 30, 2010

0050. Divine

Divine was the drag persona of the late Harris Glenn Milstead. Starring in many of John Water's 1970's "trash films", including her most famous Pink Flamingos, and the more mainstream Hairspray (now a famous Broadway musical), Divine went on to a music career before an untimely death at the age of 42. Divine was wild, freaky, and inspirational, and even today is an epic icon of drag queens, performance artists, and gender others.

Divine was only ever a part of my life as an icon– having been terrified to come within a few feet of John Water's trash films and being too young to fully appreciate her golden age– I knew her only as a musician (of sorts) and a drag idol.  Though I understand that this is not the scope of her career, by far, this music video pretty much sums up what Divine is for me:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

0049. Xena: Warrior Princess

Xena was originally a minor character on the late 90's television show Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, but went on to have her own series Xena: Warrior Princess. Portrayed by Lucy Lawless, she was a fierce and independent female protagonist. She became a pop culture icon that is referenced both humorously and reverently.  She became a lesbian icon as well, because of her ambiguous relationship with her best friend and travel companion, Gabrielle.

I'll be honest, I wasn't a Xena watcher.  But I remember that day in middle school, when New York radio Station Z100 was having one of their trivia contests for tickets to some pop concert I wouldn't be caught dead at, and the question was something about a Television character that was revered as a lesbian icon.  After a few minutes of wrong answers from callers, he clarified that it was not necessarily a lesbian character.  When the answer, Xena, came up, I filed it away in the part of my brain that was expanding my understanding of how complex gender and sexuality was.

Oh, then I looked her up on the internet (at the time, we hadn't started calling it "googling" yet.  Imagine!) to see if there were any pictures of her kissing another woman.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

0048. Gerald Johannsen

Gerald was the best friend to the titular character of Craig Bartlett's cartoon Hey Arnold!, which ran on Nickelodeon in the late nineties. A "token black" character, if ever there was one, Gerald was inarguably cool, composed, fun, and was the keeper of school legends.

Hey Arnold! was one of those odd shows that I loved despite loathing the main character.  I thought Arnold himself was boring, too much of "the nice guy," and too dense- besides being wrapped up in a love triangle that obviously was never going to be resolved.  No, I was much more interested in Gerald.  He had two layers of character, the "cool guy" part of him that, as a middle school, he exuded for survival, and the personal layer that showed he was more complex than his performed persona.  Also, he had a vague ongoing crush with Phoebe, (the only Asian as far as the eye could see in this show) that seemed sweet, mutual and resolvable.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

0047. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air/ Will Smith

In West Philadelphia (born and raised) on a playground, where he spent most of his days, he was chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool, and shooting some b-ball outside of the school- when a couple of guys (they were up to no good) starting making trouble in his neighborhood. He got in one little fight, and his mom got scared, and said "You're moving with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air!"

He whistled for a cab, and when it came near, the license plate said "fresh" and there were dice in the mirror! If anything, he could say that this cab was rare- but he thought "Man, forget it- Yo, home to Bel-Air!"

He pulled up the house at about seven or eight, and he yelled to the cabbie, "Yo Homes! Smell ya later!" He looked at his kingdom. He was finally there! To sit on his throne, as the Prince of Bel Air.

Monday, July 26, 2010

0046. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy was the main character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a television series that ran from 1997 to 2003 and has, even today, a cult following of devotees. Buffy was born of the idea of taking the scary-movie archetype of the frightened, helpless blonde and subverting it- establishing a protagonist who was prepared to, and repeatedly did, defend herself. This accounts for her feminist following a persevering fan devotion.

Guest blogger Jess LeClair writes about her personal experience with Buffy as an idol beyond the jump.

Friday, July 23, 2010

0045. Captain Planet

Captain Planet is the titular character of the early '90s cartoon show Captain Planet and the Planeteers. The show followed teenagers endowed with magic rings given to them by the spirit of the earth in order to stop environmental terrorism. Together, they could summon Captain Planet when they were in a pinch. The show was educational, and unique for it's environmentalist theme.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

0044. Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O'Neal is a professional American basketball player. After the height of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers in the late 90's/early 00's, Shaq went on to broaden his icon status by starring in movies (Kazaam is remembered fondly), releasing rap albums, and starring in reality TV shows. Recently, he's been rediscovered by a generation for his humorous twitter account, THE REAL SHAQ, for which the bio gives a pretty accurate description: 


Currently, Shaq plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

I never actually watched basketball.  I came from Pennsylvania– and not the sophisticated  part, if you know what  I mean– so I watched Nascar.  In any case, I only know Shaq as a hilarious twitter account.  And Shaq-a-claus.

(Image Source: Sacramento

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

0043. Madonna

Madonna is a pop star known for her most popular music released in the 1980's. She was a figure of scandal because of her unapologetic sexuality. In the mid eighties, her presence was seen influencing mainstream fashion, and caused an upset with families with her hit "Like a Virgin." She is recognized at her most iconic by her "cone bra" that was a fixture of her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990.

Don't think for a second I don't have the music video for Like a Virgin burned into the "I'm-too-young-to-be-watching-this" part of my brain.  MTV was in a wonderful period when I was a kid, and I like to think it shaped a lot of who I grew up to be as an artist. Madonna was no small part of that.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

0042. The Dalai Lama

The 14th Dalai Lama is the spiritual (and physical) leader of Tibet. He is currently in exile from his country because of the influence of the Chinese Goverment. He is at the center of the Tibetan independence conflict with China, who has had control of Tibet since 1959, working towards gaining autonomy for his country.

Monday, July 19, 2010

0041. Daria Morgendorffer

Daria Morgendorffer is the misanthropic sweetheart of a generation disenchanted with the stupidity around it. Running from 1997 to 2002, the Daria cartoon captured the heart of a high-school niche that was begging for a sympathetic character to represent them. Daria's ability to tolerate her environment through employment of sardonic wit and pessimism was a strange but successful beacon for teenagers struggling to make sense of the world.

Friday, July 16, 2010

0040. Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II was the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Faith from 1978-2005, and the only Polish pope. He is generally regarded as one of the most influential popes– though his stance on some issues was highly conservative, he was positively credited for liberating Poland from communism and improving relations with other faiths.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

0039. Kate Bornstein

Kate Bornstein is a contemporary godmother of transsexuals, freaks, geeks, and others. She is a performance artist, author and gender theorist who supports the acceptance of alternative sexual lifestyles and offers psychological support for "others" and those who are considering suicide. She runs a blog and a twitter account in which she speaks to gender and sex ideas and encourages others to seek and share alternatives to suicide. She serves as a beacon of hope and encouragement for the those marginalized on the farthest fringes of society and sexuality.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

0038. Finn (Adventure Time)


Finn is the star of Adventure Time, a 2006 animated short that aired on Nickelodeon, and is fondly remembered by a cult following of twenty-somethings. In 2010, Adventure Time began a new life as 26 episode television series.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

0037. Brahma

Brahma is the Hindu god of Creation, in a trifecta that includes Vishnu (of Preservation) and Shiva (of destruction.) Brahma has four heads, and is reportedly not widely worshipped, somehow in the shadow of the other two gods of the trimurti.

Monday, July 12, 2010

0036. Conan O'Brien

Conan O' Brien is an American entertainer, famous for hosting Late Night with Conan O'Brien from 1993 until 2009. He took over the Tonight Show for a year before reappearing in the pop-culture spotlight because of a feud with NBC regarding plans for the show. The masses of the internet rallied around him, with the catch phrase "I'm with Coco" as their war cry. O'Brien left Tonight, and is now on tour and plans on hosting a show on TBS later in the year.

Friday, July 9, 2010

0035. Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde was a 19th century Irish poet, playwright, and author. His most notable works are A Picture of Dorian Grey and The Importance of Being Earnest, both still in wide circulation and study. He was also known as a personality, lively, brightly dressed, a character and a conversationalist. He was an unapologetic homosexual, and his ungraceful downfall came after losing a trial against his lover's father, and he was later sentenced to two years for "indecency." He remains an icon for writers, gays, and free thinkers alike.

Happy Birthday, Rob!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

0034. Peppermint Patty

Peppermint Patty is one of the main characters of Charles Schultz's comic opus Peanuts. Rumored to have been inspired by the Womens Liberation Movement, Patty's characterization was of a tomboy– independent, shorts-wearing and sports-loving. She is one of a handful of progressive characters Shultz added to the roster without apology.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

0033. Hulk Hogan

Hulk Hogan is a professional wrestler, popular in the late 1980's and early nineties, billed as an all-American tough guy with the World Wrestling Federation. His wrestling career has spanned over thirty years, and he remains a staying pop culture and wrestling icon, remembered as a major part of the WWF's golden age of professional entertainment wrestling.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

0032. Bugs Bunny (As Brunhilde)

The 1954 cartoon short, What's Opera Doc? was voted the #1 Cartoon of all time forty years after its inception. This Merrie Melodies (Later known as "Loony Tunes") short was a parody of famous operas by Richard Wagner and took nearly six times as much manpower to create than the usual Merrie Melodies cartoon. The star of the show, of course, was Bugs Bunny as Brunhilde, and he's as confident in drag as ever.

Monday, July 5, 2010

0031. Mr. T

Mr.T is an American actor most famously known for his role on the A-Team television series. He is well known in popular culture for his distinct style and catchphrase "I pity the fool," which originated from his role in Rocky III. He is hardly ever seen without his signature pile of gold chains around his neck.

Friday, July 2, 2010

0030. Kermit the Frog

Kermit the Frog is the most famous of the muppets, a pantheon of entertainment-geared puppets created by Jim Henson, and the star of the long running puppet variety show, The Muppet Show. Kermit is adored by adults and children alike, and many remember him fondly from Muppet Show days or from his strong and touching vocal performances of "It's not Easy Being Green" or "The Rainbow Connection," the latter of which reached #25 on the Billboard 100 chart in 1979. Quite an accomplishment for a puppet.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

0029. Buddha

Buddha is the figurehead and revered original teacher of the Buddhist belief system. Some sects of Buddhism revere him as one man, the Supreme Buddha, who reached and shared teaching of enlightenment, while others place him as a reincarnating figure, or even as one of many important deities. He appears also as an avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, as well as a minor prophet or notable spiritual figure in other religions and belief systems.