Richie Rich Edges Lex Luthor!
Ok, one more of those year-end lists that are miraculously ginned up by copy-craving editors in the waning days before all the writers vanish for the holidays:
2. Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks
3. Richie Rich
4. Lex Luthor
5. C. Montgomery Burns
6. Scrooge McDuck
7. Jed Clampett
8. Bruce Wayne
9. Thurston Howell III
10. Willy Wonka
11. Arthur Bach
12. Ebenezer Scrooge
13. Lara Croft
14. Cruella De Vil
15. Lucius Malfoy
I haven't the foggiest notion how they came up with this one. No, I actually know all too well how they did it: They sent around an email asking all the writers to submit suggestions and then some editor who had lots of time on his hands put the list together. In any event, whatâ€™s remarkable about it is that it shows just how quickly we have lost any sense of a common popular culture in this country. The Internet is a continuous miracle, but it has divvied us up into so many little affinity groups that we no longer share much of a pop culture--no more Top 40, no more big network TV shows that everyone is familiar with. Even the big blockbuster movies are much less common and all-reaching than they used to be.
So in the list of 15 super rich fictional characters, we see a heavy bias toward names from the golden era of pop culture and from our childhood memories of shared experiences. Kids these days have no idea who Richie Rich, Jed Clampett, Scrooge McDuck, Lex Luthor or Thurston Howell III might be (at least not the kids I asked), yet there they are, taking up one-third of the list. (My resident 10-year-old knew eight of the 15; heâ€™d never heard of 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, or 13.)
The one on the list that stumped me was Arthur Bach--I had completely deleted from my memory any trace of the 1981 flick Arthur, which I never found remotely funny (Cook and Moore were a great improv act, but once Moore crossed the ocean, he lost his funny bone, or at least the integrity that his work had in Britain).
Who's missing from the list? Better question: Will it even be possible to compile a meaningful list like this in 15 years? Or would all the names have to be drawn from classic literature to have any chance of being accessible to a broad population of readers?
By Marc Fisher |
January 4, 2006; 8:18 AM ET
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