Imaginary Influencers

This is an interesting idea — a new book by Allan Lazar, Dan Karlan, and Jeremy Salter takes a look at the top 101 most influential fictional characters in history. The book’s subtitle, “How characters of myth, legends, television, and movies have shaped our society, changed our behavior, and set the course of history,” is a compelling reminder of the rather bizarre (if you think about it) fact that we human beings can dream up fake people who can have a palpable impact on the real world.

It sounds like an interesting read; I’ll probably try to pick it up at some point, just for fun. If you’re interested in reading more about it, there’s a short article/review in USA Today. You can also check out the blurb at HarperCollins’s web site, and read a short excerpt.

If you’re curious, and because I’m not sure how long USA Today’s archives are good for, I’ll drop the entire raw list in after the break!

The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived

  1. The Marlboro Man
  2. Big Brother (Orwell, 1984)
  3. King Arthur (Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur, et al.)
  4. Santa Claus
  5. Hamlet (Shakespeare, Hamlet)
  6. Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster (Shelley, Frankenstein)
  7. Siegfried (Teutonic mythology)
  8. Sherlock Holmes (Doyle, Sherlock Holmes)
  9. Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)
  10. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Stephenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)
  11. Uncle Tom (Uncle Tom’s Cabin)
  12. Robin Hood (English legend)
  13. Jim Crow (character from old minstrel shows[?])
  14. Oedipus (Greek mythology; plays of Sophocles and others)
  15. Lady Chatterly (Lawrence, Lady Chatterly’s Lover)
  16. Ebenezer Scrooge (Dickens, A Christmas Carol)
  17. Don Quixote (Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha)
  18. Mickey Mouse
  19. The American Cowboy
  20. Prince Charming
  21. Smokey Bear
  22. Robinson Crusoe (Defoe, Robinson Crusoe)
  23. Apollo and Dionysus (Greek mythology)
  24. Odysseus (Greek mythology; Homer)
  25. Nora Helmer (Ibsen, A Doll’s House)
  26. Cinderella
  27. Shylock (Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice)
  28. Rosie the Riveter (WWII propaganda figure)
  29. Midas (Greek mythology)
  30. Hester Prynne (Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter)
  31. The Little Engine That Could (Woo woo!)
  32. Archie Bunker (TV, All in the Family)
  33. Dracula (Stoker, Dracula)
  34. Alice in Wonderland (Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)
  35. John Foster Kane (Film, Citizen Kane)
  36. Faust (German legend)
  37. Figaro (Beaumarchais’s plays and Mozart’s comic operas)
  38. Godzilla (Film!)
  39. Mary Richards (TV, The Mary Tyler Moore Show)
  40. Don Juan (Spanish legend)
  41. Bambi (Aww.)
  42. William Tell (English legend)
  43. Barbie (Plastic!)
  44. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV, Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
  45. Venus and Cupid (Greek mythology)
  46. Prometheus (Greek mythology)
  47. Pandora (Greek mythology)
  48. G.I. Joe (Plastic!)
  49. Tarzan (Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes)
  50. Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock (TV, Star Trek)
  51. James Bond (Fleming, various novels)
  52. Hansel and Gretel
  53. Captain Ahab (Melville, Moby Dick)
  54. Richard Blaine (Film, Casablanca)
  55. The Ugly Duckling
  56. Loch Ness Monster
  57. Atticus Finch (Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird)
  58. Saint Valentine (Irish legend)
  59. Helen of Troy (Greek mythology)
  60. Batman (Kane and Finger, various comic books)
  61. Uncle Sam
  62. Nancy Drew (Stratemeyer, various novels)
  63. J.R. Ewing (TV, Dallas)
  64. Superman (Siegel and Shuster, various comic books)
  65. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (Twain)
  66. HAL 9000 (Film, 2001: A Space Odyssey)
  67. Kermit the Frog (Henson, felt!)
  68. Sam Spade (Film, The Maltese Falcon)
  69. The Pied Piper
  70. Peter Pan (Barrie, Peter Pan)
  71. Hiawatha (Longfellow, “Hiawatha ”)
  72. Othello (Shakespeare, Othello)
  73. The Little Tramp (Film, Charlie Chaplain character)
  74. King Kong (Film, King Kong)
  75. Norman Bates (Film, Psycho)
  76. Hercules (Herakles, Greek mythology)
  77. Dick Tracy (Gould, comic strip character)
  78. Joe Camel
  79. The Cat in the Hat (Geisel, various children’s books)
  80. Icarus (Greek mythology)
  81. Mammy (Mitchell, Gone with the Wind)
  82. Sindbad (Middle Eastern legend)
  83. Amos ‘n’ Andy (Radio comedians)
  84. Buck Rogers (Nowlan, various novellas, comic strips, etc.)
  85. Luke Skywalker (Film, Star Wars)
  86. Perry Mason (TV, Perry Mason)
  87. Dr. Strangelove (Film, Dr. Strangelove)
  88. Pygmalion (Greek mythology)
  89. Madame Butterfly (Puccini, Madame Butterfly)
  90. Hans Beckert (Film, The Mark of “M”)
  91. Dorothy Gale (Film, The Wizard of Oz)
  92. The Wandering Jew (Traditional)
  93. Jay Gatsby (Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby)
  94. Buck (London, The Call of the Wild)
  95. Willy Loman (Miller, Death of a Salesman)
  96. Betty Boop (Fleischer, cartoon character)
  97. Ivanhoe (Scott, Ivanhoe)
  98. Elmer Gantry (Lewis, Elmer Gantry)
  99. Lilith (Hebrew mythology)
  100. John Doe (Anonymous, or Film Meet John Doe[?])
  101. Paul Bunyan (American legend)

There they are! Of course, to know the reasons why they’re there, I guess we’ll have to read the book!