A pop icon is a celebrity whose fame in pop culture constitutes a defining characteristic of a given society or era. Although there is no single definitive test for establishing "pop icon" status, such status is usually associated with elements such as longevity, ubiquity, and distinction. Moreover, "pop icon" status is distinguishable from other kinds of notoriety outside of popular culture, such as with historic figures.[1]

Longevity Edit

Usually, the pop icon status of a celebrity is contingent upon longevity of notoriety.[2][3] This is in contrast to cult icons, whose notoriety or recognition may be limited to a specific subculture. Some pop icons have left a lasting and indelible mark in the area of their career, and then gone on to attain a lasting place of recognition in society at large.[4]

Ubiquity Edit

A common element of pop icon status is the ubiquity of imagery and allusions to the iconic figure.[5] It is common for the figure to be recognized and even celebrated in areas outside the original source of celebrity status.[6] [7]

Distinction Edit

Often pop icon status implies distinguished association with a societal ideal or archetype. It is not uncommon for iconic figures to have a nickname or sobriquet that is used to emphasize this association. Sometimes the very name of such individuals is even used as a synonym for common words or ideas. Einstein, for example, is routinely associated with genius and ingenuity. Marilyn Monroe is associated with sex appeal.

A number of pop icons are distinguished for having died at a young age.

Some figures attain transitory or context-specific "pop icon" status for particular events that captivate public attention.[8]

Pop Icons of the Silent EraEdit

During the silent era Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Clara Bow, and Anna May Wong were seen as a form of pop icons. However after several decades their status' have waned.

To this day Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, and Rudolph Valentino still retain pop icon status with the current public.

See alsoEdit



  1. Note, however, that some historic figures are recognized as having reached "pop icon" status during their era, and such status may continue into the present. (See e.g., Benjamin Franklin: Template:Citation/core, Mozart: Template:Citation/core)
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  5. (Kaku, p. 11)
  6. (see e.g., Valentino, Chaplin, et al.)
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  8. Template:Citation/core

Further reading Edit