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Oct 23, 2012

Top 50 Pop Culture List (35-21)

Today I continue with the list of the Top 50 Pop Culture Items of the Past 50 Years. Of course, I will impose a bit of trivia first that I gained while researching this project. The average cost for a domestic car in 1970 was $3,700; in 1980 was $7,600; in 1990 was $14,500; and in the year 2000 it was $18,700.
As Casey Kasem used to say: “And now on with the countdown…”
#35BarneyThat Friendly Purple Dinosaur invaded American culture in 1992 and possibly the most successful program on PBS. Its reputation and renown (which is not necessarily the same as admiration and popularity) exceeded even that of Sesame Street. A further oddity about Barney is it gave many of today’s bubblegum stars their start. Barney’s friends include Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and Debby Ryan, all of whom used Disney as their next career step.
#34AfrosThe hairstyle was very popular in the 60s among black community, showing pride for their “natural” look and a statement of minority rights during the often turbulent Civil Rights movement. As with many subtle political statements that appear as style, the larger meaning was lost. Many people, regardless of race or philosophy, began “perming” their hair in the Afro style for reasons of fashion and popularity.
#33CB RadiosBreaker-Breaker! CB Radios, used mainly by longhaul truckers, became the social network of the 70s and soon many cars had booster antennae outside and pig-tail spiraled mics inside. It was not uncommon for people to refer to one another by their “handle” even off the air. People even had them in their homes to talk as a means of talking to the family and friends who were on the road.
#32Muhammed Ali”Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee!” said Cassius Clay to Howard Cosell on many occasions. The Louisville Lip was not only a great boxer, besting Joe Frazier and George Foreman, but also he became a political figure through his natural flamboyance. Due to his trash-talking and unorthodox style, he became the most famous athlete in the world. Everyone knew of the Ali Shuffle and the rope-a-dope technique.
#31DiscoThe dance style of the club-goer in the mid to late 70s. Beginning somewhat as a counterculture movement against hard rock’s airplay domination, it soon became embraced by women, after which men let down the “manly” guard and danced. When John Travolta showed that a man could be sexy while dancing, this inspired droves untalented men in white leisure suits to hit the floor.
#30OprahHer iconic status still reigns today. Gaining popularity from The Color Purple, Oprah’s tabloid style talk show became heavily watched. However, when she reinvented the show to be more geared towards self-improvement and spiritualism, her acceptance in the social mainstream hit a high like no other before.
#29SenifeldIt was a show about nothing, but it captured the attention of America. Similar to the comic style of Dave Berry, the show focused more on the minutiae than plot, dealing with the petty injustices of life, and somehow finding it all peculiarly humorous. From the show itself came other minor pop culture meanings, like the phrase “no soup for you,” the fictitious holiday “Festivus” and a woman’s debate of whether a guy is “spongeworthy” or not.
#28 Portable Music Eight Track tapes started it all. Prior to this, only the transistor radio was portable, but one was limited by the disc jockey’s choice of songs. Eight-tracks could be played in the car or a carried device. Soon came cassettes, the boom-box and thankfully the walk-man with headphones. CDs would replace those and now we have numerous methods of digitally portable music, making what we want to listen to an instant choice. Because of the Eight Track, music is now ubiquitous.
#27ParanormalismPerhaps due to the release of the Exorcist or maybe not, but either way, soon after that movie, America became obsessed with UFOs, bigfoot, the loch Ness monster and all sorts of supernaturalism and cryptozoology. Bigfoot became a recurring character in numerous shows and movies, sometimes an adversary (Creature from Black Lake), sometimes the hero (Six Million Dollar Man). Shows like In Search Of became very popular as people wanted to believe in the unexplained. Roughly 20 years later, America relived these concepts through the X-Files.
#26GreaseThe musical movie starring Travolta and Olivia Newton John became an instant classic. People everywhere were singing Grease Lightning and doing the Hand Jive. Leather Jackets were all the rage, helped by the Fonzi craze at the same time. Retro meant the 50s in the 70s, and it was all the rage.
#25KISSThe extravagant rock band took America by storm. Other groups had tried the theatrical approach, but none were launched into stardom because of it like KISS.
#24MoodringsAs part of the hippie, spiritual, pyramid power mindset of the 70s, the thermochromatic jewelry was worn by many, but especially popular with girls. Most people understood the rings did not possess any sort of mood identifying power; however, there were real theories behind the idea and some did buy into the new age ideology. But they were many for fun, as epitomized in the Peanut comic strip when Peppermint Patty became so angry her moodring exploded.
#23Harry PotterJ.K. Rowling’s series gained immense popularity among young people. However, as the series progress, Rowling recognized her readers were growing up, and thus the plots and dilemmas of the latter books appealed to an even wider audience, capturing a very large group of new fantasy readers from the traditional market. With the release of the movies before the series was complete, it became a mysterious battle between good and evil that intrigued one and all.
#22Betamax -VHSThe rise of the machine to record television itself is noteworthy; however, because of the format war, this time period is remembered well by those who experienced it, some even embittered by the result. The Sony Betamax came first and arguably delivered better quality; however, US TVs did not show the quality due to fewer scanlines than in Japanese TV. In the end, VHS won the marketing contest. Many believe it was due to the open recording format, which was indeed a factor. However, a dirty little secret few know is that Sony had to approve the content on all commercial releases on Betamax and they would not permit porn; VHS had no just restriction and many VCR choices were based on the movies behind the curtain in early rental stores.
#21Who Shot JR?In the final episode of the 79/80 season of Dallas, an unseen assailant fired a gun at Larry Hagman’s character, creating one of the biggest season cliffhangers ever. In addition to the story plot, a real world mystery coincided as Hagman’s contract was being negotiated and left the possibility he might not return to the show. Curiosity and intrigue led to the highest viewership in the Neilson ratings at the time once CBS revealed who did it. This successful stunt also brought this method into common play for most TV shows after.
Okay, that’s it for the second installment. Next will be items 20 to 11. 

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