When asked in class whether Elvis was still a star or not, I was absolutely shocked that so few people raised their hands. I mean, what's next? Marilyn Monroe's name drawing blank faces? The Beatles being considered a relic?
Unfortunately, there might be some truth to that. When Kanye West collaborated with Paul McCartney on his songs "Only One" and "One, Two Three" (feat. Rihanna), teens across social media were wondering who this Paul McCartney person was, and mentioning that it was so nice that Kanye West would collaborate with an unknown and launch his career: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2896408/This-Paul-McCartney-guy-gonna-huge-Kanye-West-fans-funny-joke-One-collaboration.html. The entire thing was, in a word, abhorrent.
But I guess even when someone of our generation knows an icon from the past, it might only be in passing and not of the full extent. I myself am guilty of this. Before I came to USC, I had never seen and therefore never known the extent of the true talents of Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn, nor done my research and known that Monroe even took some classes at UCLA and wrote poetry and Hepburn raised money for war efforts through her ballet even though her father was a Nazi sympathizer. I never knew before that these women were endlessly talented and savvy beyond the way they're portrayed today as just a sexpot or cute and whimsical. It's a bit sad that the majority of my generation and forward might never fully know them, either, regardless of splashing posters and supposed quotes of these stars on their walls. It's such a pleasure to be able to watch a film like Viva Las Vegas, as fun and cheesy as it is, and still be shocked and captivated by the talents of Elvis, both with music and even surprisingly with acting. One can see just why these people were so big in their days. And, even when I didn't know their work very well, I would've never considered these stars not as icons.
With the realization that most of my classmates wouldn't consider Elvis a star today, I began to wonder how our present talents would be perceived in the future. Today, it seems like most 'talents' only capture the world for their bare 15 minutes, and we lack icons like those that once used to exist. Where are our Valentinos or Clara Bows? Our pretty faces, like George Clooney, don't conjure up a long list of accomplishments right alongside them, and our best talent like Meryl Streep never captivated the world with their dashing good looks and paparazzi scandals. Those that can possibly claim a better equilibrium of talent and popularity, like Taylor Swift, remain in such a niche of the market that their work is never taken quite as seriously beyond that of say, "teen girl pop stardom". Are we doomed to remember little beyond those who do manage to hog our social media feeds, celebrity magazines and talk show slots, like the Kardashians? Will the legacies that remain be just of the 'stars' that played the popularity game well, regardless of actually possessing any talent? Or are icons just becoming rarer because of music and film genres forever diversifying, making artists less likely to capture the whole world instead of a dedicated segment of fans?
Can any of you think of stars as talented and enrapturing like the icons of the 20th century? Because I, for one, am drawing a blank.