John Wayne - A quiet cultural icon

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  • I was doing some reading this morning and came across a statistic that had me sit back in my chair with sincere surprise, if not a little dismay. A entertainment report indicated that John Wayne remained a CONSISTENT TOP TEN favorite of all popular actors in the Harris poll since it first starting polling data on this subject back in 1994! Now let's think about this. Here's a man that died 15 years before this polling even started. And yet here we stand in 2016 and he has never once dropped out of the two ten most popular actors? Of course no one has to argue with me about the merits of that. I am BEYOND elated to read such news. But my question and increased puzzlement is clear in response to this... Why is this man nearly invisible in pop culture today? Lets look at his peers in this list.

    1) Johnny Depp... How many images of Jack Sparrow exist on toys, lunchboxes, posters, notebooks, pens, it. 2) Harris Ford - last verse same as the first, only enter Han Solo and Indiana Jones. 3) Tom Hanks - Well, lets be honest. Who wants a Tom Hanks lunch box? But he does get plenty of recognition when the awards shows air. 4) Brad Pitt - Again... no one clawing for a Brad Pitt note pad, but then again his name is always in circulation. Ahem...he's currently getting divorced. Scary i could know that since I don't actively follow him. Good actor though. 5) Clint Eastwood - Now here i can at least draw a direct correlation and say I get it. But Clint Eastwood's image is on EVERYTHING and its' easy to see.

    John Wayne however is a bit more buried under all this. Sure you can walk into a Hobby Lobby and find a picture or two of him with a classic saying in the western section. And yes, I pick those up because it's like being out in a dessert and tripping across a two liter of ice water. You're going to grab it when you see it. But if I were looking at the landscape of our society today with all of it's computers, cell phone culture, and social intolerance for anything not completed filtered as "PC" it would be hard to imagine how John Wayne stays so present in the minds of people when he is not visible to the common person walking the malls and cultural structures of the day. Heck, they struck down an opportunity to celebrate his life and work in California because someone decided to comb through everything he had ever said on record and were decidedly "offended". Well that's ridiculous!

    And yes I can (and frequently do) go out to Amazon and Ebay and find a whole assortment of posters, signs, and bobble heads with his likeness. Even have the three Sideshow figures put out years ago. And as previously stated, I am running through a mountain of blu-rays to convert my collection. It just doesn't "feel" like he's a part of our culture as much anymore. But it was certainly heartening to see his name stay so high in the minds of those polled for this survey. It certainly gives me hope. I'm certainly trying to do my part to continue the tradition. My four year old grand son knows John Wayne by name and even calls some of his characters by name like Rooster Cogburn... ahem don't know why that one stands out. ;)

    I just hope this run of remembrance will continue and the young folks of today will take notice and listen to so many of the strong standards he stood for both in real life and in his movie roles. John Wayne was a fine man and an incredible actor. His legacy should shine on long after we are gone.