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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Top 10: Influential people who never lived

Our world is full of fictional figures that shape our lives as much as or more than “real” ones do. Although they never walked the Earth, we wish these characters could have. Still, their presence is felt somehow. Here are the top 10 most influential people who never lived.

1)Barbie- Barbie, the Mattel doll that first hit shelves in 1959, has shaped the way the world viewed dolls and the “ideal” female form. Since mid-century, Barbie has become both a role model for girls and a controversial topic when it comes to body image. The original doll’s measurements (which were incredibly unhealthy, if Barbie had been a real life-sized woman) had to be adjusted in order to make her more realistic, but she still seems to exhibit an unachievable level of perfection.

2)Santa Claus- If good old Santa is based on a real man called Saint Nicholas, the character he has developed into over the past dozen centuries makes him a truly different—and definitely fictional—character (I’m sorry if I just ruined Christmas for anyone). Santa’s big belly, furry coat, spindly white beard and penchant for late night cookies have become iconic when it comes to Christmas. Santa Claus, too, is probably single-handedly responsible for children’s good behavior in the western world.

3)Uncle Sam- The United States’ personified Uncle Sam has existed in the American consciousness since the 19th century. He is best known today for his use as a recruitment tool during both World Wars, when his face was plastered on posters declaring: “I WANT YOU for U.S. Army.” He rallied the American troops and his image has become an iconic piece of American history. I’d also like to give honorable mention to two powerful female figures in America: Lady Liberty and Rosie the Riveter.

4)Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster- Victor Frankenstein’s creature, often mistakenly called Frankenstein himself, has been a famously horrifying figure since Mary Shelley first published her book in the early 19th century—not only because of the creature’s grotesque form, but also, of course, because of the implications of his very existence. The Frankenstein monster, constantly reincarnated in literature, film and television, serves as a reminder for humans not to play God.

5) King Arthur- It’s possible, but highly disputed, that King Arthur was a real military leader who lived in the early Middle Ages and defended his homeland against invaders known as the Saxons. Either way, when Geoffrey of Monmouth included King Arthur in his History of the Kings of Britain in the 12th century, Arthur became a “historical” figure and has, to this day, represented the power and glory of England, along with Lancelot, the Round Table, and the other aspects of Arthurian legend, which developed over time. (Honorary mention also goes to Robin Hood, the famous outlaw.)

6) Mickey Mouse- Mickey has surprisingly been around since 1928. The little mouse is almost an incarnation of Walt Disney himself, voiced by the cartoonist until 1947 and then carrying on his legacy since then. He is certainly one of the most recognizable characters in the world. Today, Mickey’s name and famous ears conjure up images of “the happiest place on Earth”—Disney World—and childhood in general.

7) Helen of Troy- Helen is the face that launched 1,000 ships, starting the infamous Trojan War thousands of years ago when she was abducted from her husband Menelaus by Paris of Troy. Since ancient times, her name has become synonymous with mythical beauty, conflict and infidelity. Also worth mentioning is Aeneas, the mythical founder of ancient Rome (also known as the cradle of civilization).

8) Atticus Finch- I don’t mean to slight more flashy heroes such as Superman or Albus Dumbledore—but Harper Lee’s timeless character Atticus Finch is a good guy who we can aspire to imitate. His only powers were his influence as a lawyer and as a father. His impact on readers everywhere is a testament to those powers. Atticus’ willingness to fight for social outcasts and those who have no voice has made him one of the most-loved fictional characters of all time.

9) Romeo (and Juliet)- This couple has become so influential that they border on cliché.  Their names now evoke feelings of disgust along with romantic inclinations. That doesn’t change the fact that they are likely Shakespeare’s most famous characters, and their intensely devotional love has become somewhat of an impossible standard for awkward high school lovebirds everywhere.

10) Mother Nature- Nature is real, of course, but not in human form—and yet she calls the shots that dictate much of our lives: what we wear, where we go and how we get there. (How many snow delays are we up to now?) I’m just waiting for spring, when she and I will begin to get along again.

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Top 10: Influential people who never lived