Monday, 13 January 2020

Who will be the defining faces of the new decade?

With each new decade, the public seem to have a different obsession. When we think of each decade, it occurred to me that the faces of the decade are very much driven by how technology and society has developed. On Saturday I compiled a list of my top ten 70's TV icons. To me, the 1970's was the decade of the 'televison personality'. Although television had been around for a good few decades, the 1970's was the decade when ownership and colour television became pretty much universal. There was little competition with other media forms, the prevailing view was that TV would banish cinema and probably everything else. I got to thinking about these faces. The first decade I was really aware of was the 1950's, I wasn't born, but most of the films we watched on TV as kids were from the 50's. The 50's film icons seemed impossibly glamorous, in a way that would be unimaginable in our current social media dominated era. It occurred to me that each decade had its own unique set of faces.

50's - Film stars. The likes of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, Marlon Brnado etc were at their absolute peak. Hollywood seemed incredibly glamourous. A 'night out at the pictures' was the way we entertained ourselves.

60's - Pop stars. The 60's saw a shift from film to music. The faces we really associate with the 60's are those of music. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Monkees, The Beach Boys, the stars of Motown and the crooners such as Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdink were just some of the faces of the 60's that we were all aware of. This was largely driven by Radio initially and then TV. Every house would have a turntable and a radio. Large factories had their own radio stations, the DJ's who played the tunes also became stars. The 60's really was the decade of the Pop star.

70's - TV Personalities. The 70's saw TV become the mass medium of choice. Newsreaders, weathermen and cooks became household names. There were three channels in the UK and the TV companies welded huge power. An appearance on Top of The Pops would launch music careers. An appearance on the Parkinson show would guarantee a sell out book. To be doorstopper by Eamonn Andrews for this is your life was a greater accolade than a peerage. Names such as Reginald Bosenquet, Fanny Craddock, Bill Grundy and Hilda Ogden were household names. Perhaps it is interesting to note that as screens became smaller, fame became more transient.

80's - Politicians.  As our screens shrunk and we started to stay in more, the politicians moved to centre stage. There have always been charismatic politicians, such as JFK, but it seemed that in the 1980's their profile was raised as never before. This was partly due to Ronald Reagan becoming President at the start of the decade. Reagan was an actor and understood the power of the media. He was a communicator. The UK had Thatcher, who due to high profile clashes with the miners and Arthur Scargill, the banishing of Argentinian dictators and Spitting Image was a politician who we knew in a way we'd never known anyone before. When Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the USSR we finally had a man who was not lurking in the shadows. Any history of the 80's will always start with these figures.

90's - Sports Stars. Of course there were always sports stars, but the 1990's was the decade when the became more than just people we watched playing for our favourite team. Remember Paul Gascoigne, Frank Bruno and David Beckham? The 90's was the decade when stars stepped off the sports field and into our lives. Even people with no interest in sports seemed to develop an interest in the lives of the stars. People with no interest in horse racing knew who Frankie Dettori was, Tim Henman became an icon for not getting beaten in the first round of Wimbledon. We saw the birth of Wag culture and footballers moved off the back page. Of course top sports people will always be of interest, but the 90's was the decade where they stepped off the tracks and pitches and onto the chat shows. Perhaps the most tragic figure of the 1990's was George Best. He stopped playing in the 1980's, but tales of his alcoholic excess were a staple of the 1990's tabloids. It seemed that he was laying the path that Gascoigne was sure to sadly follow, a cautionary tale, but stilll a great guest on Parkinson. This interview on his 50th birthday in 1996, shows just how much our interest in Sports stars had changed and how we were fascinated with their personal life. Tragic.

2000's - Reality TV celebrities. The decade of Big Brother, Britains got talent, I'm a Celebrity, and Essex Wives andThe Osbournes unleashed a torrent of new 'Stars' up on. Whereas the previous decades stars all had talent, this was no longer a pre-requisite. Jade Goody became a star because she was the antithesis of everything a 50's film icon would be. She did however connect with people and showed herself to be an astute businesswoman. Her end was as tragic as her fame was unpredictable. The other reality TV stars of note such as Simon Cowell, Sharon Osborne, Ant and Dec became household names not for any great talent of their own, but as they were extremely good at gurning at just the right time and being able to say what most of us were thinking, but would generally be too nice to say.

2010's - Businessmen. As we start the new decade, no one could have predicted ten years ago that businessmen would be the faces of the decade. Whilst some of these have been around for decades, such as Steve Jobs of Apple and Richard Branson, the decade was one where we suddenly became obsessed with their exploits. If someone had told me that there would be a Hollywood blockbuster about the CEO of a social media company in 2009, I'd have thought you were bonkers, but The Social Network was released a year later and was a hit. The decade brought Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos out from the shadows. In the UK, we see Tim Martin of Wetherspoons, James Dyson, Richard Branson and Alan Sugar become ever more public figures. The ascension of Donald Trump to US president has helped this process in no small measure. As the internet has changed our lives, it is perhaps unsurprising that the likes of Gates and Zuckerberg are so well known, Elon Musk is clearly a fascinating character and I suspect the one that will be remembered longest, should his rocket schemes ever materialise. The success of series such as the Apprentice make stars of people with often very limited business acumen. I wonder what the Daddy of business TV reality shows, Sir John Harvey Jones would make of it all?

It will be interesting to see who will be the faces of the new decade, I doubt any of us will be able to predict it right now. 

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