Famous Surprising Influences on Pop Culture Icons

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Some of the biggest pop culture icons of our age have not come from nowhere; often they have been inspired or in some cases, have deliberately mimicked something else, often something much older. Influences are everywhere and it can sometimes be amusing to see where those earlier examples and where that influence was taken, especially if the source bears little resemblance. Here is a list of ten of the most surprising influences on modern pop culture

1. Superman = Jesus?

Some of the signs are there but you need to look a little deeper to for some of the subtler hints. Whereas Jesus never came from a dying world (well, some people believe he may have been an alien) the signs are obvious: both came to save humanity from itself, at first people are hostile to him but turn in great numbers. Even deeper than this, if his Krypton name Kal-El sounds suspiciously Hebrew then you’d be right ‘ it means ‘Voice of God’

2. Crohn’s Disease inspired Iconic Alien Scene

One of the most iconic scenes of 1970s cinema is the scene where the alien bursts out of the chest of John Hurt. The looks of shock on the faces of the actors is real ‘ of the actors, only Hurt knew what was about to happen, but that isn’t the biggest shock. Hurt’s writhing was inspired by the agony of Crohn’s disease of which producer Dan O’Bannon suffered. He was able to explain the sort of agony he might experience during one of the worst attacks

3. Dostoevsky Inspired Columbo

The famous and timeless screen detective played for so many years by Peter Falk was not an original invention for the LAPD. He was actually inspired by the character Porfiry Petrovich from Crime and Punishment. The creators were inspired by his shrewd detective work, persistent questioning and diligence in taking nothing for granted, and finally hounding the suspect until they gave up. The two characters were practically identical yet the fact that only the keenest book lover will have read Dostoevsky, the connection will have been made by very few

4. Greek Myth Influenced ‘My Fair Lady’

The story of a young woman learning to fake being part of high society to impress an academic who has fallen in love with her is not original. The story actually has its roots in Greek mythology. The story of Eliza Dolittle as most people know is based on the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion and the plots and characters are very similar. In turn this play is based on the tale of a Cypriot sculptor who falls in love with a statute. The tale appears in Ovid’s Metamorphoses

5. Dostoevsky Inspired Woody Allen

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences
The icon of 70s cinema took a lot of inspiration from Russian literature and once again, Dostoevsky found his work plundered for ideas. Allen made little effort to conceal it: one of his films is called Crimes and Misdemeanours and the characters go through the same sort of soul-searching, even if the main characters end results are different and the premise they have to tackle is different ‘ Allen’s character concerns himself with whether he could ever live a good life after being convicted of murder

6. Ancient Greece Inspired ‘The Hunger Games’

Suzanne Collins clearly used a lot of sources, both ancient and modern, as inspiration for writing one of the biggest young adult series ever written. None more so than the tale of Theseus: after King Minos won the war against Athens, he demanded a regular tribute of seven handsome men and seven fair maidens every year to feed to his Minotaur. Incensed at the sacrifice, Theseus volunteers one year so that he may kill the Minotaur and unite the Greek cities against the cruel Minos

7. The Dam Busters Inspired Star Wars IV

Specifically, the final attack on the Death Star at the end of A New Hope, Lucas was inspired by the tale of bravery of the RAF bombing the three dams in Nazi Germany to flood the valleys and destroy the manufacturing centre of the regime. Recreating the valley runs in the approach to the exhaust into which a torpedo would be fired to set off a chain reaction, the parallels with the guns shooting at the Lancasters as they approach their targets along the narrow corridor is obvious

8. First British Millionaire Inspired Ebenezer Scrooge

The tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, the skinflint who brings such misery but redeems himself when three ghosts show him the meaning of Christmas, may have been inspired by a man named Jemmy Wood: largely believed to be Britain’s first ever millionaire. He was known all over the country for being a miser despite his enormous wealth. Charles Dickens was known not just to portray the tragedy of Victorian England, but for satirising it too

9. Non-Famous Blues Musicians Inspired Pink Floyd

Most people have not heard of Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, they know the rock band that the two names inspired though. This seems to be about the limit of the inspiration though for a band who so enjoyed American blues and R&B. Certainly Pink Floyd sometimes have a depressed and ‘bluesy’ tone to some of their music, but this is not always the case. Still, on their website they credit the two singers

10. Dalek Design Inspired by a Chimney

The BBC’s greatest ever villainous creature from hit series Doctor Who was inspired by a strange looking chimney design that the creator saw on top of a Girl’s School in the 1960s. Certainly the similarities are striking and identifiable. The school knew all about it and are proud of the fact but it never came to light in the public eye until 2013 until which most people thought it was based on a pepper pot. Ray Cusick, the creator of the Daleks, died in 2013

Conclusion The artist, the writer, the sculptor, the musician, the movie direction, the TV producer ‘ each has thousands of years of art and literature to plunder in the effort to reimagine and engage modern audiences with old media and stories. Where we know ancient myths are being reimagined over and over again, and vampires and werewolves will never go out of fashion, sometimes we have to look that little bit deeper to find the source of modern pop culture icons

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