Time-Life, 1964/Beatles Fans


Early icons were religious depictions of broad narratives within Christianity.

In this context a woman with a baby is not just any woman with any baby, the image, the icon, carries the larger narrative of the birth of the Christ.

The icon is more than representation; it is experience. The iconic depiction can powerfully move congregations, entire cultures, emotionally and spiritually. The iconic symbol, like evocative speech, can lead into the ecstatic experience.

The ecstatic experience may be the most profound and motivating of all human experience. It is a physiologic event from which the individual may emerge with visions of either divinity or damnation, or both. For those who experience this human potential, what can be said to alter convictions derived from this event?

Would we call the behavior early fans of The Beatles displayed an ecstatic experience?

What do cultural icons and evocations really mean to us?

If the icon is powerful enough to carry full narratives—that is, the icon contains a beginning, a middle, and an end, a meaning, and a moral, possibly a directive—if an icon is that powerful what are we really ingesting culturally? Is it enough to dismiss iconic power as superstition made real through a basic ignorance of science?

Do we escape iconic power just by ceasing to believe in it?

If the icon can trigger an ecstatic experience and that experience can be contained within a cultural narrative of commerce expanding in the form of fads and fashions (i.e. The British Invasion), what, if anything, can be said to alter the convictions we collectively derive from the physiologic event?

Is the icon a superstition that can be embedded into knick-knacks and postcards and internet memes with abandon—even as cavalier gestures of superiority over the past—or do we risk something deeply personal in doing so?

Do we thumb our noses at our own sacred inner lives when we pump our landscape full of the images of stardom and its starlets, of rock-n-roll heroes nodding out through dope cycle after dope cycle, of fashion models depicting the elegance of a general disregard for human connection?

Do we lose who we are when we berate ourselves with models of beauty that do not reflect our own lives and bodies?

Is the icon a superstition? Or is it a powerful key to who and what we really are?


Of course, an entire book could be written on the subject of what motivated American culture producers to choose to display young women in public ecstasy at this time in history. Previously it had been a photographic practice restricted to male ecstasy during sporting events or possibly heightened stress moments in politics and stock exchanging.

About michelleembree
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