Idols and icons


Idols and icons

In this unit we will talk about the people who at least for some time influenced large number of other people through their activity in sports, popular art and politics.

On the one hand, it is not easy to create a unit of such a kind, being three times older than those the unit is meant for. But on the on the other hand, the “helicopter view” allows avoiding focusing on guys described here

When this unit was created, Merk & Kremont was at the peak of their popularity, but two years later there is no point to discuss their legacy since they soon will be most certainly be forgotten. This phenomenon is best described by the idiom ‘a flash in the pan’: Something which disappoints by failing to deliver anything of value, despite a showy beginning. The term ‘flash in the pan’ originated during the late 17th century, when muskets were used: an attempt to fire a musket that resulted in gunpowder burning up without the ball being fired. Pan = the hollow part of the lock in a gun. Of course, this meaning is only one of many others.

Martin Luther was a German monk, priest, professor of theology, and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. And his activity was not certainly a flash in the pan:

So, a lot of people would have assumed, particularly Catholic Bishop, that Luther’s revolt was just a flash in the pan.

Icon is Greek for “image” or “painting” and during the medieval era, this meant a religious image on a wooden panel used for prayer. By the way, Martin Luther himself rejected the cult of saints and icons in particular considering them distracting from God when people prayed to them for help. Martin Luther thought that this was close to idolatry. There is an interesting term – “Iconoclasm” - the destruction of images or hostility toward visual representations in general. We also use the word “icon” to refer to powerful cultural figures or the small graphic symbols in our software. 

Approximately four hundred years later, another icon came into being. Traditionally religion is not separable from politics:

Today marks exactly 50 years since one of the most iconic and memorable speeches in US history. We should say in world history really, when Dr. Martin Luther King Junior shared his dream. - “I have a dream … my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today…” - So much has been achieved since 250 000 people gathered to hear the civil rights icon utter those unforgettable words…

The last sentence in the transcript is omitted deliberately. Try to find out the period of time when this CNN program was on air. If this is too easy for you, try to do it without using the first sentence. Listen to the whole I Have A Dream speech, and you will understand that it is based on Christianity.

Where there are icons, parodies always follow, especially when people disagree on some critical issues. To understand this one, though, you must follow the news:

Now try to comprehend this one: 

It is impossible without understanding the history of another “icon” – Colin Kaepernick: 

Not all Americans consider Colin Kaepernicks as a star and as an icon:

Why they don’t get off their knees and do something? Spend some money… Get off their knees and walk the walk.

Try to find out what the lady meant by saying “walk the walk”. Police brutality is an ugly phenomenon regardless the color of the skin of their victims. All victims deserve sympathy, but this does not mean that they deserve to become icons:

People often forgive those considered icons or idols. They forgive even the crimes if there is something substantial that tips the scales in favor of their heroes. George Floyd did not do anything for people, but that is the case with Michael Jackson, who has become an iconic figure for generations:

Watch the next video and modify the main phrase according to the pictures you see (her, him, them):

Listen to one of Jackson’s most iconic songs where he also demonstrated his famous “moonwalk.” But the lyrics are even more interesting. Its meaning is often disappointing for his fans who only listen to the rhythm and dance:

You probably think that the author of this unit is Michael Jackson’s secret fan. That’s not the case, but he is currently teaching the teenage girl who admires Michael and doesn’t want to hear stories about his crimes. You, however, should know about them:

This is Neverland, the currently-for-sale former home and playground of musical icon Michael Jackson.  It's 10 years since the star performer died, but he continues to make news. The headlines these days, though, are less about him being King of Pop, more about him being King of the Kids. And persistent claims the eccentric megastar was a child abuser. His latest accuser is Adrian McManus who knew the star’s private life too well. For four years she cleaned up after him here. And tonight for the first time tells us what the maid saw. – I think that he was starting to realize that maybe I was catching on because I had a call from him. He called me on Mother’s Day. It was a Sunday morning at my home. He said, “I want to ask you something.” And I said, “Yeah, Ok”. And he asked me about eight times “What do you know?” And I said, “Mr. Jackson, I don’t know what you want me to tell you.” “What do you know, Adrian?” – That was the question, “What do you know?” – “What do you know?” -  Adrian McManus was once a trusted member of Michael Jackson inner circle. Now she is his accuser. From 1990 to 1994 she was his housemaid with intimate access to the inner sanctum of the most famous person on Earth. There were some different sides to him: there was a kind side to him, and yet, there was a dark side.  And I feel like he was a manipulator. – Was Michel Jackson really a harmless troubled genius or a cold calculating serial predator?  

There are at least two phrases worth memorizing: 1) inner circle (ближнее окружение) 2) inner sanctum (святая святых). The phrasal verb “to catch on”= to understand, especially after a long time

It is very controversial theme to discuss: should we judge the art by its creator’s character? Can we separate good and evil in one person? Remember the phrase in the previous video: There were some different sides to him: there was a kind side to him, and yet, there was a dark side.  

Adrian McManus is nervous. She hasn’t been back to Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch in 20 years. – Kind of like facing your nightmare. The singer’s fans still flock here for a glimpse of their idol’s refuge, but for Adrian it’s far from a happy place. Up for sale for 67 million US dollars Neverland remains empty and off limits to visitors. A place frozen in time from when Michael Jackson ruled the world.  From child prodigy to moonwalking  megastar. There was not artist like him before or since. When you started working at Neverland?

Michael Jackson was nearly caught back in 1996 but he managed to prove his innocence. He looks almost ugly on this rare footage:

You welcome. Mr. Jackson, in the latter portion of 1993 there were some allegations levelled at you concerning the improper conduct with some young boys. I assume you’re familiar with the fact that those allegations were raised in Missouri? Is that correct? -Yes.

One of the meanings of the verb “to level” is the following: to aim or direct something at someone or something. Example: Criticism of the program was leveled by a number of politicians.

Let us move now from megastars to small starlets. Sometimes politician seeking popularity (especially re-election) need to pay attention to young stars with a strange name like A$AP Rocky:

The US President is trying to get an American rapper, A$AP Rocky, out of the Swedish jail. Yeah, however Sweden’s Prime Minister told Mr. Trump that Swedish court system is completely independent and won’t be swayed by outside pressure. Melissa Bell explains what the US President is up against. FREE A$AP ROCKY A$AP. This sign just outside the Stockholm remand prison - the only indication of the controversy of the American rapper, currently being held inside. On Friday the American President weighed in. I personally don’t know A$AP ROCKY, but I can tell you that he has tremendous support from the African American community. A$AP’s more than ten millions followers haven’t heard from the man himself in nearly three weeks, ever since he was jailed in Sweden on suspicion of assault in connection with a brawl on June 30th. These were the images posted by TMZ that appeared to show A$AP Rocky caught up in a street fight. Other videos posted by the rapper on his Instagram paint a different picture, one of harassment.

to remand

verb [ T often passive ]   to send someone accused of committing a crime away from court until their trial begins.

You are supposed to know what ASAP means: as soon as possible.

But A$AP means Always Strive And Prosper. A$AP Mob is an American hip hop collective formed in 2006 in Harlem, New York, consisting of New York-based rappers, record producers, music video directors and fashion designers. This is how these people form their nicknames: A$AP Twelvy, A$AP Ant, etc.

In this unit we will not discuss the phenomenon of Roger Waters (one of the Pink Floyd founders) since there are several units devoted to this giant of rock on our platform. Only one line for you here:

Tastes differ, of course, but “shelf life” is a key concept here…

The following Bill Gates quote will help you memorize the phrase "shelf life": Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana.

Just a couple of words about the icons from catwalks. Do you this wonderful word? It sounds especially poignant in combination with “catfight”:

Catwalks and catfights over the front row seats.
And her look really did transcend trends; it transcended sort of fads and what sort of designers and retailers flocked to over time. She always seemed relevant.

What does it take to be always relevant? Read Stella Tennant's biography and try to answer this question.

Let us proceed now to sports. To be a golf icon is a gratifying but tough job. Tiger Woods is the world’s highest-paid athlete. He earns a lot of cash through lucrative endorsement deals. But you have to be nearly a saint to get those deals, which is impossible when you have a lot of money and success. He was caught cheating on his wife with pornstars and models. He had not only to confess to his wife and his business partners, but to undergo a special treatment of his sexual addiction:

I want to say to each of you, simply, and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in. I know people want to find out how I could be so selfish and so foolish. People want to know how I could have done these things to my wife, Elin, and to my children. And while I have always tried to be a private person, there are some things I want to say. Elin and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behavior. As she pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words. It will come from my behavior over time. We have a lot to discuss. However, what we say to each other will remain between the two of us. I am also aware of the pain my behavior has caused to those of you in this room. I have let you down. I have let down my fans. For many of you, especially my friends, my behavior has been a personal disappointment. To those of you who work for me, I have let you down, personally and professionally. My behavior has caused considerable worry to my business partners…For all that I have done, I am so sorry. I have a lot to atone for. But there is one issue I really want to discuss. Some people have speculated that Elin somehow hurt or attacked me on Thanksgiving night. It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that. Elin never hit me that night or any other night. There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage. Ever.

Describe the lovely couple:

Watch the next video very carefully and try to answer the question: where the athlete’s words are sincere and where we cannot believe him?

Elin has shown enormous grace and poise throughout this ordeal. Elin deserves praise, not blame. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have far -- didn't have to go far to find them. I was wrong. I was foolish. I don't get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought this shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife's family, my friends, my foundation, and kids all around the world who admired me. I've had a lot of time to think about what I have done. My failures have made me look at myself in a way I never wanted to before. It is now up to me to make amends. And that starts by never repeating the mistakes I have made. It is up to me to start living a life of integrity. It is hard to admit that I need help. But I do. For 45 days, from the end of December to early February, I was in inpatient therapy, receiving guidance for the issues I'm facing. I have a long way to go. But I've taken my first steps in the right direction.

To atone = to do something that shows you are sorry for something bad that you did or for something that you failed to do. But the most interesting part in the previous video is the phrase with the word “inpatient”: I was in inpatient therapy, receiving guidance. Tiger Woods among other icons and idols underwent “inpatient therapy” receiving honest “guidance” in this episode from the South Park series:

-	"What is the main thing we've all learned to avoid?"
-	Avoid drugs and alcohol?
-	In order to make sure we are no longer destroying our lives with any of these behaviors we must avoid… anyone … avoid getting…anyone?
-	Caught.
-	Yes, Michael Douglas! Everyone…
-	Getting caught.

Don’t trust celebrities when they say that they regret cheating on their wives this in order to right the wrong. The following dialog from the Greenland movie has nothing to do with the real life of Mel Gibson but it sets a wonderful example of a lie:

By the way, what are we going to dig on Mel Gibson typing “Mel Gibson cheating” in Google? The following:

 Hollywood star Mel Gibson allegedly cheated on ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva while she was pregnant with their daughter. Porn producer Violet Kowal claims to have had a three-month fling with the Mad Max star last year and spending time at his Malibu home and office in Santa Monica, National Enquirer reported. "Mel's break-up with Oksana doesn't surprise me at all. Clearly, Mel can't commit to just one woman," the 26-year-old Polish filmmaker told the magazine. Although Gibson's lawyer has branded the story "an absurd fabrication", Violet is said to have passed a lie detector test. Grigorieva gave birth to Lucia last November but she and Gibson announced their split just five months later.

Do you think all successful men “can't commit to just one woman”? Or maybe this is in all men’s nature and success has nothing to do with inevitable infidelity? But how about the iconic women? Nature is unfair to the fair sex. You can see two icons from two different worlds on this photograph – the actress Gina Lollobrigida and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Gina Lollobrigida went to Cuba.

She writes about her relationship with Castro: “We spent 12 days together. He didn’t interest me as a political leader but as a man. He realized that I hadn’t gone there to attack him and he readily accepted me”.

“She’d gone to Cuba in the ‘70s as a photographer, the period that her career in cinema had begun to wane. She has always been coy about the presumed flirt”.

Coy = shrinking from contact or familiarity

In the middle of the twentieth century Gina was considered one of the most beautiful women globally. This is what she wrote when she turned 90: 90 years… that’s a lot. I prefer to say 30 plus 30 plus 30. Advancing age for a woman is a handicap, but the difficult experiences that I’ve lived through give me the courage to confront difficulty.

The topic of an actress’s age and “young admires” is very well illustrated in the comedy “Death Becomes Her.” Watch two lengthy episodes from this movie. Pay attention to the small details in the second one. There will be a couple of questions.

What do I see? That's the question I'm most afraid of. One that asks me what I'm really made of. What do I see? Much more than a reflection. A romance with sheer perfection. I see me. I see me. Actress, woman, star and lover. Sister, sweetheart slave and mother. I see me. And I like what I see. Virgin, temptress, dream of others. Yes, it's me. Yes, it's me - What's wrong? - Nothing. I didn't know you were coming over. Just give me a second. - Oh, my God, you're not alone. - Of course I am. I'm completely alone. - Dakota? - Actually, completely isn't quite what I meant. - How dare you make me feel cheap! - Madeline, I forgot. She's here to... She's here to fix...- Who is she? – That’s what I'm trying to tell you...- Who is the little piece of meat? - She's a friend of, of, the guy who was here to fix- Oh, for Christ sake, at least lie quickly! - I am trying to. Look, you gotta believe me. This is perfectly innocent. Hey, hey, hey. I'm sick of this shit, you know that? I am doing you a favor here. - Doing me a favor? I gave you...- Yeah, you gave, I gave. Big deal! You know the other day somebody told me we look ridiculous together. Now, how do you think that makes me feel? So you never think about my feelings. So go find someone your own age, Madeline!
May I say that I've always thought yours to be one of the most beautiful faces ever to grace the silver screen. - Oh. And that husband of yours, I can only say that his reputation is unsurpassed. - I just arrived in town. I follow the spring. I haven't seen an autumn or winter in years. We are creatures of the spring, you and I. - Uh-huh. I'm not really quite sure why I came. - You're scared as hell...of yourself, of the body you thought you once knew. - I beg your pardon? - I am the one who understands. I am the one who knows your secret. So warm, so full of life. And already it ebbs away from you. This is life's ultimate cruelty. It offers us the taste of youth and vitality and then makes us witness our own decay. - Well, it is the natural law. - Screw the natural law! - What is that? - What you came for. A touch of magic in this world obsessed with science. A tonic. A potion. - What does it do? - How old would you guess I am? - I wouldn't...- Come on. Don't try to flatter me. -Thirty eight. Oh, twenty eight. Twenty... three? - I am seventy-one years old. That's what it does. It stops the aging process dead in its tracks and forces it into retreat. Drink that potion and you'll never grow even one day older. Don't drink it and continue to watch yourself rot. - How much is it? - The sordid topic of coin I'm afraid is not so simple. The cost, you see, it's different for everyone. - Well, for me, how much? - Well, thank you very much. I think I should be going. - Sit! Hold out your hand. - What are you, nuts? - Watch. - Check okay? - Fine. But you must make me a promise. The secret that we share must never become public. You may continue your career for ten years, ten years of perfect, unchanged beauty. But at the end of that time, before people become suspicious, you have to disappear from public view forever. You can retire. You can stage your own phony one of my clients simply said, "I vant to be alone, yah." - No! She's not! Wow! Bottoms up. - Now, a warning. - Now, a warning? - Take care of yourself. You and your body are going to be together a long time. Be good to it. Siempre viva. Live forever. - I can't believe...Did you...Oh... I'm a girl!

Now the questions:

- Does Madeline Ashton’s toast have a double meaning?

- Who was the client that said, “I vant to be alone”?

You can find the answers below.

As you already know, one can be an “icon” and a communist dictator at the same time. But only educated young people now know who Fidel Castro was. But they will never forget this iconic image:

You can see this image on T-shirts all around the world:

They like it and they have no idea who he was. To me, Che Guevara was an assassin and the adventurer. He really had no respect whatsoever for human life.

These were the words of the CIA officer Félix Rodríguez who hunted down and executed Che Guevara.

For young people Che is now a symbol of rebellion against global injustice. He was an enemy of western civilization (there is only one civilization), but he was undoubtedly one of the most influential people in the 20th century. Communism is a corrupt system, but Che Guevara was a martyr for whom ideas were undoubtedly much more important than wealth. That made him even more dangerous to the world. For instance, he was very distraught that the Cuban missile crisis ended peacefully. Considering Soviet leaders as traitors, he stated that if the missiles had been under Cuban control, they would have fired them off. So he was not against the nuclear Holocaust. If you still like this “icon,” read the following lines about what should motivate people: “This is not a matter of how many pounds of meat one might be able to eat, or how many times a year someone can go to the beach, or how many ornaments from abroad one might be able to buy with his current salary. What really matters is that the individual feels more complete, with much more internal richness and much more responsibility”. Anyway this man’s life deserves to be studied”. So, it’s easy to be Che’s admirer and ant-globalist consuming food in McDonald's browsing pages on an expensive gadget. There is even the term for the countries where the majority of people hate the USA:

Group of countries, the Che Guevara countries if you like, the home for people who are anti-American.

Try now to object to the logic that was used to discredit Che Guevara’s legacy.

Che and Castro influenced another “icon” worshipped all over the world by ordinary people and politicians:

Mandela spent years in prison for terrorism. He never denied using terror to achieve his goals. Read about this “icon” in the second half of this unit:

The woman that you see beside him is his wife, Winne Mandela – Mother of the Nation. This is what she said in 1986, endorsing the practice of necklacing (burning people alive using tires and petrol) by saying: "With our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country."

Be careful with “icons”. Develop critical thinking. Be curious.


The answers to the question above

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