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Pop-cultural Apocalypse

I'm sorry, but I'm not sure how anyone in my age cohort can be expected to work today. Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett both gone? That's an entire childhood's worth of pop cultural icons struck down--poof--with one turn of the clock. 

Like most of the free world, I recognized Michael as a genius, albeit a deeply screwed-up one. Of course, during the Billie Jean and Beat It era, we had no inkling of how far the littlest Jackson would sink into his own tragic Neverland. We just thought of him as a gifted singer with mind-blowing dance moves and a slightly quirky fashion sense. I prefer not to think about how many hours of my youth were lost to attempts at moon walking. And those weird zombie moves in the "Thriller" video? Beyond. I caught the 1984 "Victory" tour, though my seats were so high I needed an oxygen mask to get through the show. And while I never had the feverish, scream-yourself-silly, tatoo-his-visage-on-your-butt emotional attachment to The King of Pop that so many around the globe clearly did--truth be told, my adrogynous, eccentric, gyrating, black pop-god of choice was Prince--Michael, his music, and most definitely his videos defined a chunk of my generation's adolescence. 

That said, long before my girlfriends and I were paying attention to Michael, we idolized Farrah. Farrah. Farrah. Farrah. There will never be another like her, in part because, as the WaPo point out, today's cultural landscape is too fragmented for any one hottie--no matter how big the smile and how jiggly the assets--to hold such sway. We are talking about a woman who prompted an entire nation of girls to try and force their hair into those flipped-back feathered wings. For a gal like me who grew up in the swampy humidity of the South with stubbornly fine, straight hair, this was an unattainable dream. Oh, how I envied my friends Cathy and Stacy, who could, with one head toss and a liberal coating of hairspray, transform their whole heads into beautiful wings. I have often suspected that at least 20% of that whole ozone-hole problem could be laid at the feet of 1970s girls trying to attain Farrah hair. 

But Farrah wasn't just any old hottie. She was a particular kind of quasi-feminist hottie so popular in the '70s--when mainstream America was just getting used to the idea that women could be bad-asses and would even consider watching them do so on TV, provided, of course, that the asses in question were sexy enough. (The satin shorts craze helped enormously in this regard.) Female cop shows were all the rage. Angie Dickinson in "Police Woman." Teresa Graves in "Get Christie Love!" And, of course, Farrah and the gals in the unrivaled king of the genre, "Charlie's Angels." Impossibly, Farrah was only a regular character for the first of the show's five-season run, with sporadic appearances later on. But she is the Angel that everyone remembers and so many of us wanted to be.

In hindsight, of course, Farrah was a problematic role model. Scanning the entire hot-cop lineup, she was by far the most kittenish, the most little-girl-like and least threatening--which unquestionably added to her popularity, especially among men. (Not that the curves and hair weren't enough.) In that way, she was a bit like Marilyn Monroe, simultaneously girlish and yet jaw-droppingly sexual. (Or, more recently, Scarlett Johansson--who, my husband shrewdly observes, has stormed to acclaim as an overgrown little girl with enomous knockers.) But my six-year-old friends and I never thought in those terms; we were years away from understanding the concept of "Jiggle TV," much less why it might be a bad thing. We liked the guns and the gowns and the karate kicks and the sight of a bunch of really pretty ladies getting the best of the bad guys. And, oh yes, we loved the fact that, week after week, the chicks dashed out to save the day while their faithful handler, John Bosley, functioned as a genial, glorified manservant; I vividly recall our neighborhood recreations of the show featuring much abuse of poor Bosley. What can I say? Even in the Deep South in the '70s we were tired of the guys having all the fun.

And now. It's all over. No more King of Pop. No more Queen of Jiggle TV. There's nothing left to do now but get drunk, download "Thriller" onto the i-pod, and spend the day cruising YouTube for classic Angels clips.

But first, I've got to dig out my old curling iron and AquaNet. I need just one more shot at those feathers in tribute to my fallen youth. 

--Michelle Cottle