Category: TV names
In the L.A. Times the other day, an article talked about prime-time television’s “reinvigorated love of the western, where projects are sprouting like cactus in the desert…and viewers may see the biggest glut of westerns since the genre’s heyday of the ‘60s.”
It was that heyday that incited the stampede of names that hadn’t been heard in a century onto the boys’ popularity lists of the 1950s, sixties and seventies, some of which are still riding tall in the saddle.
The minute I saw that the leading character in the new sitcom Life Unexpected was a young girl named Lux, a bell went off. Does this mean that there will be a slew of baby Luxes (Luxi?)? Will Lux be the new Lexi? Or won’t it have any effect at all in this era of diminished network TV viewing?
We certainly know that some TV characters’ names of the past have had an impact, from Samantha on Bewitched to Alexis on Dynasty to Brandon and Dylan on the old Beverly Hill 90210 to Xander on Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Aidan on Sex and the City right up to the female Addison on Grey’s Anatomy.
So what about the current line-up? Though some of these are not strictly speaking new names, here are the somewhat out of the mainstream character names of current (and a few about to launch) shows. Think any of them will make an impression on baby namers?
BREE– Desperate Housewives
DOROTA—The Gossip Girls
KALINDA—The Good Wife
KENSI—NCIS: Los Angeles
NAEVIA—Sparticus: Blood & Sand
SILVER (her last name used as first) 90210
SURA—Spartacus: Blood & Sand
ASHUR—Spartacus: Blood & Sand
CREED—The Office (the real first name of the actor who plays him)
ROWDY—The Deep End
When The Golden Girls hit the small screen in 1985, the names of its leading ladies—Rose, Dorothy and Blanche—were late middle aged, and Mama Sophia was old enough to have already been in and out of the Shady Pines Nursing Home. That was 25 years ago, a period of major change in the name world. Sophia is now the seventh most popular baby name (and #1 in some places), Rose is America‘s favorite middle name, and Dorothy is one of the belles of the nameberry name boards.
Not only that: other Golden Girl names, names that were virtually written off just a couple of years ago, are back in play. Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, for example, named one of their twin daughters Marion, Julia Roberts chose Hazel for hers and Molly Ringwald picked Adele. And nameberryites are cool with similar period names like Clara and Cora, Vivian and Vera.
Once in a while some pop culture phenomenon comes along that doesn’t just reflect the name gestalt of its day, but actually influences it. This was the case with the glossy nighttime soaps of the late 70s and early 80s–most particularly Dynasty—which were all about wealth and greed, ambition, melodrama, campy catfights –and humungous shoulder pads.
The writers on these shows were quite ingenious in the way they came up with names that reflected perfectly those values and vices. Male names that were short, sleek, and powerful. Sophisticated, boyish women’s names like Arliss that were a complete reversal of the previous decades’ unisex nicknamish names like Jodie and Jamie. Elegant surname names such as Blake Carrington.
Probably the most influential was the name of Blake’s ex-wife, that evil viper, Alexis. Despite the character’s villainy, her name took off, and was instrumental in the success of other Alexi: Alexandra, Alexa, Alex et al. In the year before Dynasty debuted in 1982, there were scarcely 1500 girls given that name across the country; by 1999, it had reached #3 on the list, with the birth of 19,000 baby Alexises.
The term ‘soap opera name’ has always had a pejorative connotation, suggesting over-the-top, strong, silent Ridge–Thorne–Trent type names. But the truth of the matter is that the scripters of daytime dramas have actually been a lot more imaginative–and prescient–than those of, say, sitcoms or nighttime dramas.
The classic example–as Abby Sandel mentioned in her guest blog the other day–is Kayla. When the character of Kayla Brady was introduced on Days of Our Lives in 1982, her name had hardly been heard of–much less used. But not long after that, Kayla began an unprecedented leap up the lists, and stayed there for well over a decade.
Soaps also anticipated the trend of using place names for people–there were Egypts and Indias, Sierras and Friscos years before it was a baby-naming trend and they were in the forefront of using last names as firsts. And there were too many individual names that were ahead of their time: Cameron, Kyle and Kylie, Logan, Hunter, Holden, Colton, Cooper, Roman, Jagger, Harley for a girl…. all of them appeared on the soaps from the 70s to the 90s.
Now, as one of the stalwarts of soap operadom, The Guiding Light, is about to bite the dust after 72 years on radio and TV, this seems like a good moment to celebrate some of the more original sudsy names of the past and present (but sorry, I draw the line at Chardonnay):