TV Character Names: Dynasty & Dallas

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 boys’ and surname names for girls trends were definitely given a big boost by these shows. Consider these female characters:

AFTONDallas
ARLISSDallas
FALLON – Dynasty
JORDANFalcon Crest (Jordan did not reach the girls’ Top 1000 until 1978, a few year’s after this show debuted, it was #135 and would rise much higher)
KIRBY — Dynasty
LANE — Flamingo Road
PAIGE – Knots Landing
SAMMY JO — Dynasty

And then there were those clipped one-syllable boy names, whose impact is still felt:

BLAIR — Paper Dolls
BLAKE – Dynasty
CHASEFalcon Crest
COLEFalcon Crest
LANCEFalcon Crest
MILES—The Colbys
PIERCE — Knots Landing

Here are a few other girls’ names that were probably helped along by these melodramas:

ABBY
DOMINIQUE
JENNA
KRYSTLE
LINDSAY

And some that weren’t:

BLISS
CARESS
RACINE
SABLE
VALENE

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7 Responses to “TV Character Names: Dynasty & Dallas”

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Abby Says:

October 19th, 2009 at 8:55 am

I had no idea there was a Bliss in the 80s! Ellen Page’s character in Whip It is Bliss Cavendish – and I spotted a baby girl called Blyss on a blog the other day. Me, I’d take Blair or Blythe over Bliss/Blyss any day, but I can see her appeal.

Diana Says:

October 19th, 2009 at 9:39 am

Ah the eighties!! There were some good names, but all and all, I’m glad they are dying out!

Nephele Says:

October 19th, 2009 at 10:26 am

“Name gestalt,” I love that turn of phrase of yours! Another soap opera of the 80s that’s responsible for the rise in popularity of an otherwise unheard-of name was the soap Santa Barbara. With the appearance of the character Laken Lockridge, all of a sudden the name Laken started to enter the baby-naming consciousness of America. By the early 90s the name Laken had made it to the Social Security Administration’s annual list of Top 1,000 baby names in the country.

— Nephele

Charlotte Vera Says:

October 19th, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Fascinating! To me, most of those names are recognisable on people just a few years younger than myself. I’m so incredibly glad that neither of my parents watched soap operas!

Rosamund Says:

October 19th, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Thanks for this nostalgic blog!
One of my favorite guilty pleasure names comes from a character from “Knots Landing”- Ciji

Jenmb Says:

October 19th, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Thank you so much for this post! I thought I was the only one that noticed many popular names nowadays were on soaps decades ago. I used to watch 2 daytime soaps in middle school (early 90’s) and many of the names fit with today’s styles: Haley, Noah, Jackson, Thaddeus, Madeline, Natalie, Ava, Opal, Kendall, Palmer

aturley Says:

October 29th, 2009 at 3:04 am

As an Alexis born in 1976, I can remember how VERY. VERY. ANGRY. my mother was when Dynasty took off and random people started asking her if she named me after Joan Collins. She still brings it up occasionally.

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