Five days after the death of Michael Jackson the on-going worldwide discussion and mourning fully demonstrated the influences of an individual, especially a culture icon, on cultures in the context of globalization today.
As the speed of globalization accelerates, world cultures are more closely connected to each other than ever before. Traditional research in both cultural and cross-cultural psychology has focused on culture-based effects by identifying the influence of culture on the individual. However, the reverse relationship has attracted increasing attentions over time: individuals influence culture by the creation of institutions, symbols, and practices that carry and validate particular cultural meaning systems. Icons have been called “magnets of meaning” in that they connect many diverse elements of cultural knowledge (Betsky, 1997). Particularly, cultural icons demonstrate an incredible individual influence on culture – an influence stretching across boundaries of race, class, gender and nationality.
Michael Jackson is the best case. His music and clothes, his dance moves, and his massive live concert tours not only significantly influenced the pop music, but also “projected to the world the sense and the promise of a multicultural and tolerant United States”. Like him or not, a cultural hero or a freak, for a long time this singer was considered as the “face of America” and the defining figure of the global pop culture.