Popularity is a big thing in life. From determining who is going to be the head cheerleader to reaping the rewards of being included in Oprah’s book club, it pays to be popular. I agree that cheerleading pays a little better, but the Oprah book club teaches me sportsmanship and helps me keep in shape…or something like that.
Knowing that popularity is, like, you know, the most important thing ever, I channeled my inner teenage girl to keep track of who is popular around the globe (because, really, who is better at telling you who is popular than a 14-year-old girl?). In my thoroughly un-scientific and highly biased observations, I noticed 4 people in particular that are popular around the globe.
The world’s most famous Rastafarian is also hands down the most popular person in the world. From islands to mountains, people listen to Bob Marley everywhere. At beaches his influence is most obvious, but his reach goes well beyond the sands.
I remember being in college in Ohio (which is close to neither beaches nor mountains) and hearing Bob Marley drifting out of many dorm windows and student houses. And, I kid you not, on the Annapurna Circuit – in the Himalayan Mountains – there is not one but two Bob Marley guesthouses. If that’s not popularity, I don’t know what is.
While I have visited only 4 continents, I am positive he is popular on all 7, because I have no doubt that those scientists in Antarctica listen to him to warm their ears while stuck on the ice.
If you doubt Mr. Marley’s popularity, just start playing Is This Love or Three Little Birds and watch how many people bob their head along.
This may come as a bit of a surprise to some, but Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara is not only one of the most popular people in the world, but also the owner of one of the most recognizable images. The picture above is probably known to most of the world’s population even if they don’t know who he is (or at least most of the world’s population that is exposed to popular media/culture).
While Che’s image has been reduced to a symbol of run-of-the-mill teenage angst in the United States, it means something significant in many places of the world. In Argentina, his home country, it’s a symbol of national pride, as he is the second most famous Argentinean in Argentina (a distant second to Evita). In Cuba he’s the symbol of the 1959 revolution. He is popular in the state of Kerala, India, which is the center of the Indian Communist Party, and in Nepal, where the Maoists have gained influence in the past decade.
Regardless if you agree with his political ideologies or not, one thing is certain: he is quite the looker, err, I mean popular…ahem…he’s quite popular. (Did it just get hot in here?)
Yes, the Hindu god has an elephant head in place of his own, but his man-parts are still intact, so he qualifies as “people” for this list (I warned you of bias/unscientificness). Now, I understand that Ganesha’s influence reaches many parts of Asia, but India, which has nearly 18% of the world’s population, gives him a weighted advantage.
Given the Indian inclination to decorate everything with a deity, it’s hard to swing a cow and not hit 3 images of Ganesha while in the subcontinent. It’s not uncommon in India to see busses that have multiple airbrush paintings and a few stickers of Gensha – plus a shrine on the dashboard to the remover of obstacles.
Given Ganehsa’s popularity with tourists (I alone purchased a t-shirt with Ganesh on it, and a painting, and a sticker…and a small bronze statue), his influence may be global in a few short years.
Team Jesus fans are nearly as ardent in their deity graffiti as the Hindus. Jesus is painted on so many buses in South America that you start to think that maybe he really is their co-pilot. From Plaza de Armases to churches that are seemingly on every street corner, Jesus is well represented.
North America (for my purposes here, I invoke my American right to geographical ignorance and include Mexico in South America) is a bit more subdued in their expression, limiting decoration to necklaces, bumper stickers, and the occasional billboard letting you know that you have most likely sinned and are going to hell.
Regardless of location, all believers of the right hand of the father have one thing in common: tattoos. Jesus is not only #1 in the collective hearts of the western world, but also the long-reigning heavyweight champion of deities embedded in human flesh.
So there they are, the 4 most popular people in the world. And, yes, I know the question you are asking right now – so, if they are the 4 most popular people in the world, who is the least popular person in the world?
Like you need to ask: