The Mount Rushmore of … has become a fun way to make lists. ESPN did a whole series of Mount Rushmore’s covering states, sports and even “zany” ones like The Mount Rushmore of mustaches. They are great but they are almost always just the top 4 of a thing. I look at Mount Rushmore as representing the evolution of the role of President, so any “Mount Rushmore of” would also have to represent evolution and have things that filled the specific roles each of the four faces on Rushmore represent.
GEORGE WASHINGTON – the first, the most famous, that which in many ways defines the very thing you are listing. Also, Washington represents the beginning of the time frame. If you were to create a Mount Rushmore of War movies and you said Platoon was the Washington, then you are saying that modern war movies began to exist when Platoon was released in 1986 and any war movie from before then would be ineligible for the other slots (one of many reasons why you would never put Platoon in the “Washington” slot). Maybe the most obvious “Washington” would be Babe Ruth if you were making a list of baseball players or Star Wars for Sci-Fi movies.
THOMAS JEFFERSON – the other side of the coin with Washington. While Washington represents the popular, the action, the flashy side Jefferson represents the intellectual side, the side that people who take the thing seriously and study the subject may point to as more important even if they are not nearly as popular. A key component is that Washington and Jefferson exist in the same time and place. So if Star Wars in the Washington of Sci-Fi films, then Close Encounters or 2001 would be the Jefferson (2001 would be my choice except it did come out a few years before Star Wars so I would have to have the internal debate as to whether they it was close enough to consider it part of the same time and place). Pop quiz to the obvious Jefferson to Ruth’s Washington … Ty Cobb.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN – the game changer, the person who solidified the thing by deepening it, expanding it and redefining it. To continue our Sci-Fi thing, if Star Wars is Washington and 2001 is Jefferson (it won my internal debate) then who is Lincoln? Maybe ET for showing that Sci-Fi could be family friendly? What about Blade Runner? Probably The Matrix for bringing back abstract philosophy and cutting edge visual to Sci-Fi? Maybe now The Matrix seems somewhat obvious, but that is in no small part because we now have a definitive Roosevelt. Our Baseball list has another obvious one, Jackie Robinson.
TEDDY ROOSEVELT – the either current or most recent member of the list who may or may not be overrated but is too new to be able to gauge entirely accurately. Obviously often you will have a lot of choices to choose from with the Roosevelt spot and that is kind of perfect for Roosevelt (the “one of these doesn’t belong” member of Mount Rushmore, fairly or not). To continue with our two example lists, the definitive Sci-Fi Roosevelt? Avatar, and it would be hard to make an argument for anyone else. As for Baseball, your answer will say everything about how you view modern baseball. Do you say Jeter? Then you are either a Yankee fan or someone who puts massive value on winning and indefinable “leadership” qualities. If you say Bonds then you think steroids were an over-blown issue and that “rings” as a means of judging players in a team sport is grossly over-used. Pujols means you’re from St. Louis or at least the mid-west. A-Rod puts you in the same boat as Bonds except you have 1 ring and some of the modern metrics like A-Rod a little more than Bonds. And if you list just about anyone else you are an absolute homer or you over value pitching (this is coming from a Red Sox fan who would love to put Papi or Manny on the list).
That is it, the four slots that need to be filled. Not just “I like these four things” but this is how that thing has evolved. So, to recap our two example lists:
THE MOUNT RUSHMORE OF BASEBALL
WASHINGTON – Babe Ruth
JEFFERSON – Ty Cobb
LINCOLN – Jackie Robinson
ROOSEVELT – Barry Bonds (now you know what I think of PED’s)
THE MOUNT RUSHMORE OF Sci-Fi MOVIES
WASHINGTON – Star Wars
JEFFERSON – 2001: A Space Odyssey
LINCOLN – The Matrix
ROOSEVELT – Avatar
And if you don’t think that is different than a Top 4 list well, Blade Runner and probably Wrath of Kahn would be on any Sci-Fi list I would ever make (and Avatar would never sniff that list). And Barry Bonds is the only member of my Mount Rushmore of Baseball who would also be on my Top 4, and yet I think these two Mount Rushmore’s are nearly inarguable.
There are some great arguable ones too. Like …
THE MOUNT RUSHMORE OF THE NBA
WASHINGTON – Magic Johnson
JEFFERSON – Larry Bird
LINCOLN – Michael Jordan
ROOSEVELT – Kobe Bryant
I think most would go with Russell in the Washington role, but then you are left with Wilt, Kareem or Oscar Robinson in the Jefferson slot and you are forced to choose between Magic and Bird, none of which felt right. The truth is, the NBA really started with Magic and Bird (think Star Wars with Sci-Fi), Jordan is so much more than a Roosevelt he has to be a Lincoln, and Kobe is a perfect Roosevelt (does anyone really know how we are going to view Kobe in a decade?). Still, does it seem right that there are no big men on the side of the mountain?
THE MOUNT RUSHMORE OF SITCOMS
WASHINGTON – The Mary Tyler Moore Show
JEFFERSON – Mash
LINCOLN – Seinfeld
ROOSEVELT – Friends
Talk about one where you could make arguments at every slot. Think of what is missing, I Love Lucy, Taxi, Cheers, Cosby, The Honeymooners, Happy Days, Rosanne, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Dick Van Dyke Show and that is just off the top of my head. My first thought was to go with Lucy and The Honeymooners as Washington and Jefferson, but Seinfeld just feels like Lincoln to me and Lucy and The Honeymooners just seemed to far removed. Mary Tyler Moore and MASH both brought the modern sensibilities of occasional dramedy and character development that were not really a part of the earlier shows and therefore felt like a logical place to start. Friends and Seinfeld were kind of close together to be Lincoln and Roosevelt but Friends feels like a Roosevelt in that it is at least now perpetually copied and yet there are rumblings as to whether or not it was overrated.
I’ll come up with new Mount Rushmore’s at least once a week, so keep an eye out and get ready to argue.