The most popular person ... EVER!

OK, through countless minutes of contemplating and about an hour of chatting with friends, I head to straightdope for more opinions. Here is my official question:

Among the world’s population today, who do you think–dead or alive (besides higher beings)–is the most popular person EVER?

Jesus does not count, because not everyone believes in the man.

Here are some responses I received. Keep in mind some of my friends didn’t think too deeply about the question …

Wu or False: Michael Jordan (me)
SkateCA11: Hitler
Rafiriquai: Pele
IsLaNdGuR143: tupac…
KraziErika: Brittany Spears! jp…i don’t know.
LBDanksta420: michael jackson haha
StaRGyrL15: martin luther king jr
ANNDREEEA: michael jackson actually
TinaKelada: oprah

Ha, pretty amusing, I know, but now it’s your turn; can’t be too smart or too dumb to give an opinion … can’t wait to hear em! Thank you. :smiley:

Erwin Wu
Long Beach, CA

In the UK David Beckham may be up there, Robbie Williams also.

From yesteryear, the Beatles, esp. John Lennon.

Perhaps David Cassidy from his Hayday? Maybe Tom Jones?

Big difference in popular and well-known or recognised. Don’t think Hitler really qualifies as ‘popular’ in the normal sense.

I don’t believe in Brittany Spears. She’s just a story that people made up to scare their children.

But just what do you mean by popular? Mao Tse-Tung had a few people who thought he was da bomb, a billion anyway. Well, he may have coerced them a bit there… But that’s why I ask what you mean by popular.

Oh, wait… you said ever. Not just at the moment.
Hang on…

Maybe Charles Darwin.
William Shakespeare.
King Louis 14th of France.
Richard the Lionheart.
Gengis Khan.

I don’t have a clue now. Can you tell I’m grasping…

so your saying everyone believes in Hitler and Brittany Spears?
I dont why that is a criteria at all.
By popular, do you mean most well known? Its probably either Jesus or Muhammed

If you add up the number of people who would like to boil Britney alive, and subtract them from the number of her supporters, you would probably end up with a negative popularity rating anyway.

In Australia you’d have to believe it was Sir Donald Bradman. Especially in light of the huge fuss when he died last year. Stamps and coins were issued and the Prime Minister expressed his regrets. Certainly Australians deify their sports stars and he above all others.
In their time and within their community many people could qualify. Mohandas Gandhi is a great example.
World-wide The Pope is loved by all Catholics (isn’t he ?) but maybe that’s the position not the man.

“dashiznit” yes I mean well known, sorry. Please don’t be so critical, it’s not good for your health, but go ahead and change the question for yourself.

Aro - oo, Genghis Khan perhaps. I’m sure at least 3/4 the population of Asia knows about him. Add that to the number of semi-educated people in this world; that’s a lot of heads. Maybe Shakespeare and Darwin too, but who’s Richard the Lionheart, eheh…

If we’re limiting ourselves to celebrities, my hunch is that, even now, Muhammad Ali remains the best known, most recognized, and most beloved (though not by me) person on Earth.

Well, all celebrities have in common that some people like them, others not. Jesus is no exception.
Actually, I think that, in absolute terms, no person (apart from Big Boss Himself, maybe) has ever been celebrated as much as him.

If you’re going to subtract detractors from supporters, then I’m going to go with Einstein.

Anyway, the mods should be along any time now to slap this GQ over to IMHO.

I remember reading something to this effect. I would agree.

Charlie Chaplin was probably the first person to be recognized all over the world.

His films were shipped all over the world, the title cards translated in some cases, often not if the destination was Timbuctoo or Shangri-La or Lower Slobbovia.

Theaters advertised the latest Chaplin film with an image of the Little Tramp and a sign saying “I’m here today!” and the movies were would be projected onto whatever flat surface was available if there was no theater in the vicinity.

If you mean popular as in “known of and talked about” as opposed to “physically recognized,” it used to be said that, after Jesus, the two men with the most books published about them were Napoleon and Richard Wagner. Hitler’s probably up there with them at this point.

…and since I answered the OP factually, as opposed to saying “I think it was Sonny Tufts!”, I’m gonna leave it right here. If one of the GQ mods thinks it should be tossed into IMHO, they can shovel it.

I don’t relish the idea of questioning a mod, but Wagner? When was “it” said? Napoleon would probably still be near the top of the list but Wagner, I mean the only thing that most people know about Wagner came from Apocalypse Now, and most of them probably couldn’t mention that he wrote ass killing, mind numbing, over long operas.

[drawl] Well with the media exposure nowadays, I’d have to say it would be a more recent person, like Madonna or Bill Clinton.[/drawl]

I guess it would depend if you meant “instantly recognizable” or well-known?

Wagner made some revolutionary changes to art, during revolutionary times. People used to care about stuff like that, a lot.

You want a cite? Crap, just about every concert program that ever included a Wagner composition, plus here:

I’ll dig around and see if I can find something better than hearsay.

And mind your god damn manners when you talk about Wagner.

Abraham Lincoln?

Oh, insert a smiley after that last comment.

I think that Ronald McDonald is the most widely recognized character in the world. So, that would meet at least one definition of “popular”.

I have nothing factual to back this up. But it makes sense. McDonalds crosses all religous/ethnic/political boundaries nowadays.