Rumor has it that when Michael J. Fox gained fame, there was already a Michael Fox in the Screen Actors Guild or other major organization, so he used a middle initial — either had to or wanted to differentiate himself.
The middle initial is quite the popular addition to one’s name — in pop culture and elsewhere. Would anyone know who Edward Robinson is? No! It’s Edward G. Robinson. Craig T. Nelson and George C. Scott and Samuel L. Jackson and William H. Macy all use their middle initial, every time. Seriously, Sam Jackson and George Scott are nobodies. But with that middle initial, it’s as if they were in Cheers — where everybody knows your name.
Women, although not as frequently, are also part of the middle initial campaign. Ann Davis — who’s that? Ann B. Davis? She’s Alice the housekeeper and middle box on The Brady Bunch. The Aspiring Critic finds it hard to believe that Taraji P. Henson needed to add the “P” so as not to confuse her with that other Taraji Henson. Similarly, Mary J. Blige. Are there that many Bliges, let alone Marys?
Then there are the celebrities that use a first initial — what’s that about? F. Murray Abraham won an Oscar as Best Actor for Amadeus, but C. Thomas Howell didn’t quite measure up. J. Edgar Hoover gained fame (infamy?) and while he isn’t a clear pop culture icon, when Leo DiCaprio plays you, that’s the pinnacle of pop. L. Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz, M. Night Shyamalan is still living off the success of The Sixth Sense, and F. Scott Fitzgerald is required reading — does anyone even know what their parents named them? And then there’s A Martinez — he doesn’t even use a period after the A! Is it a name — is it an initial? Inquiring minds want to know.
But wait — there are those who use ONLY initials. C.S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling and J. K. Simmons (yes — two who use J.K.!) and T.S. Eliot and J. J. Abrams and J. J. Watt. Do they all hate their given names?
One crazy addition to this post — what I was initially going to write about. Initially — pun intended — LOL. In memorizing the list of Best Actresses in a Supporting Role, I came upon this fact, a crazy one at that. 1978 winner was Maggie Smith; 1979 was Meryl Streep; 1980 saw Mary Steenburgen wave the Oscar; 1981 it was Maureen Stapleton. What a coincidence! Four winners in a row with the initials MS. Pretty cool, right?
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