Meet the Hitmakers: Young, Pretty, and Supernatural
Why does one tv or movie hero inspire a thousand namesakes, and another nary a one? The answer is most often in the names themselves. Star Wars' Luke was an easier sell than Han. The title character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a non-starter, while her supporting cast of Willows and Xanders became parents' darlings.
The show's story and characters, do play a part, though. The surest recipe for a baby-name stylemaker is to focus on the young, pretty, and supernatural. Ideally, the young, pretty, supernatural, blond and female. Check out this power lineup:
Bewitched (TV, 1964-1972): This sitcom about a pretty, blond suburban witch sent the names Samantha, Darren and Tabitha soaring. (Believe it or not, the name Samantha was essentially unknown before this show.)
Splash (Film, 1984): The story of a pretty blond mermaid launched Madison as a girl's name.
The Little Mermaid (Film, 1989): OK, they're not all blond. The animated tale of a lovestruck red-headed mermaid boosted the name Ariel by 300%.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch (TV, 1996-2003): This sitcom about a pretty, blond suburban teenage witch made Sabrina nearly double in popularity overnight.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV, 1997-2003): The adventures of a pretty, blond suburban teenage scourge of the undead made hits of Willow, Xander and Anya.
Charmed (TV, 1998-2006): The adventures of three beautiful witch sisters inspired a jump in the names Piper and Phoebe. (Note that the effect of "Charmed" on Phoebe was greater than the effect of the much more popular but less supernatural show "Friends.")
Heroes (TV, 2006-2010): This superhero series featured a pretty blond cheerleader with special powers. The name of both the character, Claire, and the actress who played her, Hayden, rose.
Twilight (Films, 2008-2012): The romantic saga of beautiful vampires was a name bonanza, sparking rises in Bella, Emmett, Jasper, Alice and Cullen.
The Vampire Diaries (TV, 2009-present): The romantic saga of beautiful vampires brought new life to the classic name Elena.
Game of Thrones (TV, 2011-present): The bloody fantasy saga helped make a hit of the name Arya, and its pretty, blond Mother of Dragons even inspired the unlikely name Khaleesi.
Just being pretty and a little more than human isn't enough to guarantee name influence, of course. You still need the right names. A series like True Blood, populated by supernaturals with names like Sookie and Bill, won't get the job done. But if you do have a stylish name, the glimmer of magic—especially with the glimmer of long blond hair attached—can work wonders. Anybody care to bet against Frozen's flaxen-haired Snow Queen Elsa?