What is it about X?

Probably the coolest letter of the 26, X definitely marks the hot spot in entertainment.

No, Bert and Ernie didn’t put me up to this. When it comes to the letters of the alphabet, X is the favorite child in the world of cool.

Examine the facts:

One of the coolest shows in TV history is Fox’s sci-fi thriller, “The X-Files.” It’s an excellent show, even if it does promote xenophobia.

After the movie “Malcolm X” was released, millions of athletes, musicians and assorted geeks trying to look hard started wearing hats, shirts, pantaloons and almost anything else with an X on it. Strangely, the same thing never happened when “Xanadu” came out. Maybe Olivia Newton-John just looked dumb in a hat and leotards, and it never caught on.

Why Does 'X' Mark The Spot For Coolness In Pop Culture?

There were also a number of action movies that had X in the title, including “XXX,” and “X-Factor.”

The most popular comic books are the xenogenic offspring of the band of mutants called The X-Men. X-Force, X-Men, X-Factor, X-whatever, they all sell exceedingly well and are the genesis for one rump-kicking video game. Maybe the secret is linked to the fact that the groups are led by a Mr. Clean look-alike named Charles Xavier. However, all X cartoons owe a debt to Racer X, the most intriguing character on “Speed Racer.”

Tons of bands have used the letter X in their names, including Generation X, OXO and, of course, X, which was led by Exene Cervanka. Bands like Extreme and Expose could be counted, too, but they’re more like X poseurs. Trisha Yearwood hit No. 1 on the country charts with the song “XXXs and OOOs.”


On the literary side, there’s the famous book by Douglas Coupland, “Generation X.” The name, ripped off from Billy Idol’s early punk band, spawned the label that has been slapped across everyone born between 1964 and 1979.

Even Fox’s sister cable station is called fX, with an emphasis on the X probably a calculated appeal to Generation X.

X being at the top of the A list isn’t a new trend, either.

Why Does 'X' Mark The Spot For Coolness In Pop Culture?

A popular mail-order item when my parents were young was a pair of X-Ray Specs. They were supposed to duplicate Superman’s X-ray vision, but usually all they duplicated was a headache.

Movies off-limits to people under 17 without fake IDs got tagged as X-rated, double-X, triple-X. Now NC-17 has been added to the mix, although the only distinction between NC-17-rated movies and X-rated films seems to be how well the naked people in them get along.

So while the xylophone hasn’t exactly supplanted the electric guitar, the letter X has always carried a secret allure — an instant mystery that draws attention. Call a character Mr. D and you think of Conrad Bain and Gary Coleman; call him Mr. X and suddenly you’re embroiled in a dark tale populated by Peter Lorre look-alikes.

Why Does 'X' Mark The Spot For Coolness In Pop Culture?

I can’t think of any other letters that have as much power. And not many that get as much attention.

Z had a limited run, with bands like Vitamin Z and the Jon Cryer show, “The Incredible Teddy Z.”

D did OK. 3-D was a popular gimmick, and a football game rarely goes by when the fans don’t cheer for some tough D.

There was a Fritz Lang movie called “M” that no one remembers, and “M. Butterfly,” but M has pretty much gone AWOL.

TV had the show “V” and “The A-Team,” featuring Mr. T, but everyone OD’ed on them, and those letters soon were dialing SOS.

So it’s a KO. X is the king. It marks the spot.

As Bert, Ernie and Keanu would say: X-tremely X-cellent.

Why Does 'X' Mark The Spot For Coolness In Pop Culture?
Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.
Why Does 'X' Mark The Spot For Coolness In Pop Culture?

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