Sunday, June 13, 2010

Kevin Bacon and the Pre-Raphaelites

The literary magazine Lapham's Quarterly has an interesting take on the "Six Degrees of Separation" idea, which posits that everyone in the world is connected to everyone else in the world by a chain of no more than six acquaintances.

One popular version of this idea is
a game in which players link any living actor -- through his or her roles in films or commercials -- to the American actor Kevin Bacon within six steps. By expanding the number of connections to accommodate historical figures, the editors of the magazine have managed to show that a host of eminent Victorians are connected to Mr. Bacon, whose movies include Footloose, Flatliners, A Few Good Men, Apollo 13, Mystic River, and The Woodsman.

The social flowchart “
Friends, Lovers, and Family” (shown at left, click for a larger version) is a color-coded web revealing the surprising connections between 70 art-world personalities, including writers, painters, architects, and actors. The Bacon connection to the Victorians goes roughly as follows: Kevin Bacon > Edmund Bacon (Kevin's father, a noted urban planner) > Buckminster Fuller > Margaret Fuller > Ralph Waldo Emerson > Walt Whitman > George MacDonald (1824-1905), the influential Scottish author (DNB bio here; Wiki bio here). From MacDonald, Bacon's links to the Victorian great and good expand exponentially to include John Ruskin, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (and through Millais and Rossetti to the other Pre-Raphaelites and their circle), William Morris, Ford Madox Brown, Lewis Carroll, and Elizabeth Siddal, among others.

Through his father, Bacon is separated by just four degrees from Thomas Carlyle and Leigh Hunt. Even Queen Victoria can be linked to the star of Animal House (through her son Prince Leopold, a lover of Alice Liddell and godfather of her second son; it was Alice Liddell who inspired Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland).


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