Friday the 13th: The Pop Culture Phenomenon of Jason Voorhees - Bloody Disgusting
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Friday the 13th: The Pop Culture Phenomenon of Jason Voorhees

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The final Friday the 13th of 2018 is here, and you can count on at least one cable channel to air a Friday the 13th marathon in celebration. The popular horror franchise has taken over a day once steeped in superstition; now it belongs to Jason Voorhees. A franchise that has spawned 11 films and a reboot, Friday the 13th is the top grossing horror franchise stateside. That the franchise rights are currently hung up in legal limbo makes sense as iconic series’ killer Jason Voorhees doesn’t just slay camp counselors but profits as well. Nearly 40 years after audiences first glimpsed young Jason at Camp Crystal Lake, fans can’t get enough. Not in movie or video game form. His machete-wielding reach doesn’t just extend to horror fans either. Jason Voorhees has long been established as one of the most prominent pop culture icons in America.

Throughout the decades Jason Voorhees has become a household name, deeply embedded in American culture. He’s not just a well-loved horror icon, but a marketing tool as well. His likeness and persona has been referenced and used in countless movies, talk shows, commercials, video games, music, and moreover the decades. Here are some of the highlights of Jason Voorhees’ major influence in pop culture.


Talk Shows

In promotion of Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason Voorhees made a guest appearance on Arsenio Hall’s late-night talk show. Since most late-night talk shows involve an interview session with guests, and Voorhees isn’t known for being particularly talkative, this appearance by Jason is comical.


MTV Lifetime Achievement Award

A tongue in cheek award for those who were hugely influential in pop culture at the MTV Movie Awards in the ‘90s, Jason Voorhees was the very first recipient. Well. Sort of. It was Jon Lovitz in a Jason Voorhees costume, accepting on his behalf, and he was plugging his latest movie at the time. Still though, the first lifetime achievement award, humorous or not, was awarded one of horror’s top killers. Pretty cool.


Commercials

Jason, or his likeness, has been used to promote various products completely unrelated to the Friday the 13th franchise throughout the years. From shoes to cable TV, here are some of the more memorable commercials that featured the horror icon.

Banned Nike Commercial

This Nike commercial featured a Jason and Michael Myers mashup chasing distance runner Suzy Hamilton with a chainsaw. The commercial aired during the Olympics in 2010, but complaints via email and phone caused NBC to pull the ad. Bummer.

RadioShack Commercial

Remember that Superbowl commercial in 2014 for RadioShack that featured a ton of iconic ‘80s characters? It highlighted the likes of Hulk Hogan, Slimer, Chucky, and of course Jason Voorhees. Even in 2014 Jason was still being used as an effective marketing ploy.

DIRECTV

Chances are you’ve seen the meme of iconic horror characters frolicking together, but maybe you didn’t know where it started. I present you with this DirecTV commercial. You’re welcome.


Non-Horror Movies

Though Jason’s peak killing season is summer break, that didn’t stop his influence from pervading Christmas. The 1989 holiday classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation features a nod to Jason when Clark Griswold emerges from his garage sporting a hockey mask and a chainsaw.

There’s also a bit in Police Academy 4 where a guy sporting a hockey mask cuts his way out of a body bag with a chainsaw. Or a line of dialogue in Meatballs II, “just like the camp from that movie Friday the 13th, you know, where all the counselors get killed for no reason.”


Television

The long-running animated series The Simpsons has referenced Friday the 13th and Jason Voorhees numerous times, and not only in the horror-centric “Treehouse of Horror” episodes. Marge was kidnapped and brought to Camp Crystal Lake in “Take My Wife Sleaze,” Sideshow Bob shows off his hockey mask and chainsaw attire in “Cape Feare,” and of course there are references in the episode that Tom Savini guested in “Worst Episode Ever.”

References and copycats of Jason have also graced family friendly programming like Full House, where Kimmy Gibbler tried to have a Friday the 13th wedding in “Taking the Plunge,” Animaniacs episode “Video Review,” and Gilmore Girls episode “The Fundamental Things Apply.” If there’s a Halloween themed episode or one that features a Friday the 13th, it’s a safe bet that Jason Voorhees will get a nod.


Video Games

Jason got his own game for the NES in 1989 (and an awesome game in the present as well), but that didn’t stop him from invading other games throughout the years. There were Jason lookalikes in 1988’s Splatterhouse, 1993’s Zombies Ate My Neighbors, House of the Dead, and more. His appearance as a playable character in Mortal Kombat X with signature fatalities like “Kill for Mother” and “Sleeping Bag Killer” was a must have.


Music

Remember that time Eminem rocked the Jason Voorhees look? Or 2pac’s reference to Jason in his lyrics for “Got My Mind Made Up”? There are endless lyrical references to Jason in music, from artists like Jay-z, LL Cool J, System of a Down, and so many more. It’s not just stateside that has integrated Jason with music either. Japanese girl group Alice Juban wield chainsaws and wear Jason style hockey masks while performing. Yup. It’s a thing.


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