Why Does Pop Culture Love Mike Tyson So Much?
When we think of pop culture darlings – people who have superseded their initial claim to fame to crop up in adverts, films, games, and as parodies – we rarely think of Mike Tyson.
The boxer has a huge CV and plenty of reason to be in the public eye.
He’s instantly recognisable, has a series of iconic moments that draw attention, and was a prolific boxer.
From the iconic ear-biting moment with Evander Holyfield to the tiger-owning, face-tattooed persona, Mike Tyson is a huge character.
So, what have we seen Mike Tyson in that has gone beyond the ring?
Mike Tyson: The Actor
Mike Tyson’s most famous film role was as an over-inflated version of himself in 2009’s The Hangover.
Tyson’s character (along with Ken Jeong) arguably made the film what it was and led to the two lacklustre sequels.
The film features Tyson as a tiger-owning millionaire from whom the film’s protagonists stole.
The role is technically as himself, but it required some acting as he played a caricature.
In a moment of complete self-awareness, Tyson appeared in a flashback scene in Scary Movie 4 (2006) as a female boxer who begins biting people’s ears off.
The scene referenced his infamous moment and allowed us to laugh with him.
Tyson as Himself
Where does Mike Tyson in 'The Hangover' rank among the greatest athlete movie cameos? pic.twitter.com/pS0ZkCeANZ
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 30, 2018
Tyson appears as himself in several films and TV shows.
In Rocky Balboa (2006), he appeared taunting one of the film’s boxers, Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon, whose character was loosely based on Tyson’s early career.
He appears as himself in Scary Movie 5 complaining about neck pain to a spoof version of Christian Grey (from Fifty Shades Of Grey).
Sports comedy Grudge Match (2013) sees Tyson appearing as himself in a cameo role after the credits with Evander Holyfield.
In TV, Tyson appeared in a Season 8 episode of How I Met Your Mother as himself.
He also appears in the titular Mike Tyson Mysteries, which takes a Scooby-Doo style form of storytelling as Mike Tyson solves mysteries in the Adult Swim adult animation.
The series – which achieved four seasons – was well received by fans.
Tyson Beyond Film
It’s not just film that has used the character of Mike Tyson to generate a reaction from fans across pop culture.
Tyson has appeared in many music videos – from Madonna’s Iconic to Eminem’s Godzilla – which shows the extent to which he pervades pop culture of a variety of genres and for vastly different audiences.
For instance, table games let you spin the roulette wheel or take on a blackjack dealer with Mike Tyson in Mike Tyson Roulette and Mike Tyson Blackjack.
The instantly recognisable character tells potential players exactly what to expect from the games.
Moreover, Nintendo’s NES in 1987 released Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, and a spiritual sequel in the form of the 2000 Game Boy Advance and PlayStation title Mike Tyson Boxing.
Tyson appears as downloadable content in the 2012 wrestling game WWE’13 – showing how he is not just popular as a boxer, but across ring sports.
Tyson as a Spoof
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His distinctive appearance and way of speaking, as well as the ear moment, have led to many parody characters.
Most famous is the character in The Simpsons, Drederick Tatum (voiced by Hank Azaria, and who will likely not appear again).
The character is muscular and menacing, as well as semi-intellectual as he squares up to fight against Homer in one of the series’ earlier and most striking episodes.
The Street Fighter character Balrog is based on Tyson (originally named Mike Bison but switched with another character to avoid legal repercussions).
Most unnamed aggressively hulking, lisping boxing characters across film and TV are based on Mike Tyson – which is testament to being one of the most prolific boxers in history.
Mike Tyson might not be the most obvious answer when asked who is used the most in pop culture, but he does seem to put down the boxing gloves and pick up a script from time to time.
The boxer has developed a character which is rife for spoof and instant recognition, which is useful in film and TV to create little cameos or fictional characters.
While tiger-owning Tyson might be the most famous use of the boxer, his success as a character in the film will no doubt lead to Mike Tyson being used as a pop culture icon for years to come.
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