Why a Pop Culture Baby Name Can Be Risky
If you follow baby names (or have new parent friends), odds are you know that Atticus has become a popular baby name in the past decade. It rose from the 900s on the Social Security Administration's list of top baby names in 2004 to number 370 last year. And you can chalk almost all of that popularity up to the beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird, and the idealistic and loving father figure, Atticus Finch.
So the recent publication of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, which features an adult Scout dealing with the fact that her father Atticus was a segregationist and racist, likely has some who picked that name based on the character in a tizzy—including one Colorado couple who took the extreme step of changing their 14-month-old son's name from Atticus to Lucas, because, "when the new book came out, we just felt like, this does not at all encompass the values that we want for our son to have and know," they told People.com. And, in fact, the second I heard about the way Atticus is portrayed in this new book, even though Go Set a Watchman is just an early and rough draft written before Lee's masterpiece, I knew that would likely be the death knell of this name. I fully expect to see it drop back into obscurity over the next few years.
But that leads to a bigger question: Should parents think twice about naming their baby after a pop culture character—especially if there's a possibility that something could change your opinion of that character down the line? To be honest, Atticus seemed like a safe bet , but what about all those parents naming their kids Khaleesi and Arya after Game of Thrones? Or Luke after Star Wars? Their stories are still being told, and their fates are uncertain. Will you still love the name Arya as much if she continues down the path toward becoming a cold-blooded killer? And what if Luke turns to the dark side in the Star Wars installment due out this December?
I think before you pick a baby name based on a character you love, you do need to consider whether that character could be altered in a way that makes that name unpalatable. It's pretty safe to say that Disney suddenly won't make a movie that makes Princess Tiana evil, but what if J.K. Rowling decided to do a Harry Potter sequel that portrays a grownup Hermione as a power-hungry dark witch? If that would impact whether you choose the name for your child, you may want to second guess your decision in the first place.
There's definitely room out there for pop culture baby names. And in most cases, even with characters who are still in play, you can see how their story arc will likely play out. But you need to keep in mind that the creators of some of your favorite characters could pull a fast one on you—and if that will impact your choice of baby name, it's best to keep looking.