Bill Clinton beaten by Mickey Mouse, but Oprah is top

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Madonna must be furious to find herself at number seven. Bill Clinton may have to reassess his career after being beaten by Mickey Mouse. And how mortified Elizabeth Taylor must be (and Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey and Martha Stewart) to find herself of less consequence in the mind of Middle America than that dimwit Fred Flintstone (at 42).

Will the ultra-cool, 21st-century A-list superstars Sarah Jessica Parker (at 120) and Ben Affleck (at 119) telephone their agents in hysterics when they find they've been pipped by the cute-but-repellent ET (at 118) and the heroic-but-dumb Star Trek helmsman, William Shatner (117)?

It's a list that will make nervous celebrities weep. The cable TV station VH1 has named the "200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons" in the world (well, the cable TV world, anyway), mixing together actors, musicians, politicians, academics, sporting figures and fictional characters.

Those spurred by the promise of "academics" to scrutinise the VH1 list in search of Umberto Eco or Elaine Showalter will look in vain - the nearest to icons of brainpower are Freud and Einstein.

It's typical of the list's MTV-generation slant that, apart from Princess Diana, the only Britons in the top 100 are pop stars - the Beatles, the Stones, the Bee Gees and Elton John.

Topping the list of cultural icons, living and dead, beating even the awesome cultural fire-power of Elvis, Superman, Marilyn Monroe and Tom Cruise, is Oprah Winfrey, the TV talk show host. It must be a sobering thought for Winfrey - that she has apparently had a greater effect on American life than Muhammad Ali (16) or Neil Armstrong (146). But then the key criterion for inclusion in the list is recognisability, and everyone in America, of every race, gender and denomination, seems to recognise, and empathise with, Winfrey's self-improvement agenda, her social attitudes and struggles with weight and fashion.

What makes a pop culture icon? Fame isn't enough. The VH1 assessors explained the rules: you have to be able to pass "the one-name test", like Madonna, Sting, Britney and Eminem (and, of course, Oprah). Can people dress up as you for Hallowe'en? Can people quote your stuff in 10 seconds or less? Do people copy your dress sense or hairstyle? Were you ever satirised in a TV sketch on Saturday Night Live? Did anyone ever write a song about you? Is there gift-shop merchandising with your name on it?

Given this list of requirements, it's hard to fathom why, say, the late Lucille Ball should occupy the number 4 slot (has anybody watched her show or referred to her as "Lucy" since 1961?) or why John F Kennedy Jnr should be considered more "iconic" than his sainted father. But then, Martin Luther King doesn't turn up on the list at all. And how could he have a place? He was never satirised on Saturday Night Live. And he never "created a signature character in pop culture", did he?

The Top 100

1 Oprah Winfrey

2 Superman

3 Elvis Presley

4 Lucille Ball

5 Tom Cruise

6 Marilyn Monroe

7 Madonna

8 Michael Jordan

9 Princess Diana

10 Michael Jackson

11 Friends cast

12 The Beatles

13 Jerry Seinfeld

14 Steven Spielberg

15 Jennifer Lopez

16 Muhammad Ali

17 Mickey Mouse

18 Bill Clinton

19 The Brady Bunch

20 Britney Spears

21 The Simpsons

22 Tom Hanks

23 Julia Roberts

24 JFK Jnr

25 Rolling Stones

26 James Dean

27 Frank Sinatra

28 John Travolta

29 Mary Tyler Moore

30 Bill Cosby

31 Eminem

32 JFK

33 George Clooney

34 Audrey Hepburn

35 P Diddy

36 Johnny Carson

37 Kurt Cobain

38 Brad Pitt

39 Katie Couric

40 The Osbournes

41 Cher

42 Fred Flintstone

43 Martha Stewart

44 Michael J Fox

45 The Bee Gees

46 Harrison Ford

47 Jackie O

48 Jim Carrey

49 Elizabeth Taylor

50 James Brown

51 Tiger Woods

52 Robert DeNiro

53 Jerry Garcia

54 John Wayne

55 Elton John

56 Carroll O'Connor (as Archie Bunker)

57 Nicole Kidman

58 Magic Johnson

59 Leonardo DiCaprio

60 Kermit & Miss Piggy

61 Mike Myers

62 Andy Warhol

63 Mel Gibson

64 Celine Dion

65 Jackie Robinson

66 Barbra Streisand

67 Howard Stern

68 Bob Dylan

69 Denzel Washington

70 Carol Burnett

71 Run DMC

72 Jay Leno

73 Bono

74 Susan Lucci

75 John Belushi

76 Bruce Springsteen

77 Bugs Bunny

78 Arnold Schwarzenegger

79 Robin Williams

80 Pamela Anderson

81 Jack Nicholson

82 Bill Gates

83 Aerosmith

84 Katharine Hepburn

85 Eddie Murphy

86 Paul Newman

87 Grace Kelly

88 Johnny Cash

89 Barbara Walters

90 Clint Eastwood

91 Marvin Gaye

92 Al Pacino

93 Kiss

94 Penny Marshall (as Laverne DeFazio)

95 Vivien Leigh & Clark Gable (as Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler)

96 Wayne Gretzky

97 Stephen King

98 Shania Twain

99 Henry Winkler (as the Fonz)

100 Will Smith