US parents are naming their babies after fictitious villains while Canadians are naming theirs after heroes

Do you lean more Kylo or Clover?
(Source: Instagram of Laura Izumikawa, @lauraiz)

Pop culture has a way of creeping into the national psyche. That goes for all nations. Our planetary downstairs neighbours (aside: while Americans sometimes refer to Canada as "America's Hat," I prefer thinking of them as "Canada's Pants") love them some Hollywood culture. In the past, our adorable trousers have adopted some notable baby names from various screen-inspired fictions. Ariel was big in 1991 after The Little Mermaid came out (it's still top 250 btw), Aidan was popular in 2003 after Sex and the City's fine furniture maker caught Carrie's eye, Arya saw a bump in 2011 after the feisty Stark offspring was introduced in GOT, and Archer, the suave albeit self-involved super spy of the animated series of the same name rose in prevalence in 2014. We haven't even broken into the B's yet but note that Bella was big in 2010 after Twilight added itself to the cinematic canon of vampire mythologies despite protests from those like me who reject the idea of sparkly nosferatu (no offence to any Bellas out there, and to be fair, it is a pretty name).

Recent baby name trends in the US continue to maintain a pop culture bent with one distinction worth mentioning: names of villains, not heroes, seem to be favoured. Especially those from science fiction. Kylo is now the fastest growing boy's name in the USA. Babycentre reports that it rose in popularity by an impressive 67 percent this year compared to last (it was popular last year too, after the late 2015 release of The Force Awakens). For those less familiar with the cultural mega phenom of Star Wars, Kylo Ren is one of the franchise's most recent baddies. How bad? The dark-force-wielding offspring of heroes Princess Leia and Han Solo eventually kills his father so he can become more like his evil grandad, Darth Vader. Still, committing patricide to snuff out arguably one of the most beloved characters in cinematic history did nothing to diminish the recent popularity of the name Kylo. In fact, it seems to have bolstered its cultural currency. I suspect it has to do with the epic outfit Kylo wears (or the dreamy doe eyes of the actor who portrays him, Adam Driver, who you may recognize from Girls). The appreciation for a villainous handle is not new, however, at least not for boy's names outside of the same sci-fi universe. Annakin, Darth Vader's real name, was a wildly popular name last year. Again, I lay blame with the coolness of his outfit. Space cloaks and face masks are pretty badass.

Laura Wattenberg, founder of BabynameWizard.com isn't surprised. She says lately on-screen villains seem to inspire parents more than heroes. The girl's name Harley saw a surge in favour after Suicide Squad came out last year. Again here, the character's psychotic tendencies did nothing to quash the allure of her moniker. I'm forced to once more suspect the fashion choices of the character and the physical attractiveness of the actor involved (Margot Robbie in this instance).

In Canada, though, Babycentre points to a different trend entirely. For 2017, they've predicted the prevalence of some of the more heroic names from pop culture. In particular, they point to Moana, Disney's decidedly non-princessy animated protagonist, and Diana, the given name of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot plays the DC comic heroine in the new action film).

Fittingly, nature seemed to be a popular source of inspiration for new Canadian parents as well. In 2016, River was liked for both girls and boys and the forecast calls for more "Oceans, Lakes, Bears, and Hawks for boys and the more unusual flower names like Clover, Primrose, and Azalea" for girls. Folks at Babycentre were clear to point out their Canadian favourites too: Cedar for boys and Aurora for girls. Seems to be something of a hippie resurgence happening. Or just a renewed appreciation for the Canadian landscape.

But if you want to name your Canadian kid Annakin, you wouldn't be the first. I've already come across at least one.


Marc Beaulieu is a writer, producer and host of the live Q&A show guyQ LIVE @AskMen.