Like many of you, this week we were saddened to hear of the death of Pauline Phillips, the woman behind the legendary column Dear Abby, who infused the advice column industry with some much needed spunk and tough love. To celebrate her legacy, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite advice-givers of all time, both fictional and non-fictional, but all culturally relevant. Check out our picks after the jump, and if we’ve missed your favorite mentor, add them on to our list (perhaps with a choice sage missive or two) in the comments.
Killer Advice: “Dear Abby: I’m 19 years old and not very experienced, but my mother told me to be careful of men with mustaches. Is there any truth in this? Anita Dear Anita: Yes … and also be careful of men without them.”
Witty, tongue-in-cheek and often acerbic, Dear Abby managed to be both funny and sympathetic, answering the queries of everyone from housewives to teenagers. As The New York Times put it, “It is difficult to overstate the column’s influence on American culture at midcentury and afterward: in popular parlance, Dear Abby was for decades an affectionate synonym for a trusted, if slightly campy, confidante.” Now we try to (sort of) approximate her with Ask Tina.
Killer Advice: “This above all: to thine own self be true”
Hamlet thinks that his girlfriend’s father is a “tedious old fool” — and he sort of is. He’s wrong a lot of the time, he can be a bit doddering, but then again, he’s the source of some pretty sound advice. In fact, Polonius’s laundry list of advice to Laertes before he heads off to France contains what is probably the most famous line Shakespeare ever wrote (see above). He is also the guy who says “brevity is the soul of wit,” so we’ll stop here.
Killer Advice: “You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anyone says to you, don’t let ‘em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change…it’s a good one, even if it does resist learning.”
Face it: Atticus Finch is your dream daddy. And like all dream daddies, he is the epitome of calm, collected manliness, filled with even wisdom (“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”) and this-will-make-you-better directives (“It’s not okay to hate anybody.”) He’s the good angel on everybody’s shoulder.
Killer Advice: “If you let people’s perception of you dictate your behavior, you will never grow as a person. But if you leave yourself open to experience, despite what others think, then you will learn and grow.”
One of the best teachers ever to grace our televisions, we will forever have a soft spot for grumpy, rock-steady, gooey moral center Mr. Feeny, who led the Boy Meets World gang through years of highs and lows, always armed with some seriously good advice. That last classroom scene where he tells Cory, Shawn, Topanga, and Eric to “Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good.”? We cry every time.
Killer Advice: “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
Millions of women (and men, if secretly) look to Oprah for advice on all manner of things — what to eat, what to wear, what to read, what to buy — and anything the lady recommends shoots to the top of the bestseller charts. Someone even once wrote a book about trying to follow all of Oprah’s advice for an entire year (not easy, we imagine). But branding aside, we all need a reminder to live our best lives sometimes, and luckily for us, Oprah and her band of merry experts are always just a click away.
Killer Advice: “Now, you see, the world is full of temptations… They’re the wrong things that seem right at the time… but… uh… even though the right things may seem wrong sometimes, or sometimes the wrong things may be right at the wrong time, or visa versa. Understand?”
He’s the cricket that lives inside all of us! Dubbed by the Blue Fairy as “Pinocchio’s conscience, lord high keeper of the knowledge of right and wrong, counselor in moments of high temptation, and guide along the straight and narrow path,” Jiminy Cricket is forever chasing after that wooden troublemaker, but a more patient and kind advisor you couldn’t ask for. It wasn’t until we saw Once Upon a Time that we learned about his dark past, but we’re still pretty okay with it.
Killer Advice: N/A
In Nathaniel West’s classic and much-adapted 1933 novel, the eponymous Miss Lonelyhearts is a male newspaper columnist trying to deal with the onslaught of pain pouring in from New York City via letter. Depressed, disillusioned, and the subject of much prankery from his fellows, Miss Lonelyhearts goes down a dark path that ends with a bang.
Killer Advice: “No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
Well, obviously. The little green guru of every nerd’s childhood is a classic advice-giver: old, wise, and a little bit unknowable. If only we all had our own Jedi Master to teach us important lessons.
Killer Advice: N/A
Unlike just about everybody else on this list, you don’t want to take advice from Rasputin. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t give it — or that he’s any less fascinating. The mythic, much written-about Rasputin was taken on as a healer by Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra, whose only son was a hemophiliac, and soon began to extend his influence to the social and political spheres. Who knows exactly how far his influence went? Many figures at the time seemed to think he had more or less taken over, and it has been argued by some that his involvement helped lead to the fall of the Romanovs.
Killer Advice: “The best thing for being sad…is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” (From T.H. White’s The Once and Future King)
Though like most of the oldest characters in cultural history, Merlin’s character has taken on many forms, one of the most prevalent (and the most fun) is the wizard as advisor to King Arthur, manipulating the world around him until he — like all poor mortals — falls prey to the magic of love.