Back in the day, whatever that means, everybody subscribed to magazines. At various times when I was a kid we subscribed to Reader’s Digest, Life, Look, Newsweek, Chatelaine, Macleans, Sports Illustrated, MAD magazine (that was me), Saturday Evening Post … the list goes on.
Today, finding a magazine subscriber is almost as hard as finding, well, any of the above named magazines. Life and Look, once rivals, are now defunct. So too is the Saturday Evening Post, Newsweek (except online), and, sadly, MAD. Reader’s Digest appears to be found only in waiting rooms, and most of them are somewhat dated, with stories headlined “Here Comes the Internet!”
However, one of the grandaddies of the industry is still with us, nearly a century after its debut. Time magazine was first printed in 1923, and for decades, everybody read Time. It was immediately identifiable by the traditional red border, and famous for its choice of Man of the Year (later, of course, updated to Person of the Year), an annual event since 1927.
The list of Time’s Person of the year is a who’s who of who’s who. Every big 20th century name you can think of – from 1938-41, the men of the year were Hitler, Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt – have made the list. There were lots of, shall we say, one hit wonders as well. Anybody remember James F. Byrnes, Mohammad Mossadegh, Harlow Curtice, David Ho, Andrew Grove? I didn’t think so.
I hadn’t read Time for many years, but recently, in a moment of weakness, I succumbed to a deeply discounted subscription offer. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it was just a wave of nostalgia. Or maybe I just wanted to go to my mailbox and actually find something in there other than glossy cardboard adverts for dentist offices.
Anyway, as a subscriber to Time, I was invited to cast my vote for who should be Time’s Person of the Year. I suspect the offer was made to several hundred thousand other people, but hey, it’s always nice to be asked for an opinion. So, I clicked on the link to see who Time magazine considered worthy of Person of the Year designation.
All the usual suspects were there – Donald Trump, Joe Biden, various world leaders, etc. But Time went out of its way to show that this nearly century old mag can still be pretty hip, like an old lady who dyes her hair blue and has an ankle tattoo. So, here are some of Time’s choices for Person of the Year. I am not making these names up.
There is a heavy, and bewildering, presence of entertainers, including such influential luminaries as Ariana Grande, Megan Thee Stallion, Trevor Noah, Cardi-B, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, and, of course, Beyonce. BTS, a Korean pop band made up of androgynous boys, was also on the list. Readers are asked to vote yes or no on the choices, and BTS got a resounding 92% no, leading me to the surprising conclusion that Time’s readership is 8% teenage girls.
Strange choices, but at the very least I am vaguely familiar with most of these names (Megan Thee Stallion was on SNL one week, so I know she is not a horse). But others are just bewildering. The list includes (again, I am not making these up) Swizz Beatz and Timbaland (described as creators of Verzuz), Michaela Coel, described as a “creator”, a DJ named D-Nice, Ziwe Fumudoh, described as a comedian, Sarah Cooper, also an alleged comedian, and someone named Tourmaline (left). I had to look up Tourmaline, and Google told me that tourmaline is a crystalline boron silicate mineral compounded with elements such as aluminium, iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium, or potassium. That didn’t sound right, so I dug a little deeper and found Tourmaline is an activist, filmmaker and writer based in New York City, currently the 2016–2018 Activist-in-Residence at Barnard Center for Research on Women. She is a transgender woman who identifies as queer. Not surprisingly, he only got 2% yes. Even Bad Bunny, whatever that is, got 4%.
On the sports side, the list skews heavily black, just like the real sports world. A British soccer player named Marcus Rashford is on the list, for reasons beyond me, as is someone named Maya Moore, who, although shown in a basketball jersey, is described as a “criminal-justice advocate”. Sue Bird is just a basketball player, also on the list. LeBron James is on the list, as is football star Patrick Mahomes. Lewis Hamilton is a Formula 1 driver, and Bubba Wallace is a Nascar driver. Naomi Osaka is a tennis player.
The obvious winner(s) will be Dr. Anthony Fauci and frontline workers. All the rest is filler, just a way for Time to pretend that it’s inclusive and cool. However, if Tourmaline is on the final list of influential people, I will have to cancel my subscription. That would be just too hip for me.