Every media outlet has to do an end of the year list or package or award, mostly because advertisers or something but also because they can sometimes be funny.
In Time’s case, that’s the Person of the Year issue, an extremely pompous process of determining “the person or group of people who most influenced the news and the world — for better or for worse — during the past year.” It’s as subjective as humanly possible, conveys no actual meaning about anything, and is often awarded to nebulous groups of people in an attempt to just recognize that yeah, some shit happened this year and people did it. The magazine has been doing this since 1927, although it was called Man of the Year or Woman of the Year until 1999, when they realized Person was easier and more correct.
Here’s the shortlist for this year.
There are some worthy people and groups of people on this list! “Separated families” and the March for Our Lives activists made a lasting impact on public perceptions of immigration and gun control in America this year. But does naming “separated families” as Person (People?) of the Year actually do anything for the families who are still being separated at the border?
The argument goes, I guess, that giving out this award will direct more attention to a certain movement, at least in the case of the families or the March for Our Lives or last years’ “Silence Breakers,” some of the voices leading the #MeToo movement. This is largely the point of human interest journalism: to publicize issues of injustice. But does “Person of the Year” do that, or does it just publicize Time Magazine?
But in terms of the actual people on the list: Does Donald Trump really need another fucking magazine cover? Almost every person in the world who is not Donald Trump could probably agree: No, he does not. And he already won it in 2016! Putin has also won before.
The whole display is kind of a sick late capitalist Hunger Games. Why is Time magazine making an arbitrary decision about who was more influential between Robert Mueller, Ryan Coogler, Christine Blasey Ford, and Jamal Khashoggi? This is a weird and fucked up thing: one of those guys is investigating the president and the another one was executed and dismembered by an authoritarian state. And they all might lose to... Meghan Markle? Fucked up!
Christine Blasey Ford’s unwavering bravery during the Kavanaugh hearings should absolutely be celebrated, as should Ryan Coogler’s accomplishments in telling diverse, powerful stories on film. Should they be on the same list along with Jamal Khashoggi? No! Forcing the narratives around people and groups at the center of social change to duke it out in some shitty editorial board’s Human Drama version of a March Madness pool is a zero-sum game for pretty much everyone involved. But at least Time’s traffic and sales numbers will look good for Marc Benioff this month.