Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people reads like a send-up of Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people. You can make hilarious juxtapositions: Joe Scarborough and Nicolas Sarkozy; Patti Smith and Angela Merkel. Who should one pair with “Tyrant in waiting” Kim Jon Un-Michele Bachmann? Did Time think that if they put Justin Bieber on the list, it would bump up their number of teen readers? (And I wish Usher’s essay about Bieber had explored whether Bieber will have the enduring cultural impact of previous teenybopper idol, David Cassidy.) To gender-balance Bieber is Mia Wasikowska, who is a fine young actress, but no attempt is made to convince readersthat she has any influence whatsoever. Journalists are grateful for the day Oprah Winfrey was born so they have someone for the “black female billionaire” slot on any list.
In order to pump up the female quotient of influentials (33 out of 100) some disturbing choices were made. After a horrible shooting, Gabrielle Giffords is engaged in a long, painful struggle to reclaim her life. She deserves admiration, but inclusion on this list is just condescension. Felisa Wolfe-Simon is the young scientist who supposedly discovered a new life form, but her research was convincingly debunked . Time back-handedly acknowledges this, but they need women on this list, damn it! Then there’s Amy Chua. I acknowledge I have a slightly unhealthy Chua obsession. But you must check out her photograph . There is Chua, heavily made-up, in a black sheath and black leather boots, standing in what must be her daughter’s bedroom, stroking a live tiger. How could the prop person have forgotten to bring her a whip?