It’s beginning to look a lot like Year-End Retrospective Season. Time Magazine gets the ball rolling with its annual Person of the Year selections, offering up the finalists for the first time this morning on NBC’s Today show. NBC’s Dylan states that the criterion is “someone who has had the most impact on the world and the news this year, for good or ill,” which approximates Time’s own description. If that’s the case, though, we must have had a slow news year.
Besides, we all know who’s going to win, right?
The shortlist of candidates for TIME’s 2017 Person of the Year was unveiled Monday morning on NBC’s Today. Since 1927, TIME has identified the Person of the Year, recognizing the person or group of people who most influenced the news during the past year, for better or for worse.
The most remarkable aspect of this year’s list is how relatively unremarkable it is. Donald Trump made the list, despite the testiness over his rejection of the magazine’s process last week, because presidents almost always make the short list by definition. Similarly, Kim Jong Un makes the list because his insanity has been off the charts this year, and that means Xi Jinping makes it too as his enabler.
Most of the others on the list look like filler. We have “The Dreamers,” not because they’re organized or unusually accomplished, but because they’re a topic of conversation — as they have been for years. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman makes the list for running the purge playbook that every dictator and absolute monarch has utilized at one point or another for millennia. Jeff Bezos makes the list for doing … pretty much what he does every year, adding to his fortune. Time includes Hollywood director Patty Jenkins for her work on yet another superhero/CGI-fest blockbuster, Wonder Woman, because she was the first woman to break $100 million on an opening weekend. As impressive a film as it was, the name “Patty Jenkins” was hardly on the lips of Americans all year long. Most would probably have to Google her name to find out why she made the list. And finally, Colin Kaepernick gets included for mainly what he did in 2016, not in 2017, taking knees during the national anthem.
That leaves us with two real contenders: Robert Mueller and the #MeToo movement. Both have dominated the news this year, but Mueller’s not done, and he hasn’t actually changed much … yet. He got guilty pleas from former nat-sec adviser Michael Flynn and low-level campaign adviser George Papadopoulos while throwing the kitchen sink at Paul Manafort and Rick Gates for activities entirely unrelated to the 2016 election cycle. If he comes up with any real wrongdoing against Trump in the next two weeks, then maybe he qualifies as POTY, but so far he’s not found anything related to the core charge of collusion. So far.
That leaves us with the obvious choice — #MeToo. That movement, touched off by Ronan Farrow’s blockbuster reporting, has shaken the halls of power in the entertainment, media, and political industries. The mighty have fallen in Hollywood and the mainstream media, with several politicians perhaps not far behind. None of the other candidates on this list have had anywhere near that impact on our world in this specific year, changing cultural paradigms nearly overnight.
And since that’s the case, it prompts other questions. Why honor Patty Jenkins for just doing her job rather than Rose McGowan for persevering against the Hollywood establishment? Why have Jeff Bezos on the list for getting richer rather than Terry Crews and Anthony Rapp for demonstrating that the exploitation cuts in a number of different directions? Simply cataloging all of these in #MeToo is not quite just, given their leading role in exposing the exploitation. Or, even better, why not pick Ronan Farrow for his dogged pursuit of the Harvey Weinstein story after getting shut down by his own network? He’s not part of #MeToo, but he’s an individual who changed the world in a significant measure with his own perseverance.
In the end, though, it probably doesn’t matter all that much. The POTY hasn’t been the same since I finished in a seven-billion-way tie in 2006 for the award.