April 22nd, 2011
06:26 PM ET

The 2011 TIME 100: Most Influential and Most Infuriating

Top 100 lists are curious beasts at the best of times. But compared to the pleasant predictability of People’s "100 Most Beautiful” or Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For”, the “TIME 100” is a particularly baffling blend. Only here do comedians, congressmen and cricketers sit alongside terrorists, tyrants and tiger mothers to comprise the world’s most influential century.

We do get some intuitive topical touches. Among them, Barack Obama on Gabrielle Giffords: “a needed voice that cannot return soon enough”.  We can appreciate the inclusion of revolutionary figures from El Général to Ai Weiwei to Aung San Suu Kyi. Likewise, we should celebrate the ordinary man excelling in extraordinary circumstances – Japanese doctor Takeshi Kanno.

These people deserved to be honored. But – Obama aside – some of the more curious content comes courtesy of those doing the honoring.  

Hands up if you think Baz Luhrmann reached his nadir with his overstuffed turkey Australia. Well, you clearly haven’t read his insipid ode to Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively. Far more satisfying is Germaine Greer referring to pre-infamy rape accused Julian Assange as a genius. But don’t get me started on the Governator’s premature canonization of David Cameron. And as for Tom Hanks’ missus extolling the virtues of Tom Ford (while enlightening us about his predilection for bedroom Skype-ing), who knew?

While all of the above make the “TIME 100” list worth a read, I’ve been inspired to create my own list – of the top three curiosities within the magazine’s pages.

3. Jamie Oliver marvels at Michelle Obama’s mission to eradicate obesity, while none-too-subtly patting himself on the back for his own role in the campaign. OK – the man’s clearly not obese, but there’s no denying his own outward trajectory while he pontificates about the importance of reining it in.

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2. Some tributes are worthy. Some are not. So why waste paper? Yes, Obama is clearly going to praise Giffords, but at least he can do so eloquently. Somewhat less poignant are Usher’s thoughts on Justin Bieber (the person he made rich and famous) and Elisabeth Moss’s thoughts on Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner (the person who made her rich and famous). Can’t you expand your horizons a little, TIME?

1. My favorite passage in the magazine is the following excerpt from Rush Limbaugh’s passionate (and borderline lecherous) homage to Congresswoman/professional scare-mongerer (delete as appropriate) Michele Bachmann.

“If she were liberal, she'd be celebrated from the mountaintops. But she's conservative. So because she is smart, talented and accomplished and a natural leader — not to mention attractive — the left brands her as a flame-throwing lightweight.”

I’m sorry, Rush. This is akin to saying: “If Susan Boyle were young, slim and blonde, no-one would buy her records”. It might be an accurate observation, but  – given that it flies in the face of unchangeable facts – it’s a pointless one. Are we meant to admire Bachmann for making a name for herself against the odds? Or feel sorry for her because the hurdles that remain are insurmountable?

It’s easy to sit here and carp that TIME got some candidates and contributors right and others wrong. But given that it’s the wrong ‘uns I’ve dedicated most of my word count to, perhaps they’ve compiled the whole list impeccably. Polemics breeds purchases.

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