TIME 100 list has questionable criterion

On April 16, TIME magazine published its annual “100 Most Influential People In the World.” This year, the covers featured entertainers Kanye West and Bradley Cooper, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, ballet dancer Misty Copeland and news anchor Jorge Ramos. The other 95 honorees include innovators in their respective fields. With a rise of the media’s influence, the terms “popular” and “influential” are being used interchangeably. These two terms, however, are not synonymous. As time goes on, some people’s relevancy on the list will remain questionable. This list put forth by TIME is a proponent of celebrity culture, which glorifies celebrities’ true impact on society.

The list is divided into five sections: titans, pioneers, artists, leaders and icons. TIME stated its criterion for choosing their 100 most influential people each year, saying, “Every year we hope the list will introduce you to influential people you might not have met before. And encourage you to find out more about them.” The magazine, however, also places a well-known celebrity on the cover. These already popular celebrities do not need to be “reintroduced to the public.” TIME also stated that the magazine readership only selects one person, while the magazine selects all other public figures. This collection of honorees indicates what the magazine deems influential as opposed to what the rest of the world does.

Though a majority of the figures on this list are already very well known to the public, it is important to see what others offer in their respective fields to make strides in social justice. Some lesser-known people include feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian, who redefines norms in an area dominated by men. Sarkeesian regularly vocalizes her concern with the  gaming industry, since it falsely depicts the gaming population as more male than female. Without TIME magazine’s recognition, Sarkeesian’s criticism of gender inequality would not be as pertinent in this digital age. The magazine needs to highlight more people like Sarkeesian instead of celebrities like 2014 honoree Miley Cyrus who has not actually inspired substantive change in the world.

Sarkeesian is also one of the 40 women holding a spot on the TIME magazine list this year. In past years, there have been 35 to 40 women on the list. Even though this is an increase, it is still not an accurate representation of the impact female figures have on society.

Also notable are the essays attached to each honoree’s feature. They are almost all penned by other public figures, but if the honorees actually have an immense impact on society, then these essays should be written by regular people. Education activist and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafazai was nominated for the third time this year. Her essay was written by a 16-year-old refugee in Jordan, detailing why Yousafazai is her hero in a place where there is such dim hope. TIME should refine its list by having people tell more of these stories instead of showing six degrees of separation between celebrities.

Ultimately, a new list must be put forward which highlights public figures who strive to better the world and not their own public image. This list should exclusively highlight people, some lesser known, that are questioning norms in their fields. TIME, going forward, should offer a way to put forth a new list, reflecting people who are actually influential.