Let’s play a game, Bettys. Quick: Which of these things is not like the other?:
- Bashar Assad, President of Syria
- Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com
- Ted Cruz, Texas Senator
- Pope Francis, Leader of the Catholic Church
- Barack Obama, President of the United States
- Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran
- Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
- Edward Snowden, N.S.A. whistleblower
- Edith Windsor, Gay rights activist
- …Aaaaand Miley Cyrus, pop star
These are the ten finalists for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2013. Originally introduced in 1927 as the Man of the Year (the name was changed to include people other than men in 1999), the feature profiles a person, group, idea, or object that “for better or for worse… has done the most to influence the events of the year.” Previous Persons of the Year include Martin Luther King Jr. (1963), Mahatma Ghandi (1930), Mikhail Gorbachev (1987 and 1989), Adolf Hitler (1938—the Person of the Year doesn’t have to have been a GOOD person, and no one can deny that Hitler did the most to influence the events of 1938) and a whole slew of US Presidents. This year’s finalists have been notable for reasons spanning work accomplished for human rights to advancements in business and from major political players to major whistleblowers.
So what on Earth is MILEY CYRUS doing there?
Let me say first that I am a firm believer in the necessity of the arts. Sure, practically speaking, music, literature, art, film, theatre, and all the rest may not, say, feed the hungry or shelter the homeless; but good art—art with integrity—has the power to influence enormous amounts of people and are, I would argue, necessary for society as a whole. But Miley friggin’ Cyrus? Miley may be many things, but one thing she is not is a game changer for art. The Twerk Heard Round the World does not a Person of the Year make (personally, I’m pulling for Snowden, but that’s just me).
That’s not to say that celebrities can’t make for good People of the Year. I would argue that Kathryn Bigelow would have been an excellent pick for 2009 or 2010, both for her extraordinary work on The Hurt Locker and the fact that she became the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar, DGA Award, BAFTA, and Critic’s Choice Award (at least she was one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2010). But winning Person of the Year wouldn’t do Miley any favors. It wouldn’t help her advance her art, and it would only justify her claim that whatever the heck she’s doing is a “movement.” It’s not a movement. It’s just a young woman with some talent who has never, ever had anyone say “no” to her.
Maybe that’s just me, though. Do you think Miley is a justifiable inclusion to the list? If so, as we would say on reddit, change my view.
Time will announce the 2013 Person of the Year on Wednesday morning. Stay tuned!
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s senior editor.