Time Magazine, the once venerable weekly news-rag has released its list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Now I'm not going to talk about the politicians, athletes, and money-moguls on this blog, that's not my bailiwick. What I will talk about are the movie and TV people who were included in the list, and see if Time's definition of influential matches the real world's definition of influential.
Viola Davis - Now she's had a great couple of years, racking up awards and nominations for recent films like The Help, and Doubt. Now I doubt that she really has that much "influence" with the general public. But her work ethic, shown by years toiling in the trenches of TV guest spots, treading the boards on and off Broadway, and dozens of thankless supporting and bit parts in feature films, should be mimicked by other actors looking to "make it."
Louis CK - Now Louis CK is definitely influential with other comedians, especially with Dane Cook, but he did write and direct Pootie Tang.
Kristen Wiig - Had a good run on SNL, and a hit movie with Bridesmaids, but it's still too early to tell if she can carry a post-Bridesmaids movie career, but the no doubt inevitable rush of Bridesmaids imitators will be seen as evidence of her influence.
Jessica Chastain - Literally came out of nowhere last year with seven movies, one right after the other. That's a neat trick, but does it means that she has any say in the tastes of the nation, unlikely.
Chelsea Handler - Has about 1 million, mostly young female, fans, who buy everything she plops out. While that's a nice crowd to maintain a cable talk show, and sell the occasional "memoir," it so far hasn't shown much ability to make it into the mainstream as the sitcom based on her life struggles to stay alive, even on NBC.
Harvey Weinstein - Has a lot of influence in Hollywood, if physical fear can be considered influence, and he has great influence with investors, since he's always been able to bring in the suckers. However, I think his case illustrates how this list, at least in relation to TV and movie people puts more weight on their influence within their own industry.
Take for example the movie The Artist. Taking a black and white silent movie from France to the winning podium at the Academy Awards was a great achievement.
However, he had put all his eggs in the basket of the Oscars when it came to selling the movie, and the Oscars have been declining in influence for at least a decade. The film did make $44 million at the US box office, but they failed to take the film, which had been judged a real crowd pleaser by all who saw it, and make a hell of a lot more.
Tilda Swinton - She's a talented actress, but if you were to show her picture to an average person they'd ask: "Why is Conan O'Brien in drag?"
Claire Danes - Had a show on cable that did well with critics, and has a loyal audience, won an Emmy for a TV movie. A nice comeback for a former child actress, but how many people are going to be "influenced" by her?
Stephen Colbert - Another case of being big within his narrow world of media personalities, but small when it comes to the real world. If you go by what the media tells you, everyone in the world watches Colbert and its lead-in companion The Daily Show with John Stewart. Yet neither are in the top 20 of cable ratings, and have just a fraction of the viewers of the top rated cable shows like Swamp People, and Pawn Stars.
Yet there he is, listed in the number one slot.
Now this tells me a lot. It tells me that the media world, encompassing movies, TV, and even news media, is a tad too enclosed, too wrapped in on itself. They honestly believe that those who dominate their own cultural lives have a say in the cultural lives of people outside their narrow little world.
Their inability to see that is one of the main reasons why the influence of the traditional media taste-makers are waning, and new media's influence is growing.