Under the Influence

TABATHA LEGGETT offers her thoughts on ‘Time’ magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People’ list.

barack obama Cheryl Cole emma watson Lady Gaga media susan boyle time

What do Susan Boyle, Barack Obama and Lady Gaga have in common?

Good looks? Debatable.

Talent? Also debatable.

Penises? Probable.

The real answer is, of course, that they have all achieved the prestigious and sought after honour of being named in Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world this year.

Hang on. What? Granted, Barack Obama probably deserves his place on the list (he came 21st), but Gaga and Boyle beat him, taking the positions of 5 and 7 respectively. Boyle beat Barack. Really? We’re living in a society who genuinely think that a mediocre opera-singer who kind of looks like a hairy Ricky Gervais (who, incidentally, polled at 95 on the list) is more influential than the president of the United States. Wow.

And, don’t even get me started on the other people who made the cut. Emma Watson, for one, is not the 46th most influential person in the world. She’s just not. In fact, she’s a prick. First, she took my part, and she’s not even a good Hermione. Admittedly, she looked quite cute when she was younger, but she really needs to learn that saying every single word on an out breath does not equate to acting. Then, when I discovered that she was going to study philosophy at Cambridge, and I realised that we were going to see each other every day, I came to accept the fact that we could be friends. We were actually going to be best friends. And, she was going to introduce me to Ron, who I’ve always had a soft spot for (tragically, he didn’t make the list). And then she went to Brown and shattered my dreams. And became the highest-paid actress in Hollywood. And a Burberry model. Bitch.

Other questionable appearances were made by Taylor Swift (28), Cheryl Cole (65) and Ashton Kutcher (55). Taylor Swift: that irritating Disney girl. And, might I just remind everyone that Cheryl Cole beat up that toilet attendant; a grim fact that we all seem to have forgotten about somewhere between FHM naming her the sexiest woman on the planet and Simon Cowell receiving a cheeky blow job under that X Factor desk. And, what about Ashton Kutcher; Demi Moore’s toy boy, avid tweeter and the comic genius behind Punk’d – a ‘reality’ programme that involved Kutcher and co. playing tricks on celebrities in staged scenarios. Hilarious.

In a way, it’s quite sad that these celebrities have made the list, because it detracts from the prestige of the whole affair. Dr Doug Schwartzentruber (comedy name), for example, is a doctor who secured a place on the list for his cancer research. As fantastic as it is that he received international recognition for his efforts, it’s a bit tragic that he has had to share the honour with people like Kanye West (34), who, quite frankly, we should all steer clear of, simply for fear of contracting cat AIDS.

So, what does it say about our society that we are apparently unable to distinguish between celebrities who plague our gossip magazines with sexy pictures and the Internet with even sexier sex tapes, and the actual heroes like Schwartzentruber (comedy name) who are genuinely influential people?

It tells us that the media have a frightfully monumental effect on our lives. In many ways, this is a great thing: the sheer volume of alternative media that are available to us today, and the multicultural nature of the media ensure that it is difficult for anyone in the civilised world to be entirely ignorant of current affairs. Unfortunately, it also means that it’s difficult for anyone in the civilised world to avoid hearing about the Cheryl/Ashley break up. I don’t care how influential ‘lovely’ Cheryl may be; I just don’t need to hear about her D-list celebrity husband’s sordid affair. The sad thing is that she probably is more influential than many of the doctors and leaders who made the list: apparently, a lot of people like the somewhat oxymoronic, or just plain moronic, badger’s backside/Barbie look and would kill to be like Cheryl Cole.

And, the issue, like Kanye West’s head, can only get bigger. The media will continue to grow and expand, and soon we’ll all aspire to marry cheating footballers and ‘act’; unfortunately there has yet to be a severe oxygen shortage in Hogwarts. Meanwhile, let’s try not to lose interest in the people who have really influenced the world and made some worthwhile contributions to society in the pool of celebrity mish-mash that we are so obsessed with. Or, we could kick back and watch some Punk’d re-runs. That Ashton is a funny boy.