This is the 90th time we have named the person who had the greatest influence, for better or worse, on the events of the year.
So which is it this year: Better or worse?
The challenge for Donald Trump is how profoundly the country disagrees about the answer.
It’s hard to measure the scale of his disruption. This real estate baron and casino owner turned reality-TV star and provocateur – never a day spent in public office, never a debt owed to any interest besides his own – now surveys the smoking ruin of a vast political edifice that once housed parties, pundits, donors, pollsters, all those who did not see him coming or take him seriously.
Out of this reckoning, Trump is poised to preside, for better or worse.
For reminding America that demagoguery feeds on despair and that truth is only as powerful as the trust in those who speak it, for empowering a hidden electorate by mainstreaming its furies and live-streaming its fears, and for framing tomorrow’s political culture by demolishing yesterday’s, Donald Trump is TIME’s 2016 Person of the Year.
The 2016 Person of the Year is Donald Trump, the President-elect of the divided states of America.
Person of the Year is one of the best-known and most-followed franchises in journalism. TIME selects the person who for good or ill has done the most to influence the events of the year.
~Why Time’s Trump Cover Is a Subversive Work of Political Art~
By: Jake Romm
December 8, 2016Time Magazine’s annual “Person of the Year” announcement is, year after year, grossly misunderstood.
Time Magazine is clear on its sole criterion – “the person who had the greatest influence, for better or worse, on the events of the year” – yet, do a simple search on Twitter and you will find countless people who seem to think that the “Person of the Year” selection is tantamount to an endorsement.
Previous winners have included Joseph Stalin (1939, 1942), Ayatollah Khomeini (1979), Adolf Hitler (1938), and other figures who I think it is safe to assume the Time staff does not endorse.
Photo was shot by Jewish photographer Nadav Kander.
For clues as to how Time feels about that question — is it “for better or worse?” — we can look to the image chosen for the cover of the issue. The decisions that Time made regarding how to photograph Trump reveal a layered, nuanced field of references that place the image among, in this viewer’s opinion, the magazine’s greatest covers.
In order to deconstruct the image, let’s focus on three key elements (leaving aside the placement of the ‘M’ in ‘Time’ that makes it look like Trump has red horns): the color, the pose, and the chair.
Notice how the colors appear slightly washed out, slightly muted, soft. The palette creates what we might call a vintage effect. The image’s sharpness and detail reveal the contemporaneity of the picture, but the color suggests an older type of film, namely, Kodachrome. Kodachrome, the recently discontinued film produced by Kodak, was designed to create accurate color reproduction in the early 1900’s.
This visual-temporal shift in a sense mirrors a lot of the drives that fueled Trump’s rise.
Trump ran a campaign based on regressive policies and attitudes – anti-environmental protection, anti-abortion, pro-coal, etc. This election was not just about regressive policy choices, but also about traditional values (defined primarily by the Christian right), about nostalgia for American greatness and security, about nostalgia for a pre-globalized world.
Trump’s pose can be read as a subversive play on a traditional power-portrait pose.
Trump’s turn towards the camera renders the tone conspiratorial rather than judgmental. There are two images at play here – the imagined power-image taken from the front, and the actual image, in which Trump seems to offer the viewer a conniving wink, as if to say, look at how we hoodwinked those suckers in the front (both Trump and the viewer are looking down on those in front).
By subverting the typical power dynamic, Time, in a sense, implicates the viewer in Trump’s election, in his being on the cover in the first place.
By choosing not to shoot Trump head on, the Time cover almost offers us a “behind the scenes” glimpse of the man who has spent so much of his time in front of the camera – heightening the conspiratorial tone and complicity of the viewer. The highly posed and processed nature of the photograph offers yet another level of irony.
Finally, we must note the ominous shadow lurking on the backdrop.
It’s a small, but important and clever detail.
Just as this image provides us with two theoretical points of view, it also provides us with two Trumps – Trump the president-elect, and the specter of Trump the president, haunting in the wings, waiting to take form.
The masterstroke, the single detail that completes the entire image, is the chair.
Trump is seated in what looks to be a vintage “Louis XV” chair (so named because it was designed in France under the reign of King Louis XV in the mid 18th century).
It’s a gaudy symbol of wealth and status, but if you look at the top right corner, you can see a rip in the upholstery, signifying Trump’s own cracked image. Behind the bluster, behind the glowing displays of wealth, behind the glittering promises, we have the debt, the tastelessness, the demagoguery, the racism, the lack of government experience or knowledge (all of which we unfortunately know too well already).
Once we notice the rip, the splotches on the wood come into focus, the cracks in Trump’s makeup, the thinness of his hair, the stain on the bottom left corner of the seat – the entire illusion of grandeur begins to collapse.
The cover is less an image of a man in power than the freeze frame of a leader, and his country, in a state of decay. The ghostly shadow works overtime here – suggesting a splendor that has already passed, if it ever existed at all.
Taken together, these elements add up to a profound portrayal of anxiety for the coming years. We have the implicit placement of Trump in the mid 1900’s. We have a suggestion of the scheming, sordid underside of power.
We have the crumbling facade of wealth, which, like “The Picture of Dorian Gray” suggests more than just a physical deterioration.
As a photograph, it’s a rare achievement.
As a cover, it’s a statement.
These are only excerpts.
There’s more to it.
Again, I encourage you to read TIME’s complete article.
“We do not have time for the White House edition of Celebrity Apprentice starring President-Elect Pussy Grabber.”
“Since no Democratic or liberal politician has yet stepped forward out of the morass of Politics Inc. to take on the responsibility of The Resistance, I, with complete awareness of the presumptuousness and arrogance of this statement, volunteer myself, and I will gladly turn over all these burdens to any more legitimate and informed lawmaker or political or cultural leader who has the guts to take these burdens.”
“The first step is to complete the de-legitimizing of his presidency and his election. De-legitimizing that he himself began.”
As a major institution in society, the media play a critical role
They provide us with definitions about who we are as a nation; they reinforce our values and norms; they give us concrete examples of what happens to those who transgress these norms; and most importantly, they perpetuate certain ways of seeing the world and peoples within that world.
Media and Racism: How then do the media perpetuate racism?
The media do not stand in isolation from the society on which they report. In fact, they are an integral part of society.
They utilize the same stock of knowledge that is part of that pool of “common sense” which informs all of our lives. It is common sense to expect punishment if one has committed a crime; it is common sense to have a system of law and order; it is common sense that some people will make more money than others.
This pool of common sense knowledge is a reservoir of all our unstated, taken-for-granted assumptions about the world we live in. It is filled with historical traces of previous systems of thought and belief structures.