Time released its list of 100 Most Influential People today and Brooklyn was represented by two people about whom you have no doubt heard a lot in the last year: Lena Dunham and Jay-Z. Time categorizes its 100 Most Influential in categories labeled “Titans,” “Leaders,” “Pioneers,” “Icons,” and “Artists.” Jay-Z is a “Titan” and Dunham is an “Icon” and what makes each of them those things instead of an “Artist” or “Pioneer” or “Leader” is beyond me.
But so anyway, Jay-Z and Lena Dunham are kind of obvious choices, which doesn’t, of course, mean that they are bad choices. They’re not. They’re good. They’re fine. Whatever. One thing that makes these Time profiles interesting, though, is that they’re written by other famous people, who are not necessarily writers. And so Jay-Z’s profile was written by none other than Mayor Bloomberg. Or, you know, probably not written by Bloomberg himself, but by someone very close to him. What did Bloomberg have to say about Jay-Z? The same old stuff that’s always said really—that Jay “embodies so much of what makes New York New York” and that “he’s proved that the American Dream is alive and well.” I guess this is true. But it’s not really what makes him a titan. These
sort of totally clichéd sentiments don’t seem to add up to what Jay-Z has really accomplished, which is to make himself a ubiquitous cultural presence without really representing anything specific anymore. Well, that’s not totally true. He represents himself. I mean, he is a titan. But in service to what? The American Dream? Which, that just means money, right? So what Time is really saying is that money is very influential. Shocking.
And then there’s Lena Dunham. Dunham is an “Icon.” Dunham’s profile is written by Claire Danes, who, it turns out, is a very big fan of adverbs—”unflinchingly,” “unnervingly,” and “ravenously” are all employed within a 170-word paragraph. Dunham is praised for being “vivid” and “raw” and “honest” and for possessing a “unique lack of vanity or shame.” So, I guess, her influence comes from the fact that she doesn’t mind being naked. Which means that the Brooklynites who are among the most influential people in the world, according to Time, are that way because they represent money and sex. And in terms of what Brooklyn’s influence on culture over all is, well, I guess that sounds about right. Although it also would have been cool to have something thrown in about artisanal mustard or something. Then Time would have truly captured Brooklyn’s influence on the culture at large.
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