ModFabulous: Personalities of 2005
The few. The proud. The incessantly featured. Heroes and villains. They defined the year.
Runners-up: Cyclist Lance Armstrong (Tour de France), Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (Iraq War 's most thoughtful supporter AND critic), actor Jamie Foxx (Ray), activist Bob Geldof (Live8), Apple braintrust Steve Jobs (video iPod), Congressman Barack Obama (Katrina advocacy), author J.K. Rowling (boy wizards), basketball star Sheryl Swoopes (coming out with class), and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (overseeing gay marriage)
10. George Clooney
Hollywood playboy is the image that comes to mind ...probably that Ocean's Eleven thing. This year, however, Clooney traded in the poker chips and brought out his inner patriot. As a producer and star of Syriana, he brought attention to the global energy crisis and its deadly interconnected tendrils (terrorism, economics, and nation-building). But he really shown in Good Night, and Good Luck., the biopic of Edward R. Murrow that he wrote, directed, and starred in...bringing a thinly veiled critique of today's news media right into the lion's den. I could be biased, but I think an Oscar's not out of the question.
9. Cindy Sheehan
Sometimes, one voice can be louder than millions. That's the time-honored lesson that antiwar protestor and mother Cindy Sheehan taught all Americans this year. As political action groups and lobbyist spent hundreds of millions to affect public opinion on the war, Sheehan began Bush's downward popularity slide with a plaintive, honest request for dialogue, standing on the road outside the President's Texas ranch. So simple, and so impossible to ignore. A crash course in activism, old-school style.
8. Christo and Jeanne-Claude
The conceptual artists, whose environmental sculptures have mystified and fascinating cities all over the world, managed to do the unthinkable -- engage the entirety of New York City in a community-wide discussion of public art. With thousands of orange-bedecked liminals placed throughout the wintry beauty of Central Park, The Gates was a bold statement. Whether you liked it or hated it was beside the point. What mattered was the struggle to define it for oneself, to experience it and process it...a conversation that millions enjoyed again and again.
7. Tom Cruise
Few celebrities bought a bigger bucket of crazy in 2005 than Mr. Top Gun. Losing his mind on everyone from Oprah to Matt Lauer, he waxed insane on topics including psychotherapy, medicine, and his suspect new marriage. Cruise also opened one of the biggest films of the year (War of the Worlds), proving that even when he's singing the looney tunes, the world still loves him. Now if only those pesky gay rumors could be quenched...
6. John Aravosis
Bloggers came into their own this year, but none moreso that AmericaBlog's John Aravosis. Thrust into the blinding media glare by breaking the Jeff Gannon/Bush's Gay Prostitute story, he continued to land blow after blow against intolerance and bigotry, ending the year by getting Ford Motors to reinstate its canceled advertising in gay magazines. He probably makes a fraction of what they do, and yet he's proving infinitely more successful than the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Lambda Legal put together.
5. Kanye West
Putting out one of the year's bestselling (and most acclaimed) records was only a first step for West's remarkable 2005. In the summer, he stepped off-script to angrily denounce the Bush Administration's racist response to Hurricane Katrina...on a nationally televised relief program. Then in the fall, he became the first major hip-hop star to reject anti-gay lyrics and homophobia in his life. He didn't win any friends with either move, but still...isn't that the very definition of a hero?
4. Jack Murtha
A decorated veteran, a respected congressman, and now the nation's most eloquent spokesperson for ending the Iraq War. Murtha took a lot of potshots from his colleagues and conservative political groups, but the congressman from Pennsylvania stood his ground, calmly but clearly detailing his plan for a troop withdrawal. Would that all politicians had such courage of conviction.
3. Harriet Miers
Poor thing. Seduced and abandoned, Harriet fell on the sword for George Bush this year in the first of his many fuck-ups. Sure, she was a slightly dim evangelical who would have overturned Roe v. Wade. But you can't help but feel bad for her, can you?
2. Anderson Cooper
Arguably the only real descendent of Murrow working in mainstream television journalism today, Cooper's well-documented rise to the top of CNN's talent roster came from real moments of reporting, especially standing amidst the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. That prematurely grey hair, icy blue eyes and strong jawline don't hurt a bit, either. Wonder what'll happen when he finally decides to come all the way out of the closet? Let's hope nothing.
1. Martha Stewart
First, I went to jail. Yes, it was a cute cupcake-like jail, but still jail. While there, I knitted a poncho, which immediately won America's hearts back. I showed my police ankle tracer on Entertainment Tonight, and people felt very sorry for me (which, believe me, is hard to manage for a multi-millionairess). Then I got a terrible daytime television show, which people watched anyway. I also got a primetime reality show (that was also terrible...nobody much watched that one), because Oprah has two shows, and I will kick her skinny ass anytime, anyplace, anywhere. And in the middle of it all, I returned to rule my home-and-garden (and publishing and decor and clothing and cuisine and fabric) empire, in perhaps better shape than I ever was before. In short, I made 2005 my bitch. I rule.
BONUS: Five Personalities Who Have Worn Out Their Welcome
5. Robert Novak
The Plamegate scandal was just the latest offense in your offensive career.
4. Oprah Winfrey
From on-the-down-low topics to Carson Kressley to Terri McMillan, Oprah's talk show has become a thinly veiled front for homophobic panic. Steadman notwithstanding, Oprah, not every black man is a closet case.
3. Mike Brown
Katrina was a terrible disaster. But FEMA chief Mike Brown made it even worse...and cost thousands of lives through incompetence and delay. And speaking of delay...
2. Tom DeLay
Karma finally caught up with Congress' biggest corrupt criminal. Hey, that's a lot of C's! Here's another one for 2006: inCarceration.
1. Pope Benedict XVI
It's not enough to tacitly endorse anti-gay and anti-woman violence all over the world. Now you have to encourage exile too? The Catholic Church is burning, and Benedict is Nero with a fiddle....hoping if he ignores the real problems, it'll all just go away.