The annual TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people is out. And the path to influence in this world being what it is, not a few of those people are involved with TV. Here are some of the more specifically TV-centric honorees for 2013:
Christina Aguilera (singer and The Voice star)
Bryan Cranston (star of Breaking Bad, given a tribute here by Jon Hamm)
Lena Dunham (Girls creator / star / cultural lightning rod; Claire Danes sings her praises in this item)
Jimmy Fallon (future Tonight show host)
Mindy Kaling (actress and creator/star of The Mindy Project)
Jimmy Kimmel (new contender in the 11:35 late-night-show sweepstakes)
Shonda Rhimes (TV megaproducer, most recently of Scandal; celebrated here by Oprah Winfrey)
Ted Sarandos (chief content officer of Netflix; honored by Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor)
Steven Spielberg (TV producer, among many other things)
Justin Timberlake (SNL favorite, Jimmy Fallon foil, and, oh yeah, occasional singer)
Bassem Youssef (satirist and the “Egyptian Jon Stewart”—written up, of course, by Stewart)
Like every staffer at TIME, I kick in suggestions for the list every year; some are thrown in the hopper, some are thrown out. So I can’t claim responsibility for all these figures. (Just the ones you personally like.) Likewise, since I didn’t make the call on the final list, I can’t give you the rationale for every inclusion.
But I can answer in advance a criticism I hear every year: “How can you call ____ ‘influential’? He/she’s just on a TV show!” (Repeat as needed for movie, music, and publishing figures.) If you’re arguing against a perticular person’s accomplishments, you may have a point. If you’re arguing against media/entertainment/arts figures generally, you’re wrong.
OK, I’m biased: I’m an arts critic, and I write about media. I wouldn’t do what I do for a living if I didn’t think it mattered. There are different forms of influence in the world, and the list rightly tries to reflect each of them (even if I never agree with every pick). Politics may involved the direct exercise of power, but there is also influence on our lives from business, from science, from religion, from charity.
And, absolutely, from arts and media, which are the pipes through which ideas travel. Percy Shelly once called poets “The unacknowledged legislators of the world,” correctly, but the legislature has expanded since his time, and the electronic media claim a lot of seats in it. It may be that, any year, there are 100 political leaders who have more direct, tangible influence on people than any artist or creator, and that may be true in a narrow, literal sense. But it ignores that every person, including every influencer, is shaped in unpredictable but undeniable ways by the culture they live and grow up in.
But enough of that—you probably want to argue about Lena Dunham or something! Seriously, let us know your thoughts on this year’s list, and it’s never to early to toss out nominations for next year. Influence me!