You can’t quantify pop culture, which is why pop culture lists are enjoyable — especially lists modified with “best” or, in the case of Time magazine’s annual “Time 100,” “most influential.” In our rapid-evolution media age, influence is fleeting. Nevertheless, the pop culture corner of the list tries to capture a cross-section of movers and shakers from across the media landscape. It’s hard to argue with the choice of Louis C.K., whose show Louie has redefined TV authorship. Likewise, even if you never read Fifty Shades of Grey or its oncoming imitators, author EL James has ushered in an era in which your older relatives will utter the phrase “mommy porn” at your next family reunion. And Jessica Chastain has become an “influential” movie actress the old-fashioned way: By appearing in every single movie currently being made.
The list also includes Adele, Kristen Wiig, and Chelsea Handler — performers who have all contributed mightily to the modern moment of female ascension in music and comedy. Conversely, it’s hard to understand why Rihanna is on the list, since her defining aesthetic wavers between “What Lady Gaga was doing two years ago” and “What Beyoncé was doing six months ago,” but imitation can be influential, too. (Likewise, Tilda Swinton — I’m not sure the actress is really “influencing,” except maybe for the army of mermaids she keeps in her underwater castle.) It’s a fun list. I recommend reading Johnny Depp’s praise of Harvey Weinstein out loud while doing your best Hunter S. Thompson.
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