The Advocate got a lot of attention last year for making Pope Francis its Person of the Year on the wispiest of arguments (actually, just five words: “Who am I to judge?”. This year, the magazine has gone from heaven to hell: it’s chosen Vladimir Putin as its Person of the Year. Putin graces the magazine cover with this new title cutely arranged as a Hitler-type mustache.
Apparently, Adolf was unavailable this year.
“Driving the governmental, religious, and popular disdain for gays and lesbians, the Russian president became the single greatest threat to LGBTs in the world in 2014,” the magazine proclaims.
You can’t argue that Putin is one of the most despicable creatures on the face of the earth. But at this point you have to wonder if The Advocate is just trolling us by picking the most outrageous person it can imagine.
The stated criteria for being the Person of the Year is being that special someone who was “most influential on LGBT lives during 2014.” The nine other finalists are a celebrity-heavy list (Neil Patrick Harris, Laverne Cox, Robin Roberts, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page), with one congregation–the United Church of Christ–as the stand-in for marriage equality.
Which raises the question: can’t The Advocate find any actual activists?
This isn’t to badmouth any of the finalists, although two of them, Tim Cook and Robin Roberts, have previously served as spokesmodels for the glass closet. But there are a lot of people who aren’t Oscar winners, multi-millionaires, or Tony hosts who have done a lot for their community too.
How about Mark Zmuda, who was fired from his job at a Catholic high school and sued, because the school found out he got married? Or John Abdallah Wambere, who faced death by being an out gay man in Uganda?
Or how about the activists in Russia who risk their lives to fight for their rights? You know, the people actually standing up to Putin.
The Advocate is clearly trying to emulate Time, whose person of the year is chosen based on who most influenced the news. But Time doesn’t pretend to represent the interests of an entire community the way The Advocate does. Moreover, The Advocate’s did have a long-standing tradition of choosing as Person of the Year someone who advanced the goals and visibility of the LGBT movement, like fighting the religious right or being one of the heroes of September 11.
Now, of course, it’s about getting clicks by being as outrageous as possible. Vladimir Putin will be hard to top (no jokes, please). But Phil Robertson is still available. Imagine the clicks The Advocate would get from that.