10 Surprising Time ‘Person Of The Year’ Winners

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Each year, U.S. magazine Time selects the ‘Person of the Year’ and this is the person, group, idea or object that “for better or for worse…has done the most to influence the events of the year.” 2015’s winner was Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany who won for her leadership in the Greek debt crisis and European migrant crises. This was a relatively obvious winner, but the ‘Person of the Year’ has often been a surprise and there are also a few instances where, knowing what we know now, it is a shocking and controversial choice.

10. You (2006)

Hurray! In 2006, Time deemed that “you” were the ‘Person of the Year.’ Now, before you begin congratulating yourself and preparing your speech, it is important to point out that “you” is actually used to represent “the individual content creator on the World Wide Web.” This was the choice to reflect the rise of user-generated content that includes blogs, YouTube, social media and fantastic sites such as Goliath. Whilst it is true that much of what we consume on a daily basis comes from what we read online (such as this article), it also certainly felt like a cop out and you could sense people around the world rolling their eyes at this choice. The caption for the magazine read “you control the Information Age. Welcome to your world,” to which NPR’s Peter Sagal retorted that if we actually controlled the information age, “we would have picked a much better choice.”

http://newstangle.com/time-magazines-10-most-controversial-people-of-the-year/ Source: Newstangle.com

9. The Computer (1982)

There was a time where Time would always (as the title implies) select a person or group of people for the “Person of the Year.” This all changed in 1982, and since then there have been several selections for objects which have not had the same impact as selecting an individual or group. In 1982, Time, somewhat confusingly, selected “The Computer” and changed the title to ‘Machine of the Year.’ This was a time where very primitive computers were beginning to become as common in the home as televisions and other appliances, and the magazine had the caption “The Computer Moves In” on the cover. The publisher, John A. Meyers, explained the magazine’s surprising selection by stating that “several human candidates might have represented 1982, but none symbolized the past year more richly, or will be viewed by history as more significant, than a machine: the computer.”

http://newstangle.com/time-magazines-10-most-controversial-people-of-the-year/ Source: Newstangle.com

8. Nikita Khrushchev (1957)

The first of a few notorious leaders that were named ‘Person of the Year,’ Nikita Khrushchev won the accolade in 1957 as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Cold War-era leader was responsible for “de-Stalinization” and for unifying the country’s varying territories, as well as overseeing Russia’s early Soviet space program. Although Nikita Khrushchev attempted to usher in a less oppressive era, many of his domestic policies proved to be ineffective and therefore seen as erratic policies, particularly by rivals within his party who were rising in strength. In 1964, these emerging rivals deposed him and replaced him with Leonid Brezhnev as First Secretary and Alexei Kosygin as premier. Although partly responsible for “de-Stalinization,” he also oversaw the Cuban Missile Crisis and failed with many of his policies, and this ultimately led to his downfall.

http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19580106,00.html Source: Content.time.com

7. Richard Nixon (1971 & 1972)

At the time, it would not have been too surprising for the public to learn that Richard Nixon was selected as the Person of the Year’ in 1971 and again in 1972. After all, he was elected as President of the United States, he withdrew troops from Vietnam, signed an arms limitation treaty with the Soviet Union, became the first President to visit communist China and was re-elected in one of the biggest landslides in election history. However, given the 1973 Watergate scandal which resulted in him becoming the first President to resign from office, his previous accomplishments were heavily overshadowed. Somewhat ironically, the 1973 Time ‘Person of the Year’ was John Sirica, who was the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia who ordered Nixon to turn in Watergate-related recordings.

http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19720103,00.html Source: Content.time.com

6. Wallis Simpson (1936)

In 1936, Wallis Simpson became the first woman to win what was called ‘Man of the Year’ all the way up until 1999. The American socialite remains a much-debated, polarizing and controversial figure in British history and was a surprising selection as ‘Person of the Year.’ Having been divorced twice before, the British public saw her as an unfit wife for King Edward VIII, who was madly in love with her. The King decided that he could not carry out his duties without the help and support of Simpson, and then stunned the world by becoming the only monarch in the history of Great Britain to voluntarily abdicate his throne. This shocking decision made Simpson as talked about as Kim Kardashian, and consequently she became the first ever female to become Time’s ‘Person of the Year.’ After abdicating, they married and lived a life of leisure.

http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19370104,00.html Source: Content.time.com

5. The Endangered Earth (1988)

After having their fun with “The Computer” in 1982, Time were at it again in 1988 when, instead of choosing a person, they selected “The Endangered Earth” as ‘Planet of the Year.’ The reason for the selection of a planet over a person was that 1988 was a year where climate change was a hot topical debate, and studies into human-induced climate change started through the UN establishing the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change. Time cited both natural and human disasters that occurred throughout the year, including pollution, overpopulation and earthquakes and warned of more disasters as its reasoning, and this saw the selection as a call to arms for the world—“now, more than ever, the world needs leaders who can inspire their fellow citizens with a fiery sense of mission, not a nationalistic or military campaign but a universal crusade to save the planet.”

http://mentalfloss.com/article/29494/11-times-times-person-year-wasnt-really-person Source: Mentalfloss.com

4. Vladimir Putin (2007)

After his first stint (after being re-elected in 2004) as the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin was named ‘Person of the Year’ in 2007 after re-establishing post-soviet Russia as a world power and imposing stability on the nation where the economy grew for eight straight years and living standards improved. However, he is a famously polarizing figure (perhaps more so today) and this stability came at a “significant cost to the principles and ideas that free nations prize.” The domestic opposition and many outside observers regarded his actions as undemocratic and as an authoritarian regime, but, as established, it is not a popularity contest. Instead, it is a recognition of power and there is no doubt that Vladimir Putin was, and is, one of the most powerful people in the world (Forbes magazine have ranked him the world’s most powerful person the last three years running).

http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20071231,00.html Source: Content.time.com

3. Ruhollah Khomeini (1979)

In 1979, Ruhollah Khomeini established himself as Iran’s supreme leader after leading the Iranian revolution and overthrowing the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In November of 1979, more than 60 American diplomats and citizens were held hostage by a group of Iranian students belonging to the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line, and they were supported by Khomeini. The hostage crisis lasted 444 days. He introduced Sharia law to Iran, required women to wear veils, banned alcohol and Western films, and called the U.S. Government the “Great Satan.” He executed tens of thousands opposition members before dying in 1989, including the 1988 executions of Iranian political prisoners. The year after being named ‘Person of the Year,’ a dispute with Iraq resulted in an eight year war where both countries lost over a million lives. Time would state “rarely has so improbable a leader shaken the world.”

http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19800107,00.html Source: Content.time.com

2. Joseph Stalin (1939 & 1942)

A man who Time would later describe as a “dictator who inflicted ungodly terrors on his nation,” Joseph Stalin was twice named ‘Person of the Year,’ both in 1939 and 1942. In 1939, he won the title for being the de facto leader of the Soviet Union who oversaw the signing of a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany. This pact divided their influence and territory within Eastern Europe, which resulted in the invasion of Poland in September 1938. In 1942, Stalin was once again named the ‘Person of the Year’ as the Premier of the Soviet Union and oversaw Soviet forces halting the Nazi incursion in two of the bloodiest battles in the war: the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Moscow. Under his rule, soldiers executed Polish POW’s and set up their own concentration camps. As dictator of the state, millions of people died because of his regime.

http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19430104,00.html Source: Content.time.com

1. Adolf Hitler (1938)

Yes, that is correct; the most evil man in history once was named Time’s ‘Person of the Year.’ The title does not have to go to someone likeable, but this is easily the most shocking and controversial of all choices. At the time, Hitler was the dictator of Nazi Germany and was carrying out foreign policy that was ultimately aimed at war. By November of 1938, he had sent over 30,000 Jewish Germans to concentration camps. Hitler was named ‘Person of the Year’ for overseeing the “unification of Germany with Austria and the Sudetenland in 1938, after the Anschluss and Munich Agreement respectively.” For UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the Munich Agreement was “peace for our time,” which is now remembered for its tragic ironic value as less than a year after the agreement, Hitler’s aggression and invasion of Poland would lead to World War II and the Holocaust.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/time-magazine-10-controversial-people-year-article-1.2040428 Source: Nydailynews.com
Jonny Hughes

Jonny Hughes

Jonny Hughes has been writing about movies and TV for Goliath since 2015.