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Time’s 60 Years of Heroes 2006-11-07

Posted by clype in Articles of Interest, Humanities, List.

To Grace the front cover of ‘Time magazine’ is regarded as a real accolade, a sign that you have made it.

The likes of Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev and ‘The Beatles’ have taken pride of place in the journal’s hall of fame, epitomising all that is great and innovative in society. The cover stars’ names read like a Who’s Who of the world stage, providing a social commentary of our time.

But this week, as ‘Time magazine’ publishes a special issue to celebrate six decades of the magazine’s European edition, entitled ’60 Years of Heroes’, it has thrown up some unlikely candidates for the title of hero.

Several Britons as diverse as fashion designer Mary Quant to acting dames Helen Mirren and Judi Dench made the final list, which also included Italian actress Sophia Loren and global figures like Yitzhak Rabin, the former Israeli leader. Other hallowed names include Francis Bacon, the iconoclastic British painter, the sculptor Henry Moore and artist Pablo Picasso.

But the inclusion of Princess Diana, Baroness Thatcher, the entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker and fashion designer Coco Chanel has puzzled a number of social commentators.

Dr.Mairead Tagg, a social psychologist based in Glasgow, said she was disappointed by many on the list and believes it trivialised the word ‘hero’.

‘I can’t see what Coco Chanel actually did for women,’ Ms.Tagg said.

‘Let’s face it, we have generations of models who are so thin that they’re dying of anorexia or using illegal drugs to keep their weight down.

‘In my view, the fashion industry doesn’t create heroes and there are so many others who would be worthy of inclusion.

‘It’s obviously very subjective, but to describe someone like Margaret Thatcher as a hero does trivialise the whole issue.’

As part of the compilation, ‘Time magazine’ asked writers, business leaders and politicians to recommend their heroes for yesterday’s special edition. Although the final list has 60 entries, some are for groups of people — such as ‘The Beatles’, or ‘Bono and Bob Geldof’, nominated together because of their joint work on famine relief.

It means there are a total of 70 names including 22 from Britain and Ireland, as part of three separate categories — leaders and rebels, business and culture and inspirations and explorers.

Margaret Thatcher
is the only UK name in the first of those categories, which also includes Charles de Gaulle, Gorbachev and Mandela. The UK’s biggest influence is in the business and culture section, from airline entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker to the acting quartet of Dench, Mirren, Glenda Jackson and Vanessa Redgrave. Laker’s name was nominated by Sir Richard Branson while ‘The Beatles’ were suggested by Peter Brown, boss of their record label, ‘Apple Corps’.

Czech president Vaclav Klaus recommended Ms.Thatcher because

‘she never compromised with anyone who doesn’t share the basic moral and political principles of human freedom’.

Princess Diana was the suggestion of Michael Ellit, international editor of ‘Time magazine’ for her ability to ‘speak out’ instead of following the rules to ‘keep quiet and fit in’.

John Lydon, better known to many as ‘Sex Pistols’ lead singer ‘Johnny Rotten’, joins fellow Brits J K Rowling and the playwright Samuel Beckett on the list. The British designer, Mary Quant, was said to have married fun and fashion, lighting ”a fuse of the insurrection’. Fellow 1960s designer Barbara Hulanicki, founder of the store ‘Biba’, ‘CNN’ reporter Christiane Amanpour and Amnesty International founder Peter Benenson are the other Britons on the list.

Jumana Farouky, from ‘Time magazine’, said he had no hesitation in nominating J K Rowling, the Scottish-based author of the best-selling ‘Harry Potter’ novels, for her imaginative style of writing and the way she had attracted millions of children to the written word. He said:

‘In a time when everything comes to us in bits and bytes, Rowling has made storytelling cool again. And that is something truly magical.’

Speaking of John Lydon, the magazine’s Hugh Porter said ‘The Sex Pistols’ had changed the face of British culture:

‘As”The Sex Pistols'” lead singer, John Lydon-aka “Johnny Rotten” wore the very heart of punk on his torn sleeve. He meant it then. He still does.’

But Mark Cousins, a film-maker and critic, questioned the inclusion of the likes of Sophia Loren and Judi Dench, arguing that they were not worthy of the title hero.

‘It’s absolutely absurd to include actors like Sophia Loren.

‘She was ultra-beautiful, but really she is a minor figure, an also-ran.

‘She was very right-wing and was criticised for tax evasion, not exactly the kind of person you would hold up as a hero. As for Judi Dench and Glenda Jackson, I’m sure they’d be embarrassed to be included in such a list.

‘There’s no doubt that they’re talented actors, but to describe them as heroes is a step too far.’

However, he said it was appropriate that the work of ‘Bono and Bob Geldof’ should be singled out for praise. He said:

‘No-one could say they are the best musicians of all time. However, for their philanthropy and the way they reached out and brought people together on the world stage, that has to be applauded.’

Speaking of ‘Geldof and Bono’, Paul Wolfowitz, president of ‘The World Bank Group’, said:

‘They share a passion that has led them to devote their considerable talents to ending the crushing burdens of poverty in Africa.’

The first issue of ‘Time magazine’ appeared in the United States of America on 1923-03-03 the creation of ‘Yale University’ classmates Henry R Luce and Briton Hadden. They introduced a whole new concept in journalism: the weekly news magazine. Luce and Hadden wrote in their 1922 Prospectus:

‘Time is interested — not in how much it includes between its covers — but in how much it gets off its pages into the minds of its readers.’

Today, ‘Time magzine’ is the world’s leading English news magazine, with a global audience of 29 million.

Catherine Mayer, senior editor, said the anniversary would pay tribute to the extraordinary people whose achievements and innovations had helped transform the world in which we live.

She said the last 60 years included the aftermath of world war, the toppling of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, the advance of women and the vanquishing of apartheid in South Africa. Many of the figures had battled repression and prejudice, while others had made the world a more exciting place with their ground-breaking music and art. She said:

‘Heroism is about taking risks — with ideas, with conventions, sometimes with life itself. Some of our heroes died prematurely; others lived to their full measure. All of them changed our world for the better. These people are our heroes, and in this special anniversary issue, we celebrate them and their many achievements.’


Some of those on the ‘Time magazine’ list were surprising choices. Are they truly ‘heroic’?

  • Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel may well have been the most influential and innovative fashion designer to date.
  • Sir Freddie Laker was an entrepreneur who sparked an air fares revolution with his Skytrain flights to New York.
  • As lead singer of the Sex Pistols, John Lydon (pictured) or ‘Johnny Rotten’ released God Save the Queen during the Queen’s Jubilee in 1977.
  • Sophia Loren became the first and only woman to win a Best Actress for a foreign film at the Oscars.
  • Jean-Claude Killy, a French skiing champion, won three gold medals at the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France.
  • Martina Navratilova, regarded as one of the greatest ever female tennis players, won 18 Grand Slam singles titles.
  • King Juan Carlos oversaw the transition of Spain to a democratic constitutional monarchy following the death of General Franco.
  • Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s longest serving prime minister for more than 150 years and the first female PM.
  • Oscar-winning actress Glenda Jackson turned her back on acting and in 1992 successfully stood as Labour MP for Hampstead.

What makes a hero?

Hero: noun (pl. heroes) a person, typically a man, admired for their courage or achievements: (in mythology) a person of superhuman qualities. Origin: Greek heros.

1. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
2.Andrei Sakharov
3. Charles de Gaulle
4. Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino
5. Helmut Kohl
6. Imre Nagy
7. Jean Monnet
8. King Juan Carlos
9. Lech Walesa
10. Linus Torvalds
11. Margaret Thatcher
12. Mikhail Gorbachev
13. Nelson Mandela
14. Petra Kelly
15. Shirin Ebadi
16. Simone de Beauvoir
17. Václav Havel
18. Yitzhak Rabin

1. Judi Dench, Glenda Jackson, Helen Mirren and Vanessa Redgrave
2. Chinua Achebe
3. Coco Chanel
4. Enzo Ferrari
5. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti
6. Francis Bacon
7. François Truffaut
8. Freddie Laker
9. Galina Ulanova
10. Hasso Plattner
11. Henry Moore
12. JK Rowling
13. John Lydon
14. Maria Callas
15. Mary Quant and Barbara Hulanicki
16. Nadine Gordimer
17. Naguib Mahfouz
18. Ole and Godtfred Kirk Christiansen
19. Pablo Picasso
20. Paul Bocuse
21. Rainer Werner Fassbinder
22. Rem Koolhaas
23. Samuel Beckett
24. Sophia Loren
25. The Beatles

1. Abebe Bikila
2. Anna Politkovskaya
3. Bernard Kouchner
4. Bono and Bob Geldof
5. Christiane Amanpour
6. Princess Diana
7. Franz Beckenbauer
8. Jacques-Yves Cousteau
9. Jean-Claude Killy
10. Martina Navratilova
11. Mother Teresa
12. Natasa Kandic
13. Peter Benenson
14. Pope John Paul II
15. Queen Rania
16. Reinhold Messner
17. Yuri Gagarin

‘Let us celebrate great achievements — not just the cult of celebrity’ — by Dr.Mairead Tagg

The definition of what constitutes a hero is a moot point — and it’s also a very subjective thing.

Do we say that Princess Diana is a hero because she stood up to the Establishment and The Royal Family or because of her work for people with AIDS and the victims of landmines? Are we really saying Diana was a wonderful role model to the people of this country? The reality is that she had many serious flaws in her character and was an extremely vulnerable person.

This is a clear example where the word ‘hero’ is overused and taken too lightly, so that it becomes almost meaningless.

In fact, the word ‘hero’ probably applies only to a very small number of people throughout history. It’s very rare to achieve momentous things in life and to be a truly heroic human being. Many of the people who have contributed to changing
the world are often very capricious and egotistical individuals. What we tend to do is airbrush out a great deal of the negative aspects of our heroes, concentrating on the good things that they did.

I was quite surprised at the magazine’s choices and the inclusion of names such as General de Gaulle and JK Rowling. The French leader was extremely racist and well-known for his xenophobic attitude, so he is certainly an unusual choice.

JK Rowling is a fine author and, as a single parent, she achieved something incredible to get those books published – but I don’t know that it really makes her a hero.

Crucially, what constitutes a hero can change dramatically over the course of only a few years. A man or woman who is a hero today is vilified tomorrow. Nelson Mandela is a case in point. He was public enemy number one in South Africa and yet now he is celebrated as the most important person on the planet. He has advocated reconciliation and peace in very trying circumstances and, as such, he is a true hero.

I would take issue with the shortlist on the basis that they are perhaps confusing heroism with celebrity. I’m sure Sophia Loren is a very nice woman, but she is a celebrity and that simply doesn’t make you a hero. To be a hero means doing something extraordinary for mankind, and I don’t think these actors or musicians fit the bill at all.


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