TIME magazine's annual list of influential people: the 2010 TIME 100. It is, unsurprisingly, a relatively unsurprising list--Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Bill Clinton, Lady Gaga, Oprah, Steve Jobs... Who didn't think that these people would be included?
A scant few food-world visionaries and celebs made the cut this year. David Chang (of Momofuku), Temple Grandin (the autistic animal scientist and cow whisperer) and Michael Pollan (foodie rabble-rouser) all had their place. But seriously? Any sort of global "Hot 100" list is not exactly journalistic heavy-lifting. The only thing easier? Writing a blog post making fun of said list.
Which is why I'm not going to do that.
Instead, I'm going to turn to the much more interesting "TIME Bum Hundred," written by Joel Stein, and make fun of him instead. Namely for his selection of Mayor McCheese as one of the least influential people of 2010.
Now I like Joel. I've actually been reading his stuff since he was slumming at Entertainment Weekly and became one of the reasons I actually got a subscription to that magazine--one of only two magazine subscriptions I have ever paid actual cash money for in my life (and which, owing to some weird postal issues and my fondness for drunken celebrity mugshots, I still have today). The other one, in case you're interested, was Geek Monthly.
As the "truest, bravest, handsomest journalist" on staff at TIME, Joel's semi-regular (and always weird) back-of-the-book pieces on wine tastings and Jersey Shore bring a welcome bit of levity to a magazine almost always full of bad news about earthquakes, war and inflation. And, in turn, his Bum Hundred list (which included witches, Carrot Top, Jon Gosselin and Björgólfur Gudmundsson, just to show the range of his satiric whatever) served as a nice counter to all the cheerleading and hand-jobbery of TIME's big list. I had no issue whatsoever with 99 of his 100 picks. But one of them--Mayor McCheese--did rub me just a little bit wrong.
What Joel apparently doesn't understand is that the sitting mayor of McDonaldland is actually a very influential figure. Not only has he held this (ostensibly) elected office since 1971, making him the nation's 7th longest serving mayor (behind such luminaries as Nicholas B. Blase, elected as mayor of Niles, IL in 1961 and Hilmar Moore, mayor of Richmond, TX since 1949), but he has also been active on a national level while seeing McDonaldland through near constant Fry Guy attacks and the reign of terror instigated by the Hamburgular. Below are some of the highlights of Mayor McCheese's mayoral career.
1973, H.R. Pufnstuf v. Mayor McCheese
In 1973, H.R. Pufnstuf, mayor of Living Island, sued the borough of McDonaldland, claiming that, in existing, Mayor McCheese was a total rip-off of him, and that McDonaldland itself was just a thin imitation of his homeland. The suit was successful and McCheese (and his corporate creators) were ordered to pay $50,000 to Pufnstuf for illegally being copycats. What's historic about this decision, though, is that the case was remanded during appeal and, four years later, McDonaldland was hit with a judgment of more than $1 million dollars instead. Nice, right? The appellate court decision also stripped McDonaldland of its designation as a "magical place" and required Mayor McCheese to cease existing--neither order having any effect whatsoever on the mayor's political standing. No politician since then has ever been able to get re-elected following a judicial de-magicking of their home city, let alone survive a court order to cease being.
Mayor Pufnstuf, flanked by his praetorian guard
2008: The Destruction of Springfield's Fast Food Boulevard
Though operating under an assumed name "Cheesy McMayor" (aka Mayor McCheese) stood strong with the people of Springfield following the destruction by fire of that city's Fast Food District. In a perfect made-for-TV moment, he even openly wept over the loss of 70-some beloved fast food establishments, seeing an 18% bump in popularity according to polling performed after the incident despite Springfield Mayor Diamond Joe Quimby calling him out and saying, "No one likes weepy meat."
1971-2002: The Hamburglar Years
Though never a "get tough on crime" mayor, McCheese's term was shadowed by the ever-present threat of the Hamburglar--a masked bandit, bent on stealing McDonaldland hamburgers either from the verdant local hamburger fields or from a variety of persons and/or retail operations. Under orders from the mayor, McDonaldland chief of police, Officer Big Mac, spent years on an unsuccessful crusade to catch the Hamburglar (along with his accomplices, the Griddler and Captain Crook). It wasn't until 2002 that this crime wave was brought to a bloody end. Responding to an anonymous tip, Officer Big Mac managed to corner the Hamburglar in a local motel where, according to reports, he'd been holed up with Griddler and Crook for several days, smoking meth and harassing the staff. What followed was a bloody, 14-hour siege, culminating in the shooting deaths of Crook, Griddler and seven McDonaldland deputies. At the time, Officer Big Mac was accused of using excessive force in sending in a special SWAT unit of McNugget Buddies (who were responsible for the fatal shooting of Crook and Griddler and the eventual wounding and apprehension of the Hamburglar), but he was later exonerated during a departmental inquiry. While awaiting trial, the Hamburglar hung himself in his cell, bringing to a close one of the darkest chapters of Mayor McCheese's term.
Hamburglar, in memoriam
2010: Clowns Gone Wild
RAD OMEN - "Rad Anthem" from Nicholaus Goossen on Vimeo.This video by Rad Omen caught the drug-fueled after-hours partying of McDonaldland's most famous resident, Ronald McDonald, and some of his fast food mascot friends. When it reached the public early in the year, Mayor McCheese was put under extraordinary pressure to reign in Ronald's excesses and punish him for his behavior. The mayor refused (likely not wanting another "McDonaldland Massacre" on his hands, see above), and took a massive hit in the press.
Still, among his core constituency, he is still polling strongly going into next year's mayoral election and, as yet, no challenger has declared. Local oddsmakers are putting his chances at re-election at "very strong," provided he can successfully navigate the recent spate in childhood obesity claims which are damaging McDonaldland's primary export--cheeseburgers--and driving down prices at the hamburger fields. If McCheese does manage to secure another term (as seems likely), he will have proven that he has both the skills and political will to survive almost any challenge.
Hardly the description of one of the world's least influential people, wouldn't you say, Joel?