Sean Beaudoin compiles the dozen best people of the year—drawn from the avalanche of overall excellence we experienced as a culture. Also, their less impressive counterparts.
Every December since it was founded in 1971, The Weeklings has run an end-of-year feature that has come to be known simply as “The Twelve.” Yes, it is our totally arbitrary but deeply considered list of the dozen best people of the preceding year. If you’re not on it, don’t despair–there’s plenty of time to do something deeply selfless, astonishingly creative, or just wonderfully unexpected in 2013. In the meantime raise a heaping glass of nog toward the ceiling, as we salute this year’s 12 Best People of 2012!
1. Bernie Sanders: Without question the most sane, impartial, no-bullshit man in the senate, if not all of government. Representing Vermont with just the sort of clear-eyed rectitude deeply prized in New England, he can almost always be counted to be on exactly the correct (read: hugely unpopular) side of almost every issue. Proud to call himself–on national television–a democratic Socialist, and then proceed to explain in lucid, convincing terms exactly what that means
Evil counterpart: Paul Ryan-too lame to win his home state, home county, or even home town in the last election. Burst on the scene with a modicum of Randian evil, gave a lie-crammed and profoundly boring nomination speech, and then simply disappeared. A pure cipher who had no effect on the race one way or another, and was so invested in Team Romney that he ran back to his congressional seat about four seconds after the confetti settled on Michelle Obama’s shoulders.
2. Stephen Colbert: beyond all the faux-O’Reilly bluster and perfectly timed raised eyebrows, his running SuperPAC joke served a genuinely important political and cultural service for months on end. Namely, shining a light on Citizens United and all its ancillary hypocrisy for millions of viewers who would otherwise have yawned through the finer points.
Evil counterpart: Sheldon Adelson- Billionaire gambling oligarch who made it rain for the Gingrich campaign, larding vast sums of money onto Newt’s enormous moon colony of a head. Or at least funneled it to the marketing team who made the thirty minute hit-piece video about Bain Capital which nearly derailed Team Romney during the midwest primaries. Then abruptly started shoveling cash at Romney when Gingrich dropped out. America, to its credit, has always jovially tolerated its swinish celebrity carpetbaggers–but only when they’re been consistent.
3. President Obama: The stench of what a Romney presidency would have been like still hangs heavily in the air, pungent and terrifying. Thank god for Obama’s godless Marxist overlords, who rigged the election in his favor–as well as handed out free gifts to greedy blacks and Hispanics–who would otherwise have had zero clue which candidate to vote for.
Evil counterpart: Wayne LaPierre:The man who presided over the single strangest, most appalling, and tone-deaf press conference in American history. How it’s possible for one public figure to be so utterly intellectually bankrupt while wielding genuine power is beyond imagining.
4. David Frum: Regularly coming across as smug and out-of-touch as George W. Bush’s speechwriter, Frum has amazingly re-branded himself as one of the smartest and most rational voices on the right. His politics don’t seem to have shifted so much as they’ve unclenched, and he is one of the few conservatives willing to publicly speak truth to FOX–which as a fair and balanced journalistic response has essentially excommunicated him. There was a time when “Republican” wasn’t a synonym for “utterly batshit,” and if the party is to ever return to sanity, Frum will be one of the voices leading it.
Evil counterpart: Dinesh D’Souza- Consistently dead wrong on nearly every subject, an avowed and unrepentant Obama conspiracy theorist, proud torture proponent, and author of one dimwitted polemic after another, D’Souza is more or less viewed as a clown–even by Ann Coulter. Except he keeps getting booked as a talking head on every program but CSI: Evolution Denier.
5. Federal District Judge Katherine Forrest: Essentially the only person who stands between us and the (Obama signed) ratification of the NDAA, which essentially allows for indefinite detention of American citizens in direct contradiction of the first and fifth amendments, and a complete cratering of any pretension of genuine civil rights in America–in that it allows detention under the law without trial “until the end of hostilities.” Since we are going to be fighting the war on terror until 2099, at which point “terror” will re-brand itself as a breast-enhancing soft drink, this codicil is terrifyingly undemocratic and more or less the sort of behavior that causes the longbeards to start drumming in downtown squares, smoking blunts, and tossing around the word “fascist.”
Evil counterpart: Gloria Allred– the ubiquitous queen of frivolous lawsuits, who once referred to Meg Whitman’s housekeeper as “the modern day Rosa Parks,” not to mention having tried to scum money for Herman Cain’s grope-ee, Anthony Weiner’s consensual text-ee, various Tiger Woods hangers-on, a Spice Girl, Scott Peterson’s girlfriend, and Shaq’s emotional distressor.
6. The Dude That Secretly Filmed the Romney 47% video: A true American hero.
Evil counterpart: The Russian Girlfriend-as loathsome as Mel Gibson is–no one deserves to have their ugliest private, addled moments secretly recorded and then traipsed before the world–regardless of the content. The ability to be truly awful in private has long been an American staple, and if you can’t be Truly Awful in your own ocean-view Malibu living room, where can you be Truly Awful? People sometimes require the constitutionally guaranteed freedom to be their profoundly ignorant selves, no matter where they fall along the offensive spectrum. Unless they’re running for office.
7. Ben Fountain-He wrote the best book of the year, a debut novel at the age of 4o. Hilarious without trying, political without being strident, summing up the Bush/Iraq years by barely mentioning them, this brilliant book seems to nail down everything wrong with FOX, endless war, American exceptionalism, football, ingrained ignorance, hero worship, and commodity culture with zero effort or obviousness. Also, it contains the single best portrait of the banality of evil (Jerry Jones) I’ve seen in a book since…A Clockwork Orange?
Evil counterpart: 50 Shades of Grey– a choice that’s way too obvious yet impossible to avoid. Finally, a vapid and bottomless culture is steam-shoveled its own sexual shallowness and emotional banality as if it were a test or even a cruel joke–only to gleefully swallow their medicine (in the form of millions of hardbound copies) like a gallon of sugar free ginger-spice flavored latte foam.
8. Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe– at a time when most athletes refuse to espouse a political viewpoint, either to protect possible endorsement deals or because their politics are so rabidly conservative they don’t want to alienate any fans left of Mussolini, it was beyond refreshing when Kluwe released this letter to Deadspin.com in response to Maryland state Senator Emmit C. Burns. Kluwe was defending Raven’s linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who had spoken out in favor of gay rights, which did not sit well with Burns. While the letter is way over the top in parts, who cares? It’s funny, adamant, smart and ballsy. It’s only a matter of time before the NFL has its first big star come out of the closet, and this letter will be one of the things that allows that person to step forward.
Evil counterpart: Peyton Manning–contributing money in all the wrong places while standing on the wrong side of every subject the Koch brothers haven’t already laid out a platform for. Plus, Denver sucks.
9. The Chair-there it sat, impassive, merely doing was it was built for.
Evil counterpart: Clint Eastwood-There he stood, impassive, babbling some insane gibberish even Hannity disavowed.
10. Luck– This David Miltch/Michael Mann HBO series was cancelled when several horses were killed during production, the final one in a freak accident while being walked back to the barn. Filled with great acting, a terrific script–and more dumpy character actors than a Tom Waits boxed set–it was briefly the best thing on television. Primarily because it never sacrificed verisimilitude by shying away from real track lingo or betting strategy, even if it must have seemed like Chinese to most viewers.
Evil counterpart: Millionaire Matchmaker–if Patty Stanger isn’t the most horrifying thing on television, it’s only because the Walking Dead aired a paring knife C-section, followed by a deadpan parricide.
11. Tom Ricks–All you got to do is watch. And then see how quickly he is cut off.
Evil counterpart: Every single second of FOX coverage of Benghazi.
12. Santa-Once again–secular, indifferent, or deeply reverent–Christmas is really the only holiday that matters.
Evil counterpart: Has none. Even the Grinch rocks it.
Honorable mentions: George McGovern, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Russell Means, Dave Brubeck, Kitty Wells, Christopher Stevens, Sherman Hemsley, Nora Ephron, Charles Durning, Donna Summer, Ray Bradbury, Carroll Shelby, Maurice Sendak, Levon Helm, Adam Yauch, Earl Scruggs, Trayvon Martin, Ben Gazzara, Peter Breck, Etta James, Jack Klugman, and Don Cornelius.
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All photos courtesy of The Weeklings
Feature photo—Sesame Street/PBS