What makes the cover as good as it is:
1. It’s a woman! — because the protests have also been phenomenal on gender terms … and speaking truth to testosterone.
2. …And, how often has a woman even been TIME’s “Person of the Year?” (Or, “Man of the Year,” till ’99. More below.)
3. She’s threatening but she’s not. (Eyes vs. mask. Left eye vs. right eye.)
4. It’s truly international. If she pulls for Middle Eastern, the background skews heavily domestic. But then, we’re a melting pot, right?
5. TIME gets to do the “You” choice again, but this time — nothing like some hard times to put a dent in the narcissism — it’s all about “us.”
6. The design, especially the graphical inlay in the kerchief, riffs off TIME’s Shepard Fairey’s Obama HOPE 2008 Person of the Year cover. The take-away: Obama has lost the spark and the message to the kids and the street.
Update: A few people have asked how I know it’s a woman. I also think part of the cleverness of the cover is that the figure might be a male. One reason is that the illustration skews so strongly female, including the two figures inset in the kerchief (forehead and bottom, center) and the figure top right just off the hat. The most definitive graphic signifier, however, are the eyelashes.
Update 2: The cover is definitely a woman. Here’s photographer Ted Soqui’s source photo and backstory. (h/t: Jethro S.)
Note on TIME’s “women of the year”: If I’ve got my math right, I count only 3 identifiable “women of the year” out of the 84 selections, the last being Corazon Aquino in ’86. Of course, this year’s cover is “generic,” similar to how women, more lately, have been included as part of a group, if in an more token way (including “Bill Gates’ wife” as 3rd wheel in ’05, or the woman soldier in ’03. Otherwise, “women of the year” have been given the nod as part of their own group — see “The Whistleblowers” in ’02 or “Women of the Year” in ’75. This link has the collection in one tidy place.
(illustration credit: Shepard Fairey)