Each year, The Onion faces the daunting task of singling out those individuals who most embody the spirit of the times, and 2017 proved a particularly difficult year in which to do so.
When the editorial board convenes to determine The Onion 10, the members of our selection committee found that identifying the individuals most worthy of this distinguished honor was no easy task. Indeed, when faced with reducing hundreds of esteemed innovators, philanthropists, and thought leaders to the 10 most deserving recipients, the committee struggled to choose only 10 who most encapsulate the values of integrity, benevolence, and courage that define this most prestigious of accolades.
After nearly 10 years of whittling down the finalists, we present to you The Onion 10 for the year 2017.
In 2017’s volatile and divisive political climate, there were vanishingly few leaders to whom Americans could look for inspiration. However, one beacon of hope in an otherwise dark time existed right in President Trump’s cabinet: EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who spent the year fighting tirelessly to preserve America’s toxic waste, tainted drinking water, and fracking runoff for future generations.
Immediately following his confirmation in February, Pruitt went to work on behalf of the country’s most vulnerable oil and gas companies, freeing them from restrictions that threatened to limit their carbon emissions and expanding their ability to discharge pollutants into local ecosystems. Ultimately, Pruitt’s legacy could be the most enduring of Trump’s cabinet, as his dogged fight to prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change scientists will continue to impact Americans for generations to come.
The first openly transgender person elected to serve in a state legislature, Roem won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in what many on the left see as the first of a wave of victories by progressive candidates who will ultimately be discarded for not being totally aligned with everything that every member of the left wing believes in.
Roem has inspired countless LGBTQ citizens who saw her milestone win as a sign of what could be achieved by candidates who support robust policies of equality that will inevitably be regarded as hopelessly compromised. The 33-year-old former journalist has been praised by Virginians for her ideas on how to fix concrete problems such as traffic congestion and classroom overcrowding, offering a potential template for success in competitive districts that soon enough will be dismissed as uninspiringly mundane or disqualifyingly centrist.
The left is hopeful that, once she reveals herself as a corporatist and traitor to the progressive cause, Roem has at least courageously blazed a trail for the person who should challenge her in the 2019 House of Delegates Democratic primary.
Look, Mom mentioned that Tony was going through bit of a rough patch, and it would mean a lot if he could be included on this list. So, here goes:
Tony, you’re really something. Hope you know that. Your pool supply store might not have taken off as fast as you expected, but give it time. More people are buying above-ground pools these days, and when they do, they’ll know where to find you. It’s great that you didn’t feel the pressure to become an office guy like Mark. Plus you’ve found yourself a great woman who accepts you for who you are, and that’s so great. When all’s said and done, you’re gonna come out on top. (Can’t say the same about your Knicks, though!)
If we don’t see you over at Deb’s for Ron’s 60th, then just know that you’re in The Onion’s top 10—and it might sound like we’re pulling your leg, but you always will be. Keep hanging in there, Tony. Give our best to Nance.
After a year that included numerous high-profile appearances and a bestselling essay collection on race in America, writer and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates is on track to be the public intellectual who white Americans assume speaks for every single black person in the country. From his insightful writings on the history of white supremacy in American politics to his blistering critiques of the Trump administration’s racist policies, Coates has continued to address social justice issues in a moving and thoughtful way, cementing his position as someone white people will look to as their only resource on the black experience.
Coates’ recent projects, including the Black Panther comic book series and instruction at multiple prestigious universities, have only heightened his status as a thinker whose work will inadvertently function as shorthand for “the issue of race relations” in the minds of white readers nationwide who will thereafter presume to have a comprehensive understanding of what it means to be black in America. And his upcoming collaboration with The Wire’s David Simon on an HBO series about Martin Luther King, Jr. will further cement his importance as a lone reference point for white Americans seeking to demonstrate their extensive familiarity with the black experience—a cultural contribution for which they are ever grateful.
The brightest candles, sadly, burn all too fast. Known for producing stunning imagery of the far reaches of our solar system, tortured photographer Cassini perished in September at the height of a relatively young career, throwing itself into Saturn’s atmosphere mere days after the debut of its latest series on planetary rings.
Cassini rose to prominence in 2000, bursting onto the scene with an unprecedented black-and-white portrait of the asteroid 2685 Masursky. Its intimate close-ups of Venus and Earth, as well as its stark representations of Jupiter, earned the probe ample praise for its unique vision and plutonium-based radioisotope thermoelectric generator.
However, Cassini’s sparse and increasingly erratic contact began to betray a perhaps insurmountable internal struggle, and the photographer began drifting perilously close to the roiling gas giant, transmitting back one final mixed-media piece—the aptly named Grand Finale—before plunging to its fiery death. A truly remarkable life cut short far too soon.
While turmoil at home and abroad plagued an uncertain America in 2017, one reassurance united us. Despite our bitter divides, citizens could all agree that it was nice to hear the soft pitter-patter of little children’s feet back in the White House.
Indeed, from the moment Donald Jr. first clambered through the Press Briefing Room in footie pajamas to the delight of reporters and secret service agents alike, the president’s three children have consistently charmed not only White House staff and visitors, but also the American public as a whole, buoying national morale with the youthful innocence they lend to an executive branch often beset by more grave or somber dispositions.
Who could forget Eric Trump’s inspiring rendition of “You’re A Grand Old Flag” for the soldiers guarding Marine One? Or the time Ivanka burst into the Oval Office unannounced to demonstrate her newly learned jump-rope skills for the foreign minister of Myanmar? In June, we watched with joy as the First Kids bounded across the East Colonnade in their goggles and inflatable water wings, begging Sarah Huckabee Sanders to join them in the pool for a game of Marco Polo. And of course, on Halloween, our collective heart nearly melted at the sight of this inimitable trio dressed up as a vampire, a brown M&M, and Dora the Explorer. By all accounts, the Trump children have had a remarkable 2017, and the nation is eager to spend eight years watching them grow up before our eyes.
Anansi had a remarkable impact across the globe this year, skillfully using the human race’s own ignorance against it to sow confusion and discord worldwide. Though he appeared in many forms in 2017—sometimes with the masked face of a human, sometimes with the eight spindly legs of a spider—what is unquestionable is that Anansi reaped a bountiful harvest of disorder this year. Indeed, he is cunning. Perhaps more cunning than any of us will ever know. And whether he was fooling the world with false rainfall by pouring water from a hollowed calabash or convincing mankind to elect their greatest dunces to positions of power, the mischief-bringer was responsible, time and again, for bewildering humans beyond their imagining.
Of course, some critics argue that Anansi’s greatest days are behind him, citing early accomplishments such as receiving the gift of storytelling from Nyansi or greedily hoarding all wisdom in a pot. But we believe that in 2017 his wily ways truly confounded as never before. Oh, how he vexes us! Anansi, what fools you make of us all!
Any list of the most consequential people of the year would be incomplete without Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, who has a large amount of money and is therefore important. When making our annual selections, we are of course weighing those who stand out as superlative figures in our society, which by definition are the most wealthy people. As the third wealthiest person in the United States, Buffett is the third most important person. His net worth is approximately $78 billion. If Buffett is at any point surpassed in net worth by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and drops to fourth-wealthiest, he will be immediately shifted to fourth place in our rankings.
Readers might recall that Buffett has placed in every Onion 10 ranking since 1986, the year he became a billionaire and consequently a person of note. He will continue to be featured annually until his death or such time as he is no longer worth at least $1 billion, whichever occurs first.
Don’t be naive. You knew this was coming.
Did you seriously believe, for even a moment, in any remote corner of your mind, that this name might not be included among the 10 most influential people of 2017? Well, guess what, motherfuckers? You’re about to read 200 words littered with terms like “polarized voter base,” “turbulent political landscape,” and “lasting impact upon both major parties.” Such phrases will be shoved into this feature for another paragraph or so because this is a year-end roundup of notable public figures, and you’re going to strap in and take it.
Rather than sticking to the words your brain is well trained to gloss over by now, including “electoral college” and “ultimate Washington outsider,” maybe you’d like us to throw you some curveballs to keep you engaged? Wouldn’t that be nice? Tough shit. “Populist appeal” it is. There’s no way around it. Sorry. Consider yourself lucky that we’ve decided to just write down “for at least the next three years” and call it a day.
Who was a good girl—such a very, very good girl this year? Crouton was! Oh, yes she was! Having spent the year 2017 learning “shake,” scampering through the Camden family’s Labor Day barbecue, and doing all her business outside instead of on the living room carpet, little Crouton has been nothing but the best pup anyone could ever ask for. Just look at that face. Those ears. Is she not the sweetest thing on four paws you’ve ever seen?
Though we admit some small amount of bias, surely it can be afforded in this case. This is Crouton we’re talking about: the one who knows not to jump up on the couch when there are guests, and who is occasionally even capable of retrieving her Kong from the other room when asked, “Croutie, where’s your Kong?!” Show us another sweet little nugget who took all the love she was given in 2017 and returned it tenfold, and we’ll gladly put them on this list. Until then, Crouton is an obvious number one in The Onion 10.