I have been watching a lot of movies lately, and noticed that a lot of movies incorporate magazine covers into the storyline to make the fiction less fictitious. All major American publications’ frontpages are subjected to this ‘fair use’, but the magazine that is seemingly hijacked the most by the filmmakers is TIME magazine. With 3,400,000 per week within the U.S. only, it seems to be the media a lot of people can identify with.
According to the magazine itself, the first prominent mention of TIME in Hollywood was in 1932’s Murder on the High Seas, when the main characters read the magazine during a voyage to Europe. The first manipulated mock-up cover came in 1950’s A Woman of Distinction. In the movie, Rosalind Russell plays Susan Manning Middlecott, the dean of a small women’s college named Benton whose face graces the cover of TIME. Russell, a TIME magazine collector herself, had the make-believe-cover painting framed, and hung it in the lounge of the bathhouse beside her swimming pool in Beverly Hills. When friends would drop in and remark, “Oh. I didn’t know you were on TIME’s cover,” she would answer casually “Sure, look, there it is.” She was finally given her own cover in 1953.
In 1983 film The King of Comedy, Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) kidnaps a famous talk show host to have his “big break”. During his act, Rupert noted, “Better to be king for a night, than schmuck for a lifetime.” The line was immortalized in a news report of Rupert’s release from prison at the end of the movie, as well as on TIME’s cover:
The next year, in the film 2010, Time was featured again. The cover was about the U.S.-Soviet tensions, and reminiscent of Reagan/Andropov Men-of-the-Year cover from the earlier in the year. On the fictitious cover, however, the American President is portrayed by 2010’s author Arthur C. Clarke and the Soviet Premier by 2001: A Space Odyssey director Stanley Kubrick.
In 1992 movie Bob Roberts was set earlier before the Gulf War. It depicts a fictitious senatorial race between conservative folk singer (and anti-Bob Dylan), Bob Roberts (Tim Robbins) and the incumbent Democrat, Brickley Paiste (Gore Vidal). Roberts was shot by a would-be assassin and paralyzed from the waist down, but he eventually won. Although TIME had covered Huey Long and George Wallace quite extensively, never since the 80s did the magazine pay substantial attention to regional elections let alone put it on the cover.
The same year, Kim Basinger portrays photojournalist and reporter Vicki Vale comes to Gotham City to do a story on a masked vigilante plaguing the city in Tim Burton’s Batman. She just finished covering a revolution in ‘Corto Maltese’, which in the DC comics was an island at the center of an incident not unlike the Cuban missile crisis. Her pictures on the cover and throughout the magazine show a desert war zone strewn with dead bodies. In the 80s and the 90s, crises in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Yugoslavia were frontpage news on Time (and in 2001, the magazine put a particularly gruesome photo from Indonesian Borneo by Charles Dharapak), but I doubt the magazine would misspell their own reporter’s name on the cover as they did here.
In 1996, Al Pacino made the cover as Mayor John Pappas, an idealist New York mayor who fought against big city neighborhoods, mafia and crime. Five years later the movie City Hall, Mayor Rudi Giuliani made the cover as Man of the Year.
Simone, short for SIMulation ONE, was the name of 2002 movie starring Rachel Roberts. A desperate director makes a computer-programmed actress and she became an instant superstar in a movie that makes the viewers think about our celebrity-obsessed world. In the movie, Simone won the Oscar for Best Actress and become TIME magazine Person of the Year. Ironically, no entertainer has ever been chosen for that honor (Bono won it for his humanitarian work) but ‘computer’ was once chosen as the Machine of the Year.
In 2001, Smallville, a TV show about young Superman premiered on the Warner Brothers. The first season contained two TIME covers. In the pilot episode, Superman’s future girlfriend Lana Lang made the cover after her family was killed in the meteor shower that brought Superman to our planet. The other honored Dr. Virgil Swann, the scientist who deciphered the Kryptonian language, as Man of the Year. (Swann was played by Christopher Reeve, the former Superman himself).
The next year, 2002, came the movie Reign of Fire, probably one of the most ridiculous sci-fi/fantasy movies of our time. During London Underground construction, a huge, hibernating dragon is discovered. It springs to life and creates havoc all over the world. Time was there to cover it too:
In 2004, Pixar joined the TIME magazine bandwagon in The Incredibles. The cover was a tribute to the mastheads Time used in the 40s and the 50s, but the magazine itself never really used the exact same format as featured in the film, and the phrase ‘The Weekly Magazine’ was retired in the 50s.
A few years earlier, the same combo of Time + Life was in another Pixar animated film. In Toy Story 2 (1999) Sheriff Woody reminisces about his heyday as the matinee TV idol through these magazines’ covers — a revealing look at how much of our cultural memory of the 50s and 60s was indeed shaped by these two magazines. Toy Story 2 propelled Woody and Buzz Lightyear onto an actual Time cover, alongside Pixar’s backer Steve Jobs.
(Life magazine, dated January 12th, 1957, carries the cover story about Sputnik, the satellite which caused a sea change in toy market, by making the kids favor space toys and leading to the cancellation of Woody’s Roundup. However, the Soviet Union won’t be launching Sputnik until October 1957).
In Man of the Year, the title of the movie itself was the tribute to Time Magazine’s annual year-end issue. Robin William plays a comedian Tom Dobbs, who was erroneously elected the President of the United States. (Time typically names the winner of that year’s presidential election as their Man of the Year). The Man of the Year cover is a little funny because the producers not only copied the magazine, but the pictures of Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson on the right were the drawings that appeared on TIME magazine’s covers previously.
Alan Moore himself have used TIME magazine as a prop in his 1984 graphic novel, Watchmen. The movie adaptation in 2008 also featured the magazine in an authentic-looking mock-up (ironic considering the blue Dr Manhattan is on the cover).
Although it doesn’t do it so often anymore, models frequently graced Time’s covers in the past: Christy Turlington doing Yoga in 2001, Amber Valetta half-submerged in a pool in 1996, Claudia Schiffer a year earlier, and Cheryl Tiegs twice in the 70s and 80s. So it wasn’t too far-fetched for the title character in Zoolander to be on the cover, although the article being a complete takedown with the cover line that read, “Derek Zoolander: A Model Idiot?” seems somewhat out of tune of Time’s often more staid, circumspect style. Christine Taylor plays TIME reporter Matilda Jeffries, tasked with interviewing “dumb as a stump” model Derek Zoolander (played by Taylor’s real life husband Ben Stiller)