Time Magazine in Movies (contd.)

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 is TIME. With 3,400,000 weekly circulation within America alone, and with its bold stentorian masthead, the magazine is a visual cue that many people identify with, and it lends a certain gravitas and pedigree to the characters.



Bob Roberts (1992) depicts a fictional senatorial race between the titular 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, after the 80s, its coverage of regional elections waned, until the advent of Tea Party in the 2010s. 


The movie Lions for Lambs features Tom Cruise as the potential presidential candidate Senator Jasper Irving (Republican of Illinois). This is also in keeping with Time magazine’s tradition of covering presidential hopefuls (even if it turns out to be premature, as in the case of freshman senator Marco Rubio).


Another political cover, from In the Line of Fire. The crossfire on the forehead of the unnamed president was the handiwork of John Malkovich’s would-be assassin, who modelling himself after John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald, plans to kill the President.


Another killer on the cover in 1992 — a busy year for fictional time covers (Bob Roberts came out the same year). Here in Seinfeld, Time itself is a minor plot point. George Costanza buys the last copy of Time at an airport magazine, believing that he is mentioned in Jerry’s magazine interview (He is not), and fights with another customer (who is in handcuffs) who argues he has more right to the magazine since he is the cover feature. The inspiration here was probably the arrest of David Berkowitz, Son of Sam, which appeared on the magazine’s cover.


A few more lighter covers, both animated, both from post-war era. 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).  


Tom Hanks is probably the only person who had been on the Time cover twice fictitiously. Firstly when as Zeligian Forrest Gump, he ran across America, and then as the Castaway Chuck Noland.


In Ocean’s movies, Reuben Tishkoff is a flamboyant casino tycoon who gets muscled out of his Vegas hotels (twice!), first in Ocean’s Eleven and then in Ocean’s Thirteen. His cover, seen briefly behind him, is reminiscent of the hand drawn covers by Bernard Safran and Barron Storey did for the magazine from the 50s until the 80s, but largely moved away from since.


Time’s flagship weekly is of course, Man of the Year. In my fellow Americans, one-term president Russell P. Kramer boasts to his fellow one-termer, the Democrat Matt Douglas that he was Time’s Man of the Year twice. Douglas, who presumably had never been honored thus, grumbles that Time has made questionable choices before, like Hitler.


Time later rebranded Man of the Year as more egalitarian Person of the Year. In 2010, that honor fictionally went to Iron Man.


In Legally Blonde 2, Elle Woods goes to Washington D.C. to pass Bruiser’s Bill — trying to put an end to animal testing — after she finds out that her dog’s mother is used for testing at a cosmetic company. Whoever made the mock cover had a lot of fun with the headline “Will our ‘Person of the Year’ be a dog?” Time has last selected a non-human in 1988 (The Endangered Earth), and computer as Machine of the Year in 1982, but never had an animal been selected. (Dumbo was nearly Mammal of the Year in 1941, but Pearl Harbor intervened).

One thought on “Time Magazine in Movies (contd.)

  1. One of my all-time favorite fictional Time covers has got to be this one from The Martian. I get chills any time this scene comes by, and it’s largely in part because of the effectiveness of this cover!

    The Martian – Starman – David Bowie

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    | | | | The Martian – Starman – David Bowie




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