When Time Magazine decided what to put on the cover of each of its four world editions this week, the editors made an unusual decision.
On the U.S., European and South Pacific editions, Time went with an image of Kim Jong Eun, the new, young supreme leader of North Korea, whom the magazine dubbed: “Lil’ Kim.” On the Asia cover, the magazine chose a strikingly different image, showing Jeremy Lin, the New York Knicks’ Asian American point guard phenom, in mid-air, behind the excited, all-bold caption “LINSANITY!”
Part of the decision makes sense. Asia is currently caught up in all that is Jeremy Lin, with China and Taiwan both seeking to claim the superstar basketball player as their own, and the rest of the continent looking on in envy. But America is just as obsessed with the Knicks wonderboy. As the Telegraph wrote Thursday of a recent Knicks-Toronto Raptors game, “On Valentine’s night in Toronto, America’s infatuation with Jeremy Lin grew to a fairly unhinged degree.”
And when it comes to Time covers, America is usually the one with the lighter fare. Most often, a comparison of the four editions shows a subject of global importance on the three world editions, while in the United States we get something, like, well dogs:
The above string of covers inspired a recent Slate article asking, “Does Time Magazine think Americans are stupid?”
Looking at the next comparison of covers, the better question might be: Does Time Magazine think Americans are self-absorbed?
So what happened this time? A request for explanation from Time Magazine’s design and publishing heads has not yet been returned. In the meantime, allow us to speculate.
Scenario one: Time may have listened to the criticism that Americans felt condescended to by the different covers.
Two, and the more likely option, Linsanity/Linmania really has reached epic proportions in Asia, to a higher level even than in New York.
Three, and for the wild card, we’re guessing that Time publishers thought maybe — just maybe — Americans would pick up a cover that said Lil’ Kim, thinking it was the female rapper, and we’d finally read a story of global importance.