Aside from the fact that "x number Greatest" lists of anything are asinine to begin with, the fact that the Discovery Channel's list was the result of an online poll of some sort, and one publicized mainly among AOL subscribers, at that, guaranteed that it would be high among the top 100 most asinine of such lists, ever. That mysterious beast, The Public, after all, has the attention span of a gnat, and it was inevitable that the list would be heavy with names of the currently and recently popular. Even knowing this, I must say I was surprised to find that it included the likes of Bret Favre, Tom Cruise, and Madonna. I hadn't thought even AOL subscribers to be that benighted. I mean, really! Bret Favre, but not John Muir? Tom Cruise, but not Walt Whitman? Clearly, the attention span of a gnat.
Such a list is bound to say next to nothing about greatness, and a great deal about the state of the culture, though. One thing I found particularly interesting was that, while a number of men from the 18th and 19th centuries made the cut, Harriet Tubman alone, from all the women of that era, was included. I believe that the next earliest women who appear on the list were Helen Keller, Amelia Earhart, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Harriet Tubman must have been awfully lonely, being the only great American woman of the 19th century. Has the public already forgotten Clara Barton, for example, or Elizabeth Cady Stanton, or Ellen Swallow?
Even many women who lived well into the 20th century are passed over. Jane Addams didn't make the cut, and neither did the very influential Margaret Sanger. Instead, the list has Ellen DeGeneres, Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey. The attention span of a gnat, I tell you!
Ah, well, it's only television. After they've milked it for all the rerun revenues, it will become one of the 100,000 Most Forgotten Television Events of the era. The gnat brain will make sure of that.