Nine People Who Represent the Year 2005

Terri Schiavo

Five years ago I made a list about the nine words that sum up 2000: the various catchphrases and brand names that were on everybody's tongue that year. I feel that 2005 has been more about particular personalities: people you'd never heard of before, but who suddenly became big news. Chances are, you won't be hearing about most of these folks even next year, so fleeting is their fame – or, rather, their infamy.

  1. Terri Schiavo. This braindead Florida woman ignited the right-to-die debate for millions of Americans.
  2. Cindy Sheehan. Mother of a US soldier killed in Iraq, she became an outspoken figurehead for the antiwar movement.
  3. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Indicted as the probable White House leak in CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity being leaked to the press (as revenge for her husband's published criticism of the Bush administration's justification for the Iraq War), Vice President Cheney's chief of staff is, as of this writing, either the patsy or the tip of the iceberg as the investigation into the leak continues.
  4. Natalee Holloway. This year's variation on the missing-and-presumed-dead cute white woman, the Alabama teenager disappeared while on vacation in Aruba, and the usual media circus ensued.
  5. Michael Brown. The Hurricane Katrina catastrophe is arguably the biggest American story of 2005. At the center is criticism of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's bungled response to the disaster, and FEMA's fall guy is its (now-former) chief Michael Brown, by most accounts a shallow and inexperienced nitwit.
  6. Steve Carell. Though the crazed Tom Cruise is the actor who made the most headlines in 2005, thanks to his publicity-hungry "relationship" with B-list actress Katie Holmes, as well as other ill-informed choices, a star was definitely born this year: Steve Carell, little-known before January but now a major presence both on TV (the surprisingly well-reviewed US version of The Office) and the big screen (the surprisingly successful 40-Year-Old Virgin).
  7. Thomas Mesereau. Michael Jackson's defense attorney in his child molestation trial, he managed to get his client acquitted, after which Jackson split for the Middle East where presumably he can now sleep with whoever his little heart desires, with the King of Bahrain's compliments.
  8. Kanye West. Likely to be a familiar face for some time, West's notoriety exploded in 2005 with his music and his ballsy "George Bush doesn't care about black people" remark on a televised Hurricane Katrina aid benefit.
  9. Harriet Miers. Already nearly forgotten by the end of 2005, President Bush's candidate for the US Supreme Court backed away from her nomination after attacks from both sides of the political spectrum.