'War Room' Fights for Filmgoers
War Room, the fifth film from Christian filmmakers Stephen and Alex Kendrick, pulled in an estimated $11 million in its theatrical debut over the weekend. The powerful story about the power of prayer nearly knocked off the reigning champ, Straight Outta Compton, becoming the best ever debut for the Kendricks and doubling Hollywood analysts' projections. In doing so it beat out two other wide releases for the weekend, No Escape (starring Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan) and We Are Your Friends (starring Zac Efron), both of which opened on significantly more screens. Indeed, War Room's per-screen average was a whopping $9,692, more than doubling Compton's average take, and coming in 10 times higher than We Are Your Friends' per-screen average of just $772. [boxofficemojo.com, 8/30/15; abcnews.com, 8/31/15 stats]
VMA's as Vile as They Wanna Be
The 2015 MTV Video Music Awards were far more about the sex-centric and drug-adoring antics of hostess Miley Cyrus than the trophies that got handed out. In the build-up to the show, Miley appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last week wearing an open coat and pasties on her otherwise bare breasts. Among other things, she told Jimmy, "My dad [would] rather have me with my t-ts out and being a good person than rather have my shirt on and be a b--ch." It was no surprise, then, that in addition to wearing 11 extraordinarily flesh-revealing outfits, the self-sexualized celeb dropped a curtain shielding her top while she was changing backstage, briefly revealing her completely bare breast (despite MTV's pre-show pledges to put the broadcast on a delay). Miley also smoked marijuana backstage, sharing a joint with a journalist, while promoting her cannabis habit throughout the broadcast.
All of that prompted CPYU's Walt Mueller to comment, "Miley Cyrus continues to speak, sing, dress, and do just about anything and everything to breakdown and redefine our parameters for decency and civility. Last night, Cyrus offered up an in-your-face barrage of bravado, profanity, breast-flashing, boasting, and border-less sexuality that is redefining what it means to be human, to flourish, and to be a woman."
As for those trophies, Taylor Swift won four. Others went to Fall Out Boy, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Fetty Wap, Kendrick Lamar, Skrillex, Diplo, Big Sean, Beyoncé, Flying Lotus and 5 Seconds of Summer. [foxnews.com, 8/27/15; dailymail.co.uk, 5/31/15; rollingstone.com, 5/30/15; cpyu.org, 8/31]
Choose Your Own Sexuality
“One young woman defined herself as ‘squiggly.' And there was silence and everyone was saying, 'What exactly is that?' And then she said, ‘Well, I feel like that's what I am in terms of my gender and sexuality. I'm squiggly.’ A lot of people began to shake their heads and said, 'Yeah, that's pretty good. I feel that way, too.'"
—Cornell professor Mitch Savin-Williams, talking about how his Millennial students are increasingly coming up with their own signifiers when it comes to describing their sexuality, including "demisexual," "heteroflexible" and "solosexual." [dailydot.com, 8/18/15]
It's 'Just Marriage' to Wonder Woman
In Issue 48 of DC Comics' Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman, the world's most famous Amazon warrior stops Russian tanks from rolling into Crimea … and officiates a wedding between two women. When Clark Kent expresses a bit of surprise over that latter bit, Wonder Woman tells him, "Clark, my country is all women. To us, it's not 'gay' marriage. It's just marriage." [thedailybeast.com, 8/19/15]
Caitlyn Costume Controversy
A new "Call Me Caitlyn" Halloween costume, based on Bruce (now called Caitlyn) Jenner's lingerie-clad Vanity Fair cover, has sparked a Twitter outcry. While some observers found the burly-man-in-a-corset costume advertisement amusing, others were outraged. "There's no tasteful way to 'celebrate' Caitlyn Jenner or respect transgender people this way on the one night of the year when people use their most twisted imaginations to pretend to be villains and monsters," said Vincent Villano, spokesman for the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington. However, the costume designers at Spirit Halloween say they aren't disrespecting Jenner at all. "At Spirit Halloween, we create a wide range of costumes that are often based on celebrities, public figures, heroes and superheroes. Caitlyn Jenner is all of the above and our Caitlyn-inspired costume reflects just that," a spokesperson said in a statement. [usatoday.com, 8/26/15]
Targeting the Pink and the Blue
In June, an exasperated Ohio mom tweeted a picture of a Target toy section picture delineating "Building Sets" and "Girls' Building Sets." The ensuing social media furor got Target's attention, and the retailer has now announced it will cease categorizing such things as toys and bedding into boy and girl sections. "We never want guests or their families to feel frustrated or limited by the way things are presented," a Target press release said. "Over the past year, guests have raised important questions about a handful of signs in our stores that offer product suggestions based on gender. In some cases, like apparel, where there are fit and sizing differences, it makes sense. In others, it may not." [chicagotribune.com, 8/9/15]
French Students Gruesomely Break Bad
Three French students who murdered a woman over an alleged $6,600 drug debt tried to hide their crime by imitating a scene from Breaking Bad: dissolving the woman's body in acid. One student admitted to police that their inspiration for the failed cover-up (the body didn't completely dissolve) came from AMC's gritty drama about a meth dealer. [foxnews.com, 8/11/15 c&e]
Virginia WDBJ-7 television reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman Adam Ward were shot and killed during a live television broadcast the morning of Aug. 26. The gunman, Vester Flanagan, was a disgruntled former employee of WDBJ-7, and he committed suicide while being pursued by authorities. Before he ended his life, though, he posted graphic first-person video footage of his crime on his Twitter feed (which uses his professional name, Bryce Williams). And he had also faxed a 23-page statement (which he described as a suicide note) to ABC News, outlining his grievances, which included claims of racism and bullying. Then he expressed admiration for other notorious killers, giving Virginia Tech mass murderer Seung-Hui Cho, Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, and Columbine High School killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold credit for inspiring his actions. (Flanagan's Facebook and Twitter accounts were quickly suspended.) [abcnews.com, 8/26/15; cnn.com, 8/26/15; latimes.com, 8/26/15; nationalreview.com, 8/26/15 c&e]
Hilton Pulls Porn
After Hilton Hotel executives began receiving as many as 1,000 emails a week from people opposing the presence of pornography as part of the chain's TV offerings, Hilton has announced that it will remove all such channels from its hotels in 85 countries. "Partly it was the public pressure," said Pat Truman, president and CEO of the National Center of Sexual Exploitation, which organized the three-year public campaign that convinced Hilton to make the move. "But to give Hilton credit, they thanked us in the end." [lifesitenews.com, 8/20/15]
Of Specks and Planks and Phones
More than 80% of Americans feel that using phones in social situations can destroy in-the-flesh conversations. But 89% admitted to the Pew Research Center that they'd used their own phone during their latest social event. [time.com, 8/26/15]
The Number Ones
#1 DVD (Sales)
#1 DVD (Rental)
#1 TV Show (Comedy)
#1 TV Show (Drama)
#1 TV Show (Reality)
#1 TV Show (Cable)
CULTURE CLIPS is researched and written by Adam R. Holz with assistance from Paul Asay and Bob Hoose. It is edited by Steven Isaac.