Want to keep romance alive? Turn off the TV. "We live in a society that perpetually immerses itself in media images from both TV and the Web, but most people have no sense of the ways those images are impacting them," says research director Jeremy Osborn of Albion College, who evaluated data from 390 married couples participating in his study "When TV and Marriage Meet: A Social Exchange Analysis of the Impact of Television Viewing on Marital Satisfaction and Commitment." The study indicates that the more people believe television's depictions of romantic relationships are accurate, the less likely they are to stay committed to their own real-world partners. Osborn continues, "The rate of marriage failure in the U.S. is not dropping, and it is important for people to have a sense of what factors are leading to the failure of so many relationships. In this study I found that people who believe the unrealistic portrayals on TV are actually less committed to their spouses and think their alternatives to their spouse are relatively attractive. … My hope would be that people would read this article and take a look at their own relationships and the relationships of those around them. How realistic are your expectations for your partner and where did those expectations come from?" [sciencedaily.com, 9/18/12 c&e]
Children actively watch an average of 80 minutes of television daily, according to a new study published in Pediatrics. When you add in the amount of "background" television exposure these kids are getting—when a TV is on in the same room but children aren't actively watching it—total consumption hits 312 minutes, or more than 5 hours. (Children from poor families are, on average, exposed to nearly 6 hours per day.) Previous studies have found that having a TV on in the background can be just as damaging to a child's development as when it's being actively watched. "It's really kind of shocking," says study author Matthew Lapierre, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. [AP, 10/1/12 stats]
Just days after TV animation provocateur Seth MacFarlane was selected to host the next Oscars telecast, the Parents Television Council asked its members to complain to the Federal Communications Commission about a recent episode of his comedy American Dad. According to the PTC, the episode includes graphic verbal and visual references to oral sex. "We believe this broadcast has broken the law," Tim Winter, the PTC's president, says in a statement. "In the past, American Dad and MacFarlane's other programs have included scenes mocking people with Down syndrome, implying father-daughter incest, a man masturbating a horse, a baby eating horse sperm, and a character eating vomit and excrement out of a baby's diaper. Some of those broadcasts are under review at the FCC for violating the broadcast decency law." [foxnews.com, 10/5/12]
The percentage of gay characters on television is at an all-time high. According to the 17th annual "Where We Are on TV" report from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, 31 out of 701 regular characters, or 4.4%, on primetime network drama and comedy series during the 2012-13 season, are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender—up from 2.9% last year. The study was based on an analysis of 97 scripted television programs either airing currently or scheduled to air this season.
Says GLAAD president Herndon Graddick, "It is vital for networks to weave complex and diverse story lines of LGBT people in the different programs they air. More and more Americans have come to accept their LGBT family members, friends, co-workers and peers, and as audiences tune into their favorite programs, they expect to see the same diversity of people they encounter in their daily lives."
But in his article "TV's New Gay Clichés," Entertainment Weekly columnist Mark Harris complains that the gay stereotypes woven into those characters are damaging: "There's a fine line between playing with clichés and clinging to them. … Low to middling ratings could imperil The New Normal and Partners, but if they fail, it won't be because people aren't ready for real gay characters, but because they are. Comedies that give gay men the spotlight only to turn them into shrieking caricatures are not, it turns out, adorbs." [foxnews.com, 10/5/12; Entertainment Weekly, 10/12/12 stats]
"[Tomorrow], rapper Macklemore and his creative partner Ryan Lewis will release their debut album, The Heist. A pre-release single that's gaining some fast and furious traction and attention is "Same Love," a pro-same-sex marriage song that's got a video treatment that traces the birth-to-death life of a gay men [sic]. Macklemore, from Washington state, penned and performed the tune in support of the state's Ref 74 and marriage equality. … This song, I believe, is indicative of a significant moment in popular culture. … The temptation [for some Christians] will be to shut it off, scoff, and even curse it. Instead, I think we need to consider the fact that we are at a watershed time in our culture where we need to think through how to best represent our Lord in our response to the issue of homosexuality."
—Christian youth culture expert Walt Mueller [learningmylines.blogspot.com, 10/5/12]
Facebook shares may still be struggling in the stock market, but the massive social network is still adding lots of "likes" in the rest of the world. It hit 100 million users in August 2008, 500 million in July 2010, and now 1 billion. The vast majority of Facebook's users (81%) live outside the United States and Canada, and they're getting younger: The median age of new users today is 22, compared to 23 in 2010 and 26 in 2008. The average user has about 600 "friends." [usatoday.com, 10/4/12 stats]
Buying Twitter followers is a growing trend that has in turn sparked a booming business. Al Delgado, a supplier of so-called "zombie" Twitter followers, says that he gets as many as 35 buyers a day—most of who buy between 1,000 and 5,000 such zombies. "Sometimes someone will buy a million, which costs $1,300," he adds. "Some of these are people you've heard of. I mostly sell to musicians but also lots of models, comedians and porn stars." [slate.com, 10/3/12]
Emma Watson is the most dangerous celebrity to look for on the Internet. According to Web security company McAfee, searching for "Emma Watson" yields a one-in-eight chance of delivering Internet surfers to malicious sites designed to pilfer passwords and personal information. Clocking in at slots two through 10 in terms of most dangerous searches are Jessica Biel, Eva Mendes, Selena Gomez, Halle Berry, Megan Fox, Shakira, Cameron Diaz, Salma Hayek and Sofia Vergara. Jimmy Kimmel was the only male celebrity to land a spot in the Top 20. [slate.com, 9/10/12]
The British folk-rock act Mumford & Sons has scored the biggest debut of the year with its sophomore album Babel, which sold 600,000 units its first week. That figure handily topped the biggest 2012 debut up to this point from Justin Bieber, whose album Believe moved 375,000 units. And Babel's numbers make it the biggest debut for a rock album since AC/DC's Black Ice sold 784,000 copies in November 2008. The album's stratospheric bow also marks the biggest sales week ever for an independent album. Regarding the band's enormous success, frontman Marcus Mumford recently told Rolling Stone, "This has all been very accidental, so we're kind of dealing with that as it comes. Whatever—the music industry's so f‑‑‑ing fickle." [billboard.com, 10/2/12; Rolling Stone, 10/11/12 stats]