"In a world where insecurity is epidemic and where adolescents go through an even more pronounced and tumultuous period of identity-formation (starting earlier, going later, more intense from start-to-finish … if the finish ever comes), the Internet has become an 'identity fitting room' where we try on multiple selves, make ourselves up, and reinvent ourselves over and over again."
—Walt Mueller, president of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding [learningmylines.blogspot.com, 1/18/12]
"We are living in an isolation that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors, and yet we have never been more accessible. Over the past three decades, technology has delivered to us a world in which we need not be out of contact for a fraction of a moment. … Yet within this world of instant and absolute communication, unbounded by limits of time or space, we suffer from unprecedented alienation. We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier."
—author Stephen Marche, in his May Atlantic article, "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?" Five months later, the social media giant hit 1 billion users, 81% of whom live outside the United States and Canada. [The Atlantic, 5/12; usatoday.com, 10/4/12]
"The brains of Internet addicts, it turns out, look like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts. In a study published in January, Chinese researchers found 'abnormal white matter'—essentially extra nerve cells built for speed—in the areas charged with attention, control, and executive function. A parallel study found similar changes in the brains of videogame addicts. … And don't kid yourself: the gap between an 'Internet addict' and John Q. Public is thin to nonexistent."
—Tony Dokoupil, in his Newsweek cover story titled "Tweets. Texts. Email. Posts. Is the Onslaught Making Us Crazy?" [Newsweek, 7/16/12]
"Violence in video games is often synonymous with success. Children with more of a propensity for aggression are more attracted to violent video media, but violent media, in turn, can also make them more aggressive. This could be related to the fact that most video games reward players for violent acts, often permitting them to move to the next level in a game."
—psychologists Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo, professor emeritus at Stanford University, and Nikita Duncan, on how they believe video games are helping to "ruin" a generation of boys. They compare and contrast games with pornography: "A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 'regular porn users are more likely to report depression and poor physical health than nonusers are. … The reason is that porn may start a cycle of isolation. … Porn may become a substitute for healthy face-to-face interactions, social or sexual.' Similarly, video games also go wrong when the person playing them is desensitized to reality and real-life interactions with others." Zimbardo and Duncan have written the book The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It. [cnn.com, 5/24/12]
"Violence has been a staple of human drama probably since people started acting out the hunt in front of the fire in their cave. But there is a difference between Macbeth and [horror films like] I Know What You Did Last Summer. And the difference is that you see the suffering (in the former), not just of the victims, but of the perpetrators as well. … What the research shows is not that kids see something in the movies and go out and imitate it. The problem is they see things over and over again that become increasingly normal, and they stop being in touch with their natural fear of and revulsion to these things. It shifts their frame for what is acceptable and what is desirable for the way we get along."
—Dr. Michael Rich, Harvard Medical School professor of pediatrics [Tribune-MCT Information Services; nola.com, 3/21/12]
"Let me be one hundred percent clear, I am not saying that The Dark Knight, or any other movie, 'caused' James Holmes to go out and commit mass murder. That would be a notion every bit as insane as he is. Yet for too long now—for years, decades—our society has been haunted by killers who have taken a piece of their demented inspiration from popular culture. … If you spend enough time, with enough emotional investment, watching people on screens, then the residual effect can be to make you feel as if real live human beings are just extensions of the screen images that you're addicted to. It can make you feel as if humans aren't beings that you have to interact with. They're not real, they don't have feelings, they don't matter."
—Entertainment Weekly movie critic Owen Gleiberman, reflecting on the intersection of entertainment and real-world violence after 24-year-old James Holmes opened fire on a crowded theater during a July 20 screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 people and wounding 59 others [ew.com, 7/26/12]
"All artists, whether they work in visual, film, television, video games or other media understand that they have the potential to affect viewers—in fact, they want it. All viewers want to be affected by media. In fact, if the media doesn't affect us, we call them boring. Humans are amazing learners, we can learn just from seeing something once. So it is no surprise that we can learn from the media, especially if the media are particularly exciting or interesting."
—Douglas A. Gentile, Ph.D. professor of psychology at Iowa State University, addressing the potential link between media and violence in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting that left 20 young children, six adults and the gunman, Adam Lanza, dead on Dec. 14 [foxnews.com, 12/17/12]
"It's time for the MPAA to re-examine how often, and why, it's lenient on violence in PG- and PG-13-rated films, especially those financed by the major studios that fund the MPAA's existence, and so nervous when it comes to language and sexuality. … When a film like The King's Speech or Once or Bully gets nailed with an R for some rough language, I look at some of the viscera- and sadism-oriented products also rated R, and I shake my head and think, briefly, about moving to Canada."
—Chicago Tribune writer Michael Phillips [kansascity.com, 4/11/12]
"The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place. I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality. After that, I didn't think I would get to work in television again."
—actor Mandy Patinkin, who starred on the CBS crime procedural Criminal Minds for two seasons before abruptly quitting in 2007. He added, "I'm not making a judgment on the taste [of people who watch crime procedurals]. But I'm concerned about the effect it has." [nymagazine.com, 9/9/12]
Young people who watch movies that depict drinking are nearly twice as likely to begin drinking themselves, according to research from Dartmouth University. Researchers (led by pediatrics professor James Sargent) tracked more than 6,500 10- to 14-year-olds for two years and correlated their viewing of more than 500 movies with their alcohol usage. Over the course of the study, "the number of teenagers who had started drinking rose from 11% to 25%. The number of teens who began binge drinking tripled from 4% to 13%." Sargent's assessment is blunt: "Alcohol use in the movies is part of alcohol advertising. Manufacturers pay to put their brands in movies." [npr.org, 2/21/12]
For every hour of exposure to sexual content in movies, teens are more than five times more likely to lose their virginity within six years. "Adolescents who are exposed to more sexual content in movies start having sex at younger ages, have more sexual partners, and are less likely to use condoms with casual sexual partners," said Ross O'Hara, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Missouri. His research focused on 1,228 children ages 12 to 14, with follow-ups conducted six years later. "This study, and its confluence with other work, strongly suggests that parents need to restrict their children from seeing sexual content in movies at young ages." O'Hara went on to report that while more than half of adolescents use movies and the media as their "greatest source of sexual information," many could not differentiate between what they saw on a screen and what they confronted in real life. [telegraph.co.uk, 7/18/12]
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 real-world partners. [sciencedaily.com, 9/18/12]
"As an actor and woman who, at times, avails herself of the media, I am painfully aware of the conversation about women's bodies, and it frequently migrates to my own body. … The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about. … The dialogue is constructed so that our bodies are a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others."
—actress Ashley Judd, in an op-ed published by The Daily Beast, addressing the raging cultural "conversation" about her so-called "puffy face," which she said was a side effect of being sick for a month and taking medication [thedailybeast.com, 4/9/12]
"When things really began to change is when the social culture changes. I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public [about homosexual issues] than almost anybody's ever done so far. People fear that which is different. Now they're beginning to understand."
—United States vice president Joe Biden, on Meet the Press [ew.com, 5/6/12]
"I think the opponents of the acceptance of gay people within society must be feeling pretty confused and miserable as they realize that they've lost the argument and it's over, really. It's just a matter of time. It will all row forward and in a few years' time, we will all be wondering what the fuss was about."
—actor Ian McKellen (The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit) [huffingtonpost.com, 12/11/12]
"Last month voters approved the Washington [marijuana legalization] initiative and a similar one in Colorado by surprisingly healthy margins of about 10 points in both states, in contrast with a California legalization measure that lost by seven points two years ago," writes Jacob Sullum in his Daily Beast article "With Pot as With Gay Marriage, Familiarity Breeds Tolerance." "The change in opinion about marijuana in some ways resembles the trend in attitudes toward gay marriage, which also scored landmark victories in last month's elections, winning approval from voters in three states. … Familiarity is breeding tolerance. Just as an individual's attitude toward gay people depends to a large extent on how many he knows (or, more to the point, realizes he knows), his attitude toward pot smokers (in particular, his opinion about whether they should be treated like criminals) is apt to be influenced by his firsthand experience with them." [thedailybeast.com, 12/6/12]
"What we put on TV can change how kids see the world, and that is a responsibility that I take very seriously. By showcasing different role models and different kinds of families we can positively influence sociological dynamics for the next 20 years."
—Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer for Disney Channels Worldwide [nytimes.com, 7/30/12]
"If we don't engage with movies, television and social media storytelling, I think we as Christians fail to engage our culture and community. Oscar season is a great opportunity to do that. We should be looking at the stories and movies that our culture honors, and dialogue about whether we can embrace them, learn from them, and what we find true or beautiful about them. It's a way for us to reflect on our own journey and find out if and how it matches up with the stories, and then dialogue about why it does or doesn't. … We should ask ourselves, 'What are the key questions the story is raising? How do we respond to these questions? What theological reflections relate to these questions? How do our responses connect with the movie story's responses?' Asking good questions is a great way to get people into dialogue with the movies."
—movie producer Ralph Winter, whose production credits include the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises, as well as several Star Trek films [christianitytoday.com, 2/23/12]