Oz the Great and Powerful, a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, conjured an estimated $80.3 million in the United States and Canada over the weekend, as well as another $69.9 million overseas—the biggest bit of box office prestidigitation so far this year. But some observers are wondering if many of the movie's intense moments might be a bit too much for young audiences. NBC News' Gael Fashingbauer Cooper noted the film's scary flying monkeys, "witch weirdness" and a scene in which Glinda the Good is essentially tortured. "It's agonizing to see her chained between two posts so the evil witches can zap her with some kind of supernatural electricity over and over again. She appears unharmed in the end and of course she triumphs, but that's a long drawn-out scene that is not easy to watch." [nbcnews.com, 3/8/13]
In early February, the funky dance/rap tune "Harlem Shake" by Harry Bauer Rodrigues (otherwise known as Baauer) spawned a viral dance craze in which participants shake and shimmy to about 30 seconds of it. The song hit No. 1 in America, fueled in part by tens of thousands of fans uploading their own silly (and sometimes raunchy) versions of the dance to YouTube. In Egypt and Tunusia, however, the dance has taken on a defiant political hue. Conservative Muslim governments in those countries have sought to investigate and clamp down on young people posting such videos. In Cairo, four students were arrested in early March for doing the dance in front of the pyramids, fueling further reaction and, predictably, hundreds more videos. CNN's Jason Miks writes, "In America, 'Harlem Shake' may be the top pop single. [But] in Egypt and Tunisia … it's causing leaders to tremble as it becomes a potent symbol of protest, revolt and defiance."
The Middle East isn't the only place where the dance is causing problems. In Australia, 15 miners at the Agnew Gold Mine were fired after a videoed performance of their dance underground was ruled unsafe by their employer. The company that owns the mine said that the video constituted a breach of its "core values of safety, integrity and excellence." [cnn.com, 3/6/13; huffingtonpost.com, 3/5/13; billboard, 3/4/13 c&e]
Carly Rae Jepsen and Train had been scheduled to perform at the Boy Scouts of America's 2013 National Scout Jamboree in July. But both acts have since pulled out of the event, citing the organization's stance on homosexuality. On March 5, Jepsen tweeted, "As an artist who believes in equality for all people, I will not be participating in the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree this summer." The members of Train said on their blog, "When we booked this show for the Boy Scouts of America we were not aware of any policy barring openly gay people from participation within the organization. Train strongly opposes any kind of policy that questions the equality of any American citizen. We have always seen the BSA as a great and noble organization. We look forward to participating in the Jamboree this summer, as long as they make the right decision before then."
The Boy Scouts of America has said it needs "time for a more deliberate review" of its ban on gay Scouts and leaders before changing that increasingly controversial policy. [nbcnews.com, 3/5/13]
An online reboot of the Superman story that was to be scripted by controversial pro-family science-fiction scribe Orson Scott Card has been put on hold after the project's illustrator quit. Card, a Mormon, has ignited vitriol for his criticism of homosexuality. And amid the ensuing firefight, artist Chris Sprouse decided not to participate any longer. "The media surrounding this story reached the point where it took away from the actual work, and that's something I wasn't comfortable with," Sprouse says. [salon.com, 3/6/13]
Justin Bieber's had a pretty bad week. He was booed after showing up two hours late to one of four shows at London's O2 Arena. Two nights later, he collapsed onstage, took a 10-minute break for oxygen, then headed to an emergency room after the show—posting a shirtless picture of himself on Instagram in the hospital. Friday, he got into an f-word-laden scuffle with paparazzi and had to be restrained by his team. And on Sunday, it was reported that he was canceling one of two scheduled shows in Portugal "due to unforeseen circumstances." Some pop culture observers say Bieber's increasingly erratic behavior looks sadly familiar. "Justin Bieber is starting to feel the pressure," People magazine's Carlos Greer told ABC News. "He's literally having his Michael Jackson 'leave me alone' moment." [abcnews.com, 3/7/13; tmz.com, 3/10/13; huffingtonpost.com, 3/9/13]
A strong majority of Americans, 80%, agree with the statement that "violent games and films contribute to violence in society." That's according to a new Vanity Fair/60 Minutes poll of 1,052 adults nationwide. Of those respondents, 45% believe those media contribute a lot to societal violence, while 35% believe it contributes "some." [broadcastingcable.com, 3/4/13 stats]
Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's miniseries The Bible pulled in 13.1 million viewers during its March 3 debut, the biggest audience for any cable program in 2013. In an interview with Christianity Today, Burnett, the producer behind Survivor and The Voice, said, "Our greatest hope is that this series will affect a new generation of viewers and draw them back to the Bible. I have been very fortunate. Survivor changed television. Right now, four nights out of seven, our production company has the number one show. We have had so much opportunity and fun. But when you look at the Bible you realize that this is the most enduring piece of work that we will ever work on. More people will see the Bible series than all of our other shows combined." [usatoday.com, 3/5/13; christianitytoday.com, 2/25/13 stats]
In the wake of Saturday Night Live's controversial "Djesus Unchained" skit (satirizing Quentin Tarantino's bloody movies by featuring a weapons-toting Jesus Christ), both Sears and JCPenney have decided to pull their advertising from the show. [foxnews.com, 3/5/13]
"When I was growing up, I don't recall seeing women flagrantly beating each other up as a teaser for a new show. I don't recall people openly talking about how much money they had or how much they paid for something (call me old-fashioned but isn't talking about money vulgar?). I don't recall wincing while watching the Academy Awards and uncomfortably waiting for the next "edgy" (read: crass) joke. Actually, I just remember feeling enchanted as I watched Billy Crystal tap dance across the stage in a tuxedo. What is happening to our society? Is vulgar the new normal? How do we navigate this strange new world? There are a few things we can do. We can control what our children are exposed to. … We can discuss what sort of values are important to us as a family. We can lead by example. This is what we can do. I'm hoping that there will be a tipping point whereby our society becomes bored with the tasteless, the lowbrow, the common vulgarities that have seeped into our popular culture. The catalyst for this tipping point is us."
—writer and Huffington Post contributor Jennifer L. Scott [huffingtonpost.com, 3/4/13]
The Oscars may have been two weeks ago. But host Seth MacFarlane is still inspiring indignation as his list of critics, many of whom are prominent actresses, continues to grow. Jane Fonda, Geena Davis and Jamie Lee Curtis have now joined the swelling celebrity chorus condemning his sexist jokes. Curtis said, "I was offended last week. As an Academy member, as the child of former Academy members and as a woman, I expected more from the best that the movie business has to offer." [thedailybeast.com, 3/4/13; huffingtonpost.com, 3/4/13]