Film critic Roger Ebert died on April 4 after a long battle with cancer. Seeking to summarize Ebert's cultural impact, fellow movie reviewer Leonard Maltin writes, "The role of critics has been marginalized by the growth of the Internet and the empowerment of self-made bloggers who are eager to share their opinions. But few, if any, of these wannabes will ever surpass Roger Ebert as an essayist, and I doubt that anyone will ever have the enormous impact he and Gene Siskel had on the moviegoing public."
Of his own journey late in life, Ebert wrote in his 2011 book Life Itself: A Memoir, "Illness led me resolutely toward the contemplation of death. That led me to the subject of evolution, that most consoling of all the sciences, and I became engulfed on my blog in unforeseen discussions about God, the afterlife, religion, theory of evolution, intelligent design, reincarnation, the nature of reality, what came before the big bang, what waits after the end, the nature of intelligence, the reality of the self, death, death, death. … Raised as a Roman Catholic, I internalized the social values of that faith and still hold most of them, even though its theology no longer persuades me. I have no quarrel with what anyone else subscribes to; everyone deals with these things in his own way, and I have no truths to impart. All I require of a religion is that it be tolerant of those who do not agree with it. … Someday I will no longer call out, and there will be no heartbeat. I will be dead. What happens then? From my point of view, nothing. Absolutely nothing." [salon.com, 9/15/11, 4/4/13; huffingtonpost.com, 4/5/13]
"Like Hannibal the Cannibal, [new TV show Hannibal] wants to have its bloody carcasses and eat them too. It wants to suggest that there's something important about looking upon horrors, and in the world of the series, that may be true: If [FBI profiler] Will [Graham] doesn't look, serial killers go uncaught. But in the real world, what's the terrible thing that happens when we don't look? The ratings go down. But, of course, we're looking. Ultra-violent TV and serial killers are having a very popular moment."
—Willa Paskin, television critic for salon.com, discussing NBC's drama based on the famous literary serial killer Hannibal Lecter [salon.com, 4/4/13]
"I don't want the American public to be sympathetic to the killers."
—Zsuzsanna Grigia, worrying about the cultural impact of the upcoming action comedy Pain & Gain, a movie about a gang of murderous bodybuilders that made headlines in the 1990s. Her brother and girlfriend were killed and dismembered by members of that Sun Gym gang. [AP, 4/4/13]
Breaking Bad, AMC's much-lauded drama about a high school teacher turned drug lord, is boosting tourism in Albuquerque, N.M., where the show takes place. Fans are visiting local hot-spots made famous by the program, including the suburban home of main character Walter White, the car wash he uses as a money laundering center and the fast-food "chicken" joint (actually a Mexican restaurant) he frequents. The Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau has even launched a website to help the show's devotees find their way around. But Breaking Bad's unsavory subject matter has pushed some merchants into questionable territory. Albuquerque's sweet-treat store The Candy Lady recently started selling sugar rock candies that look like the show's methamphetamine (and has already sold 20,000 of them). And Rebel Donut offers doughnuts sprinkled with blue, meth-look-alike sprinkles. [AP, 3/15/13]
"We're trying to infuse a little good into the American culture. Love God, love your neighbor, hunt ducks. Raise your kids, make them behave, love them. I don't see the downside to that."
—Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson, on what he and his cohorts hope to achieve with their A&E reality TV hit [foxnews.com, 4/3/13]
Facebook unveiled a new Android-based mobile phone software system, dubbed Home, on April 4. The social media juggernaut says its newest product "isn't just a phone or operating system," but instead is a mobile phone interface that will give consumers a "completely new experience." Writing for The Huffington Post, Bianca Bosker said of Facebook's mobile gambit, "With Home, Facebook has crossed the line between something people check—that they have control over, and deploy according to their wishes and needs—to become something that's always on, checking in with us, fighting for attention, waving people we know in our face. Rather than a tool we use to talk to others, the phone, thanks to Facebook, has become something that communicates to us. And it's Facebook that gets to do the talking." [huffingtonpost.com, 4/5/13]
It's official: Twitter is now a cradle-to-grave social network. On Feb. 20, Houston's Hermann Memorial Hospital tweeted a live C-section delivery, including graphic pictures and video clips accompanied by warnings that the content might not be suitable for everyone. Meanwhile, a new service called LivesOn promises to continue tweeting for you after you're dead—replicating both what you tend to tweet about and how you go about it. Dave Bedwood, LivesOn creator, says, "This to me, this is no weirder than any afterlife that has been promised by organized religion, or hell that has been threatened. It's just a sign of our times, let's explore that." [nydailynews.com, 2/21/13, abcnews.go.com, 2/22/13]
Traditional, terrestrial radio is still on top when it comes to how teens and young adults listen to music—but just barely. According to a survey from the NPD Group, Americans ages 13 to 35 spent 24% of their music-listening time tuned into an AM or FM radio station. That's down two points from last year. In comparison, the time spent listening to Internet radio has rocketed up to 23%—17% more than it was last year. [pcmag.com, 4/2/13 stats]
Young dads are spending more to entertain their children these days. According to a study by the British research group Mintel, about 21% of fathers between the ages of 18 and 34 spend more than $300 a month on family entertainment—nearly double the percentage of fathers 35 and over who do so, and triple the percentage of young moms who spend that much. "Dads' spending habits reflect their tendency to take a more relaxed approach to family activities, compared to moms who are typically the budget makers and enforcers," says Gretchen Grabowski, who analyzes travel and leisure trends for Mintel. "Many dads see their role as one of choosing fun activities that instantly gratify their kids." [mediapost.com, 3/27/13 stats]
According to the Pew Research Center's latest poll, 52% of Americans now believe marijuana should be legal. It marks the first time a majority of those polled have answered affirmatively on this question. Cultural momentum in favor of legalizing pot usage has gathered steam quickly, with support for it jumping 11% in just three years. Additionally, a decreasing number are categorizing marijuana as a moral issue. Today, just 32% believe it's morally wrong, compared with 50% just seven years ago. And recent stories involving pictures and/or admissions of pot usage by celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga haven't provoked the outrage and scandal that might have occurred in the past. "Nobody cares. Society has moved on," says longtime Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman. [washingtontimes.com, 4/4/13; usatoday.com, 4/2/13 stats]
Adolescents who begin dating in middle school are four times more likely to eventually drop out of school and twice as likely to use alcohol, marijuana and tobacco as their peers. They're also more likely to struggle in their study skills, according to new research from the University of Georgia. Study author Pamela Orpinas, a professor at the school's College of Public Health and head of the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, followed 624 students from 6th to 12th grade at six schools in northeast Georgia. She says of her team's findings, "A likely explanation for the worse educational performance of early daters is that these adolescents start dating early as part of an overall pattern of high-risk behaviors." Orpinas says her research suggests that "dating should not be considered a rite of passage in middle school." [sciencedaily.com, 3/15/13 stats, c&e]