"You know what an audience-friendly film is. It tells a story that engages you about characters you can like and root for. It doesn't have to be just a comedy, though that's always a helpful element. But something like [the new Jackie Robinson biopic] 42 is the pinnacle of the audience-friendly work of popular culture—and it's certainly not a comedy. Yet those films—movies that seek to tell a story that uplifts or inspires—often get short shrift from critics for that reason alone. This week, for example, 42 is being slagged by some critics for being manipulative—as though all movies are not manipulative to one degree or another. 42 happens to be a well-made and extremely involving story about an important moment in history. The fact that it works on the viewer emotionally, however, is often seen as a negative by critics who aren't comfortable with movies that deal with feelings, rather than ideas or theories. … To too many critics, however, appealing to an audience and pandering to it are inextricably linked."
—movie reviewer Marshall Fine [hollywoodandfine.com, 4/12/13]
"I don't really follow teams, and didn't know much about the history of baseball before this. [But Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey] was a man who was passionate about social justice. He cared a lot about ethics and morality. … Modern audiences need to be reminded of the reality of the world they were living in. It's an accurate description of what was happening 60 years ago in this country. It wasn't just the state of baseball. It was the state of the United States."
—Harrison Ford, whose character in 42, Branch Rickey, was instrumental in breaking professional baseball's color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson as the first black player to Major League Baseball in 1946. [usatoday.com, 4/11/13]
Athletic shoe and apparel giant Reebok has dropped rapper Rick Ross as its celebrity spokesperson in the wake of controversial, allegedly pro-rape lyrics on Ross' new song "U.O.E.N.O." Ross has countered the interpretations, saying via Twitter, "I dont condone rape." In a statement ending its one-year relationship with Ross, Reebok said, "Reebok holds our partners to a high standard, and we expect them to live up to the values of our brand. Unfortunately, Rick Ross has failed to do so. While we do not believe that Rick Ross condones sexual assault, we are very disappointed he has yet to display an understanding of the seriousness of this issue or an appropriate level of remorse."
But Salon contributor Mary Elizabeth Williams questions, "How [are Ross' lyrics] different from plenty of other songs, spanning decades of pop music, that also reference sexual coercion and force?"
As if to illustrate her point, more than 2,000 students and employees at Harvard University have signed an online petition protesting the inclusion of rapper Tyga at the school's "Yardfest 2013" spring concert due to misogynist and sexual content in his songs.
And some social commentators are suggesting that rap's generally poor treatment of women is something First Lady Michelle Obama should address. "Our first lady has been so vocal in her support for women across the board over the years," says Sophia A. Nelson, author of Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama. "It wouldn't be difficult or surprising if she somehow mentioned in a speech to a group the need for more responsibility in music. Let's be clear: most of these rappers are speaking about black women, which is something we all understand, and so does the first lady." [salon.com, 4/12/13; thedailybeast.com, 4/12/13]
How easily can underage teens purchase age-restricted entertainment? The Federal Trade Commission periodically seeks to answer that question via undercover shopper studies employing teens. In the most recent study, almost half of the 13- to 16-year-olds involved, 47%, were able to buy Parental Advisory-labeled music, 30% purchased R-rated DVDs, 24% obtained tickets to R-rated movies, and 13% successfully purchased M-rated video games. "Our underage shopper survey shows continued progress in reducing sales," said Charles Harwood, Acting Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "But retailers can still strengthen their commitment to limit children's access to products that are rated or labeled as potentially inappropriate for them." [ftc.gov, 3/25/13; usatoday.com, 3/26/13 stats]
After garnering some of the best cable ratings of the year over its five-week run, History Channel's The Bible has topped the DVD and Blu-ray sales chart in its first week of release with sales of 525,000 units. That figure represents, according to PR Newswire, the biggest-selling TV-on-DVD debut in the last five years, as well as the best-selling miniseries of all time on Blu-ray, Digital HD and DVD in its first week of release. [prnewswire.com, 4/8/13 stats]
Farrah Abraham, one of the stars of MTV's Teen Mom, is admitting that she recently filmed a professionally produced sexual encounter with porn star James Deen that was intended to be leaked as an amateur "celebrity sex tape" (à la Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian). "Staging an event like this is really a desperate cry for fame," sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman told Fox News. "But today's stars, and reality stars in particular, are looking for ways to make their fame last as long as possible." Media activist Nicole Clark, director of the documentary Cover Girl Culture, adds, "Society has taught this young woman and many others that 'shock and awe' gets attention and that being a sex object is highly valued by our culture. We reward immature and trashy behavior, and glaze over and ignore those who are making a positive difference in our world. It is a sad reflection that many girls have learned from our society, over which Hollywood has a huge influence, that they need to be remembered as sex objects in order to feel worthy and successful." [foxnews.com, 4/11/13; theclicker.today.com, 4/11/13 c&e]
"I believe the very best talent isn't even looking for work. They're mobile and socially connected and too busy changing the world," says Vala Afshar, chief marketing officer for the tech firm Enterasys, on why the company is now soliciting "Twitterviews" for applicants. And Enterasys isn't alone: More companies are judging would-be employees not by their résumés or interviews, but by the impression they leave on social networks. Aaron Biebert, a Milwaukee-based media director, recently hired someone solely by what he saw in 40 Twitter interactions—without even an in-person interview. "It didn't matter to me what they're like in an interview setting," he said. "All that mattered was their online personality." [aol.com, 2/27/13]
Consider the implications of this across the entire Internet: A new report from the socialbreakers.com suggests that 53% of Justin Bieber's 37 million Twitter followers are fake or spam-derived. [billboard.com, 4/11/13 stats]
"My life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. Everyone's life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. The Internet is partial truths—we get to decide what people see and what they don't. [But] community—the rich kind, the transforming kind, the valuable and difficult kind—doesn't happen in partial truths and well-edited photo collections on Instagram. Community happens when we hear each other's actual voices, when we enter one another's actual homes, with actual messes, around actual tables telling stories that ramble on beyond 140 pithy characters."
—Relevant contributor Shauna Niequist [relevantmagazine.com, 4/4/13]
Swear words make up just shy of 1% of the words an average person says in a given day. So says research from Timothy Jay, a psychology professor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. He also says the average child learns his or her first swear word by age 2. [time.com, 4/10/13 stats]