"Sure, social media can exploit our insecurity and vanity, but at the same time it showcases our need to be able to reach out and feel connected—right now. With tragedy comes a swell of reactions most of us have a hard time sorting out. In such an isolated age, we have few safe places to express them at all. For better or worse, we increasingly turn to technological space as our place of choice to process a world out of our control. Shock, grief, anger, confusion, doubt as well as sympathy are now more readily shared online than in person. In absence of dialog or proximity we find relief in mediated validation and online participation. A collective 'me too' has always been equal parts salve and catalyst—and now social media is where we experience this phenomenon most."
—Brian Kammerzelt, writing for Relevant, who also laments how quickly the wave of sharing crests. He writes, "Sadly, it seems only extreme events awaken us to what matters most and now those too are quickly scrolled away. Our reminders become as fleeting as our medium of choice. Unceasing feeds and the built in filters of our limited circles ultimately hide a world of importance." [relevantmagazine.com, 4/22/13]
In the wake of the Boston bombing, the executive producer of NBC's grim drama Hannibal decided to shelve an upcoming episode. Bryan Fuller said of his decision, "I didn't want to have anyone come to the show and have a negative experience. Whenever you [write] a story and look at the sensational aspects of storytelling, you think, 'This is interesting metaphorically, and this is interesting as social commentary.' With this episode, it wasn't about the graphic imagery or violence. It was the associations that came with the subject matter that I felt would inhibit the enjoyment of the overall episode. … It was my own sensitivity."
It's not unusual for the entertainment industry to pull shows or delay films that, if released immediately after a national tragedy might come across as insensitive. But some wonder whether the example of Hannibal's newfound circumspection raises even more questions … about what kind of programming is ever appropriate:
"The example of Hannibal is worth further reflection because it reveals some interesting things about this business of being 'sensitive,' or rather, not being 'insensitive,'" writes Jeff Jensen for Entertainment Weekly. "The move made me reasonably curious… and piqued my interest in a way that makes me ashamed. Just how relevant to the times was the pulled episode? How much more lurid could Hannibal be? Now I must know. Let me see! That line of thinking is certainly flattering to a show like Hannibal, which also got TV pundits talking last week by losing nearly 20% of its audience from week two in the overnight ratings. … So we could be cynical and suspicious, too. Why announce the move? And why not just bench Hannibal altogether for a week? Couldn't we all use a little breather from dreadful drama about man's inhumanity toward man? And while we're going down this wormhole: What's the expiration date on 'sensitivity'? When is it okay to go back to being 'insensitive'? The more you noodle this over, the more meaningless this seemingly thoughtful gesture becomes." [variety.com, 4/19/13; ew.com, 4/25/13]
Neil Diamond's 43-year-old song "Sweet Caroline" first hit the airwaves in 1969, reaching as high as No. 4. It faded from public consciousness for nearly 30 years before some sports teams began playing it at games. Specifically, the song became a staple at Boston Red Sox games, being played in the eighth inning for every home game since 2002. In the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy, other teams—including Red Sox rivals the New York Yankees—played "Sweet Caroline" in their own stadiums as a way to show solidarity with the city of Boston. And Neil Diamond himself made a surprise appearance to sing the song in person during the first home game the Sox played following the blasts. Since the bombing, sales for "Sweet Caroline" have soared 597%, and Diamond has said that all recent proceeds of the song will go to Boston's One Fund. [abcnews.com, 4/25/13 c&e]
"Did gay and lesbian characters on TV (and to a lesser extent in the movies) help pave the way toward acceptance of gay marriage and this spring's potential Supreme Court landmark? … Personally, I have no doubt that the biggest single factor that has driven social change on this issue is that almost all the straight people in America have gotten to know someone gay over the last 20 or 30 years, and have not found them fundamentally alien. Whatever biblical disapproval or personal distaste for homosexuality you may feel, your spouse's gay nephew or the lesbian in Accounting probably strikes you as a normal-ish person, not inherently more obnoxious than others. But I think it's equally true that TV has played a crucial role. As any media scholar will tell you, what we know about the world from our real lives and what we experience on TV tend to reinforce each other, and at the level of deep psychology we don't necessarily tell them apart. … Will & Grace marks only one minor milestone in TV's 30-odd-year struggle with representations of sexual identity, during which the box has served both as an agent and a mirror of social change."
—Salon entertainment writer Andrew O'Hehir, in his article "Did TV Change America's Mind on Gay Marriage?" [salon.com, 3/30/13 c&e]
"Who thought we would ever have a lesbian selling makeup? … It blows me away when I turn on her show and I see her in a vest and tie, dancing with housewives from Ohio, and she loves them and they love her. It's wonderful."
—Jessica Halem, a gay rights activist and comedian, referring to Ellen DeGeneres, a TV-centric entertainer National Public Radio says has done a great deal to change the conversation about homosexuality in the United States [npr.com, 3/25/13]
There are only 24 hours in a day. So it makes sense that the more time college students engage with social and entertainment media, the lower their GPA will be. That's the essence of a new study by researchers at The Miriam Hospitals Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine. They surveyed 483 freshmen women at the start of their first semester at an unnamed Northeastern university, then correlated their grades with their use of 11 different forms of media, including television, movies, music, Internet, social networking, talking on cell phones, texting, magazines, newspapers, books (unrelated to school) and video games. Researchers found that the young women engaged with these media on average about 12 hours a day, and that more media usage correlated with lower grades. Lead author Jennifer L. Walsh said of her team's findings, "We found women who spend more time using some forms of media report fewer academic behaviors, such as completing homework and attending class, lower academic confidence and more problems affecting their school work, like lack of sleep and substance use." [redorbit.com, 4/11/13 stats, c&e]
The classic board game Candy Land has gotten another makeover, and some aren't thrilled with the results this time around. Why? Because board stars Queen Frostine and Princess Lolly look distinctly more slinky than previous incarnations. "Candy Land isn't the only classic that has, without our notice, gotten a hot makeover. (And I'm not the only one who finds this evolution alarming.)," writes Peggy Orenstein in The Atlantic. "The Disney Princesses have grown gradually more skinny and coy over time. And, check out Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Brite, Trolls (now called 'Trollz'). Even Care Bears and My Little Pony have been put on a diet. When our kids play with toys that we played with, we assume that they are the same as they were when we were younger. But they aren't. Not at all. Our girls (and our boys) are now bombarded from the get-go with images of women whose bodies range from unattainable to implausible (Disney Princesses, anyone?)." [The Atlantic, 4/13]
The new LEGO City Undercover video game is an open-world adventure that borrows (ever so slightly) from Grand Theft Auto. But instead of playing a thug, as in GTA, here you play a blocky, good-guy cop. Nevertheless, you can wreck the scenery around you, destroying and "stealing" more than building and "restoring," if you so desire—just as in GTA. Says Loz Doyle, an executive producer at TT Games and one of the minds behind the game, "You can smash into other vehicles and bits of LEGO fall off them until it's just down to the shafting with the engine and a seat and a steering wheel." But he also says, "The person that's driving doesn't really mind, they just carry on about their business. It's also the same when it comes to getting into other people's vehicles, because you're a cop and you're kind of famous. They don't mind, they just jump out and say, 'Hey, that's my car!' It's very friendly in LEGO City." [time.com, 3/6/13]