"Do you know how many kids play outside on their own these days? One study I read said that in a typical week, the number is down to 6%. That's kids ages nine to 13—the sweet spot for goofing around and, incidentally, becoming independent. But instead of exercising their bodies and minds and ability to organize ANYTHING on their own, including a couple hours of free time, most kids are either supervised in leagues or stuck inside, usually with a screen. One reason for this lockdown is that parents today are so scared of predators. … The fact that we are enjoying the lowest crime rate in decades has not gotten through. A Pew Study on gun violence released just the other day said: 'Firearm homicide rates in the late 2000s were equal to those not seen since the early 1960s.' That's right—gun crime is down to the level it was BEFORE COLOR TV. What's higher is the number of times you will see the Cleveland kidnapping victims on TV. Desperate for ratings, the media bombard us with the most searing images it can find. And no matter how rare these heart-sickening stories are—the Newtown tragedy, the Marathon bombing—if you see them for weeks and weeks on end every time you look at a screen, it starts feeling as if they're happening all the time. On TV, they are."
—Slate contributor Lenore Skenazy, in her article in support of last Saturday's 4th annual "Take Our Children to the Park … And Leave Them There Day" [slate.com, 5/16/13 stats]
Don't mess with Merida. That's the message Disney got loud and clear after announcing that the character from Pixar's film Brave would become the Mouse House's 11th official princess. Such an honor, not surprisingly, came with a makeover which included a smaller waist and a bit more cleavage. As for Merida's wild, untamed hair and her bow and arrow, the former got styled while the latter disappeared completely. In almost no time at all, more than 212,000 protesters had registered their ire at change.org regarding the way Merida had been given the Disney Princess treatment. Even Brave co-writer and co-director Brenda Chapman, whose daughter reportedly served as one of the inspirations for Merida, told the Marin Independent Journal, "I think it's atrocious what they have done to Merida. When little girls say they like it because it's more sparkly, that's all fine and good but, subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy 'come hither' look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It's horrible! Merida was created to break that mold—to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance."
The apparent result of the pushback? Disney's new images of Merida magically disappeared online almost as quickly as they'd arrived. And Disney now says that Merida's new look was planned as a temporary one: "We routinely use different art styles with our characters and this rendition of Merida in her party dress was a special one-time effort to commemorate her coronation. Merida exemplifies what it means to be a Disney Princess through being brave, passionate and confident and she remains the same strong and determined Merida from the movie whose inner qualities have inspired moms and daughters around the world." [salon.com, 5/15/13; today.com, 5/17/13; marinij.com, 5/11/13]
Seven years ago, Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries made some pretty shocking statements about how the company doesn't want its brand associated with—or even worn by—"fat" kids. Fronting a retailer that doesn't bother to stock XL or XXL sizes in women's clothing, he told Salon, "In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."
The quote has now resurfaced, thanks in part to a Business Insider interview with Robin Lewis, co-author of the recent book The New Rules of Retail. And it's making fresh waves. Inspired and angered by Jeffries comments, online filmmaker Greg Karber has set out on a one-man mission to rebrand the hyper-sexy teen clothier's image. After relieving Goodwill stores of as much secondhand Abercrombie wear as he could carry, Karber went into L.A.'s Skid Row to donate the clothes to anyone who might need them. His ultimate goal? To make Abercrombie & Fitch "the world's No. 1 brand of homeless apparel," he told Mashable. Simultaneously, Amy Taylor wrote an "Open Letter From a 'Fat Chick,'" saying, "Why, in a country where two out of every three adults are considered overweight, is it acceptable for anyone, let alone the CEO of a major company, to proudly and publicly sling what could be considered by some to teeter on hate speech?"
Jeffries has recently responded with what The Huffington Post calls a "semi-apology," claiming the quote was taken out of context and that he "sincerely regret[s] that my choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offense. A&F is an aspirational brand that, like most specialty apparel brands, targets its marketing at a particular segment of customers." [elitedailynews.com, 5/3/13; mashable.com, 5/15/13; huffingtonpost.com, 5/10, 16/13; salon.com, 1/24/06]
"What [Angelina] Jolie has done with her announcement this week [that she has undergone a preemptive double mastectomy to combat her genetic cancer risk] is take one of the most sexualized bodies in the history of American culture and transformed that body into a force for good, spanking all of the creepy male film reviewers and audience members who weren't getting her message. Jolie, now famously, writes in her Op-Ed: 'Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.' But she didn't just take control of cancer. She took control of something much more elusive, wild and damaging—her body's reception, the ways in which her physicality is received and theorized. … Her breasts are now something more matter-of-fact. They are simply dispensable physical objects. She absolutely robbed them of their cultural, symbolic power."
—Salon contributor Alexandra Bradner [salon.com, 5/15/13]
The American Civil Liberties Union is pushing the creators of ABC's hit comedy Modern Family to marry off its two gay protagonists, Mitch and Cam, launching an online campaign to pressure the show into action. "The ACLU has been working since 1936 to guarantee the rights of lesbian and gay people, and we see sending Cam and Mitch down the aisle before 13 million American viewers as the perfect next step," said ACLU executive director Anthony Romero in a statement. [ew.com, 5/15/13; huffingtonpost.com, 5/15/13]
Taylor Swift was the big winner at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards, going home with a whopping 8 awards out of the 11 categories in which she was nominated. Other winners included fun., Maroon 5, Gotye, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj (who performed a lewd lap dance on Lil Wayne during their onstage duet broadcast on ABC). Also on the winners' list was Justin Bieber, who nabbed victories in three categories. During his acceptance speech for the fan-voted Milestone Award, however, Bieber had to wait for boos from the audience to subside before saying … this: "I'm 19 years old; I think I'm doing a pretty good job. And basically from my heart I really just want to say it should really be about the music, it should be about the craft that I'm making. This is not a gimmick. I'm an artist and I should be taken seriously and all this other bull should not be spoken." Bieber also praised his mother and thanked Jesus Christ before leaving the stage.
The Canadian singer gets to have the last laugh, however, as the Recording Industry Association of America certified his hit "Baby" as 12-times platinum over the weekend. That figure, which is now formulated from digital download sales as well as streaming video views, pushed "Baby" past Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" to take the crown for the highest-certified single in RIAA history. [AP, 5/19/13; billboard.com, 5/17/13 stats]
The Office, NBC's long-running sitcom based on workplace hijinks at the Dunder Mifflin paper company, concluded May 16. But Dunder Mifflin paper, oddly enough, lives on. Quill.com, a subsidiary of Staples, has been selling merchandise from the fictional company for over a year now, and says it's among the retailer's most popular products. [time.com, 5/16/13 c&e]