Teen pregnancy rates continue to decline. And at least some of that dip, experts say, can be pinned to faith. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top reason teens say they haven't had sex yet is because it goes against their religion or morals. And teens who are involved with a religious community are typically less likely to get pregnant. Research also indicates that many adults are unaware of these positive teen pregnancy trends. Though teen pregnancy has gone down 42% in the last 20 years, half of adults believe that rates are actually increasing. [washingtonpost.com, 6/18/13 stats]
Sesame Street is introducing a new Muppet to its cast—Alex, whose father is in jail. "I just miss him so much," he confesses. "I usually don't want people to know about my dad." Alex was created, in part, because of the issue of parental incarceration. According to a recent Pew Charitable Trusts report, its effect on children is a growing, and often overlooked, problem. One out of every 28 children has a parent in prison. [today.com, 6/17/13 stats]
Miley Cyrus has been voted the worst female role model today, according to a poll commissioned by couponcodes4u.com, which asked nearly 2,500 parents which celebrities they didn't want their children to emulate. Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they hoped their kids didn't look up to Cyrus. She was followed by Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian, Amanda Bynes and former Teen Mom cast member turned sex-tape star Farrah Abraham. On the guys' side, Chris Brown topped this unfortunate list, beating out (in order) Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne and Charlie Sheen. [nydailynews.com, 6/18/13]
"I think alcohol is way more dangerous than marijuana—people can be mad at me for saying that, but I don't care. I've seen a lot of people spiral down with alcohol, but I've never seen that happen with weed. As long as it isn't illegal, there are far more dangerous things. And it's legal in the state of California. So I'm happy to live in California, a place where you can be whoever you want to be."
—20-year-old Miley Cyrus. Elsewhere in her interview with Rolling Stone, Miley sought to dispel the notion that she's endorsing the drug Ecstasy in her latest hit, "We Can't Stop." Most reviewers (including Plugged In) have heard the lyrics "So la da di da di, we like to party/Dancing with Molly" as a wink at the drug MDMA, which also goes by the street names of Ecstasy and Molly. But Miley says she's just saying her own name, not name-dropping the infamous dance drug. "I have an accent! So when I say 'Miley,' it must sound like 'Molly,'" she said. "You're not allowed to say 'Molly' on the radio, so it obviously says 'Miley.' I knew people were gonna wonder what I'm saying in that song." [rollingstone.com, 6/18/13]
"The kid's young, he's got some money, he's got the world in his hands, it's just kind of sad to see him go down this trajectory. It's going to be a very long ride down. We all know the story. I kind of feel for the kid, to be honest with you."
—Kid Rock, talking about Justin Bieber on Howard Stern's SiriusXM satellite radio show, following more allegations of Bieber driving recklessly and behaving erratically [usatoday.com, 6/20/13]
The American Parkinson Disease Association has criticized rapper Kanye West for a lyric in his song "On Sight" in which he makes a mocking reference to the disease: "Soon as I pull up and park the Benz/We get this b‑‑ch shaking like Parkinson's." The group described the controversial lyric as "distasteful and the product of obvious ignorance." [huffingtonpost.com, 6/19/13]
The video for Robin Thicke's No. 1 hit "Blurred Lines" has been banned from YouTube for featuring three topless models. Now the lyrics to the song are stirring up criticism as well among some who interpret them as promoting rape. "Has anyone heard Robin Thicke's new rape song?" asks Feminist in L.A. blogger Lisa Huyne. "Basically, the majority of the song (creepily named 'Blurred Lines') has the R&B singer murmuring 'I know you want it' over and over into a girl's ear. Call me a cynic, but that phrase does not exactly encompass the notion of consent in sexual activity. … Seriously, this song is disgusting—though admittedly very catchy." Canadian model Amy Davison took Thicke to task as well on YouTube, saying, "The women are clearly being used as objects to reinforce the status of the men in the video. The men have all the control and status because they are not vulnerable—they are completely covered. Whereas the women have no status and are totally open to be exploited, ogled and used."
Speaking to GQ in a recent interview about both the song and its R-rated video, Thicke explained, "We tried to do everything that was taboo. Bestiality, drug injections, and everything that is completely derogatory towards women. Because all three of us [Thicke is joined by R&B crooner Pharrell Williams and rapper T.I. in the video] are happily married with children, we were like, 'We're the perfect guys to make fun of this.' People say, 'Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?' I'm like, 'Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I've never gotten to do that before. I've always respected women.' So we just wanted to turn it over on its head and make people go, 'Women and their bodies are beautiful. Men are always gonna want to follow them around.' After the video got banned on YouTube, my wife tweeted, 'Violence is ugly. Nudity is beautiful. And the "Blurred Lines" video makes me wanna …' You know. And that's the truth. Right now, with terrorism and poverty and Wall Street and Social Security having problems, nudity should not be the issue." [http://feministinla.blogspot.com, 4/2/13; thedailybeast, 6/17/13; gq.com, 5/7/13]
Actor James Gandolfini passed away at the age of 51 on June 19, apparently of a heart attack while vacationing with his son in Italy. Gandolfini was best known for playing Tony Soprano on HBO's The Sopranos from 1999 to 2007. Writing about his cultural influence, Salon's Heather Havrilesky said, "Gandolfini took Tony Soprano—one of the darkest, most malevolent characters to grace the small screen—and he transformed him into a flawed human who might annoy or even disgust us, but who always felt worthy of our forgiveness. No TV character captured the longing and melancholy of American life better than Tony Soprano, and no actor could bring those emotions to the surface better than Gandolfini. … Losing this man feels like losing some crucial piece of our culture, a vivid and heartbreaking icon of our tragic flaws as a country, whose fierceness and soft underbelly always had a way of tugging at our heartstrings. Tony Soprano is easily the most memorable TV character of all time." Time TV reviewer James Poniewozik adds, "Through Tony, Gandolfini wrote the blueprint for the modern, complicated TV antihero; he took the wall between stand-up TV good guys and wicked bad guys and bashed it down with a baseball bat." [salon.com, 6/20/13; time.com, 6/19/13]
"Christians sometimes expose themselves to dangerous stuff just to show how resilient they are. It's the spiritual equivalent of tightening your six-pack and challenging someone to deliver a swift punch: 'See! It didn't hurt.' But we can't always tell at the time how things will affect us in the long term. Images we saw decades ago can rise to the surface of our consciousness without us being aware of where they came from. The biblical proverb asks, 'Can a man scoop fire into his lap/without his clothes being burned?/Can a man walk on hot coals/without his feet being scorched?' (Prov. 6:27-28). This suggests that we can't be careless about our consumption of popular culture. We have to respect its capability to shape our opinions and decorate our minds, and need to work at being transformed in order not to be overwhelmed."
—author Steve Turner, in an excerpt from his book Popcultured [christianitytoday.com, 6/17/13]
Ever wonder what the damage done by rampaging supervillians onscreen might cost in real life? Jordan Zakarin at Buzzfeed asked disaster expert Charles Watson of Watson Technical Consulting and Kinetic Analysis Group to calculate the cost—financial and human—of Superman's massive battle with General Zod and his cronies at the conclusion of Man of Steel. By Watson's estimate, the warring Kryptonians caused $750 billion worth of physical damage, killing 129,000 people in the process and injuring a million more. In terms of actual cleanup of the aftermath, the report estimated the final (fictional) bill would top an eye-popping $2 trillion. [washingtonpost.com, 6/21/13 stats]