A new documentary called The Act of Killing focuses on a man named Anwar—an Indonesian death squad leader who says he received inspiration from the Hollywood movies he watched. Before he was recruited to work on the death squads, Anwar was part of a gang that would scalp movie tickets to American films. And he went on to base his mode of murder on what he saw onscreen. "This was such an outlandish and disturbing idea that I, in fact, had to hear it several times before I realized quite what Anwar and his friends were saying," says director Joshua Oppenheimer. "He described how he got the idea of strangling people with wire from watching gangster movies. In a late night interview in front of his former cinema, Anwar explained how different film genres would lead him to approach killing in different ways." [foxnews.com, 7/23/13 c&e]
"I certainly would have thought a lot more about what I said. … People should be very careful about what they say [on social media sites]."
—19-year-old Texas video gamer Justin Carter who was arrested and jailed in February after making what he called "sarcastic" comments to trash-talking fellow gamers on Facebook about shooting up a kindergarten [npr.org, 7/12/13]
"For me and my friends spending our high school weekends binging on Sex and the City, the series established a set of unrealistic expectations and pressures to live up to, not least of which was sexual. It may sound silly, but Sex and the City was more than a television show to us; it was a way of life, which is a testament to the show's longevity, but also its power to shape and inflate our expectations."
—freelance writer Emily Shire, in a piece published by salon.com. Shire believes that the HBO comedy set her up for disappointment once she reached adulthood, particularly when it came to her sexual relationships. "Like a cooking show that presents a few ingredients and then immediately cuts to a perfect chocolate soufflé, Sex and the City never gave us the guidance to put it all together," she continues. "I recognize that television's first job is to entertain, not to educate, but for a generation of girls who idolized the Fab Four, the show left us grappling with an illusion of what sex is supposed to be like. And too often because we didn't know why sex wasn't as exciting [or] as pleasurable as Samantha Jones made it seem." [salon.com, 7/25/13 c&e]
Fox has begun moving parts of its online animation programming called Animation Domination High-Def to TV at an 11 p.m. (eastern) time slot (10 p.m. in the central and mountain time zones). Because of such already-existing online skits as "Scientifically Accurate Spider-Man" (with full exposure of sketched-in genitalia) and "My Little Cowboys" (which depicts dismembered, partly nude corpses of women), the Parents' Television Council quickly reacted by preemptively asking sponsors to boycott the show. "Modeled on (and from the creator of) Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block, Fox's ADHD, as it exists online, features horrifically graphic, ultra-violent, sexually explicit, and profanity-laden cartoons," the PTC press release says. "It will become a tempting forbidden fruit for millions of children, attracted to its animated format and themes like 'High School USA!'" [Parents' Television Council press release, 7/23/13]
While several studies have shown that Facebook can undermine people's happiness because of the way it showcases other people's idealized lives, some believe that Instagram—thanks to its almost exclusive focus on pictures—may be even more corrosive. "You spend so much time creating flattering, idealized images of yourself, sorting through hundreds of images for that one perfect picture, but you don't necessarily grasp that everybody else is spending a lot of time doing the same thing," says Cataline Toma, who works at the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And Hanna Krasnova, of Humboldt University in Berlin, adds, "You get more explicit and implicit cues of people being happy, rich and successful from a photo than from a status update. A photo can very powerfully provoke immediate social comparison, and that can trigger feelings of inferiority. You don't envy a news story." [slate.com, 7/23/13 c&e]
With Yahoo's recent billion-dollar acquisition of Tumblr, many questions have been raised about the social media site's racier content. TechCrunch points out that porn websites are the top referral category for incoming traffic linking to Tumblr, and that 11.4% of the site's top 200,000 blogs are adult-oriented and full of pornographic images. During the acquisition, Yahoo's CEO Marissa Mayer vowed to "let Tumblr be Tumblr." But newly released guidelines advise that NSFW (not safe for work) and adult content will be flagged by Tumblr and will no longer appear in search engine results. [theatlanticwire.com, 7/17/13 stats]
"[The Internet] has an impact: on the children who view things that harm them, on the vile images of abuse that pollute minds and cause crime, on the very values that underpin our society. I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come."
—British prime minister David Cameron, announcing plans for a British and American task force dedicated to reducing the amount of porn online. Cameron's policies include requiring search engines like Google to create a "black list" of illegal terms normally used to search for illicit sites. He also hopes that by August Internet providers will block access to all pornography in public locales, including train stations and Internet cafés. [foxnews.com, 7/22/13]
Miley Cyrus has now admitted to intentionally referencing the drug MDMA (which is Ecstasy, and colloquially called "Molly") in her recent song "We Can't Stop." Previously, Cyrus denied the drug reference, alleging that her name sounded like Molly because of her accent. But she backtracked in an interview with mailonline.com. "It depends on who's doing what," she said. "If you're aged 10 it's 'Miley'; if you know what I'm talking about then you know. I just wanted it to be played on the radio and they've already had to edit it so much." She also complained about how MTV in Britain forced her to edit parts of the video and says she's not really worried about alienating fans who grew to love her as Disney's Hannah Montana: "I wasn't really worried about it because I feel that time [at Disney] was something that I had to do what everyone has to do—work at something that you don't necessarily love to get to be able to do what you do love." [dailymail.co.uk, 7/20/13]
"If you're not with the changing times, you're irrelevant to me. I'm going to move on."
—rapper Jay Z to the influential music industry magazine Billboard, which refused to count the first 1 million sales of his album Magna Carta Holy Grail. Billboard declined to tabulate those sales because Jay Z sold them in bulk to Samsung at $5 a pop. The company then gave those albums away free to users who downloaded a special app on Galaxy smartphones. The Recording Industry Association of America did count those Samsung sales and has already given Magna Carta Holy Grail platinum status. [mtv.com, 7/24/13 stats]
One of the biggest success stories in the world of mobile apps may surprise you: It's the YouVersion Bible app, which recently announced its 100 millionth download. The app is downloaded every 1.3 seconds and, at any given moment, around 66,000 people are actively using it. Industry experts say that the YouVersion Bible app could be worth around $200 million today—if it was a money-making enterprise. But the app is free and its creators at lifechurch.tv have conscientiously avoided monetizing the product. "The goal is to reach and engage as many people as possible with Scripture," says Bobby Gruenewald, pastor and innovation leader for lifechurch.tv. "That is all." [theatlantic.com, 7/13 stats]