"I wanted to tell a story about how people sometimes treat each other more like things than like people, and how the media can sometimes play a part in that. I've always paid a lot of attention to the reactions people have to movies and TV and things like that because I've been an actor since I was a kid, and especially recently I've heard a lot people say 'Why can't my life be like that movie you were in?' or 'Why can't I find somebody like you in that movie?' and I find that a little startling because real life isn't like it is in the movies. Real life is actually a lot more beautiful and rich with detail and nuance, but you'll miss it if you're constantly comparing your real life to fantasies."
—actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, explaining his motivation for writing, directing and starring in Don Jon [foxnews.com, 9/25/13]
Criticized as being a song that "excuses rape culture," Robin Thicke's hit single "Blurred Lines" has been banned from campus bars and student unions at five U.K. universities. Alice Smart, education officer at the University of Leeds, said the ban went into effect there because "the lyrics of the song conflict with our core value of equality and our commitment to having zero tolerance of sexual harassment." Asked about other commonly played tunes with offensive lyrics, Smart admitted that "Blurred Lines" was "singled out in particular due to its commercial success and the recent negative publicity surrounding it." [nbcnews.com, 9/25/13]
This week's salvo of misbehavior from Miley Cyrus came courtesy of Rolling Stone, where the former Hannah Montana posed nude for the cover (with arms crossed). Inside she courted more controversy by saying, among many other things, "Hollywood is a coke town, but weed is so much better. And molly, too. Those are happy drugs—social drugs. They make you want to be with friends. You're out in the open. You're not in a bathroom. I really don't like coke. It's so gross and so dark. It's like, what are you, from the '90s? Ew."
It's worth noting at this point that MTV has announced it's been working on a documentary presentation with Cyrus, who has dominated the entertainment news cycle for some time now. And that fact suggests to Time columnist Lily Rothman that the singer's "spontaneous" takeover is part of a very deliberate strategy. Rothman writes, "It might be nice to think that musicians are somehow more authentic than the rest of the pop-culture world, that they sing their songs in order to express what's in their souls, money and fame be d‑‑ned. In that context it does feel like getting punk'd to acknowledge that Miley Cyrus, while making grand statements about her new identity as an artist … has been working with a major television network to capitalize on (and quite probably plan out) the controversy she engenders." [time, 9/19/13; eonline.com, 9/27/13]
'I look at a lot of my friends in the business who have literally gone off the deep end. But I've never drank. I've never gone near drugs. I actually have 'ZERO'—for zero tolerance for alcohol and drugs—tattooed on my arm. … I never let Hollywood take control of me. What helped was leaving when [Malcolm in the Middle] ended, living a normal life in Phoenix. I know the people at the grocery store and my neighbors."
—27-year-old Frankie Muniz, former child star of the Fox television show Malcolm in the Middle [foxnews.com, 9/26/13]
"So much of the music that's on Top 40 radio is so dumb, and people aren't that dumb. People settle for that music because that's all there is in pop."
—16-year-old New Zealand singer/songwriter Ella Yelich-O'Connor (who goes by the stage name Lorde). Her first big international hit, "Royals," is currently at the top of iTunes' song list and No. 3 on Billboard's pop singles chart. [usatoday.com, 9/24/13]
What's the most prevalent emotion expressed online? Scientists at China's Beihang University studied the Chinese social network Weibo (a platform that resembles Twitter and boasts twice as many users), concluding that anger is the most influential emotion in online interactions. Over a six-month period, the researchers sorted 70 million messages into the emotional categories of anger, joy, sadness and disgust. Sadness and disgust were relatively non-influential, they determined, while happy messages were more likely to cause joy among followers and motivate them to send them on to others. Rage was most likely to spread across social media, creating a ripple effect that could spark irate posts with up to three degrees of separation from the original message. [greatest.com, 9/24/13]
Television watching is going down among children ages 11 through 16, according to a new study published in Pediatrics. This category of tweens and teens now watch about 2.4 hours of TV a day, down from the 3.1 hours they were watching a decade ago. But the study doesn't necessarily take into account how television and television-like media is changing. It doesn't tabulate, for instance, YouTube clips or TV watched on computers, tablets or phones. As Melanie Shreffler writes at mediapost.com, "Teens are indeed watching less on TV sets, but they're still actively engaged with shows. They're just using new ways to 'watch TV' that fit their lifestyles." So maybe it makes sense that, according to Bloomberg News, the number of Americans who pay for cable will decline this year, the first time there's ever been such a drop. [mediapost.com, 9/19/13, slate.com, 9/19/13]
While you're glued to your screen reading this Culture Clip, you should know that 15% of adults in the U.S. still don't use either the Internet or email. About 34% of that number say it's "just not relevant to them" and 32% say they don't think it's "very easy to use." (Cost keeps 19% of that group away, while 7% say they have no physical access ability.) [nbcnews.com, 9/25/13 stats]
Comedian Louis C.K. recently told the world why he doesn't let his daughters use smartphones—believing, essentially, that the devices diminish interpersonal skills and lead to a discomfort with silence and inactivity. The YouTube clip of his five-minute rant has soaked up more than 5 million hits since it was posted, and it's been forwarded and tweeted and "liked" with an almost evangelical fervor. Indeed, the Los Angeles Times' Meghan Daum believes that clips like C.K.'s are sating a hunger that religion used to fill. "With some estimates showing that less than half of Americans attend religious services regularly, it's to be expected that people are looking to other sources for inspiration, moral guidance and, as C.K. supplied so graciously, a reminder that angst is a universal condition," she writes. "Increasingly, those sources seem to come in the form of video clips of comedians talking about texting and scientists talking about nirvana and commencement addresses delivered to graduating classes we're not members of by authors we haven't read. In other words, wisdom links are a form of secular churchgoing." [latimes.com, 9/26/13]