Not content simply to rule the box office (Thor: The Dark World raked in an estimated $86.1 million in its weekend debut) and invade the small screen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has enjoyed solid Tuesday night ratings), Marvel and Netflix have announced four new regular series focusing on heroes in New York City. The new shows, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, will be followed by a miniseries called The Defenders, about an Avengers-esque supergroup with a revolving roster that includes the likes of Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Hulk, Silver Surfer and Iceman. Over on the comic book side of the equation, February will see the arrival of Kamala Khan, a teen girl who's a Muslim superhero from Pakistan. [mtv.com, 11/7/13; salon.com, 11/6/13]
Would-be superheroes looking for training in New York City will soon be able to learn what they need to know about fighting crime on the streets. Christopher Pollak, whose super handle is Dark Guardian, will open a school for heroes early next year, according to ABC News. "The idea is to teach martial arts and self-defense but also to teach heroic ideas and values at the same time. Whether that's how to deal with bullies or how to help other people in the community, there will be a whole big curriculum to teach those things, and we'll use superheroes to help learn lessons in the classroom." He added, "It's going to be a great thing. Everybody is there to become a hero in their own way through what we learn in class. It's all about giving back to the community. … It's also going to train people to do what I do: patrol different areas, try to deter and stop crime, and help the needy." ABC reports that the 29-year-old crime-fighter has spent one or two nights a week for the last 10 years "patrolling tough neighborhoods at night while wearing a bulletproof vest to walking around handing out food and money to the needy." Similar schools for heroes have sprung up in Seattle, Salt Lake City and Orlando. [abcnews.com, 10/31/13 c&e]
We know about the Boomers, The Gen-Xers and the Millennials. Now we're beginning to hear about a new generation comprised of the children born after 9/11. Matt Straz of MediaPost calls them the Homelanders, and he's already seen some interesting traits in them. "For Homelanders, there is no such thing as 'time spent' with media," he writes. "It's just always there, like oxygen." They're growing up with smartphones and immersive online worlds, and Straz believes they'll be even less interested in driving cars than the current batch of teens. And here's another interesting tidbit: "Homelanders have been monitored since birth, thanks to crib cams and other devices. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have helped make this generation the most documented in history. As they grow up, Homelanders will not chafe against surveillance because it's all they've ever known." [mediapost.com, 10/21/13]
Younger teens are gravitating away from Facebook. Even the social networking giant acknowledges erosion of its youngest audience, and 13-year-old Ruby Karp gained national attention recently when, in a column for Mashable, she declared that none of her friends even used it. But they may soon have to. Another teen, 16-year-old William Davenport, writes, "So, Ruby's right: Facebook's not as exciting as it used to be. It doesn't have the appeal of a fad social network anymore. But as Ruby will find out as she gets into high school, where teenagers have to start taking charge of their own scheduling and connecting with many groups of teens outside of their immediate friend group, Facebook is a necessary tool for connection that fad social networks do not provide. That is why unlike Vine (which is already going way downhill in my friend group) or Twitter or even Instagram, Facebook is not a bubble that can be burst with changing fads. Facebook is a tool that all of my friends need, and will continue to need in the future." [cnbc.com, 11/4/13]
So why are reality TV's biggest shows so big? Scott Gurney, the executive producer of A&E's runaway hit Duck Dynasty, says, "I think that one of the big things that people love about Duck Dynasty is that it's a positive takeaway." And Rick Harrison, one of the stars of History's Pawn Stars, says, "It's not a replacement for college, but I try to give nice little snippets of history." In contrast, E!'s vapid Keeping Up With the Kardashians lags far behind those series, attracting about 2 million viewers instead of 7 million or even 8 million.
And yet, cable channels continue to produce more voyeuristic shows like the Kardashians. "What we always hear is that Hollywood just responds to the marketplace," says Dan Isett, director of public policy for the Parents Television Council. "This trend is absolutely contrary to that. There's certainly a market for programming that doesn't leave you hollowed inside when you're done watching." [foxnews.com, 11/4/13]
SPEARS: The Gospel According to Britney danced down the Great White Way on November 7 for a one-night engagement, telling, according to creator Patrick Blute, the "essential story [of Jesus Christ] using fragments of pop culture in a non-offensive way." Across the Atlantic, Britney's music is being put to another surprising use: pirate repulsion. Merchant ship captains are blasting her tunes at hyper-high decibel levels to repel robbers while sailing around Africa. "'Hit Me Baby One More Time' is a big one," said merchant navy officer Rachel Owens, stating that she and her security team had repeatedly driven pirates off with loud broadcasts of the music. "The reason why pop songs are very good is because they have a lot of high-pitched noises and bass notes, which are particularly painful when they're played at ridiculously high volumes." But why Ms. Spears in particular? Steven Jones, director of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry, joked, "I'd imagine using Justin Bieber would be against the Geneva Convention." [time.com, 11/4-11/13; abcnews.com, 10/30/13]
After flagging for several years as technology and movie-viewing trends changed, Blockbuster Video has now announced that it will close its last few remaining stores. The obvious culprits? Netflix, Redbox and streaming online video. [thedailybeast.com, 11/6/13]
A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that more than 2 out of 3 teens (70%) accidentally see pornography while online. That's deeply troubling, experts say, because being exposed to porn so early can warp and damage what a young person's idea of sex could and should be. Gail Dines, author of the book Pornland, says that online porn is "sexually traumatizing an entire generation of boys." But it's not just boys. Winnifred Bonjean-Alpart, who was featured in the 2012 documentary Sexy Baby, was 12 when she first saw pornography. "We're getting messages from everywhere that are saying if you dress this way, you are going to be either treated well or you are going to feel powerful," she says. "Sex is power." She adds that the ubiquity of porn and sexualized images now makes her generation unique. "There is no one before us that can kind of guide us," she says. "I mean, we are the pioneers." [abcnews.go.com, 10/31/13 stats]
"Women have always been sex objects, and that's nothing new. They always will be. Unfortunately, what happens now is that kids are exposed to everything that's too old for them. You know, since the Internet, since horrible PlayStation, you know, what's the name of it? Hijack car … that car hijack thing? I think maybe that is worse than seeing Miley Cyrus on a wrecking ball."
—67-year-old pop provocateur Cher [theguardian.com, 11/7/13]