Oxford Dictionaries has dubbed selfie as its Word of the Year for 2013. A selfie, of course, refers to the practice of taking pictures of yourself, generally to post online. Research found that the frequency of the word selfie in the English language increased by 17,000% in the last year. Selfie won out over other of-the-moment faves such as binge watch and twerking. [npr.org, 11/19/13 stats]
The Motion Picture Association of America recently deemed the forthcoming Judi Dench drama Philomena worthy of an R rating for "some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references." It reportedly contains two f-words, but The Weinstein Company has now successfully argued that context matters more than count. As he has done in the past with Bully and The King's Speech, studio boss Harvey Weinstein appealed the rating, stating that recent films with similar content, namely The Social Network and Jobs, received a less restrictive PG-13 rating. And Dench's co-star Steve Coogan said of the obscenities, "When my character uses profanity in Philomena it reflects badly on his character. It's not a glorification of the profanity, as it is in the other films. Ours are used very notably for a reason. They are uttered by my character to demonstrate his short temper and somewhat volatile nature—his anger. That stands in stark contrast to Judi Dench's character, who has grace and dignity." Coogan, who also produced the film and was involved in the rating appeal, said getting the rating changed was important because the film has, as the Los Angeles Times characterizes it, "a strong message about faith and forgiveness that could appeal to religious moviegoers." He added, "That's why we were really bothered by the R rating. Some people think R-rated films will be full of graphic sex and violence." The MPAA ultimately agreed and reassigned a PG-13 rating to the film. [latimes.com, 11/14/13; hollywoodreporter.com, 11/13/13]
According to new research from Baylor University, R-rated movies can have a negative impact on the faith of teens and young adults. Those who watch them tend to go to church less often and think of their faith as less important to them, according to researcher Phil Davignon. That said, watching R-rated films did not seem to impact younger believers' levels of doubt regarding their spiritual convictions. And that, perhaps, is the silver lining in this dark cloud, since Christians teens don't tend to steer clear of movies with restrictive ratings. "Watching R-rated movies is prevalent among religious and non-religious young people," Davignon said. "Nearly everyone watches them." [baylor.edu, 10/30/13 c&e]
University of Westminster psychologist Viren Swami suggests that heavy metal fans may use that music to help them work through some deep psychological issues. Specifically, Swami says that those who have a strong affinity for metal "were also more likely to have lower self-esteem" and may listen to "purge negative feelings" and to "help boost self-worth." Swami and his team of researchers also found that metal aficionados were more likely to be men and less likely to be religious. Regarding the latter, he said, "It is possible that this association is driven by underlying attitudes towards authority, which may include religious authorities." [salon.com, 11/10/13 c&e]
Pop music is growing more enamored with a "live hard, die young" ethos, according to some studies. And experts believe that's because music is growing more narcissistic. According to Dr. Jean Twenge, a psychologist and the author of Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before, lyrics have grown less about "we" and more about "I" since 1980. They're more confident and assertive. And that confident self-focus feeds into the idea that it's best to live for the here-and-now, and to live fast—regardless of the risks involved. "Narcissism is correlated with risk-taking," she says. "And we know that narcissism is higher in this generation than other ones." [theatlantic.com, 11/13]
In the wake of the U.K. passing laws that require British citizens to actively opt-in to gain access to online pornography, Google chief Eric Schmidt said he welcomed the change, and that the search giant has been working with law enforcement to detect and block child pornography from its Internet services. "While society will never wholly eliminate such depravity," he said, "we should do everything in our power to protect children from harm." [dailymail.com, 11/18/13]
"When did 'mature' get so immature? On television these days, if a character is yacking about flatulence, making randy remarks to a member of the opposite sex or being baffled by simple things, that character is likely to have some gray hair. Somehow, it seems, the TV gods have decided that characters old enough to have adult children need to be vulgar, inappropriate or moronic. Or all three."
—Neil Genzlinger, of The New York Times, discussing the surge of crude golden-age characters on television. (Example: The Millers.) "One demographic or another has always lacked for good role models on TV," he continues. "Now the group with the most legitimate beef may be the late-50s-and-up one. Where are the older characters who behave appropriately around children, who don't grope young women, who aren't racist or sex-obsessed, who know how to send email?" [nytimes.com, 11/20/13]
For a decade, the alcohol industry has had a set of self-imposed advertising restrictions designed to keep its advertisements away from underage readers and viewers. But according to a new study by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the industry is running afoul of its own guidelines. In 2003, beer and liquor companies said they'd only run ads on programming that attracts predominantly adults. Under the current guidelines, that means that if a show's audience exceeds 28.4% of under-21 viewers, you won't see any alcohol ads there. And yet, the study identified alcohol ads on shows such as Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Tosh.0 and Deadliest Warrior—all of which, according to Nielsen's ratings, have an underage viewership that eclipses 28.4%. [adage.com, 11/7/13 stats]
Nearly 27 years after topping the pop singles charts, Bon Jovi's hit "Livin' on a Prayer" is enjoying an unlikely chart resurgence. It's currently sitting at No. 8 on the rock singles chart and No. 25 on Billboard's Hot 100 thanks to a goofily earnest video of Boston Celtics fan Jeremy Fry lip-synching the song at a 2009 Celtics game. The YouTube video has garnered more than 3.9 million views, and that's translated to 5.1 million streams of the song elsewhere online, a 390% uptick. Meanwhile, track sales are up 11% and the song's getting more radio play as well. [billboard.com, 11/20/13, stats, c&e]
"The scale and scope of [Taylor] Swift's success is startling. … In the seven years since the release of her self-titled debut, Swift has sold 26 million albums. Sales of Taylor Swift song downloads have topped 75 million; according to the Recording Industry Association of America, she is the No. 1 digital singles artist of all time. Since 2006, she has placed 43 songs in the Top 40 of Billboard's Hot 100 pop chart as the lead performer, more than any other artist in that period. She's had 31 Top 40 country singles, including thirteen No. 1's. These numbers are especially improbable when you consider the music, and the musician, behind them. Swift is an oddball. There is no real historical precedent for her. Her path to stardom has defied the established patterns; she falls between genres, eras, demographics, paradigms, trends. … Raunchiness is the norm in today's pop, but Swift is prim, rated G. She is a model of can-do 21st-century girl power whose vision of romance is positively medieval—fairy-princess, shining-knight, prancing-unicorn medieval. … By rights, she should be a fringe figure, a cult artist. But as 2013 rounds the corner toward 2014, as Swift puts a bow on her fourth album and begins work on her fifth, there's no mistaking it: Beyoncé, Rihanna, Gaga, Katy, Miley, Justin, Justin, Usher, Jay Z, Kanye—they're all vying for second place."
—music critic Jody Rosen (Vulture, Slate, Rolling Stone, New York Magazine), writing one week before Swift bolstered her claim to top-of-the-music-heap fame once again by adding another trophy to her vast collection on Sunday by being named Artist of the Year at the 2013 American Music Awards [vulture.com, 11/17/13 stats]