According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, many Hollywood studios aren't doing themselves any favors. They keep cranking out R-rated fare when films with any other rating generally make more money. In 2012, for example, 117 R-rated pics were produced, and they averaged $16.8 million per film at the box office. The 119 PG-13 rated movies, however, averaged $47.3 million; the 49 PG films averaged $43 million; and the meager eight G-rated films grabbed an average of $23 million per movie. "PG-13 is the sweet spot," said the organization's head, John Fithian, adding that the year's overall attendance drop compared to 2011 came from "the weight of too many R-rated films. Make more family-friendly films and fewer R-rated titles. Americans have stated their choice." [usatoday.com, 6/25/13]
There's little difference in the level of violence found in PG-13 and R-rated movies, according to a study from the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center. About half of PG-13 movies in the last two-and-a-half decades feature characters who have sex, act violently and/or drink. And often, acts of sex and violence happen within five minutes of each other. The study pointed out that this kind of content in teen-targeted films is problematic because "evidence shows that adolescents do engage in clusters of risk behaviors. … Youth, particularly those with impulsive sensation-seeking tendencies, may be at elevated risk for unhealthy behaviors as a result of their media exposure to problematic content." The better news? Use of both tobacco and alcohol in these types of movies has dropped significantly in the last few decades. [time.com, 12/9/13]
"Did gay and lesbian characters on TV (and to a lesser extent in the movies) help pave the way toward acceptance of gay marriage and this spring's potential Supreme Court landmark? … Personally, I have no doubt that the biggest single factor that has driven social change on this issue is that almost all the straight people in America have gotten to know someone gay over the last 20 or 30 years, and have not found them fundamentally alien. Whatever biblical disapproval or personal distaste for homosexuality you may feel, your spouse's gay nephew or the lesbian in Accounting probably strikes you as a normal-ish person, not inherently more obnoxious than others. But I think it's equally true that TV has played a crucial role. As any media scholar will tell you, what we know about the world from our real lives and what we experience on TV tend to reinforce each other, and at the level of deep psychology we don't necessarily tell them apart. … Will & Grace marks only one minor milestone in TV's 30-odd-year struggle with representations of sexual identity, during which the box has served both as an agent and a mirror of social change."
—Salon entertainment writer Andrew O'Hehir, in his article "Did TV Change America's Mind on Gay Marriage?" [salon.com, 3/30/13]
The fourth season premiere of A&E's Duck Dynasty drew 11.8 million viewers on Aug. 14—the most ever for a reality cable show and the highest numbers for any show on TV (cable or broadcast) that week. With numbers like that, it could go on to trump even AMC's heavyweight The Walking Dead as the most popular show of any kind on cable. Los Angeles Times contributor Mary McNamara observes, "The miracle of the show, and the [Robertson] family, is that they are at once quite sincere about who they are and very much in on their own joke. … Too often these days, we are told we must choose between the simple truths and sophistication. 'Duck Dynasty' proves you can have both." [today.com, 8/21/13; latimes.com, 8/22/13]
"[The latest] wave of porno pop is currently raging across our screens, and Doris Day it ain't. … Most young people—particularly those young gals who cut their teeth on Aguilera's G-strings—are totally unfazed. Everything seems 'totes norms' to them. In fact, so inured are they to our oversexed culture that, when they discover the artists of yore on YouTube, they are totally dumbfounded by the lack of throbbing, overt sexual hotness. … A cursory glance at [today's] porn 'n' pop mélanges will leave you wondering where it will all end. How far are we from the day when singers will record their songs midshag? Not very."
—author and fashion commentator Simon Doonan, in his Slate article "Pop Stars Are Dressing Like Porn Stars" [slate.com, 10/23/13]
"What we're seeing is that there is a very regular and normal consumption of hard-core adult pornography—that the sharing of explicit sexual imagery by photos or by video clips is now extremely normal. It's important to recognize what was previously regarded as unusual, concerning, or sensationalist, now has in fact become the norm."
—Jon Brown, of the English charity National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Working with Britain's Channel 4 on the series Generation Sex, the NSPCC conducted a study of 13- to 16-year-olds in Britain to ascertain their exposure to pornography and participation in sexting via cell phones. One adolescent told researchers, "I get asked for naked pictures at least two or three times a week." Another said, "You would have seen a girl's breasts before you've seen their face." Still another teen said, "It might shock parents [that] this is what kids get up to, but it's just everyday life. It's natural—it's all a part of growing up." [dailymail.co.uk, 12/10/12]
In our porn-saturated world, parents must help their children think critically about explicit images, says Marty Klein, a California sex therapist and the author of Sexual Intelligence. "Since Internet porn is here to stay, we need to help young people think about it, decode it, and make conscious decisions about it," he told Canada's Globe and Mail. "Adults need to realize the conversations they have with their kids about sex probably won't be comfortable. But if you're talking to your kid about sexuality, relationships, empathy, gender and bodies when they're 9, 10, 12, 13, then you're in a much better position to say at 14, now it's time to talk about porn. You start before there's a problem, by shaping a vision of what their values are and how they want to deal with all this sex that's all over the place." [theglobeandmail.com, 3/6/13]
"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]
"In our culture, instead of just focusing on the Miley Cyruses, we should recognize and applaud the many young adults who are making the right decisions. Teen pregnancy declined by 42% from 1990 to 2008, owing in part to the fact that teens are waiting longer to start having sex. In the period from 2006 to 2008, among unmarried girls ages 15 to 19, only 11% had had sex before age 15, compared with 19% in 1995. Making sure that people—particularly young people—know these facts and figures can play an important role in encouraging better behavior."
—National Review contributor Hadley Heath [nationalreview.com, 9/19/13]
"There is a little bit of profanity creep, particularly on the big broadcast networks." ―NPR's pop culture blogger Linda Holmes, noting that ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox don't allow f-words or s-words. "That said," Holmes continued, "these days words such as 'd‑‑k' and 'b‑‑ch'—which would've been found too vulgar just a decade ago—are bandied about even on Glee and other shows that draw younger audiences." [npr.org, 9/11/13]
"I'm amazed sometimes at the level of violence we get away with on my show. Yeah, it's OK to watch a girl burn to death, but God forbid I show a piece of her nipple. The sex boundaries are much more delineated and adhered to than the violence."
—Kurt Sutter, creator of the FX drama Sons of Anarchy [latimes.com, 2/15/13]
"Hate me all you want, or call me paranoid and misinformed, but there is one common theme that is pervasive in American pop culture today: violence. Even more specifically, zombie violence. The idea of a zombie-infested world inspires fantasies of monsters possessed by an uncontrollable rage to kill, and viewers get a thrill imagining what it would be like to participate in this new world order."
—Fox News' senior managing editor for health news Dr. Manny Alvarez, arguing that our culture's obsession with zombies is keeping us from improving ourselves. "Our brains should be less focused on imaginary zombie hordes," he says, "and more focused on harnessing the tools that we need in order to enhance our lives, whether it be music, education, science or the classics. Entertainment should help us soothe our brains so that we can ease our minds of some of the stress from our daily lives." [foxnews.com, 10/17/13]
"After the bombing at the Boston Marathon a few weeks ago, the mom of a 13-year-old girl told me her daughter had been shaking she was so scared, despite the fact they live hundreds of miles from Boston. All of the places that the girl was supposed to feel safe—school, the movies, sports events—had come under fire, making her worry that something bad could happen to her at any moment. … The 24-hour news culture, bolstered by citizen journalists on Twitter and Facebook, adds to the imposing fear kids feel. While teens aren't spending much time tuning into TV news or reading CNN online, they are logging on to social media where the news they see is mixed with gossip, speculation, and misinformation, making it hard to know who or what to believe."
—MediaPost contributor Melanie Shreffler, in her article "Coming of Age in a Culture of Fear" [mediapost.com, 5/16/13]
Violent gun crime has dropped dramatically in the past two decades, plunging 49% between 1993 and 2010. But the majority of Americans think it's more of a problem now than ever before. According to a Pew Research Center study, 56% of Americans believe gun crime is worse today than it was 20 years ago. And 84% believe that in recent years, gun crime has either gone up or stayed the same. Experts pin responsibility for the perception discrepancy on the omnipresent 24/7 news cycle. [usatoday.com, 12/3/13]
What environmental influences contribute to mass shootings? According to the National Science Foundation, the answer is a combination of three factors: access to guns, exposure to media violence, and mental health. The NSF, working in conjunction with the Congressional Subcommittee on Youth Violence, published its findings in an extensive report, "Youth Violence: What We Need to Know." With regard to media violence, the study's authors noted, "A comprehensive review of more than 381 effects from studies involving more than 130,000 participants around the world shows that violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure), and aggressive behavior. Violent games also decrease helping behavior and feelings of empathy for others. A meta-analysis of 26 studies involving 13,661 participants found that violent media exposure is also significantly linked to violent behavior (e.g. punching, beating, choking others), although the effects are smaller than for aggressive behavior." [http://wolf.house.gov/uploads/Violence_Report_Long_v3.pdf, 2/1/2013]
According to the Pew Research Center's latest poll, 52% of Americans now believe marijuana should be legal. It marks the first time a majority of those polled have answered affirmatively on this question. Cultural momentum in favor of legalizing pot usage has gathered steam quickly, with support for it jumping 11% in just three years. Additionally, a decreasing number are categorizing marijuana as a moral issue. Today, just 32% believe it's morally wrong, compared with 50% just seven years ago. And recent stories involving pictures and/or admissions of pot usage by celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga haven't provoked the outrage and scandal that might have occurred in the past. "Nobody cares. Society has moved on," says longtime Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman. [washingtontimes.com, 4/4/13; usatoday.com, 4/2/13]
"My life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. Everyone's life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. The Internet is partial truths—we get to decide what people see and what they don't. [But] community—the rich kind, the transforming kind, the valuable and difficult kind—doesn't happen in partial truths and well-edited photo collections on Instagram. Community happens when we hear each other's actual voices, when we enter one another's actual homes, with actual messes, around actual tables telling stories that ramble on beyond 140 pithy characters."
—Relevant contributor Shauna Niequist [relevantmagazine.com, 4/4/13]
Researchers recently observed 263 students (from middle school, high school and college) as they were studying: Within two minutes, many were texting, tweeting, surfing the Web, watching TV or updating their Facebook page. After 15 minutes, the scientists found that students had spent just 65% of their time, on average, actually studying. Meanwhile, according to the folks at learnstuff.com, six out of 10 employees visit social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter while on the clock. And we're interrupted, on average, once every 10.5 minutes by instant messages, Facebook messages and tweets. After those interruptions, it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back on task. [slate.com, 5/3/13; learnstuff.com, 10/26/12]
The amount of time people spend engaged in all forms of media daily has risen from 11 hours, 39 minutes in 2012 to 11 hours, 52 minutes in 2013, according to eMarketer. "It's clear that time spent with media is still increasing as a result of multitasking," said Clark Fredricksen, vice president of eMarketer. [mediapost.com, 8/1/13]
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]