"It's not a mystery why so many young-adult best-sellers (and the lucrative movie franchises based on them) would take place in post-apocalyptic societies governed by remote authoritarian entities and rigidly divided into warring factions. The word dystopia comes from a Greek root that roughly translates as 'bad place,' and what place could be worse than high school? Adolescence is not for the faint of heart. The to-do list for the decade between ages 10 and 20 includes separating from your parents, finding your place among your peers at school, beginning to make decisions about your own future, and—oh yes—figuring out how to relate to the world, and yourself, as a suddenly and mystifyingly sexual being. The strong link between YA and dystopia is no trendy post—Hunger Games phenomenon. … YA dystopias externalize the turmoil that's already taking place in adolescent minds, hearts, and bodies. The social, interpersonal, and biological phenomena that define teenage life—competition and jealousy, anxiety about exclusion and belonging, shifting alliances, first crushes, wet dreams—are codified and, in some way, dignified by their transmutation into fiction."
—Slate film reviewer Dana Stevens, on why books and movies such as Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy, as well as Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy (among others) are so popular among adolescents. (The big-screen adaptation of Divergent hauled in $54.6 million in its North American debut over the weekend.) [slate.com, 3/21/14; boxofficemojo.com, 3/24/14]
"Some people have an insatiable need for violent retribution and dismembered body parts and talk about powerlessness. The economy, the Internet—all these things are isolating us and making us feel defeated. Our national culture feels defeated, our exceptionalism. To see [Mad Men protagonist] Don [Draper] lose his confidence was hard for them: They want to be in a world where even if crime doesn't pay, you go down shooting. Instant justice, and cops shoot people before they get due process—like Breaking Bad."
—Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, who says, "Give me an example of something where the hero is not dark. The hero is an antihero. If the hero is squeaky clean and perfect, you're going to be interested in the villain." [theatlantic.com, 3/14]
Until recently, AMC had been assigning episodes of The Walking Dead a TV-14 rating, never mind that bloody-disgusting.com reviewer Jeff Otto said of it, "This may well be the bloodiest show ever seen on television." Now AMC officials say they've switched to TV-MA, but not due to complaints. Rather, they claim they've actually increased the onscreen levels of violence against humans (instead of just zombies).
Meanwhile, the series is coming to syndicated broadcast television in some parts of the country. Reruns will be aired on MyNetwork, a free broadcast network owned by Fox that airs in about 180 communities. Sources at Fox have said that some content would be edited. [nydailynews.com, 3/19/14]
"There's a negativity towards Christians in Hollywood. And a negativity towards people who believe in God," says actor Kevin Sorbo, who gained fame as the title character in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and is now in the movie God's Not Dead. "Why is there a fear factor for God in Hollywood?" he asks. "I wish someone in Hollywood would come up and answer that question. I don't want to cut people's freedom of speech down but the other side does. They can have their opinions but say I can't have mine?" Sorbo also believes there's a "purposeful downplay of morals in Hollywood," and that finding a good role model can be extraordinarily difficult. "I don't want to see 11-year-olds talking about sex, and I don't think that's being prudish of me," he says. "You can't protect them with everything in media but I want to let my kids enjoy being a kid, and Hollywood for whatever reason again just wants to change the moral values most families want for their kids." [foxnews.com, 3/20/14]
"The moral systems of religion, I think, are superimportant. We've raised our kids in a religious way; they've gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in. I've been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that's kind of a religious belief. I mean, it's at least a moral belief."
—Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, the world's richest man and perhaps its foremost philanthropist. Gates does not consider himself a Christian, nor does he necessarily believe in a traditional God. But, he adds, "the mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there's no scientific explanation of how it came about. To say that it was generated by random numbers, that does seem, you know, sort of an uncharitable view. I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don't know." [rollingstone.com, 3/13/14]
"Know thyself, not thy selfies!"
—Ron Broglio, "minister" of the Digital Tabernacle, part of Arizona State University's "Emerge: Carnival of the Future" project. Broglio and other faux priests there are on a quest to get people to "confess their digital sins" and put away their devices—at least for a little while. There's actually nothing religious about their efforts, but the experiment did hint at the near-addictive primacy that digital devices have taken for many. Wrote Marcel O'Gorman for Slate, "At Emerge, the ministers absolved every filthy digital sin that came their way, from 'I don't email my mother often enough' to 'I sleep with my device under my pillow even though I know it's bad for me.' Some penitents experienced an epiphany at the Digital Tabernacle. As one righteous soul proclaimed: 'I was arrogant and thought that I was in control. But it turns out that I needed an education. I could barely survive 30 minutes away from my device. Now I know better and I have nothing but gratefulness in my heart.' Amen, brother! We all have insecurities about our reliance on digital devices, a nagging sense that we are slowly losing our souls—but few of us are prepared to admit it." [slate.com, 3/20/14]
"When the Church employs superficial symbols to communicate the Gospel, the Gospel can only take hold of people on a superficial level. Jesus is actually seen as a clingy friend in the image who texts you all the time, mediocre mimic-rock defines your view of who God is, and one's creed is only as deep as a sneaker slogan. In short: A slogan-branded faith can't communicate the depth of the mystery of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. Perhaps this is part of the reasons there has been such a mass exodus of evangelical children after they graduate from youth group."
—Billy Kangas, writing for Relevant Magazine, suggesting that churches move away from a pop-culture approach to ministry and turn to more lasting forms of worship, such as traditional prayer and liturgy, as well as allowing room for silence. "I understand why people do this stuff," Kangas writes. "They want the message of Jesus to reach people where they are. The problem is that in the context of American evangelicalism, where religious images are often absent, pop-culture representations of the faith can become the formative symbols and images that a faith community encounters. People begin to actually see Jesus primarily through the lens of materialism and pop-culture, both of which by their very nature are constantly in flux. As a result, evangelical faith becomes faddish, salvation is a style and praise is a phase." [relevantmagazine.com, 3/14/14]
"I don't know if they've seen it, but they know about it. They know about everything. Stupid Internet. I don't know why everyone is so impressed with it." ―actress Pamela Anderson, responding to a question about whether her two teen boys knew about her sex tape with ex-husband Tommy Lee, which was released online nearly 20 years ago. Anderson also offered a self-commentary on her past choices saying, "The rock-star thing became very destructive, like, wow. I didn't know what I was doing. I just kind of became that thing." [usatoday.com, 3/21/14]