Time magazine recently released a list of "The Selfiest Cities in the World" based on a database of more than 400,000 Instagram photos. The top cities filled with people passionate about pictures of themselves were: 1) Makati City and Pasig, Philippines, at 258 selfie-takers per 100,000 people, 2) Manhattan, N.Y., with 202, 3) Miami, Fla., at 155, 4) Anaheim, Calif., at 147. Rounding out the Top 10 were Petaling Jaya, Malaysia; Tel Aviv, Israel; Manchester, England; Milan, Italy; Cebu City, Philippines; and George Town, Malaysia. [Time, 3/10/14]
"We are 100% immune to sexy selfies. Absolutely no one cares about it anymore."
—Ken Shadford, director of Maxim TV, when asked whether salacious selfies of Nickelodeon star Jennette McCurdy might hurt the Nick series Sam & Cat. Most experts say scandalous selfies are no longer so scandalous. Many believe their release may, in fact, help McCurdy. "We have a track record in this country that sex sells, and it only heightens your persona," says Cristina Palumbo, a personality for SiriusXM radio. "It's weird that it has to do with a children's show, but it's still going to attract attention to an already really successful show." [foxnews.com, 4/2/14]
Last year, analysts and pundits weighed in on speculative and anecdotal reports that MTV's reality series Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant might actually be lowering the birthrate among viewers by scaring them into using birth control with its hard-luck stories about teenage mothers. Now there's some harder evidence supporting that correlation. Researchers Melissa Kearney at the University of Maryland and Phillip B. Levine of Wellesley college analyzed Twitter as well as Google searches, and they found that the phrase "birth control" was used 23% more often the day after each new episode of 16 and Pregnant aired. Searches for phrases such as "how to get birth control pills" increased as well. The two researchers also correlated regions with the highest viewership of 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom with a bigger decrease in births to teen mothers. They conclude that these two shows alone reduced teen births by 5.7%. MTV president Stephen K. Friedman said of the researchers' study, "It's another reminder that great storytelling can be a powerful catalyst for change." [nytimes.com, 3/20/14 stats, c&e]
More than 100 teens have been implicated in a sexing ring in Virginia, where they allegedly circulated more than 1,000 photos and videos of nude and semi-nude minors—most of them teenage girls between the ages of 14 and 17—on Instagram. No charges have been filed yet, but it's possible that the teenage suspects could be charged with distributing child pornography. "Our goal is not to go out and label 100-plus teenagers as sex offenders," said Maj. Donald Lowe of the Louisa County Sheriff's Office. "What we really want to do is bring this issue to parents' attention. … This is not just something that you share with your boyfriend or girlfriend. This is actually something that can harm you for the rest of your life." [nbcnews.com, 4/10/14]
"I'm surrounded by people who are supposed to guide me, and some of them have and others haven't. They pressure me, there's so much pressure. 'You gotta be sexy, you gotta be cute, you gotta be nice, you gotta be all these things.' They tell me what to wear, how to look, what I should say, how I should be. Until recently I had given into that pressure, I lost sight of who I was. I listened to opinions of people and I tried to change who I am because I thought others would accept me for it. And I realized I don't know how to be anything but myself."
—actor and singer Selena Gomez, during a tearful talk with fans at the We Day California conference [abcnews.com, 3/27/14]
"I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued," Spider-Man actress Kirsten Dunst recently said in the May 2014 issue of Harper's Bazaar in the U.K. "We all have to get our own jobs and make our own money, but staying at home, nurturing, being the mother, cooking—it's a valuable thing my mom created. And sometimes you need your knight in shining armor. I'm sorry. You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That's why relationships work."
The backlash was nearly instantaneous, as Dunst's critics called her "dumb" and worse. But Katie Yoder of the Media Research Center countered, "Feminists claim to be pro-woman, but they only support 'correct' choices and decisions. But Kirsten's views are timeless. Femininity has lost its meaning. Our culture and media teach women that success means running after careers and money. Instead, a pro-woman society should emphasize a woman's importance and worth, no matter her decision in how to live out her life." [foxnews.com, 4/7/14]
"I'm always surprised when people are like, 'I want to be just like Don Draper.' You want to be a miserable drunk? You want to be like the guy on the poster, maybe, but not the actual guy. The outside looks great, the inside is rotten. That's advertising. Put some Vaseline on that food, make it shine and look good. Can't eat it, but it looks good."
—Jon Hamm, who plays Draper in AMC's Mad Men, in a conversation with Time's James Poniewozik. The critically acclaimed drama is beginning its last season, and Poniewozik believes the series—which has never earned great ratings—nevertheless changed the television landscape. It is, he says, "the signature show of a period in which the same kind of people who used to say 'I don't even own a television' were now arguing whether film and novels could even compete with TV drama." [popwatch.ew.com, 3/27/14]
Computer software titan Microsoft is the latest nontraditional media provider to jump into the TV fray, following in the footsteps of Netflix and Amazon. The company will begin producing its first original series for Xbox owners this summer with a roll-out date sometime in 2015. The sci-fi series Humans will be based on a Swedish show titled Read Humans, and it will air on Channel 4 in Britain as well. Other projects in the queue for Xbox include a Halo series executive produced by Steven Spielberg. [gamespot.com, 4/7/14; usatoday.com, 4/7/14]
A new study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that parents are being distracted by their mobile devices to the detriment of their children. Researchers observed 55 caregivers with young children at fast-food restaurants. Of those, 73% used mobile devices at some point during the meal. Nearly 30% used the device almost continuously, only briefly putting it down. Gedeon Deák, professor in the department of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego, raised questions about how such technological distraction among parents may affect the development of subtler skills in children, such as empathy and ability to read the vocal, eye and facial cues of others. "These are subtle aspects that are acquired late and slowly over years," Deák said. "One question I have is how children understand the impact of these interruptions to look at a phone? How do they understand what it means for the conversation? … Staring at your phone during a meal with your child is not a good thing." [nbcnews.com, 3/9/14 stats]
The YouVersion Bible app is reporting a 300% increase in Americans reading the biblical story of Noah in Genesis after the movie was released. Bible Gateway reports a 223% uptick. And the American Bible Society found that 87% of those asked about the story (on its Facebook page) said they were re-reading it in the Bible because of the discussions surrounding the film. "This generation is becoming increasingly interested in the Bible," says YouVersion founder Bobby Gruenewald, "And they don't just want to rely on what they've seen and heard about it—they want to read it for themselves." [theblaze.com, 4/7/14 c&e]