"Now, what I find discouraging, and what I would like to see changed, is not to have movies so segregated into faith-based movies and secular movies. When did the words 'faith-based' become controversial? Actually, all movies are faith-based movies because whoever wrote and directed them are telling you what they believe in. Every movie is based on someone's belief and faith. Moms' Night Out does this beautifully, and I want to be part of a movement that would make all movies faith-based, without it being political or divisive. We're at a point where people feel they have to whisper about anything spiritual. My goodness, when did we get to this point where people are afraid to talk about spiritual things? I don't want to do movies that are sermons. If I wanted to do sermons, I'd become a pastor. I want to do movies that explore those things, without doing it overtly or in your face."
—actress Patricia Heaton, who starred in Moms' Night Out [ocregister.com, 5/8/14]
"This weekend, thousands of people will stand in line to pay $13 for the privilege of grieving to the point of weeping. The Fault in Our Stars is opening and it's got everything guaranteed to send you rummaging for your tissues: teenagers sick and suffering, life plans thwarted, sweet youthful love doomed. Our love of weepies is a bit strange. It seems that one of the most flamingly obvious rules of humannature is that people tend to seek pleasure and avoid pain. So why do we pay moviemakers $13 to make us cry? … Mary Beth Oliver, a professor of media studies at Penn State, has run studies that suggest that people do not only watch films for pleasure. They also watch films for insight, enlightenment, and meaningfulness. In fact, multiple studies have shown that people think the sadder a tragedy is, the better a movie it is. Glancing over a list of the Academy Awards Best Picture winners, there are many more thoroughly depressing movies than goofy fun rom-coms. There's nothing all that contrary to human nature, then, about wanting to watch a weepie."
—The Daily Beast's Elizabeth Picciuto. The Fault in Our Stars (based on John Green's popular YA novel) exceeded Hollywood prognosticators' projections in its debut weekend, taking in an estimated $48.2 million. [thedailybeast.com, 6/4/14 stats]
"For much of Hollywood history, stars like [Tom] Cruise were the coin of the realm; now the industry has stopped minting new models. As recently as the 1990s … moviegoers generally agreed on what they liked to watch: certain actors, certain genres, certain formulas. But the Internet killed the monoculture. Today, everyone is a demographic; everything is a niche. As a result, young viewers who came of age after the decline and fall ofthe monoculture don't have the same attachment to individual movie stars as their predecessors, which is why none of the recent Next Big Things—Taylor Kitsch, Henry Cavill, Chris Pine, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, and so on—have really become old-fashioned box-office draws in and of themselves. Instead, Hollywood uses these post-monoculture male leads almost interchangeably—as figurines dropped into 'a superhero film, franchise-starter, or sci-fi blockbuster where concept and brand outshine the leading man'—because for young viewers, concepts and brands carry far more weight than marquee names. Superman puts 18-year-old bodies in seats. Henry Cavill does not. So once Tom Cruise is gone, there won't be anyone big enough to follow in his footsteps. He's the last samurai."
—The Daily Beast contributor Andrew Romano [thedailybeast.com, 6/5/14]
Two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls have been accused of stabbing a classmate 19 times (nearly killing her), allegedly in an effort to please a fictional online entity known as Slenderman. One of the girls told investigators that Slenderman visited her in her dreams and watched her, and she believed that becoming his "proxy" by murdering her friend would prevent Slenderman from killing her family and would allow her to live in his mansion hidden in the forest. The girls had read about the pseudo-mythological, demon-like character on the website creepypasta.wikia.com, which features horror stories and legends.
The "About" section of Slenderman's public Facebook page reads, "Some say I am evil, but all I ever wanted was friend [sic]. I think that a few dozen casualties are to be expected during the quest for friendship." Clicking through to the basic info section on the page yields this disclaimer: "This page is purely satirical in nature. Any references made to 'stalking and killing humans' are intended to be read only by those who understand what humor is." Site administrator David Morales emphasizes that the stories are fiction and Creepypasta Wiki's rules bar everyone under 13. "We are not teaching children to believe in a fictional monster, nor are we teaching them to be violent," he added. [AP, 6/4-5/14; news.sky.com, 6/3/14; foxnews.com, 6/4/14; facebook.com, 6/9/14]
"I have to say, and this is after three or four inquests into the deaths of teens, the Call of Duty game seems to be figuring in recent activity before death. It concerns me greatly. It has figured in a number of deaths which I'm investigating."
—British coroner John Pollard, in an interview with the U.K.'s Daily Mirror, regarding his belief that Activision's 100-million-selling M-rated combat franchise Call of Duty has been an influence in the suicides of four British teens [mirror.co.uk, 5/27/14 c&e]
A study by the Annenburg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania finds that The Colbert Report, the comedic news show featuring Stephen Colbert as a faux-conservative TV host, does a better job informing viewers about campaign financing and the role of money in politics than other news sources—including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and broadcast news. "Colbert did better than any other news source at teaching," said Bruce W. Hardy, Ph.D., lead author of the study. "There were two reasons. First was the narrative structure. He walked us through creating a super PAC and every episode was a continuation of that story. And second was the use of humor and satire." [annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org, 6/3/14 c&e]
Citizens in Thailand, angry about a recent military coup, have reportedly begun using the three-fingered salute from The Hunger Games as a form of protest. [mtv.com, 6/2/14 c&e]
We can now add tourism to the ways in which Frozen, Disney's spectacularly successful film, has impacted global culture. Hotel bookings to Norway are up 37% compared to the same timeframe in 2013, and many experts track the increase directly to the movie. "The film seems to be a big part of the popularity," says Barbara Banks, Wilderness Travel spokeswoman. "People just hadn't seen these remarkable landscapes before." [time.com, 6/6/14 c&e]
"In Hollywood, we all think we're these wise advice givers, and most of us have no education whatsoever. Actresses can become nutritionists, experts in baby care and environmental policy. Actors can become governors, pundits or even high-ranking officials in religions made up a mere 60 years ago."
—actress and comedian Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project), during her commencement address at Harvard Law School [huffingtonpost.com, 6/4/14]
Game of Thrones has replaced The Sopranos as the most watched show in HBO history. The premium cable channel reports that the graphic fantasy series' fourth season has had an average gross audience of 18.8 million viewers, topping The Sopranos' peak viewership of 18.4 million viewers during its fourth season. [foxnews.com, 6/6/14 stats]