Culture Clips: Social Pressure

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Facebook has been one of the darlings of the new millennium, presiding over an ever-expanding online empire made up of some two billion souls.

But the last week has proven a disastrous one for the company founded by Mark Zuckerberg, as details continue to emerge of how British data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica may have misused data on some 50 million users without their consent or knowledge.

Peter Crist, chairman of the executive search firm Crist Kolder Associates, said of the still-unfolding breach, “[Facebook officials] previously thought, as did their constituents and various audiences, that they controlled, owned, managed the processes and the data. Not so much anymore.”

And the Cambridge Analytica scandal is just the latest round of bad news for Facebook, which has already had a pretty terrible 2018, according to a timeline compiled by USA Today. Facebook stock prices have fallen more than 8% this week alone, and eMarketer has predicted that users under the age of 25 could decline by as much as 9.3% in 2018.

Slate’s Will Oremus argues, however, that the latest scandal isn’t really all that scandalous, because it’s pretty much the way Facebook has operated since its inception: “It isn’t just that Facebook was careless with its users’ data in this instance or that its policy of allowing third-party apps access to information on users’ friends was cavalier and misguided (though it certainly was both of those),” he writes. “It’s that Facebook is the chief architect of the entire socio-commercial arrangement by which people around the world routinely offer up their personal information in exchange for the free use of online services.”

Meanwhile, Facebook-owned Snapchat faced a different battle this week. An ad for a video game on the platform featured pictures of Rihanna and Chris Brown under the heading, “Would You Rather!” followed by the words, “Slap Rihanna” and “Punch Chris Brown.” Brown, of course, infamously assaulted then-girlfriend Rihanna back in 2009. Snapchat removed the ad and apologized, saying, “The advert was reviewed and approved in error, as it violates our advertising guidelines.” Rihanna wasn’t buying it: “I’d love to call it ignorance, but I know you ain’t that dumb!”

Thankfully, not all the news this week was of the scandalous variety. (Really!) Take the new Christian movie I Can Only Imagine. It tells the story of MercyMe frontman Bart Millard and the hard road he walked before writing the smash hit (the biggest Christian single in history). The movie seems to be following in the single’s success: Its $17.1 million in its opening weekend was the 7th best ever for a Christian movie.

One of the movie’s stars, Dennis Quaid, seems to be having a spiritual renaissance of his own. He’s written a Christian song, “On My Way to Heaven.” And an interview with Today, he said of that journey, “I went around the world, actually, in my late 20s, and the question I had, as I went around the world was, ‘Who is God?’ I became a seeker, really. So I came back, and I read the Bible cover-to-cover. For me, it’s Jesus; it’s the red words of Jesus. How simple it is. There really is redemption in that.”

Elsewhere in the movie world, Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time has met with a tepid response, both financially and critically. Plugged In’s very own Paul Asay unpacks the movie’s missteps, especially with regard to its spiritual content, at length in here. Still, the film’s director, Ava DuVernay, will become just the second woman to direct an upcoming DC Comics movie, New Gods.

Former video game vixen Lara Croft returned to the big screen in a Tomb Raider reboot last week too. And while that film has also received a lukewarm critical reaction, some are praising the film for the transformation of its iconic character from lusty eye candy to empowered feminine role model. Relevant’s Seth Tower Hurd writes, “It’s been a long, complicated journey for Croft and her fans, [but] it’s a delight to see a character that was once little more than video game porn reimagined into one of the most resilient, gritty and fun figures in pop culture.”

Another beloved fantasy franchise, none other than The Lord of the Rings, may be getting the prequel treatment from Amazon—and an expensive treatment at that. Amazon reportedly spent a whopping $250 million just to secure the rights to the franchise; and the media company may spend as much as $500 million more to produce and market two seasons of its proposed show. For those scoring at home, Peter Jackson’s three Lord of the Rings movies cost “just” $280 million (not counting marketing and distribution expenses). Amazon honcho Jeff Bezos must really like hobbits.

Finally this week, let us turn to Mr. Miyagi. Yes, that Mr. Miyagi, the aging and wise, “Wax on, wax off” mentor in 1984’s Karate Kid. Now, you might not think that this would be a prime place to find significant lessons about our current cultural crisis of masculinity. But The Federalist’s Aaron Gleason begs to differ. In his article, “72 Years After Japanese Internment Camps, Karate Kid Still Teaches The Importance Of Fathers,” he writes, “The heartbeat that drives The Karate Kid may be stronger now than it was in 1984. For all its superficial flaws, this film overflows with timeless wisdom for how to raise good men.”

Now, off to sand the floors and paint the fence.