Luke almost didn’t come back.
Mark Hamill portrayed Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy, launching him into the kind of superstardom few ever actors ever achieve. No wonder he was a bit tentative about reprising his iconic role. “I was just really scared,” he told the New York Times recently. “I thought, why mess with it? The idea of catching lightning in a bottle twice was ridiculously remote.” Then he added, “No one wants to see the 50-, 60-, 70-year-old versions of us, running around, bumping heads on the Death Star. It’s sad.”
Maybe so. But, c’mon, was he really going to say no to reprising that role? And after Han Solo, er, Harrison Ford, signed on, there really was no way for the actor (who, at 66 is now three years older than Alec Guiness was when Star Wars debuted in 1977!) to say no. “Can you imagine if I was the only one to say no? I’d be the most hated man in nerd-dom.”
A more recent nerdy phenomenon is the Netflix series Stranger Things. Nielsen reports that the second season’s premiere averaged 15.8 million viewers in its first three days—slightly more than AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead, but slightly fewer than NBC and ABC’s dramas This Is Us or The Good Doctor (respectively) have been averaging. (Stranger Things‘ 13-year-old star Millie Bobby Brown, meanwhile, was just named one of Time magazine’s 30 most influential teens.)
So just how nerdy is this horror-ish Spielberg-meets-King homage to the ’80s? Well, you know it’s nerdy when the merchandising for books, T-shirts, posters, games and, well, lots of other stuff begins to amp up for the true superfans out there.
Speaking of fans and hits, Wonder Woman is now the highest grossing superhero “origin film” of all time, having raked in a whopping $821.7 million in combined domestic and international box office revenue.
In the realm of social media, Twitter gave its users an early Christmas present of sorts, announcing that it was doubling its famous 140-character limit to—gasp!—280 characters. No doubt long-winded tweeters everywhere rejoiced at the digital bounty bequeathed to them by the character-limit overlords reigning over Twitter digital domain.
Many people, however, continue to parse the question of whether our online world’s gifts are, on balance, a boon or a bane. Christianity Today contributor Chad Meeks opined, “Screen Time Is Changing the Way We Think, Focus, and Memorize.” And MediaPost commentator Steven Rosenbaum suggests that what’s going on in our brains when we engage online may not be that different than using, say, cocaine in the way it stimulates the release of addictive dopamine.
And yet more new research finds that there may be a link between adolescent marijuana usage and psychosis and schizophrenia—a correlation other studies have suggested as well. Rates of teen depression and self-harm (the latter especially among young girls) continue to climb, too.
Elsewhere in brain news, Bob Costas is worried about the gray matter getting knocked around in the skulls of professional football players. Speaking at a roundtable discussion at the University of Maryland, Costas could hardly have been more blunt in his assessment of how the sport is debilitating its players: “The reality is that this game destroys people’s brains.” He also said, “You cannot change the nature of the game. I certainly would not let, if I had an athletically gifted 12- or 13-year-old son, I would not let him play football.”
Finally this week, if you’ve ever wondered why many young kids enjoy watching other young people play video games and record themselves doing so on YouTube, the Washington Post’s Jeff Vrabel has some thoughts on that trend: “There is a monster cottage industry of millennials who record themselves playing video games, and my boys, ages 13 and 6, have plunged into it. Mild-mannered on most days, my children, when presented with these videos, spot-mutate into glassy-eyed replicants who draw the shades, hide under blankets and watch as many as they can before I dramatically stomp in and do my impression of the dad at the beginning of that Twisted Sister video.”
Vrabel goes on to talk about how his kids’ YouTube habit is similar to how he spent time as an adolescent … and how it is different, noting that at least when he played video games with his friends, they were together: “But there is a key element to those scenarios: Other human people were around, providing some form of tactile carbon-based interaction, the merging of the pixels vaguely shaped like Neal Anderson with your actual, real-life nerd friends. That interaction is conspicuously missing from these videos. Watching other people play video games for hours is the only thing more dismally sedentary than playing video games for hours.”