Culture Clips: The Hearts and Arrows Edition

culture clips valentine's day

It’s Valentine’s Day, folks—a time when many of us turn our attention to love, romance and lots and lots of chocolate. We’re all about that sort of stuff here—honoring love, recognizing our loved ones and, of course, the chocolate—but there are those who, in this frazzled culture of ours, are having a harder time figuring out what love is really all about.

The New York Times published a mammoth story on the porn-viewing habits of teens. The kids begin earlier and engage in it far more often than you might expect, according to author Maggie Jones, and it’s changing how they think about sex, power and love itself. “It gets in your head,” said one guy who was interviewed for the story. “If this girl [in a porn video] wants it, then maybe the majority of girls want it.” Porn has become so pervasive, in fact, that at least one high school, one in Boston, is offering a “porn literacy” class that examines the messages that porn is pushing on its young consumers.

But if the broader culture is beginning to wring its hands over porn, it seems less concerned with … well, other forms of entertainment-based eroticism.

Take Fifty Shades Freed, for instance. According to star Dakota Johnson, the sensually explicit romance is about “being true to yourself and honoring yourself with grace and vulnerability and still being able to be powerful … And say[ing] what you want and what you need, but respect yourself in the process.”

Jennifer Lawrence said that stripping in front of a camera for Red Sparrow also made her feel empowered—in large part because it was her choice. She says it helped her recover from when nude photos of her were leaked online some years back. “It was never my choice for the world to see my naked body,” she told Total Film. “I didn’t get to make that decision. In doing this film, in doing this for my art… I really felt, I still feel, empowered,” she says. I feel like I took something back that was taken from me.”

And then there’s Sports Illustrated‘s annual swimsuit issue. It’s featuring nude models for the first time, sporting empowering or inspirational words spray-painted on their bodies. “These women had complete creative control over the shoot,” issue editor M.J. Day told ABC News. “Every participant was able to choose their own words, choose where on their bodies they went, and then how they were photographed and the positions they did.”

Yes, I’m sure that young men will buy the magazine—which annually accounts for more than $1 billion in sales for parent company Time Inc.—for the empowering words.

Whatever you think about the morality or impact of entertainment-based erotica, the entertainment industry is still reeling from the sexual attitudes of some of its leading creators. Take Quentin Tarantino, who in a 2003 interview appeared to defend fellow director Roman Polanski’s sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl. Now that interview has resurfaced, and the resulting blowback is putting the release of his upcoming movie about Charles Manson in jeopardy. (In other Tarantino news, he’s really, really sorry that Uma Thurman was nearly killed in a stunt for Kill Bill.) Meanwhile, Amazon stands to lose millions on its exclusive deal with Woody Allen, who’s belatedly being called to account for his own alleged misdeeds (which he has repeatedly denied).

Oh, and newly minted gold medalist Shaun White is dealing with his own set of sexual misconduct allegations, but insists that he’s grown since the incident in question. “I definitely feel like I’m a much more changed person than I was when I was younger,” he told NBC News. “I’m proud of who I am today.”

Few would weep over the fall of the #MeToo movement’s most heinous poster boys—the Harvey Weinsteins of the world who allegedly used their power to mistreat women for decades—but the movement may have led to tragedy for one ancillary player, The Daily Beast suggests. When Rose McGowan accused Weinstein of sexual assault, Weinstein released an e-mail by Jill Messick (who managed McGowan for a time) in an effort to defend himself. The ensuing brouhaha painted Messick as a complicit villain. She killed herself last week, and The Daily Beast’s Mandy Stadtmiller speculates that the online abuse she took may have been a factor.

(Note: Suicide is an incredibly complex topic, and many factors can lead to suicidal behavior—including widespread coverage of suicide itself. Case in point: When comedian Robin Williams killed himself in 2014, experts saw a nearly 10% increase in suicides over the next few months.)

Peter Rabbit has not been snared by the #MeToo controversy (yet). But the little animated rabbit is in some hot water for stuffing Nasty farmer Mr. McGregor full of blackberries, of which he is allergic to. Parents of kids with food allergies were more than a hare upset with the scene, and Peter Rabbit’s distributor, Sony, has dutifully apologized. Did it need to? Some say no.

While Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love, we should make mention that folks are apparently falling out of amour with Facebook. A recent study found that 2.8 million folks under the age of 25 left the service just last year, and Facebook itself confessed that, since the site changed its algorithm, users spent 50 million fewer hours on the network.  It’s not the only megalithic network earning user scorn. Snapchat updated itself recently, too, spawning a “revolt” by millions of its teen users.

But not everyone is having a difficult time engendering a little love and affection: Gerber recently unveiled the new face for its company—an 18-month-old baby with Down Syndrome. Everyone seems to love Lucas Warren, and Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review thinks that the kid just might be a catalyst for a gentle revolution.

And I kinda love that, too.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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