Culture Clips: No Words

Candles

We suffered through a week of loss and grief, a week that left us looking for answers. We know the who, what and where of the tragedy in Las Vegas, when a gunman opened fire on a stadium filled with country music fans, killing 58 of them and injuring hundreds more. But the why remains elusive.

We can only react, and react we have. Jason Aldean, the country singer who headlined the concert reacted on social media. “Over the last 24 hrs I have gone through lots of emotions,” he wrote. “Scared, Anger, Heartache, Compassion and many others. I truely [sic] don’t understand why a person would want to take the life of another.” Lee Brice, another singer who performed at the same venue just two nights before, offered words of encouragement. “I have faith that God has a plan and that he will prevail,” he told Fox News.

And even as we hear about moments of heroism from that dreadful night, we’re increasingly aware that entertainment venues—places that people often go to let their guards down for a while—are among the most vulnerable to attack. And in a story titled “Google and Facebook Have Failed Us,” The Atlantic’s Alexis C. Madrigal also lamented the false, damaging stories that circulated on social media in the massacre’s immediate aftermath. “These companies are the most powerful information gatekeepers that the world has ever known, and yet they refuse to take responsibility for their active role in damaging the quality of information reaching the public,” Alexis wrote.

We lost famed rocker Tom Petty this week as well—and that, too, initially caused as much confusion as grief. When Petty’s death was officially confirmed, from cardiac arrest at the relatively young age of 66, eulogies began rolling in from everywhere—many focusing on Petty’s everyman status. The Atlantic titled its own eulogy “The Humble Hugeness of Tom Petty.” In The New Yorker, Amanda Petrusich wrote, “I’m fairly certain Petty knew how it felt to be us.” Michael Tedder, writing for The Daily Beast, said, “Though he was an American master and globally famous superstar, Petty came off like a guy who would have a beer with you as long as you didn’t gush at him too much …”

And while Petty was no Christian and struggled with a heroin addiction in the 1990s, he certainly had some interesting, grounded things to say about fame and wealth. “We’re told we’re nothing if we don’t have a mansion and dress like a movie star,” he said in 2014. “It’s hard on a young person to not think that’s the game.”

Petty’s death overshadowed that of another man who influenced entertainment mightily: Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine. Hefner’s perspective on sexuality certainly helped shape the culture. And the magazine he founded largely spawned the inundation of pornography present today. But for all Hefner’s talk that his sex-saturated magazine helped free women from sexual shackles, Susan Brownmiller reminds us that he demeaned women constantly. “Are we really O.K. with the reality that our girls are being raised in a world that Mr. Hefner made?” she writes for The New York Times. “I’m not.”  And Mercer Schuchart tells us in Christianity Today that the society Hefner helped create is one that few of us particularly like. “Well, like it or not, the Playboy philosophy is now your culture’s philosophy,” he writes. “Do you feel better?”

Given our culture’s fixation with sexuality, maybe it’s not surprising that there’s a push to make Wonder Woman bisexual in the sequel. “One of the first things I learned is that representation is power, especially in today’s society ruled by technology and social media,” writes Gianna Collier-Pitts, who authored the change.org petition, which currently has about 9,000 supporters. “What we are exposed to on our televisions, in our movie theaters and Netflix queues, can have a direct correlation to how we view ourselves and the world around us.”

Also, nearly a quarter of adolescent girls in the United Kingdom report being depressed. The study points to the pressures found on social media and “body image dissatisfaction.” Writes Mary Kenny for The Belfast Telegraph, “Sexual liberation can be freedom from old taboos; it can also bring new insecurities. It may well be depressing for a 14-year-old to be worried about whether she will measure up in terms of sexual performance.”

But let’s not forget the influence of those portable digital devices most of us carry in our pockets, too. According to The New York Times, technology has changed the love lives of teens dramatically, and not always for the better.

They’re exposed to worse things on television these days as well: The Parents’ Television Council found that modern television reboots of old-school fairy tales (such as Once Upon a Time and Emerald City) are often have much more problematic content than their earlier, more innocent inspirations.

That said, teens are actually having much less sex than they used to. They’re dating and drinking less, too.

That’s a bit of encouraging news in a week that saw precious little of that. I’d like to offer some more but … well, about the best I can do is tell you that, thanks to Comedy Central’s animated cult fave Rick and Morty, McDonald’s is bringing back Szechuan Sauce for one day only—Oct. 7. Having not ever tasted Szechuan sauce, is this reason to celebrate? Let me know below.

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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