Culture Clips: Soaring ‘Reputation,’ Sinking Reputations

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Taylor Swift

This just in: Taylor Swift is kind of a big deal.

For months, the pop star has been stirring the pop culture stew with a steady drip-drip-drip of singles, the lyrics of which have been parsed and dissected as if they were ancient Sanskrit texts. Now she’s given her fans a whole album, and it became the year’s highest-selling one in just four days. Swift’s own label suggests Reputation could sell as many as 2 million copies before the week’s out.

It says a lot about Swift, who despite obliterating her good-girl persona with her often sexualized, sometimes bitter lyrics, remains the biggest musical star in this arm of the galaxy. But it may also say something about the music industry itself: Swift’s Reputation became the first album to sell more than 1 million copies in two years. Now, just for fun, let’s take a look back at the three biggest releases from, oh, 40 years ago—1977. Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours sold a certified 27.9 million copies (and is “rumoured” to have sold more than 40 million), Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell sold a certified 21.5 million copies, and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack sold 20.6 million. Clearly, Swift’s Reputation will sell plenty more before it’s done, but also clearly, album sales aren’t quite what they once were.

Speaking of reputations, plenty more entertainment figures had theirs ruined over the last week or so. Comedian Louis C.K. is the most notable celebrity to fall to sexual harassment charges since we last met. “These stories are true,” the comedian confessed in a statement to Entertainment Weekly, owning up to the “extent of the impact of my actions.” But C.K.’s contrite apology wasn’t enough to save his, in hindsight, deeply uncomfortable film I Love You Daddy (described by Deadline Hollywood as “sort of an homage to Woody Allen’s Manhattan mixed with Lolita“). The movie has been shelved, despite the fact that screeners were already sent out to Oscar voters. Netflix has also severed ties with the comedian, and Vulture declares that “Louis C.K. is done.”

C.K.’s hardly alone, though, even in the realm of new allegations. Several other public figures were accused of harassment and assault, while others are watching their careers and futures crumble before their eyes. Gal “Wonder Woman” Gadot says she’ll only be back in character if Brett Ratner (accused of multiple sexual misdeeds) isn’t involved with the franchise. Salon says that two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey is being systematically culled from the industry. Fellow actor Bryan Cranston spoke on Spacey recently, giving voice to many: “There’s a disorder among all those people who use their power, their place or their status in any industry to overpower someone and force someone to do something that they don’t want to do.”

Meanwhile, a non-human entity is also being accused of malfeasance by one of its one-time backers. Sean Parker, former president of Facebook, says that it and other networks exploit “a vulnerability in human psychology,” making it as addictive and as compulsive as possible. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” he said during an Axios event. Parker’s words will certainly heighten concern over the power that social networks have and, of course, the hand-wringing of teenage smartphone addiction. (One Australian mom put her kids through a digital detox and was “shocked” by the results.)

‘Course, social networks aren’t the only problem our kids and teens are struggling with. A new study suggests that teens who smoke marijuana and drink alcohol are substantially less likely to get married or find a job. Teen boys are struggling with what it means to be a guy these days. And things are getting even more confusing in Germany, where doctors are legally required to recognize a “third gender” from birth.

Still, some folks got positive news this week, especially those living in the burgeoning realm of geekdom. Star Wars fans can rejoice the fact that a new trilogy is in the works. Harry Potter is getting a Pokemon Go-style augmented reality game. Lord of the Rings partisans are anticipating a sprawling prequel on Amazon Prime. And one-time NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was named GQ’s “Citizen of the Year” (though there are those who would argue that “coward” is more appropriate).

And in the wake of the continuing avalanche of unseemly allegations in Hollywood, Twitter user BAKOON solicited a request for nice celebrity stories. Scads of folks responded with some pretty heartwarming tales. One talked about how she tweeted to Carrie Fisher during a breakdown, and the star responded with “advice I’ll forever hold in my heart.” Another says that “Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman let me stay with them when my mom was in the hospital for cancer surgeries.” Still another discussed how Chris Martin of Coldplay goes to children’s hospitals at every tour stop. “He’s never spoken about it and we only know from social media posts from patients.” And the stories still are coming in.

See? Some nice things can come out of Hollywood.

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.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous 25 days ago
One thing that's always bothered me about all these harassment charges popping out of the woodwork... why now?

Why, years ago when it happened, did the victims not go to the police? I can certainly understand being ashamed of it and trying to keep it secret because of that shame, but...everyone who's reportedly been harassed by these people did that? EVERYONE kept it a secret? NOBODY spoke out? NOBODY went to the police? That just seems odd, given the number of apparent crimes.

"But they're scared!" some people say. "But these people who harassed/abused them are very powerful people and it could've cost the victims their careers!" ...er, right, because a career is more important than your dignity or your health? Oh, what am I saying, this is Hollywood. Forgive me for being crude, but at this point, being a victim of sexual harassment in Hollywood is a career booster, not a career ending thing. Don't attack me just yet, hear me out: the "victim culture" is so strong nowadays that if someone comes out and says "I was abused by [this person]," they'll be fawned over and praised and celebrated for being so "brave" and "courageous" and standing up against "oppression" and on and on and ON...regardless of whether or not the accusation is actually true. Yes, it DOES take courage to speak out against an abuser, and those who do so ARE exceedingly brave - but this over-the-top celebration of victimhood is pathetic. It's starting to remind me of all those who "come out" as gay or lesbian or transgender and are lauded for being so "brave." Which leads me to another point...

...how many of these accusations are actually true? Hollywood is a horrifically corrupt and depraved system; I have no doubt that many of these accusations ARE true...but all of them? How many people really were abused...and how many are just jumping on the "let's accuse this person" bandwagon because a) it gets them acclaim and sympathy, b) everybody else is doing it, and c) they don't want to be seen as possibly taking the side of the alleged abuser by not saying a word. Are they just crying wolf? I simultaneously hope so, and hope not. I hope so, because that means that less people have been abused than was thought. And I hope not, because that means people aren't yet depraved and/or cruel enough to accuse another being of such a heinous crime just for the heck of it.

Long story short, I don't really know who to believe in a situation like this. If these accusations are true, then may God help the victims to find peace and strength in Him, and the abusers to face justice. If these accusations are false...then may these accusers be thoroughly shamed for such a disgusting, vile lie.

- Lionsong
bobed 25 days ago
Your comment shows thoroughly that you have never met a sexual assault victim, nor do you minutely understand the psychology, the fear, shame and suppression that follows such an incident - ESPECIALLY when the perpetrator is a person of power and influence. When the brave women first emerged revealing the truth about Weinstein (by the way, out of dozens of claims, he has only denied one by actress Lupita Nyongo), other women realized there would be less fear of reprisal at this point if they were to share their stories as well. As for Louis CK, he openly admitted that everything said about him is the truth. So far, none of the accused women have been revealed as liars, and a very small number of claims have even been denied. When the men themselves fail to deny the claims, how can you still call this a culture of victimhood?

 It is good to question things, but there is a point where questioning goes too far. Have you ever met a sexual assault victim? Do you understand the horror and powerlessness behind such incidents? I might be surprised by your answer, because right now, I'm expecting it to be no. "Celebration of victimhood..." I need to offer you congratulations, because out of all the ridiculous posts that have been shared here, none has made me angrier than yours, as someone who has victims in his family. I sincerely hope you question what you have written. It is vile.
[removed] 23 days ago
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Inkfeather1 . 23 days ago
I don't think anyone is upset that he had doubts. In fact, neither of us responded to charitysplace below because it's fine to ask the question "are you telling the truth?". That question should always be asked. 

Here's why I for one disliked Lionsong's post. Because it sounded to me like he had already decided that the victims in this case must be lying because:
1: They only just now came forward. Both bobed and I mentioned the obvious reasons why that's not good enough evidence of lying.
2: Being a victim is a career booster in Hollywood rather than a career ender. I take issue with that statement because it certainly wasn't that way back when these women were abused and Lionsong provides no evidence that it's that way now.
3: "Victim culture" and "Celebration of victimhood". This is what really makes me think Lionsong just simply thinks the women are lying. That's the only reason I can think of why he believes helping and encouraging victims of abuse equals "celebrating" what happened to them.
4: He expresses disbelief that all of the women could possibly be telling the truth. A quick Google search will show that hundreds of thousands of women and children in this country have been -----* or experienced an attempted ----* in their lifetimes. And that's not including harassment, exposure, molestation and other forms of sexual abuse. And yet it's just not believable that a mere ten women could possibly have experienced this abuse? That's why I said he showed a lack of education on the subject.

I'm not saying Lionsong is a bad guy, but his lack of knowledge on this subject quickly became outright insensitivity in his post. Could the victims be lying? Sure. Anyone's capable of that. But his reasons for doubting are pretty ridiculous.

*Had to remove certain words. But I'm sure you all know what was supposed to go there.
charitysplace 25 days ago
I have wondered this too; not because they did not step forward, but because I have seen falsehoods by vindictive people ruin lives, and where there is no proof, it's hard to establish the truth.

I suspect the truth is somewhere in-between; that a lot of abuse has been dealt out, and that are a few liars thrown into the mix with the genuine victims of the abuse.
Inkfeather1 . 25 days ago
The answer to that is easy. They DID come forward in the past. But they were quickly shut up and the media paid no attention so you never heard about it. Some never said anything because they saw what happened to the other victims and knew there was no hope of being believed. Do some digging, you'll find that these accusations have been floating around for years but are only just now being listened to. It wasn't that long ago that women in this country didn't even have the right to vote, much less the right to not be sexually violated by people higher up. And when that higher up is a cultural icon...no one WANTS to believe them. We've finally gotten to a place in this country where we are willing to accept that these things happen and need to be stopped.

And "celebration of victimhood"? Really? What should we do then, shoot the victim? Punish them? Are you actually suggesting that we shouldn't stand by them and encourage them? Nothing here is being celebrated. These women have made accusations and so far none of them have been proven false. Many have actually been proven true. You'll probably never hear this from me again but...I'm with bobed on this one. Your post, while a natural question to ask, shows a disturbing lack of education on this subject, and you should probably go actually read up on these accusations before joining the conversation.
bobed 25 days ago
Inkfeather, thank you for speaking sense. 
Anonymous 23 days ago
Thank you, Lionsong, for bringing into the discussion the salient point that not all of the accusers may be telling the truth. One only needs to remember Tawana Brawley (falsely accusing four white men of raping her) and Al Sharpton (who promoted her lies for his own advancement). Whether some of the accusers are 'crying wolf' and are falsely reveling in attention, or if it was for $ or revenge, whatever motive, I hope all truth comes into the light. 

I appreciate your compassion for the true victims, and I pray as well that God helps these people to find peace and strength through such horrific experience(s). 
Godspeed~
milhistorian 22 days ago
The thing is that the existence of the "casting couch" is something of an open secret among anyone who actually bothers to look into how Hollywood actually works. It's just that very few people do that.
charitysplace 25 days ago
Ooh, look what you made me do
look what you made me do
look what you made me do!

Way to take personal responsibility, Taylor. ;)

I'm sorry to hear that about Louis C.K. I've never found him funny but a couple of my friends dig him; he's probably done now. I admire him for apologizing, though. That took guts. Now maybe he can seek psychological help for his problems.

Internet addiction is... a problem I fight a lot. Once I 'tune out' / turn off my devices, I still feel a loss, even if I know nothing is happening online. But, you know, autumn and winter are a great time for reflection -- and you can't do it with an iPhone in your hand. And there's not much better than a good book on a chilly winter's day.

You know what's super awesome, though? A handwritten letter or card. It's worth more than a text. ;)
bobed 25 days ago
The victims' confessions took guts. Louis CK's apology took a desire to save his skin as much as possible, fool people into believing his apology was genuine and from a place of real contrition, and continue making as much money as he can.
charitysplace 25 days ago
You don't give anyone the benefit of the doubt, do you?
bobed 25 days ago
You may be surprised to learn this about me, but for several years I worked with a nonprofit organization that provided shelter and counseling to victims of abuse and sexual violence in southeast Asia. No, I don't tend to give sexual abusers the benefit of the doubt, nor do I feel any pity or understanding towards them, nor will I ever. I have seen many, many, many victims, seem their faces and learned their stories and in some cases discovered their bodies after they committed suicide. No, I've got no benefit of the doubt for Mr. CK. As far as I'm concerned, he is a disgrace to men, to humanity, to guys with red hair, to comedians, and to every other group to which he belongs.
Inkfeather1 . 25 days ago
Desire to save his skin, or genuine apology, it doesn't really matter to me. He's at least not dragging this out by denying everything like others have done. If I had been a victim, I'd want my abuser to just confess and not victimize me further by painting me as a liar, regardless of his motivations for doing so.
Anonymous 25 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Louis CK also got fired from The Secret Life of Pets 2 for his bad behavior. Maybe this means the movie will get canceled. I certainly hope so, considering that the first movie was just a poor man's Toy Story, yet somehow made a huge amount of money.
bobed 25 days ago
Let us not forget the hundreds if not thousands of innocents whose jobs would no longer exist if that movie was cancelled. 100s must suffer for the crimes of one pervert? 
Anonymous 25 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Yeah, 100s of people who could be making better movies. Besides, it's not like these people would loose their jobs; they'd just go work on another movie.
Anonymous 25 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Wait, where did bobed's comment go? Was it deleted? If so, there wasn't any need to; there wasn't anything wrong with it.
bobed 25 days ago
I said that Secret Life of Pets is a good, clean kids' movie and I hope that the sequel isn't cancelled. PI apparently believes this is an inappropriate thing to say. The comment deletion and removal around here is getting ridiculous. The worst posts are left up, while innocuous comments are arbitrarily removed.
Evan Weisensel 25 days ago
I actually like the first Secret Life of Pets movie. But then again, I did see it for free as a birthday present because my friend worked at a movie theater and could get free tickets for people. 
Evan Weisensel 25 days ago
You know what? Good on Louis CK to owning up to the assault allegations. Sure, he shouldn't have done it in the first place, but he did the right thing by admitting that what he did was wrong and vowing to change. Handled it much better than others in a similar situation have handled it. (Takei blaming it on the Russians, anyone?)
bobed 25 days ago
In my opinion, men like that are never sorry they did it - they are sorry they got caught. If he was truly penitent, he would have admitted to his crimes beforehand. I have no pity, sympathy or respect for him. Some 21-year-old female intern probably wrote that little speech for him.
Anonymous 25 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

While someone else may have wrote that speech for him, I can't imagine it being a woman. No woman in her right mind would defend a man doing that sort of thing to her gender.
bobed 25 days ago
The speech felt heartfelt, earnest, and seemed to come from a place of self-contempt (or, if someone else ghostwrote it, contempt towards Louis CK). No one else but a woman could have written it.
Anonymous 25 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

If it was that sincere, then he himself probably wrote it. If it was anyone else, then I don't know who.
bobed 26 days ago
I don't see anything about Colin that is cowardly. Bombarded from all sides, he continues to stand for what he believes in. How is this cowardly? It takes great courage to risk career, reputation and possibly safety to stand up for a cause.
Anonymous 25 days ago
If he was courageous, he'd take a stand against popular opinion - he'd stand for America, not against it.

- Lionsong
bobed 25 days ago
For America equals for police violence and aggression now? Respectfully, nonsense. It is clearly not "popular opinion" or the country would not be divided.
bobed 26 days ago
It happens to all young female pop artists. One by one, they turn sexual. 10 years ago, I would have said that among the filth and decay of the music industry, Taylor stood out as a clean example of young talent. Now... I would cut off my own arm before I'd let my kids listen to her influence. No thank you. The steady decline into moral decay isn't welcome in our household. Taylor is trying to boil her young fans degree by degree, like a frog, and hope they won't notice.
Anonymous 26 days ago
It's not just female pop artists. Jonas Brothers, Bieber, etc. seem to have all done the same. The whole entertainment industry has a serious problem with its approach to sexuality.
bobed 26 days ago
I definitely agree. However, it seems to happen to a much greater degree with the girls. Taylor, Demi, Selena, Hailee Steinfeld, and I could go on and on. It's not right.
jimbperkins 25 days ago
Is it happening to a "much greater degree with the girls"? Or is there a fear of women's sexuality. 
bobed 25 days ago
When was the last time you saw a Jonas Brothers strut out on stage wearing nearly nothing, like Miley Cyrus? 
jimbperkins 24 days ago
Miley Cyrus was wearing costumes while onstage. She uses the attention she receives onstage as a way to advocate for her organization that helps homeless youth. 
bobed 24 days ago
Miley was wearing costumes, eh? Sometimes she wasn't. A brief Google search reveals that she performed concerts in the buff more than once. (I tried to post a link, but the language included in the link didn't make it past PI's censors.)

We aren't discussing the issue of her charitable works. I am sure every young celebrity I mentioned has engaged in philanthropy of some sort. Your point? It doesn't excuse the blatant sexualization she has undergone.
jimbperkins 24 days ago
If she is expressing herself then it's not sexualization. 
Rhoda Cormier 8 days ago
Have to say I totally agree with you here about miley cyrus etc. Her so called showing "expression" was just an excuse for her to shed her "disney" image and strut around in barely nothing at times or even if wearing some clothing be so and gross and disgusting that honestly who would want to watch that anyways? I understand if she doesn't always want to be "Hannah Montana,' but honestly I would way prefer Hannah Montana compared to what she became after she was done with Disney. Guaranteed, I wasn't really into "hannah montana" and definitely don't care for disney now, but am really tired of past disney stars as soon as they turn 18, or close to anyways when out of their disney contract going stupid, crazy, sexually over the top and then blaming disney's "rigid rules," although it was disney that made them famous and if it wasn't for that no one would even know who they are. Honestly, young people (who yes are still young) need to own up to their choices, act like the adult they supposedly are if they don't know it, and actually focus on displaying talent rather then just skin- just saying...
SJamison 24 days ago
I think that it's a matter of greater contrast than degree; many of these young female entertainers have a "contractual purity" thing going on in their early careers, so when they gain some control over their own image, they seem more changed than they really were.  I remember an interview with Charlotte Church where she mentioned how much she resented her mother pushing her into a "choirgirl" musical path, when what *she* wanted to do was loud and tawdry rock and roll.