Culture Clips: Soaring ‘Reputation,’ Sinking Reputations

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.

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