I pride myself on knowing what’s happening in the world and culture. But I had a funny exchange with my wife last week. We were watching TV when an add came on for an upcoming special titled something like, Meghan Markle: An American Princess.
“She’s American?!” I asked, somewhat startled. I’d missed that little factoid.
“Um, yes,” my wife responded. “Where’ve you been?”
I haven’t been paying attention to the forthcoming nuptials this weekend between actress Meghan Markle (she’s an American!) and Great Britain’s Prince Harry. But I’m in the minority there. In fact, so many Americans—some 23 million, it’s estimated—are planning on getting up early for the ceremony on Saturday that a virtual cottage industry has blossomed analyzing our cultural obsession with our former royal overlords.
Why are we still so interested in British royals? (Well, not me, but others, I guess.) You can check out some of theories responding to that question in this NBC news article, “This is why you’ll probably get up at the crack of dawn to watch the royal wedding.”
Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can move on to an altogether different cultural obsession. Yes, I’m talking about Fortnite, the latest video game sensation to grab gamers by their dopamine glands (OK, pituitary glands, which make dopamine) and refuse to let go. This game, which is basically a cartoony third-person online shooter, has millions of fans playing it … and watching others play it, too. In his New Yorker article, “How Fortnite Captured Teens’ Hearts and Minds,” Nick Paumgarten writes about the game’s biggest YouTube star, who goes by Ninja:
He is a former professional Halo player named Tyler Blevins, who has said that he makes more than half a million dollars a month by streaming his Fortnite sessions, and his free-associative commentary, on Twitch (which is owned by Amazon). His YouTube channel has more than ten million subscribers. Last month, he hosted a Fortnite tournament in Las Vegas, in an e-sports arena, and almost seven hundred thousand people tuned in to his Twitch stream. I’ve heard many teens refer to him as America’s biggest entertainer—which is not as hyperbolic as it sounds. In April, Ninja ranked higher than any athlete in the world in “social interactions,” a measure of social-media likes, comments, shares, and views.
Yes, it’s safe to say that the Force is strong with Fortnite. So much so that The New York Times has published articles in the last month chronicling parents’ struggles to deal with their kids addiction to it and helping young readers assess whether they, too, might have crossed over into the realm of unhealthily compulsive play. (Our own Bob Hoose’s review of the game can be found here.)
Elsewhere this week, the culture continues to buzz about Childish Gambino’s graphically violent video for his song “This Is America.” The track debuted at No. 1, a rare politically focused track to accomplish that feat, according to CNN.
Rumors last week of Tim Allen’s popular conservative comedy, Last Man Standing, moving from ABC to Fox have been confirmed. Meanwhile, ABC’s late night host Jimmy Kimmel recently spoke (using quite a few foul words, I should warn) to a group of potential advertisers for that network’s annual “upfront” event. Kimmel spent of lot of time roasting multiple networks for being out of original ideas for television programming:
Our bigly-ist hit of the year is Roseanne. Roseanne is the No. 1 show as you’ve heard repeatedly in total viewers and the demo. So everyone who says Hollywood is out of new ideas, we’re not; it’s just that one of our new ideas was to Google, “What were our old ideas?” … Our new strategy is resurrecting old crap. … We’re not the only ones doing our greatest hits. Will & Grace; Fuller House; Murphy Brown is back at CBS. That’s right, CBS knows what millennials want and they’ll be d–ned if they give it to them.
And that begs an important question: When is PBS going to reboot a classic book, as the public network is wont to do? Well, perhaps it’s trying with Little Women. Salon’s Melanie McFarland reports that the latest cinematic take on Louisa May Alcott’s beloved 1868 “looks thoroughly unfashionable” in 2018’s world of edgy-‘n’-explicit prestige dramas.
On a more serious note, it seems like hardly a week passes these days without still more news of our culture’s declining mental health. And so it is again this week, with yet another study indicating that major depression continues to rise. Contributing factors, scientists speculate, include busyness, feelings of disconnectedness and too much screen time.
And depression’s dysfunctional twin, anxiety, is surging among teens as well, The Washington Post reports. Marco Grados, an associate professor of psychiatry and clinical director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital, once again reiterated the role that social media play in contributing to teen anxiety: “With (social media), it’s all about the self-image — who’s ‘liking’ them, who’s watching them, who clicked on their picture. Everything can turn into something negative … [K]ids are exposed to that day after day, and it’s not good for them.”
Those influences may very well have a connection with rising rates of teen suicide, especially among girls, though scientists caution against blaming these trends all on technology and social media.
Lest we throw up our hands in despair, however, NBC reports that there are concrete things that dads can do to help their girls build self-confidence.