I identify as average. Here’s what I mean: I’m not beautiful, not hideous. Not tall, not short. I’m not the kind of person who stands out in a crowd—at least, appearance-wise. And like most average Americans, I could stand to lose a little weight. (Which is why I’m munching on little cheesy crackers as I type this sentence.)
But if I somehow magically, mystically found myself on the big screen, I probably wouldn’t find love there. Why? Because love in Hollywood stories is generally reserved for the beautiful people. You know, the kind of folks who’ve never been seen as merely “normal.” Or, heaven forbid, overweight.
Is this too confessional? Maybe. But I’m actually just summarizing what late-night host James Corden said about the way non-beautiful people are usually represented onscreen. While being interviewed on David Tennant’s podcast, the Late Late Show funnyman observed,
If an alien came back and they had to take a reading on planet Earth by just watching films or TV, they would imagine that if you are chubby or fat or big, you never really fall in love, you never have sex. …. Certainly no one really ever finds you attractive.
Corden went on to say that when he was trying to break into the entertainment business, “it felt like if the world of entertainment was a big banquet table, that people are like, ‘No, no there isn’t a seat for you here.'”
But the big screen isn’t the only place where average folks might suffer by comparison. It’s true on our smartphone screens as well, especially for teens who might be negatively comparing themselves to others via social media. And San Diego State University psychology professor and screen-time expert Jean Twenge continues to connect the corollary dots between too much smartphone use and negative mental-health outcomes among teens. Writing for Time, she summarizes research on the subject this way:
Four large studies of teens from the U.S. and U.K. all show the same thing: happiness and mental health are highest at a half-hour to two hours of extracurricular digital media use a day; well-being then steadily decreases, with those who spend the most time online being the worst off. Twice as many heavy users of electronic devices are unhappy, depressed or distressed as light users.
Twenge recommends powering down screened devices an hour before bedtime. But parents of young gamers know this can be a challenge. In her Wall Street Journal “Why Videogames Trigger the Nightly Meltdown—and How to Help Your Child Cope,” author Julie Jargon explains why kids have such a hard time disengaging. It’s more than just stubbornness, lack of discipline or the possibility of addiction: “Children and adolescents don’t yet have the capability to stop doing a rewarding activity and move on to something less fun, neurologists say.”
Meanwhile, other experts continue to raise the alarm over the possibility of videogame addiction. Massachusetts psychologist Kate Roberts says of children becoming engrossed in games such as Fortnite,
What happens is they start to crave it. If they play it for more than a couple hours, they get into this addictive mode. The dopamine in their brain starts to react to it, and then when they come off of it, they have a crash from the decrease in dopamine. Basically, that makes them angry, irritable, withdrawn.
But don’t expect cell phone companies to cater to these growing concerns. Instead, they’re catering to the fact that kids are getting their first phones younger and younger, so much so that Verizon has just announced its new “Just Kids” plan, which comes with limits on contacts, data and other smartphone features built into the phone you select.
Elsewhere this week, NPR continued its ongoing “Civility Wars” series by pondering the role that social media plays in further polarizing people. And YouTube star PewDiePie (real name: Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg) has retaken the lead over the Indian music label T-Series as the video platform’s most popular channel, with 92,764,740 subscribers (as of 12:12 MDT on April 3, that is).
Well, Avengers fans, the wait is almost over. Actually, wait … there might still be more waiting. The online release of tickets for Avengers: Endgame (which lands in theaters April 25) not only resulted in record pre-sale numbers, but crashed websites and, gulp, digital lines at Fandango and AMC Theaters, too. And you thought the days of waiting in line for tickets were a relic of the 1980s …
Finally this week, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus both found themselves in hot water again … albeit not for the kind of antics that have sometimes landed them in said toasty liquid. Justin angered fans by announcing that his wife, Hailey, was pregnant, complete with an ultrasound image. Turns out it was an April Fool’s Day joke … and people weren’t amused.
Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus climbed a tree and took a picture of herself. And, yes, she had clothes on. So what was the problem? The tree in question was a Joshua tree in California’s Joshua Tree National Park. That earned her a mild rebuke form a park spokesman, due to the plants’ fragile nature. (Turns out they’re not technically trees at all.)
Guess they didn’t realize she was just being Miley.