Culture Clips: Happy Birthday, World Wide Web! Time To Grow Up!

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happy birthday, internet

Yes, it’s time to trot out the cake, light the candles and sing happy birthday to something we all know and, sometimes, love. That’s right, the World Wide Web turns 30 this month! But its father, while proud of his techno-progeny, thinks his creation has a little growing up to do.

Tim Berners-Lee, who proposed a system for organizing the still infantile internet in 1989 (which led to ever-so-many initials, including http, url and, of course, www), recently spoke at a conference in Geneva. He reminisced about the good-old days, but then turned his attention to all the gunk the World Wide Web is now saddled with: spam, spying, hate speech and companies pilfering our personal data. “Whoops! The web is not the web we wanted in every respect,” he said. Now, he’s trying to spark interest in a “Contract for the Web”—which would encourage governments to keep access available but information private, challenge companies to put the “public good” first and exhort users to be, well, nicer to each other.

Berners-Lee admits the contract leaves some prickly issues open. “Where is the balance between leaving the tech companies to do the right thing and regulating them? Where is the balance between freedom of speech and hate speech?” he said. But hey, it’s a start.

Speaking of massive entities signing contracts, the contract between entertainment behemoths Disney and Fox will be official come this time next week. Yes, that’s right: Fox and all its many intellectual properties, from the X-Men to The Simpsons, will be gobbled up by Mickey and Co., who are paying a truly astronomical $73.1 billion for the privilege. With the purchase, Disney—already the dominant force in the movie industry—will increase its share of the box office to about 40%. But not everyone is looking forward to the merger. Folks at Fox itself are getting a little nervous.

Not that Disney needed more reason to pop champagne this month, given Captain Marvel’s marvelous box-office performance in its opening weekend. We cataloged the movie’s domestic success on Mond—er, Tuesday, but turns out the opening was even bigger overseas, where it actually out-earned Black Panther at the same point in its run. Captain Marvel’s also the biggest opening ever for a movie starring a woman and directed by a woman. It’s gotten pretty good reviews, too. Even Gal Gadot—Wonder Woman herself—sent a nice shoutout to Captain Marvel’s Brie Larson on Instagram.

Still, praise was not universal. Some folks are getting a little exhausted by the feminism embodied by Marvel’s newest movie. Writes Heather Wilhelm for the Chicago Tribune, “Captain Marvel, or at least the reception to it, might be a subtle indicator of how suffocating modern feminism has become.”

So with Black Panther giving the world its first movie anchored by a black superhero, and Captain Marvel giving it the, er, second anchored by a woman, what’s next? Victoria Alonso, Marvel’s production chief, says “the world is ready” for an openly gay superhero. Rumor has it that Marvel wants to develop a movie based on the Eternals (an evolutionary offshoot of humanity, apparently), and that its lead might be recast as a gay man.

(And we should also note that the union of Fox and Disney opens the door to Avengers/X-Men/Deadpool mashups eventually. Meanwhile, the superheroes over at DC are still off-limits—and arguably DC’s biggest is getting some more big-screen exposure. Batman is celebrating its 80th anniversary this month, and as part of the festivities, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy will find its way back to IMAX theaters.)

Meanwhile, in the real world, many are marking and mourning the passing of ’80s heartthrobs Jan Michael Vincent (a troubled star best known for his 1980s show Airwolf) and Luke Perry. But while CW’s Riverdale tries to figure out how best to say goodbye to Perry (who starred in the show), his daughter is dealing with trolls criticizing how she’s grieving.

R. Kelly, the R&B singer repeatedly accused of having sex with underage girls, insisted in a recent interview that he, too, has died, or something. “I have been assassinated!” he said. But while the drumbeat for Kelly to be punished for his alleged misbehavior grows ever stronger, his fans don’t seem to care. Indeed, both his music and that of the late Michael Jackson (who we talked about extensively last week) are as popular as ever: Online purchases of their music is waxing, not waning, and Jackson’s streaming stats haven’t taken a hit, either.

But when it comes to the King of Pop, it’s not exactly business-as-usual. The Simpsons pulled an episode featuring Jackson from television and video-on-demand, and showrunner Al Jean suggests that Jackson used the popular cartoon to “groom boys.”

We could spend the balance of this space talking about the uber-buzzy college cheating scandal (which roped at least two celebs in its snare), or talk about Hailey Bieber’s wish to “represent Jesus” in the modeling industry or the ever-so-delightful story of how a hipster—priding himself on his individuality and nonconformity—mistook a picture of another hipster as himself.

But let’s instead tip our hat to Bend, Oregon—home to the world’s last surviving Blockbuster Store. As you might’ve gathered from Captain Marvel, Blockbuster was once so ubiquitous that do-gooding aliens couldn’t help but crash into them. In 2004, more than 9,000 such stores covered the country. But the company went bankrupt in the wake of Netflix’s arrival. And while some of its franchisees held on for a time, one by one they succumbed to the realities of the marketplace. Two survived into 2019: The Bend store and another in Perth, Australia. But now the one Down Under has gone under, leaving the Bend locale to stand alone.

Um, does it get a prize or something?

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.

charitysplace 11 days ago
The Captain Marvel article made me chuckle. Somehow, as a woman in her 30's, I have never felt especially deprived of female "heroes" in movies and books. I just enjoy a good story, and whether it's a man or a woman as the star doesn't much matter to me. So "Wonder Women" came and went, and it was a decent movie that was 20 minutes too long (just like all comic book adaptations) but it was not mind-blowing. I doubt "Captain Marvel" will be for me either.

I remember the old internet, when it still creaked and groaned, when people had actual conversations on it, and used it as a way to discuss issues with intelligence, before trolls took over and everyone became narcissistic and rude. Ah well. Them's the old days. ;)
Lyn Chartowich 10 days ago
Yes, and often the male heroes have love interests, so there's usually a female character in there somewhere.
Anonymous 12 days ago
I thought the internet's only been around since 1995 when Microsoft unveiled Windows 95 with Internet Explorer in it, so all this time I had assumed Bill Gates had created the Internet.
Anonymous 12 days ago
Ok so a couple of thoughts here.....

I do not believe that it is the federal government's job to regulate private companies in most situations, especially with regards to moral stances, such as in the aforementioned "Contract for the Web" I think it is a very dangerous idea. I think that we can look at plenty of examples around the world of what government controlled speech looks like. It is a very undemocratic proposal.

I for one am optimistic about this Fox and Disney mashup. I think a Deapool-meets-Spiderman film could be quite enjoyable. Hopefully we will get to see something along those lines in the near future.

With regards to the Simpson's episode getting pulled; I don't really have a say in it one way or another. But that particular ep was quite funny, and i'm sad to see it go. Even though most people on this blog will have already read my thoughts on Jackson.
PS: That episode with Jackson was the first Simpson's I ever watched.

-David the Clown
Anonymous 11 days ago
There is a Deadpool/Spider-Man team up comic that is on it's 50th issue or so. So there is a possibility!!

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Isaiah Thacker 11 days ago
I wholeheartedly agree with you on the part about the "Contract for the Web." This isn't to say I don't recognize the need for some basic government involvement with the web (i.e. to prosecute illegal hacking and other crimes). However, for the most part, the government needs to keep their claws to themselves.

Part of what makes the internet so amazing in America is that, for the most part, we don't have faceless enforcers looking over our shoulders, ready to punish us if they dislike what we have to say. I know a guy who lives in a country where that's not the case, and he has to use a VPN (which, if I recall correctly, is barely legal in his country) lest his government come after him for saying something they don't like. He commented on how great it is that we can express our opinions freely over here, unlike in his country, where people are afraid to speak up.

Yes, there are people who behave downright shamefully on the internet, but it's up to the site owners to decide what they are/aren't okay with, just like it's up to you to decide what you are/aren't okay with in your own home. If you don't like what's going on at a particular site, just go to another site. If that doesn't work, make your own internet site/group and run it by your own rules. If you're worried about your kids, teach them about internet safety and/or use systems to restrict their access to certain sites.

Remember, fellow Plugged-In users: There are many people out there who claim that parts of the Bible, for example, are "hate speech." You don't want people like that (or anyone else, really) exerting any real control over what you can/can't say in person, on the phone, or in a book. Why would you want them controlling what you can/can't say on the internet?
Anonymous 12 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

So with Black Panther giving the world its first movie anchored by a black superhero...”

Blade says hi.

Looking forward to the X-Men and the Fantastic 4 joining the MCU in the next few years! (Anyone down to see John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as Mr. Fantastic and The Invisible Woman?)

Also, really looking forward to picking up a copy of Detective Comics issue #1000 this month!
Anonymous 11 days ago
OH MY WORD!! Finally someone who agrees with me!!!! John Kraskinski, or as we all know him, Jim, and Emily Blunt would be great as Mr. Fantastic and Invisable Woman. I think nothing but good will come from the Disney/Fox merger.

I am too! Will be buying when it comes out! I didn't realize you were a fellow comic reader...

Also, that issue will be pretty big... It'll be interesting to see how they printed it. 

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Anonymous 11 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Yeah, they'd be great! I'd also like to see Sam Claflin as the Human Torch and Michael Shannon as The Thing. Get those four actors in the roles and get Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission Impossible 4) to direct, and Marvel would have a recipe for success!

I do greatly enjoy reading comics. I grew up watching several superhero cartoons, with the Justice League animated series being my favorite, and I like to read the comics in my head so that I can hear the voice actors reading the speech bubbles instead of myself.
I'm mostly into Action Comics right now. I tried getting into Tom King's Batman run, but it just didn't interest me. I did really enjoy Batman #50, though. Not that big into Marvel Comics though (I'm not big on Marvel outside of the movies and the PS4 Spider-Man game to be honest).
I imagine the comic will be printed via a hard cover. Action Comics did something similar when they released their #1000th issue last year.
Anonymous 11 days ago
Yeah that would be cool.

I am a bigger Marvel reader than I am DC reader. I read a lot more of the old comics than the newer ones. I do want to read Tom King's run since he is a christian. I wasn't a comic reader a year ago so I didn't get to pick up action comics #1000. I do want to read more of DC comics. I want to read Tom King's run on Miracle Man since apparently Jack Kirby's is really good. One of my favorite DC Comics is the original Crisis on Infinate Earths which I finished not too long ago.

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Anonymous 11 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

He is? Huh. Never knew that about Tom King.

My favorite comic book story (and possibly my favorite fictional story) has got to be The Oz Effect. It really shows Superman pushed to his limits by showing him humanity at its worst and having him ask himself if serving as a symbol of hope is really worth the effort. Definitely worth a read if you have the time, and it actually could be used as a witnessing tool, to be honest. Kinda funny, though. Superman has my favorite comic (The Oz Effect), Batman has my favorite standalone superhero film (The Dark Knight), and Spider-Man has my favorite video game (the PS4 exclusive).

Haven’t read Crisis on Infinite Earths, but I’d like to. Hopefully before the Arrowverse adapts the story this fall; really looking forward to it, especially considering how great Elseworlds was!
Anonymous 11 days ago
I am working on watching the Arrowverse (soon just to be verse lol). So I haven't gotten to elseworlds. I am on Season 2 of the Flash and loving it! 

Tom King's twitter feed shows he is when there was that big deal about Batman being an Aethist, Tom King said not how I read that comics. So I'm pretty sure he is.

Will look into the Oz effect.

Dark Knight Rises is better. Not sorry.

The Verse adaption of Crisis looks super accurate!!! Looking forward to it!!!

Posted By A-Non-Mouse