Culture Clips: Hey, Siri! Can You Tell Me How to Pay for You?

new iphone

Apple unveiled its nifty new iPhone yesterday—one that weighs in at a delicate 6.14 ounces and costs a hefty $999. What do you get for that kind of moola? A phone with a wall-to-wall screen (sans home button), better cameras, a wireless charging system, and … well, some other cool stuff, apparently. And while some folks say that, yes, the iPhone X is indeed a super-duper product that they’ve been waiting their whole lives for, others say that, eh, they’d trade all those nifty new features for a headphone jack and TouchID. Just ’cause it’s newer doesn’t mean it’s better, they say.

Naturally, any new iPhone reveal marks the perfect time to speculate on the future of Apple itself: Will the iPhone X rekindle iPhone mania? Might it push Apple’s value to $1 trillion—about the size of Australia’s national economy? Might it mark the day when we all looked at a phone and said, “Yeah, these things are worth $1,000, easy“? Will Apple funnel some of its iPhone windfall into its new and serious effort to get into the television content biz, à la Netflix? Will people begin marrying their iPhones, just like one guy apparently got hitched with his MacBook?

Those are all worthwhile questions, I guess. But there’s no question that Apple’s made lots of money from its various iPhones—so much so that the $5 million the company donated to Monday’s national “Hand in Hand” telethon was the equivalent of the change found in Apple’s living room couch.

Others gave more sacrificially—some perhaps forgoing a shiny new phone to chip in to that celebrity-soaked hurricane relief effort. The benefit—leveraging some heavy-duty star power—raised more than $44 million for the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Everyone from Oprah Winfrey and Usher to Demi Lovato and Justin Timberlake showed up to help. Celebs such as Justin Bieber and George Clooney were relegated to phone duty. America’s superstars are sometimes celebrated for rather flimsy reasons, but there’s no question they have some significant power in our culture. And it’s nice to see them using that power for a positive end.

“Natural disasters don’t discriminate,” Beyoncé said during the telecast. “They don’t see if you’re an immigrant, black or white, Hispanic or Asian, Jewish or Muslim, wealthy or poor. It doesn’t matter if you’re from [Houston neighborhoods] Third Ward or River Oaks, we’re all in this together.”

(‘Course, the hurricanes turned some ordinary folks into stars as well—such as the gospel choir whose shelter-centered worship song went viral, resulting in an invitation to  perform on The Tonight Show.)

Americans spent their discretionary income in other ways this week too. As I mentioned in Monday’s blog, plenty of folks ponied up a few bucks to see the R-rated horror flick IT, based on the 1986 novel by Stephen King. Some familiar with the book noted that the movie omitted the book’s most controversial scene—essentially a tween orgy amongst the members of the Losers’ Club.

Why get rid of it? Well, duh. But Gary Dauberman, who wrote the screenplay for IT, offered a bit more detail into the scene’s omission to Entertainment Weekly: “While it’s an important scene, it doesn’t define the book in any way I don’t think and it shouldn’t. We know what the intent was of that scene and why he put it in there, and we tried to accomplish what the intent was in a different way.”

For his part, King says he never thought of the scene as sexual, but rather as a connection between “childhood and adulthood. “Times have changed since I wrote that scene and there is now more sensitivity to those issues,” he said in 2013 (and quoted in the same EW story).

Even without that scene, the movie is plenty problematic enough. And be warned: Director Andy Muschietti says that, as difficult as the first one was, it’ll seem like a comedy compared to a “much darker” Chapter Two. (All that aside, Relevant’s Tyler Huckabee thinks that King’s works actually has some interesting things to say about good, evil and heaven.)

IT helped rejuvenate a box office that had seen its worst summer in ages. But if things were looking up for Hollywood, YouTube star PewDiePie saw his own brand plummet after he dropped the n-word in a live video. (Warning: While the link bleeps the n-word in its copy, it doesn’t censor other profanities dropped by the star during that same video, including multiple uses of the f-word. Oh, and he’s since apologized for the slur.)

Finally, we give you the unusual case of a selfie-snapping monkey. The macaque monkey apparently swiped photographer David Slater’s camera and took a smiling picture of itself. Slater believed that he owned the rights to the now-famous photo, but People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals argued that the monkey—as both the subject and the photographer—should receive any proceeds garnered from the shot. PETA filed a case on behalf of the monkey (who, apparently, was too busy to attend the legal proceedings in person). Attorneys for both sides have now agreed that Slater can continue to distribute the photo as long as he donates 25% of any future revenue to charities dedicated to protecting macaques in Indonesia.

Personally, if I was the monkey, I would’ve at least held out for a new iPhone.

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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