You don’t have to look further than your news feed to find plenty of disheartening news. And we’ll deal with some of that shortly.
But before our weekly deep-dive into the overlapping realms of entertainment, popular culture and what’s happening with kids today, I thought we’d begin with an encouraging reminder from Homeword’s Jim Burns: Family meals matter.
Yes, yes, of course we know that eating dinner as a family is nice. (Barring kids’ arguments over silly stuff, of course.) But it’s actually more than that. Much more. Scientists have identified a surprising list of benefits of eating together as a family, from lower rates of various risky behaviors, to having a stronger sense of individual identity, to … well, you can see the rest of his list here.
Now, about some of that other news.
Stories about sexual harassment once again flooded the news media this week. At the top of that list, actor and comedian Bill Cosby was convicted of three counts of sexual assault; the 80-year-old entertainment icon could be sentenced to as much as 30 years in prison. NBC News correspondent Dan Arkin captured the sad essence of Cosby’s fall in his article, “Bill Cosby was once ‘America’s Dad.’ Now he’s a convicted pariah.”
But NBC News found itself at the center of new allegations this week as well. They involve three women who’ve accused former anchor Tom Brokaw of inappropriate sexual conduct. NBC quickly published a letter of support for Brokaw signed by many female employees. But some staffers allege that the network pressured them into signing the letter.
Disturbing new accusations of assault have been also aired regarding embattled Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, and actress Ashley Judd has filed civil suit against him for allegedly seeking to sabotage her career.
And, unfortunately, we’re not done with this week’s #MeToo news yet. A growing chorus of voices is calling for a boycott of rapper R. Kelly, who has dodged rumors and allegations of sexually abusing underage women as far back as 1994. Elsewhere, actress Kate Blanchett recently said that the only way to deal with similarly longstanding accusations against director Woody Allen is to do so in a court of law. Finally, gymnast Sabrina Vega is filing suit against gymnastic coaching legends Bela and Martha Karolyi, saying that they should have been aware of the abuses being perpetrated upon hundreds of girls by convicted sexual predator Dr. Larry Nassar (who’s currently serving a 175-year sentence). For their part, the Karolyis have said they knew nothing of those abuses.
Another story igniting a firestorm of criticism this week is the Boy Scouts’ announcement that they will drop the word Boy from their moniker as they’re increasingly open to female Scouts as well. Conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted, “There’s something deeply sad about a society that presses for the Boy Scouts to stop being the Boy Scouts.”
An odd backlash of sorts is brewing against a movie that just had the biggest weekend in cinematic history. Avengers: Infinity War raked in a record-breaking haul in its first three days in theaters, $258.2 million domestically and $640.9 million (including North America’s tally) internationally. Despite an 84% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, some commentators are suggesting that Marvel’s marketing for the movie was downright deceptive, from statements about this film being the end of an era (which it obviously isn’t for anyone who’s seen the film), to trailer footage that wasn’t in the film, among other things. And The Atlantic’s David Sims wonders, “Is the shocking conclusion of the new Avengers film less effective if audiences know it might be undone?”
Meanwhile, some other big-name directors are growing weary of both superhero movies and Rotten Tomatoes. Avatar and Titanic director James Cameron told IndieWire, “I’m hoping we’ll start getting Avenger fatigue here pretty soon. Not that I don’t love the movies. It’s just, come on guys, there are other stories to tell besides hyper-gonadal males without families doing death-defying things for two hours and wrecking cities in the process. It’s like, oy!” (No word on how Cameron thinks Avatar is really much different in this regard.)
And director Martin Scorsese said of movie-rating outfits Rotten Tomatoes and CinemaScore, “The horrible idea they reinforce [is] that every picture, every image is there to be instantly judged and dismissed without giving audiences time to see it. Time to see it, maybe ruminate and maybe make a decision for themselves.”
Now for a few bits of other, other news …
New research correlates youth football with earlier symptoms of the brain disorder known as CTE.
Swedish electronic dance music pioneer Avicii allegedly committed suicide this week, even as the important subjects of youth loneliness, depression and suicide continue to make headlines.
NPR reports on research that suggests pornography damages marriages, saying, “Porn is a driver in making relationships worse, increasing the divorce risk.”
Fox’s The Simpsons, now in its mind-boggling 29th season, became the longest-running primetime series in American history on April 29. That episode, “Forgive and Regret,” was the series’ 635th—pushing it past Gunsmoke as the show with the most episodes ever.
Finally this week, say what you want about Tom Cruise, but you can’t fault the guy’s cinematic commitment. The 55-year-old movie star takes the whole “I do my own stunts” cliché to the next level. Read: the stratosphere. For his forthcoming actioner Mission Impossible—Fallout, Cruise reportedly did a HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening) parachute jump a staggering 106 times over the course of a year to get all the footage needed for the film. Each of the jumps from a C-17 was done from 25,000 to 30,000 feet with oxygen, sending the actor plunging earthward at speeds up to 220 miles per hour.
Director Christopher McQuarrie said of Cruise’s willingness to do almost anything to get the right shot, “For these films, it’s about what we can do that’s physically possible, but without killing Tom.”