You have a smartphone, right? Well, put it down. Right now. (Unless, of course, you’re reading this on your phone. In which case, finish reading, send us money and then put it down.) Because—news flash—our phones can mess with our real-world lives and relationships something awful.
I know, I know. We’ve said this sort of thing before. But has Madonna?
The one-time Material Girl says that the minute she gave her kids phones, she lost them. (Her kids, not the phones.) Not literally, of course (just having a phone makes you notoriously easy to find), but figuratively. “It ended my relationship with [my children], really,” she told Vogue magazine. “Not completely, but it became a very, very big part of their lives. They became too inundated with imagery and started to compare themselves to other people, and that’s really bad for self-growth.”
She’s not the only mom voicing her concerns about phones, modern technology and the toll they take on relationships. Many parents have noticed this dynamic, and plenty of scientists have seen it, too. Peter Fonagy, one of “the world’s foremost authorities on child mental health,” according to Britain’s The Guardian, says that technology is hurting relationships between kids and adults. He says:
My impression is that young people have less face-to-face contact with older people than they once used to. The socialising agent for a young person is another young person, and that’s not what the brain is designed for. It is designed for a young person to be socialised and supported in their development by an older person. Families have fewer meals together as people spend more time with friends on the internet. The digital is not so much the problem—it’s what the digital pushes out.
But while technology may hurt relationships with their folks, and the people closest to us, they can help us connect with those who are physically far away—including potential sweeties. Technology allows us to stay connected to friends, too. Or, at least, Friends, the beloved NBC sitcom that’s still about the most popular thing on Netflix. (Not that Friends star Lisa Kudrow watches.)
And let’s face it: Even old-fashioned, dial-up analog phones come with their share of frustrations, as two teens discovered. (Slate’s Heather Schwedel suggests that how we engage with rotary phones is not just a age litmus test, but a curiously unifying experience: We may not all know how to use one, but we all want to talk about how to use one.)
Technology also allowed the makers of HBO’s Game of Thrones to eliminate a telltale coffee cup from an episode, which freed up fans to gripe about, y’know, the actual show. And boy, lots of folks were not pleased by what they saw in the last episode. [Spoilers ahead.] Daenerys killed off her main adversary, Cersei, and immolated a bunch of innocent people in the process. Some folks said she turned into the prophesied “Mad Queen,” or was on her way to said turning. Others say she wasn’t so much mad as just mad—like, super angry and (her defenders say) justifiably so. (I myself have often torched small towns with my pet dragon when feeling particularly miffed.) Still others are gnashing their teeth over the show’s treatment of women—not just this episode, but in every season—and Thrones’ curious penchant to condemn violence while unfurling it as spectacle. But Slate notes that it’s really impossible for fans of the series to walk away happy. “The pleasures of stories as they end—catharsis, resolution, payoff—are not the same as when they begin. The only way to keep all the nuance—which is to say, all the possibility—of Game of Thrones alive is for the show to never end.”
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara suggests that this hyper-interactive age we live in has precipitated the rise of the “Superfan“—one who, if the story deviates from the fan’s vision of what the story should be, will lash out fiercely. (I’ll just throw out two words here: Last Jedi.) McNamara writes:
Didn’t the writers know we all wanted Dany to be the good queen to Cersei’s bad one? That Dany had previously been a woman of peace (despite owing her success almost entirely to dragons)? That we had completely different deaths in mind for Cersei and Jaime, that we are not rooting for Jon because he is a dishrag, that we wanted the evil Qyburn to suffer more? … How can happiness prevail in any way with just one episode left? Was all this war for nothing? Well, maybe. George R.R. Martin, who consulted with Weiss and Benioff on how the show should end, was a conscientious objector after all, so one assumes he takes a rather dim view of war. And maybe not, since, you know, the show is not over yet. But that doesn’t matter; for many superfans, and quite a few critics, the show they hoped to see is over, because, alas, it never existed—they are left instead with the one written by the writers who made them superfans in the first place.
One woman not upset with the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones? Lena Headey, who played the evil Queen Cersei. Appearing in just 35 minutes of the final season, Headey reportedly earned $48,000 a minute. With that kind of pay, I might risk a dragon or two myself.
While Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory—a very different sort of show—may be ending (and earning well-chronicled sendoffs in the process), other shows just can’t be killed. Take, Beverly Hills, 90210, a kinda-popular show from the 1990s that Fox will reboot late this summer. Or we could talk Star Trek, the seminal sci-fi show cancelled 50 years ago and that, paradoxically, has never been stronger. (In addition to CBSAA’s Star Trek Discovery, plans are in the works for two more live-action series, two animated series and two theatrical films.) And even though Netflix recently canned The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, it plans to air an interactive episode of the series (a la Black Mirror) anyway. No need to reboot Grey’s Anatomy, though. It’s been renewed for its 16th and 17th seasons.
Speaking of long-running television shows, Arthur, the formerly innocuous PBS Kids’ show, opened its 22nd season with a gay wedding. (Many fans were reportedly apparently super-excited that Arthur’s teacher, Mr. Ratburn, was marrying another guy instead of the detestable Patty.) And superhero geeks, prepare for a same-sex shocker of your own. Marvel will soon reveal that one of the franchise’s characters is gay. (And if you’re looking for a resource to guide your family through this issue from a biblical perspective, check out Focus on the Family’s article “How to Talk to Your Children About Homosexuality—A Guide for Parents.”)
Does all this cultural news make you want to lay down? Even if you’re watching Avengers: Endgame for the seventh time? No worries, my friends. Switzerland has you covered—perhaps literally. Not content with just trotting out cushy, reclining seats, the Cinema Pathé in Spreitenbach is sticking couches and beds in its VIP theater, complete with pillows and sheets. You’ll have to spend about $49 to take in a movie and chill, though, and the company doesn’t expect to put up with any, um, hanky panky. “The offer is unique in Switzerland,” said company CEO Venanzio Di Bacco. “We tested the concept abroad and had no problems so far.”
Maybe everyone in the theater was just watching something else on their phones.