Three Things This Week
1. Bean Dad Gets Canned
What it is: A father took to Twitter (language) to share a story about making his daughter figure out how to open a can of beans, allowing her to try and fail for six hours instead of offering her assistance. The story went viral for its tone-deaf smugness, and “Bean Dad” issued a lengthy apology before deactivating his account, effectively "self-canceling."
Why some people felt like it was the nail in the internet’s coffin: Bean Dad’s first mistake was letting his child get frustrated by a can opener for several hours instead of just helping her figure it out. He felt this was such a valuable lesson (and made him look like such a great parent) that he made his second mistake, which was sharing the incident with the entire world on Twitter. But his third mistake, and perhaps the most damaging to his long-term credibility as a musician and podcast host (language), was caving to the mob and issuing an apology, a move that only added to the pile-on. Today, to lack self-awareness online for even a single second is to leave yourself vulnerable to obliterating your reputation. Since no one is capable of expressing perfect opinions at all times, observers wonder, is there any hope for those of us still trying to say something of value on social media?
2. The "Helen Keller Hoax" Hoax
What it is: In what likely started as an elaborate, could-only-be-understood-by-Gen Z joke, it appears that a conspiracy theory claiming disability activist Helen Keller was not actually deaf or blind (or maybe never even existed) is gaining credibility with TikTokers.
Why it’s really sad: According to Newsweek, #helenkeller has more than 70 million views, #helenkellerisfake has 3.7 million views, and #helenkellerhateclub has 2 million views. These TikToks question the validity of many of the claims about Keller’s life, pointing out how unlikely it seems that a person with severe disabilities could achieve what Keller did. This trend echoes other targets of Gen Z skepticism, like the massive movement to deny the Holocaust. In a world where misinformation abounds, Gen Z’s cynical tendencies make sense. More troubling is the notion that we could lose an entire generation’s willingness to believe in the triumph of the human spirit over impossible odds—or even their faith in miracles—entirely.
3. Twitch Bans "Simp" and "Incel"
What it is: “Simp” and “incel” are slang terms for men who can’t get the attention they want from women. Twitch won’t let users call each other (or themselves) that anymore.
Why it’s going to be a challenge: Starting on January 22, Twitch will be cracking down on all sexual harassment on the platform. Included in their new definition of “sexual harassment” is the use of any term that negatively describes someone’s sexual activity (or lack thereof). “Virgin,” “simp,” and “incel” (short for involuntary celibate) aren’t just derogatory ways to describe someone’s sexuality, they are catchall terms for “weirdo” or “loser.” It makes sense that Twitch would want to try to make their platform safer, but moderators will probably have a difficult time enforcing a ban on insults that are so widespread in the gaming community.
You've Got Soul, Baby!
At the end of 2020, a year where sickness and death were on many more minds than usual, Pixar released a movie about what happens after we die. If you haven’t seen Soul yet, it’s Pixar’s biggest existential headtrip since Inside Out. Soul is the story of a jazz musician dying an untimely death, and his personified soul trying frantically to get back to his body in time to perform at a jazz club. The entire plot centers around themes that have always played essential roles in Christian theology: life, death, purpose, meaning, the afterlife, mentorship… and of course, there’s also a lot about jazz.
The movie makes some presumptions about spirituality (think Platonism + New Ageism) that have made some Christians uncomfortable. In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul actually found himself in a similar situation. But look how he responded: verse 16 says while he was waiting for his fellow missionaries in Athens, “he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.” But instead of giving into fear, or starting a culture war, he decided to use the culture around him in a subversive attempt to point people to God and His Kingdom.
He introduces the Athenians to Yahweh via their altar “to an unknown god,” then quotes a line from a poem about Zeus to punctuate it. From Paul’s perspective, the biggest obstacle to the Gospel there was idolatry. But instead of fighting head-on, he fearlessly hijacked a poem about a pagan god to redirect his audience to Jesus. What would it look like for us to be so bold?
What if instead of only fretting about Soul’s wrong theology, we welcomed an opportunity to have non-combative conversations about crucial topics? Here are a few questions that we think could help spark such conversations with our teens and pre-teens:
- What do you think your "spark" is?
- When do you feel like you’re “in the zone”?
- Do you think we decide our purpose, or is it given to us?
- How does the way Soul portrayed the afterlife differ from what Christians believe?