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Glowing Up is Hard to Do

Posted by Axis on June 21, 2021

3 THINGS THIS WEEK

1. Mischief Managed

What it is: Disney Plus premiered Loki on small screens this past week. New episodes will drop weekly on Wednesdays for the next five weeks. 

What you need to know: We can’t tell you for sure whether your family will be comfortable watching Loki, but we can give you a run-down of what to expect based on watching the first episode. The show is based around Loki, brother of Thor, a character modeled on the mythological Norse god of mischief. Loki has long believed that he’s been burdened with “glorious purpose,” that his destiny is to rule over the people of earth, and that he alone is in control of bringing this destiny to pass. For Loki, any means will justify this end. But all of these assumptions are immediately called into question when Loki is apprehended by something called the Time Variance Authority (TVA), an agency that ensures that all life in the universe adheres to a universal chronology. Content-wise, it’s standard Marvel fare, with some disturbing scenes of violence. But thematically, it’s a departure; Loki is almost like watching a mashup of The Good Place with True Detective, featuring some of the latter’s dark imagery and references aplenty to figures from the occult. It also aims to pose philosophical questions about existence, redemption, and free will, amid impressive performances from Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Owen Wilson as a TVA agent.

2. Poisoned Ivy

What it is: Rusty Reno, editor of conservative Christian magazine First Things, wrote in the Wall Street Journal (paywall) that he no longer seeks out Ivy League grads to work at his publication. 

Why it’s bigger than one magazine: In a Fox and Friends interview, Reno says that what was once seen as a giant “get” on a prospective hire’s resume now casts aspiring employees into a more uncertain light. Reno’s comments suggest that hiring from universities that place an undue focus on pronouns and microaggressions can make the workplace uncomfortable and take away from a productive team dynamic. He doesn’t necessarily even blame these young people but cites a chronic lack of good role models and mentors. This evolving perception of students from elite schools being “damaged” by their education appears to be spreading, as Gen Z begins to enter the workplace in droves and their “enlightened” attitudes aren’t always shared by seasoned coworkers. So what will replace the Ivy League? Employers like Reno are now looking to hire from “quirky small Catholic colleges” and large state universities, he says. 

3. #CoupleGoals

What it is: #couplegoals currently has 142 billion views on TikTok, and climbing. But these adorable videos may give teens a distorted view of what real life romantic relationships entail. 

Why it’s a conversation starter: As Rebecca Jennings reports for Vox, showcasing an enviable relationship on TikTok can put influencers on the fast track to accruing a ton of followers and “clout” with their audience. But when you’re showcasing any relationship in a public way, things get complicated. Add in the fact that most of these relationship “influencers” are extremely young and new to the dating scene, and it’s inevitable that they often admit to feeling used and confused when these relationships come to a messy end. Teens might be interested in knowing that even adults sometimes struggle with performing elements of a relationship for others when behind closed doors, things aren’t going so great. We can remind teens that real #couplegoals take years to achieve and are built on mutual respect, shared commitment, and prayer. A swoon-worthy TikTok scene of a couple in love is more likely to be the result of careful stage management than true love. 

Slang of the Week:

Sus: Someone or something that seems “suspect” or untrustworthy. While it’s nothing new, this term has become more and more popular as a result of the game Among Us in which the goal is to find a traitor in your midst. (Ex: “That leftover meatloaf had green stuff growing on the top… mad sus.”) 

Growing Up and Glowing Up

For many teens, the pressure to “glow up” during quarantine was acute; now that COVID restrictions are lifting, that pressure is spiking again. According to Urban Dictionary, glowing up refers to improving one’s physical appearance, individual style, and overall attractiveness. Social media abounds with tips, tricks, and models to help “encourage” glow ups—but this encouragement is wreaking havoc on how many teens and pre-teens see themselves.

As Sarah Tong wrote for student news site The Black & White, “Before quarantine, I had never felt especially concerned about my physical appearance. It was only through this new overexposure to tips and tricks on glowing-up that I became increasingly aware of “flaws” that I had never even noticed before. Although I had always been athletic and healthy, that no longer felt like enough. My main focus now was to achieve the model-tier beauty standard these videos advertised.”

The pressure to glow up affects boys as well. As one parent commented to us, “Seeing my eleven-year-old boy be so self-conscious is scaring me.” So what are some principles for parents of faith to help (pre-)teens navigate this sort of pressure?

First, God calls our bodies good, and they are good because they are made in His image. Second, God calls us to stewardship—and getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating healthy foods are part of how God designed us to thrive. But third, what we see online can set impossible standards, and usually doesn’t represent the whole picture of anyone’s life. Fourth, there can be a link between glow-ups and eating disorders (which we touched on here).

Our hope here though, as always, is just to help get the conversation started. Here are some questions you might ask your teens: 

  • Have you felt any pressure to experience a glow up?
  • Where do you think the line is between taking good care of ourselves and becoming image-conscious in an unhealthy way?
  • Do the accounts you follow tend to leave you feeling better or worse about yourself? 

Keep the Faith!

- The Axis Team

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