3 THINGS THIS WEEK
What it is: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been releasing new episodes weekly on Disney+ as the latest addition to the Avengers franchise, and the six-episode first season is about to wrap up.
Why it hasn’t been without controversy: The action series was launched to provide backstory for superheroes Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier) and Sam Wilson (the Falcon) as it follows the pair on an adventure to stop a terrorist group and try to put an end to the creation of dangerous “super soldiers.” But it’s 2021, so a few dramatic fights interspersed with character development and exotic, fictional locales wasn’t enough to fill 45 minutes of weekly screen time. Contemporary political elements are woven into each episode. Falcon (who is Black) is harassed by a police officer, right before discovering a Black super soldier who was abused and abandoned by the US government. In the next episode, soliloquies on what America’s heroic symbols actually represent to other countries abound. The show ultimately seeks to ask deep, long-abiding questions about violence, such as whether the ends of bloodshed can ever justify the means of getting there. Unfortunately, an audience hungry for escape from the knots of post-modern living will find no solace (or straight answers) in the series.
The Puzzled Piper
What it is: Abraham Piper, son of prominent apologist John Piper, has a popular TikTok with 900,000 followers. Mainly, he posts vaguely philosophical videos that break down his gripes with evangelicalism.
Why it’s #exvangelical in a nutshell: The younger Piper, who co-owns a jigsaw puzzle company, got a write-up in the New York Times, who refer to him as a “TikTok sensation” for his irreverent takes on what he calls “fundamentalist” culture. But would people be as interested in what Abraham Piper had to say about the evangelical movement if he hadn’t grown up in such a prominent place inside of it? The answer is: maybe! The #exvangelical hashtag is where two cultural narratives meet: you’ve got the internet-at-large (which typically finds orthodox Christian views to be weird at best) cheering on people’s faith “deconstruction,” many of whom are people from prominent evangelical families. Abraham Piper is tapping into a cultural dogma that assumes a move away from evangelical reasoning automatically equals an escape from toxic thinking patterns and perhaps even a freer experience of God. He’s a famous pastor’s son, but he’s also just a man in Minneapolis making TikToks, perhaps grappling with who God is the best way he knows how. We should be aware that messaging like Piper’s is one of the main narratives our teens see online about how Christianity plays out in adulthood.
What it is: The New York Post uses a Real Housewife’s OnlyFans success as an example of how selling one’s own sexuality online is becoming less and less stigmatized.
Why it’s probably true: Prior to the pandemic, OnlyFans reported 7.5 million paid users. As of December 2020, they had 85 million. OnlyFans pays content creators a whopping $2.7 billion a year. And it’s possible the platform is just getting started. Every week seems to bring yet another OnlyFans “star” into the public conversation as women (especially young women) are making bank for their photos and becoming microcelebrities in their own right. The longing to go viral is deep and abiding, especially in younger teens, as it would seem to bring legitimacy, positive attention, and a flow of cash their way. To many, creating an OnlyFans might seem appealing, easy, and fun. Remember that your teen’s desire to be recognized and validated is natural and human, even if it’s riskier than ever to get over-exposed online. Steering conversations toward the importance of self-worth and the holiness of the body/soul connection may be more fruitful than spending a lot of time decrying the OnlyFans industrial complex itself.
Slang of the Week:
salty: feeling angry, agitated, upset, or annoyed. (Ex: “I tried to tell her I had to be home by my curfew and couldn’t drive her home, but she got real salty about it.”)
Our Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It
Maybe you’ve seen the thinkr.org ads promoting C.S. Lewis’s Present Concerns with an allusion to how he decided to stop reading the newspaper. According to biographer Harry Lee Poe that may not be completely true, but Lewis clearly thought a steady diet of only current events left something lacking. In Surprised by Joy he wrote, “Nearly all that a boy reads there in his teens will be seen before he is twenty to have been false in emphasis and interpretation, if not in fact as well, and most of it will have lost all importance.”
If this was true about the newspaper, it’s even truer today about the internet. With millions of websites updating 24/7, it’s possible to live our entire lives only paying attention to the newest and most recent developments—which would often mean only paying attention to things that won’t matter after a week. It’s possible to become so entranced and bedazzled by recent events that we lose our sense of the past and the bigger picture. All this begs the question: at Axis, and with The Culture Translator, why do we do what we do?
Each week, we scour the depths of pop culture to help you understand the world your teens are growing up in. Our goal is to help you build credibility with them—not because “seeming relevant” should be considered a virtue in and of itself, but because when we seem credible to the next generation, relationships come easier, and they’re usually more willing to hear us out on more complex issues. Our goal is to help create entry points for conversations that start timely but go timeless—opening up on deep topics that will still matter after a week, like purpose, identity, meaning, faith, and love.
The Culture Translator is just one of our resources to help caring adults like you swim the full length of the pool with your teens. If you’d like to learn more about our other resources, click here. In the meantime, here are some questions we hope will spark discussion with your teens:
- Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of content online?
- How much time do you spend online with things you won’t care about a week later?
- Given that the internet will never run out of content, what does “time well spent” look like?
Keep the Faith!
The Axis Team