Three Things This Week
1. Free or Famous? You Can’t Have Both
What it is: A new documentary called Framing Britney Spears is airing on Hulu and FX. The documentary makes compelling claims that align with one of Gen Z’s favorite long-standing conspiracy theories.
Why it’s a referendum on celebrity culture: The #FreeBritney campaign, mostly made up of people who aren’t old enough to have witnessed the initial rise and fall of the popstar, has long claimed that Britney Spears lives in a gilded cage for which her father and legal conservator holds the key. So was Spears—a singer and performer who was at one time one of the most powerful women in Hollywood—a victim of her own success, or were there darker forces at play engineering her 2007 mental health crisis? The documentary aims to answer the question while at the same time examining the celebrity fame-machine of the post-Lewinsky era. Some teens may resonate with Britney’s story simply because she is a young woman who, for whatever reason, has not been allowed to govern her own life. But the documentary’s strongest moments showcase society’s appetite for callousness and cruelty when a person once envied is brought low.
2. TikTok On a Platter
What it is: A simple recipe for baked feta pasta is all over TikTok.
Why it’s time to break out the Pyrex: Now known as “the TikTok pasta,” this concoction has blocks of feta cheese flying off the shelves. (Supermarkets in Finland even ran out of the popular Greek cheese, which is traditionally made from brined sheep’s milk). If your teen has any affinity for cooking at all, they’ve probably tried this recipe or at least want to. If you’re able to get ahold of a few cherry tomatoes and one of those 18 ounce hunks of feta, you might have a recipe for some family time together in the kitchen. (As the teens say, “Wholesome!”) Of course, it’s also possible that they’re quite sick of seeing the pasta all over their For You Page.
3. Not a Cat, Not Yet a Lawyer
What it is: A lawyer borrowed his secretary’s computer for a hearing being conducted over Zoom. Unfortunately, the cat filter was on.
Why it’s a much-needed laugh: The pandemic wall that most people are hitting is real, and we’re all way past Zoom-fatigue. The cat-faced lawyer trying desperately to carry on as if things are normal, and his colleagues trying to keep a straight face despite an actual cat talking to them through a screen, feels like… well, all of us. Something about the cat’s worried expression while the lawyer behind the screen insists “I’m ready to proceed. I’m not a cat!” is deeply relatable at this moment in time.
Slang of the Week
acting brand new: when some development (often a new purchase or a new friend group) causes someone to act like they're above what they used to enjoy. (Ex: “We always used to sit together at lunch, but ever since Topanga got that haircut, she’s been acting brand new!”)
A Faustian Bargain with Big Data
In 1984, Michael Jackson sang the iconic line, “I always feel like somebody’s watching me.” In 2021 someone actually always is, but it’s surprisingly easy to forget. A man from the state of Alabama was recently convicted (language) of domestic homicide, and data from the Health App on his phone played a big role in the conviction. He claimed to have gone to sleep around 10:30pm, but his app registered 18 steps between 11:03pm and 11:10pm.
His trial serves as a reminder that our technology is constantly running in the background, documenting where we go, what we look at, and what we say. In this particular instance, data helped bring a guilty man to justice. But as writer Jack Morse puts it (language), “…it is easy to envision similar data being used in an altogether different manner.” Zachary McCoy, for example, was investigated for burglary simply because his phone location data put him near the scene of a crime. “I didn’t realize that by having location services on that Google was also keeping a log of where I was going,” McCoy told NBC news. “I’m sure it’s in their terms of service but I never read through those walls of text, and I don’t think most people do either."
Tech documentary The Social Dilemma starts with a quote from Sophocles: “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.” If you’ve never peered into the vast pool of data companies like Google collect on us, consider reading this article from spreadprivacy.com, maybe even with your teens. Then ask them some of the following questions.
- Does the fact that companies track what we do online bother you? Why or why not?
- If smartphone data can help catch criminals, do you think it’s worth all of us being watched?
- When does data collection go too far?
- What would it look like for a company to use gospel principles in how they collected data?
Keep the Faith!
The Axis Team
PS: Is your teen struggling with doubt? Check out our new Parent’s Guide to A Doubting Teen, available with an Axis Membership.