Teen Culture/Uncategorized

Teen Culture Update: April 2019

Between the Sri Lanka Easter attacks, TIME’s 100 most influential people list, Avengers, Taylor Swift, and Coachella, it’s been a busy spring for teen culture. Here are some important things that have been going on that your teens are probably at least somewhat tuned into or perhaps deeply invested in.

Movies

In the world of entertainment, Avengers Endgame blew box office records out of the water at the end of April, bringing in about $1.2 billion over its first weekend. If your teens haven’t watched it already, they definitely have friends that are talking about it and have probably seen some coverage on their social media. This movie, a collision of numerous wildly talented actors, summing up the whole Avengers universe is a hit among teens and certainly a positive reflection on the power of good over evil.

Not in theaters, but equally compelling was Beyonce’s Homecoming, which was released on Netflix giving viewers an inside look at her 2018 Coachella performance. It is an impressive celebration of art and hard work, enjoyed by Beyonce super-fans and neutral spectators alike.

Music

Speaking of Coachella, festival-goers hit the California desert in April to enjoy various artists’ performances. Some key moments to note were dark, moody, and edgy teen pop star Billie Eilish’s performance (loved by fans, despite her forgetting the words to her own lyrics), rapper and renaissance man Childish Gambino’s release of Guava Island, a film featuring his music and co-starring Rihanna, and Kanye West’s “Sunday Services.”

While we love to celebrate celebrities living their faith openly, we hesitate to have that same reaction to Kanye’s profession. These “Sunday Services” at Coachella —  branded as church services — seem to be a far cry from what Jesus’ Church is about. Touting fame, fortune, and exclusivity, these events (which included an Easter Sunday service) hosted by the troubled rapper and his wife, Kim Kardashian, seem to have little to do with the Jesus of Scripture and His victory over death on the cross.

Following Coachella, new music releases have been competing for rivaled spots on teens’ summer playlists. As they release singles, EPs, and albums, artists like Khalid (Free Spirit), Jaden Smith (ERYS is Coming — teasing full album ERYS), Pink (Hurts 2b Human) and the Jonas Brothers’ comeback (Happiness Begins) have clearly been hard at work; but no one seems to be working quite as hard as Taylor Swift.

The country-turned-pop queen Taylor Swift remained under the radar for a while following her Reputation Tour, and fans were eager to hear new music. Starting in mid-April, she started mysteriously teasing “something” and fans were quick to try to put the glittery, pastel, butterfly, kitten pieces together. At the end of the month, she released a new single “ME!” featuring Brendon Urie of “Panic! At the Disco”  (complete with a live video premiere on YouTube). Packaged in all the pop princess essentials you could imagine, the song includes a lyrical reflection on individualism, self-love, and embracing what makes one unique. Overall it seems to serve as an interesting commentary on this generation’s hyper-individualized reality.

Social Media

Responding to that hyper-individualism, tech companies have not been sleeping on teens’ desire to be unique. Snapchat recently released Bitmoji for games, which is essentially the start of potentially many partnerships between the social platform and video games. While Snapchat allows users to design their own unique “Bitmoji” (an incredibly personalize-able avatar), by partnering with various video games, they give their users a “layer of identity to gaming that has the potential to have a transformational effect on the industry” (Ba Blackstock, Bitmoji co-founder, via TechCrunch).

Also in development is Byte — the reboot of Vine which was a popular short-form-video-sharing app. Currently, in beta testing, Byte will be a place users can share videos just a few seconds long and scroll through a feed of videos posted by the people they follow. Given the ubiquitousness of stories on social platforms and the success of TikTok (which originally purchased Vine), it’s unclear how this will compete in the digital-attention marketplace.

If you think all these bells and whistles being added to the world of social media is a bit excessive, don’t worry, your teens probably do too. In April, Teen Vogue released an article suggesting that Instagram was developing a new way of seeing “likes” that would minimize social media pressure. Instagram confirmed that they are indeed testing this feature on April 30 at F8, the Facebook developer conference.  Teen Vogue’s preemptive coverage of this development of the app brings up an interesting reality, not necessarily that changes like this are for sure taking place, but the fact that Teen Vogue published this article confirms there is some level of awareness among teens that technology and the world of “likes” is having a severe impact (whether they think it is positive or negative) on their lives.

Social Issues

Many teens today are looking to climate change as a pressing discussion. Greta Thurnberg, 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist spoke to the UN boldly about the need to take actionable steps towards real change in protecting the environment. She originally gained viral attention by leading a school strike for climate change, proving that young people can indeed be a powerful force in global conversations.

Along the same vein, TIME released its list of 100 most influential people, including many icons of teen culture like Khalid (pop musician), k-pop boyband BTS, Taylor Swift (pop musician), Brie Larsen (actress), and Ariana Grande (pop musician). These are figures who, at the very least, are known by most teens, and likely inform a lot of the way teens interact with the world — many of them being outspoken about a desire for positive change in the world. Also included on the list were President Trump and Pope Francis.

As part of the Church, currently celebrating the Easter season, it would be problematic to offer an overview of teen culture without addressing the recent terrorist attacks on Christians in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. While this event may not be on the forefront of your teens’ minds or feeds, it’s certainly one they need to be aware of, as it brings up important conversations about modern-day martyrdom, actual persecution, and remaining bold in their faith. Talking openly about this event with your teens, expressing personal reactions, and examining the ways you’ve seen others react could be a great opportunity to share faith and process things together.

I know there’s a lot to cover, but isn’t it good to know that teen culture is still alive and (mostly) well?

About the Author

Leah Murphy

I love Kanye West and Jesus Christ... not in that order. I like sunflowers, adventures, dancing, and good music that matters. I'm constantly looking for what is true, good, and beautiful in everything around me. I have a deep desire for authenticity in all things and I'm pursuing heaven on a messy little journey that Jesus is making beautiful with new mercies every day.