Now that we’re well into September, the Pumpkin Spice Latte is back, students are back in their classrooms, the thrill of “Hot Girl Summer” (a song by Megan Thee Stallion that was enjoyed by listeners throughout the summer of 2019) has died down, and all the spooky Halloween energy has taken over the aisles of your local Target. As your teens settle back into their school routines and daily commitments, there are a few things going on in their culture to be aware of and keep on your radar.
Lover and What We Love
For starters, Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated album “Lover” has dropped and her fans were all about it. She performed one of her singles off of the album “You Need to Calm Down” on the stage of the VMAs at the end of August, and was highly celebrated for her message of equality. Her fans have been dedicated to each and every bit of new content she’s been releasing, including her collaboration with Stella McCartney — a fashion line called Taylor x Stella. She’s being celebrated in this moment of her career, for speaking up more openly about issues of equality — marriage equality and women’s equality — and for her dreamy romance with current boyfriend Joe Alywn.
Theories behind the meaning and men in some of Taylor’s new songs have been circling the internet, but one of the more unnoticed realities of her album is the fact that it subtly celebrates romantic love above all else. While not wildly problematic upon first listen, I’d suggest that this approach to sonic storytelling, which fans love, can perpetuate a sort of unconscious idolatry of romance that’s worth, at the very least, being aware of.
In an era where popstar Lizzo can make self-love above all else her anthem, it’s surprising to see similar success with a star who makes romance hers. But we’re also living in an era (much like every other era) where God is easily forgotten in mainstream culture, despite His presence there. This may be reading far too much into the lyrics of a pop star, but whether we like it or not, she has a profound influence on culture.
As teens have gotten back to the grind of school, the VSCO girl trend has quickly become affirmed and memefied. What is this trend all about? Well if your daughter has been walking around with multi-colored friendship bracelets, has a colorful Hydroflask, and more Instagram followers than me, then you have your answer. The trend is really just a look, an aesthetic, a style that has been officially named “VSCO girl” by the trend-deciders. It comes with a unique set of slang, habits, and preferences, but all in all, it is just another trend. The only reason this is something worth being aware of is that it has the potential to perpetuate attitudes of comparison and disordered attachments to vanity and material things, especially for teen girls trying to keep up with the trend.
Climate Change Concern
If you haven’t heard, yet, about the wildfires in the Amazon, your teens have. Many celebrities are talking about it (some influencers using the tragedy for their own gain, unfortunately) and expressing great concern over climate change. This comes at the same time as British pop band, The 1975 released the first two tracks off of their upcoming album, which seems to be all about climate change and human responsibility to restore the broken parts of the world. All this to say, climate change is on your teens’ radars and, following the example of teen activist Greta Thunberg, teens are committed to using their voices for positive change in this world and the fight against time with climate change is a key issue for them. Encouraging this kind of concern and healthy action is a great way to empower your teens to be the people God has created them to be.
Another place where teens are stepping up and using their voice to stand up for what they believe in is that funny little app, TikTok, which has taken teen culture by storm. If you’re unfamiliar with TikTok, we’ve talked about it in previous blogs, but it got attention at the end of August, when teens started using the platform and got viral attention for advocating for their teachers, and calling people to participate in a strike, demanding more fair pay for their teachers. That seemingly time-sucking app might not be as pointless as we once thought.
All this to say, while teen culture is full of silly things like way too much new music, an endless array of social media trends, odd and sometimes confusing fashion trends, this generation of teenagers is committed to doing good. Even when they don’t precisely know how to do so, they’re striving for positive change everywhere that they go. Let’s show them Jesus wherever they go so they can find positive change in Him first.