It’s been a wild spring for teens and summer has made its grand entrance. As I write this blog, the highly anticipated Aladdin remake has already had a successful first weekend (one of a few major summer blockbusters), Miley Cyrus has announced a new album, and celebrities, politicians, and countless individuals have weighed in on the controversial abortion legislation being passed in states around America. Without further ado, let’s dive into the teen culture of May 2019.
There was high drama on YouTube, as a feud between massively successful beauty bloggers Tati Westbrook and James Charles broke out. James Charles (known largely for being Covergirl’s first “cover boy”), a 20-year-old beauty vlogger, has gained massive success on YouTube. Early on in his career, he was mentored by 37-year-old beauty vlogger and owner of Halo Beauty, Tati Westbrook. Apparently, the aforementioned drama started when, at Coachella, James promoted a brand that competes with Tati’s Halo Beauty. Counting this as betrayal, Tati responded by posting a 43-minute long video exposing some problems she’s perceived in James’ behavior. After losing over 3 million subscribers and responding with an apology video, James eventually released a lengthy video outing Jeffree Star and Tati and, essentially just asking viewers and all internet users to simply not believe everything that’s on the internet. Novel, though, isn’t it?
In all seriousness, though this drama might seem ridiculous, it’s a fabulous case study on the impact of digital personas’ on real human life. Teens are connecting more and more in the digital space and their potential to stan or even aim to become like these over-the-top internet celebrities is likely. The reality of how people can hurt and be hurt because of their interactions online is an important consideration to invite your teens into.
Buzzfeed released an article about what contributor DJ Louis XIV calls “boutique” pop music that was of particular interest to Life Teen staff, as it illustrates a phenomenon in music that seems to be representative of an entire generation. Detailed in the article, Louis has identified a trend among pop artists to cease to aim for mainstream acceptance and, instead, cultivate niche audiences that are relentlessly loyal to them. This reflects the individualistic nature of today’s teens and their simultaneous craving to be part of something. While Ariana Grande might be achieving massive mainstream pop star status, Carly Rae Jepsen’s smaller, but more dedicated audience lives to support the pop queen and be “seen” by their own belonging in her niche fan base.
In other music news, summer releases are upon us. Tyler the Creator, considered by his fans to be a musical genius, released IGOR which landed him his first spot at number one album. Additionally, Halsey released her angry single “Nightmare” along with an equally angry video expressing opposition to systems of oppression of women. DJ Khaled released his album, Father of Asahd including a number of features likely to pique the interest of many teen listeners. And Lil’ Nas X’s “Old Town Road” isn’t done being the hip-hop/country viral sensation that it is, as artists continue to remix it, and its official movie was released on YouTube.
While there may be a few notes of video games to highlight or TV shows to recap, it’d be foolish to refuse to dedicate the remainder of this blog to anything other than the many social issues that came up over the month of May. It seemed all things pro-life v. pro-choice were on the table this month as Alabama and Georgia both passed controversial bills restricting abortions in the state, which pro-lifers are hoping will create an opportunity for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. While teens aren’t voting on these issues, they’re certainly hearing about them from countless personalities and celebrities online, many of whom are citing valid concerns held by those who support legalized abortion. With that in mind, having honest conversations with your teens about the many messy, challenging issues surrounding any single abortion is of supreme importance. Today’s teens are less interested in simple answers and, more than anything, want to engage challenging issues — giving them the space to do so is essential as they’re forming opinions on matters as serious as these. You might want to share this video with them as a start.
Additionally, there was a Colorado STEM school shooting earlier this month which claimed the life of student, Kendrick Castillo. As devastating as this event was, the community gathered together to celebrate the heroism of the young man and honor his life, rather than centering the conversation on the life and motives of the shooter. Once again, however, the narrative of risk involved in something as innocent and ordinary as going to high school is on teens’ radars.
Finally, the death of Malaysia Booker, a black, trans woman who was shot and killed in Dallas earlier this month, draws attention to the reality of threats experienced by minorities, intersectionality, and the pro-life response to all of it. While this is not an event that was covered in a big way by pro-life organizations, it is one that merits attention as we as Catholics and we as pro-life people recognize that no person no matter his or her life choices, ought to be attacked, abused, neglected or killed. Perhaps this is another opportunity to enter into a conversation with your teens about the complexities of being pro-life, and the challenges faced by a world that so often wants things to fit nicely in one box or another.
May has been a wild month, no doubt, but it’s always a wild month in teen culture. They’re up against a lot, but the Lord is alive, He is moving, and He will use what’s happening in any culture to encounter the souls He loves. I’m praying for you and your teens.