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books

School Book Bans Are Rising at an Unprecedented Rate

According to a report by PEN America, 50 conservative advocacy groups moved to ban more than 1648 books in 32 states within the last school year. The report speaks to a growing push for censorship in public schools nationwide.

makeup

ColourPop Faces Backlash After Harry Potter Collab

ColourPop is facing backlash for releasing a new “Harry Potter” themed makeup collection in collaboration with the franchise. The author of the “Harry Potter” series, J.K. Rowling, stirred up controversy in 2020 after revealing her views on the transgender community.

ColourPop is one of the most popular online beauty brands. In 2019, it surpassed Glossier and Mac in monthly visits.

Several influencers opposed the collab, citing that the collection would support Rowling monetarily. Since ColourPop used the Harry Potter logo and brand, some of its profits would have to go to Rowling under licensing agreements.

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J.K. Rowling came under fire in June 2020 after posting a series of transphobic tweets. In response to the internet backlash that ensued, she doubled down on her views, suggesting trans-rights supporters are “offering cover to predators” in a 3,600-word essay.

The internet quickly labeled her a “trans-excluding radical feminist,” colloquially known as a TERF. The cast of the Harry Potter movie series, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint, all publicly stated their support for the trans community soon after.

ColourPop is well known for releasing pop-culture-themed collaborations. In the past, the beauty company has released products themed around Star Wars, Sailor Moon, The Mandalorian, Animal Crossing and many others.

These collaborations are usually celebrated since the brand likes to release vibrant palettes that capture the iconic shades tied to pop-cultural references. The promo posts for this collaboration on ColourPop’s Instagram, however, were riddled with comments from influencers and loyal customers criticizing the brand.

“Wow, performative activism. You can’t claim to support marginalized groups and then collaborate and actively support and give money to those who hate and discriminate against those groups. Posting a fundraiser for an LGBT group instead of donating yourselves, and y’know, not collaborating with a TERF. Not it, Colourpop.”

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ColourPop’s social media engagement strategy was one of the reasons it became one of the most popular beauty brands used by influencers with millions of followers. Temptalia, a well-known beauty blog with one million monthly readers, called out the company for not addressing the criticism head-on.

“I’m just gonna say it again… Not even having the decency to acknowledge WHY some of your customers are upset (because the creator, JK Rowling, has made transphobic comments over and over again, on top of other issues she has both past and present) is so damn disappointing… on top of green-lighting this collection anyway.”

The collaboration is still on sale on the site. It is unclear how much money Rowling would make off any profits.

pride

Far-Right 4channers Launch Attack on the Trevor Project’s Suicide Hotline

The far-right website 4chan launched a coordinated attack against The Trevor Project—a nonprofit organization focusing on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth.

A post on the website called for users to inundate The Trevor Project’s hotlines with false phone calls for help and inaccurate location information. In a collective effort to use up as many of the organization’s resources as possible, users aimed to prevent at-risk LGBTQ youth from receiving assistance in their most critical moments.

The Trevor Project’s website lists grim statistics on suicide rates among LGBTQ youth. Nationally, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-24. At least one young person in the LGBTQ community attempts suicide every 45 seconds.

“The Trevor Project’s 2022 Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.”

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 4chan began as a messaging board in 2003 and quickly became known for its population of internet “trolls.” In recent years, the “alt-right” movement has taken over the website. The original post to mobilize was made on its most active board, “/pol/,” which stands for politically incorrect. In 2022 “/pol/” was the most active board on the website, serving as a primary platform for far-right extremists.

Real-world violence has been linked to the board. Racist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, misogynistic and anti-LGBTQ commentary riddles its front page. In April, the gunman who shot four people in Washington D.C. posted a video of the shooting on 4chan. The perpetrator of the mass shooting in a Buffalo supermarket in May released a 180-page manifesto with language lifted directly from the website’s boards.

Users of the board referred to The Trevor Project as an organization of “groomers,” a term frequently used by the far right to equate the LGBTQ community and their advocacy with pedophilia.

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Due to the influx of calls, the nonprofit had to place a banner atop its website that listed there would be delayed wait times as they struggled to maintain the demand for assistance.

In a statement to The Daily Dot, the nonprofit spoke on the morality of this coordinated attack.

“The act of attacking a crisis services line intended to prevent suicide among young people is egregious. Our crisis counselors work around the clock to be there for LGBTQ youth who feel like they have nowhere to turn, and it’s harrowing that anybody would attempt to compromise our lifeline or encourage suicide.”

The Trevor Project intends to continue its advocacy work despite the attacks, vowing to protect its counselors and people seeking its service. It is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis organization for LGBTQ youth.

movie

Lance Bass and Danielle Fishel Tease New Movie That They Are Working On About Their Past Relationship

In a recent episode of “Pod Meets World,” Lance Bass guest starred and teased that “him and fellow actor Danielle Fishel have been working together to create a movie that recounts their time together.

“Lance and I are actually working on a movie about our love story and about our prom experience,” teased Fishel. “I dated Lance for about a year while I was on ‘Boy Meets World.’ It was my senior year and Lance came with me to my high school prom.”

Over the course of the podcast, Bass and Fishel recounted the story about how they both first met and fell in love.

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During a live special in 1999, *NSYNC guest starred on “Boy Meets World.” Bass has a crush on Fishel and made Justin Timberlake get her number for him. The two of them dated while *NSYNC was on tour and Fishel was still filming. 

Bass and Fishel ended up attending the prom with one another. 

“I thought I was going to marry Lance. I had envisioned our future,” said Fishel. “I held onto hope for way too long that we were going to get back together and get married and have a family. … It turns out I’m not Lance’s type.”

Bass noted that going to prom was a big turning point in his life. By 2006, Bass came out as being gay publicly.

“The reason we wanted to make this prom story into a film, I think so many people can relate to that story; so many people in the LGBTQ community, their prom night was the night they were like, ‘Oh, wait a minute. This can’t happen anymore,’” said Bass.

Fishel adds that she had a vision for how their prom night would go and that Bass was nervous. Bass felt like he was hurting himself and Fishel by not being honest about what was going on in his life.

He felt that it would be best if he ended the relationship. Bass ended up breaking off the relationship two weeks after prom because he didn’t think that the distance between them was working. 

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The pair decided that their relationship would be a good story to turn into a film because Bass felt that so many people would be able to relate to their story.

“This was the catalyst for me that made me start to accept myself, which took a long time after that, but that was definitely the first little straw that broke,” said Bass. 

As of yet there is no projected air date, but the script has been started being written by “Jurassic World’s” Lauren Lapkus and “Golden Arm’s” Mary Holland. 

music

AI Rapper FN Meka Dropped From Capitol Records After Being Called Out For Racial Stereotyping 

Capitol Records has dropped AI rapper FN Meka and offered its “deepest apologies to the Black community,” after the virtual celebrity was criticized for perpetuating racist stereotypes. This comes just 10 days after the record label signed FN Meka. 

FN Meka is an AI (Artificially Intelligent) rapper who was given the appearance of a Black Male cyborg. He was initially created in 2019 by Anthony Martini and Brandon Le, co founders of Factory New, a “first of its kind, next-generation music company, specializing in virtual beings” as performers. 

According to Martini, the rapper’s songs are performed by an anonymous Black man, but the music and lyrics are generated by an AI that analyzes popular music. Capitol Records boasted about how he was “the world’s first AR [Augmented Reality] artist to sign with a major label.” 

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However, within the 10 days that FN Meka was signed to the label, backlash against Capitol Records and the creators of the AI rapper grew due to his use of the N-word in his 2019 song ‘Moonwalkin,’ and an Instagram post that showed FN Meka being beaten by a police officer in prison. 

Capitol Records announced on Tuesday that it had “severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately.” 

Just hours before Capitol’s statement Industry Blackout, “a unified body of Black people in the industry committed to changing the community,” released their own statement on FN Meka. 

“FN Meka is offensive and a direct insult to the Black community and our culture. An amalgamation of gross stereotypes, appropriative mannerisms that derive from Black artists, complete with slurs infused in lyrics.” 

“This digital effigy is a careless abomination and disrespectful to real people who face real consequences in real life,” Industry Blackout wrote in their statement to Capitol. 

“For example, Gunna, a Black artist who is featured on a song with FN Meka, is currently incarcerated for rapping the same type of lyrics this robot mimics. The difference is, your artificial rapper will not be subject to federal charges for such,” the group explained. 

 

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“Some of the early content, now if you take it out of context, it obviously looks worse or different than it was intended,” Martini said when he was asked about the image of FN Meka being beaten by a police officer.

“We offer our deepest apologies to the Black community for our insensitivity in signing this project without asking enough questions about equity and the creative process behind it.”

“We thank those who have reached out to us with constructive feedback in the past couple of days – your input was invaluable as we came to the decision to end our association with the project,” the statement read. 

Back in 2021 Martini, who is white, and Le, who is Asian, explained how they were working on making FN Meka fully AI, meaning he would no longer need a human as a voice. 

“As of now, a human voice performs the vocals, but we are working towards the ability to have a computer come up with and perform its own words – and even collaborate with other computers as ‘co-writers’,” Martini said. 

 

girl

Visual Effects Artists Speak Out Against Marvel Mistreatment 

Media outlets have reported first-hand accounts of individuals who have worked for Marvel’s visual effects department, stating that the company constantly had high demands and would overwork employees for little money to create the movie magic we’re all used to when we turn on a Marvel film. 

Dhruv Govil, a visual effects artist who worked on a handful of Marvel films, tweeted: “Working on Marvel shows is what pushed me to leave the VFX industry. They’re a horrible client, and I’ve seen way too many colleagues break down after being overworked while Marvel tightens the purse strings.”  

“The issue is Marvel is too big, and can demand whatever they want. It’s a toxic relationship.” 

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An anonymous visual effects artist told New York Magazine’s Vulture site:  “When I worked on one movie, it was almost six months of overtime every day. I was working seven days a week, averaging 64 hours a week on a good week. Marvel genuinely works its workers really hard. I’ve had co-workers sit next to me, break down and start crying. I’ve had people having anxiety attacks on the phone.”

Joe Pavlo, an Emmy award-winning visual effects artist who worked on Guardians Of The Galaxy stated that working for the company was a “crazy mess.” 

“The visual effects industry is filled with terrific people with lots of goodwill who really care but, at the end of the day, there’s nothing in place when their backs are up against the wall and Disney is making crazy demands,” Pavlo told The Guardian

“All the goodwill in the world just evaporates when everything gets changed and they decide they’re replacing that character with a different actor or changing the entire environment – they’re now in a pizza restaurant instead of a cornfield. It can be that extreme at the very last minute,” Pavlo continued. 

“It can be characterized as bullying but filtered through multiple layers of management and supervisor and hierarchy. It’s not like the executive from Disney is grabbing someone and swearing at them or something like that. It’s more like an atmosphere where everybody feels like this is the most desperately important thing and, if we don’t do it, we’re all f*cked.”

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“The average artist doesn’t even have any contact with the clients. It’s really just the people at the producer and the supervisor level and then they pass it on to their crew. So you could say, oh, the supervisor’s a real bully, but actually it’s a knock-on effect and then the people who are the team leaders, once they can’t handle it, end up being bullies,” Pavlo exclaimed. 

“Bullying is a huge problem in our industry because everybody’s so desperate sometimes. It seems like there’s such a high level of stress and pressure on these jobs to complete on time, to change everything at the drop of a hat.”

Pavlo is also the chair of the animation and visual effects branch for Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theater Union (BECTU). 

“Disney-Marvel is very famous for wanting multiple versions running parallel so that they can decide what they want. A strong union would be able to reel that in a bit.

“If you imagine you get the art department to design a set, you wouldn’t get them to tear down the set and rebuild a completely different set 35 times. Because it’s digital, people don’t see it as the same thing but it is: it involves work and creativity and long hours. It doesn’t create itself,” Pavlo explained, adding that the recent union organizing efforts from Amazon and Starbucks workers have offered a “possible blueprint” for how VFX artists can follow suit. 

“Disney is going to have to utilize their visual effects teams more and they need to be compensated for their contribution and working conditions. Ultimately they’re going to get to that point but it takes one person like that article from Vulture to say, hey, it’s time for somebody to step in and protect this side of it, as have all of the other departments been protected as well.”

hulu

Following Backlash, Hulu Will Begin To Accept Political Advertisements

After facing political backlash from Democratic leaders following their rejection of advertisements on hotly contested topics like abortion, gun control, and the Jan. 6 insurrection, Hulu is now going back on their decision and announced they will allow the ads, effective immediately.

“After a thorough review of ad policies across its linear networks and streaming platforms over the last few months, Disney is now aligning Hulu’s political advertising policies to be consistent with the Company’s general entertainment and sports cable networks and ESPN+,” Disney, the owner of Hulu, told Axios on Wednesday.

With the acceptance, Hulu is now more aligned with other Disney properties like ESPN and FX Networks. However, Disney also stated they still reserve the right to ask clients for edits or alternative creative “in alignment with industry standards.”

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The ads, which run on other popular media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, NBCUniversal, and Roku, were originally rejected by the service back on July 15, according to The Washington Post. The Democratic campaign groups attempting to place the ads on Hulu, as well as ABC and ESPN, were told the rejection was for “content-related” issues.

According to Hulu’s advertisement guidelines, advertisements that take “a position on a controversial issue of public importance (e.g. social issues)” are not allowed. The streamer’s guidelines also note that political ads are reviewed on a “case-by-case basis.”

Hulu had previously forced New York congressional candidate Suraj Patel to cut abortion and gun control topics from his advertisements earlier this month and replace them with “non-sensitive issues” like climate change and education.

“Our path to victory runs through making sure we can reach so many of these disaffected younger people,” Patel told Jezebel. “This ad is a very important part of that, and Hulu is an incredibly important part of reaching that audience.” Patel’s campaign team sent Hulu a letter demanding them to end their “unwritten policy” on “censoring” a campaign advertisement before it could be aired.

“We are at an absolutely critical time in our nation’s history. How are voters supposed to make informed choices if their candidates cannot talk about the most important issues of the day?”

Responses on social media aimed at Hulu’s latest rejection were particularly intense and widespread, with #BoycottHulu hitting the number one spot on Twitter Tuesday morning.

“Hulu’s censorship of the truth is outrageous and offensive. Voters have the right to know the facts about MAGA Republicans’ extreme agenda on abortion – Hulu is doing a huge disservice to the American people,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) tweeted.

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Unlike regular broadcast channels, which are bound by the FCC to run spots from candidates, streamers have more flexibility when it comes to both the issues at hand, as well as the candidates attempting to advertise.

pop culture

UK’s First Major Exhibition Of Korean Culture To Open At London’s V&A Museum

The term “hallyu,” meaning Korean Wave, entered mainstream culture in the 1990s. It refers to the prominence of Korean culture in things like movies, theater, music, and fandoms. Now, the London V&A is gearing up to host its first exhibition of Korean culture in the modern world.

kids

California’s “Late Start” Mandate For Middle and High Schools Offers Mental Health Benefits

For high school students, start times can be difficult to face. Thanks to a new California law, however, students will have a bit more time to catch some much needed Z’s. Signed back in October 2021, Senate Bill 328 demands that no middle schools can begin earlier than 8:00 a.m., and no high schools can start earlier than 8:30 a.m.

The law exempts rural school districts in the state, but includes all other schools for the 2022-23 academic year. The idea behind the mandate is that school start times — which can average between 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) — affect a student’s ability to earn an adequate amount of sleep.

That lack of rest then prevents students from staying awake and paying attention during school hours, impacting the amount of learning and studying able to be accomplished. With added sleep, students could be more productive and healthy. Advocates expressed hope that later start times will also help to bring down teen suicides and car accidents.

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Though opponents of the bill say the later start times will create conflicts in bus schedules, the overall benefits the mandate could bring might outweigh any negatives. Certainly, mental health and a lack of rest have become extreme obstacles to students.

A study published in the journal Annals of Human Biology found that of 1,113 university students ages 16 to 25, over half (55%) experienced excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). Those students were twice as likely to have depression or experience moderate-to-severe stress levels. The study also found EDS was more prevalent among females.

University of Mato Grosso, Brazil faculty member and the study’s lead author, Dr. Paulo Rodrigues, explained those sleep disorders led to several impacts on a student’s academic life. “These include failures in attention and perception, high absenteeism rate, and sometimes dropping out of the course,” he said.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children ages six to 12 receive at least nine to 12 hours of sleep a night, while children ages 13 to 18 get eight to 10 hours. Pushed starts would force children to go to bed later, helping them to align with their biological sleep patterns.

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Adding to that lack of sleep students experience was a complete disruption of the school system due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a Pew Research Center study, 37% of high school students at private and public schools reported their mental health, which includes stress, anxiety, and depression, was not good during the pandemic.

While California is the first state to mandate a ruling like this, it appears other states could be right behind them. New Jersey is one of several exploring possibilities for later start times. Speaking to ABC News, pediatrician Dr. Bert Mandelbaum expressed enthusiasm over the potential ruling, explaining recent events have made this a necessity.

“I think we’re at the right time that people are willing to listen and do the right thing for kids. I think the pandemic heightened everyone’s awareness of the mental health needs,” Mandelbaum said. School districts in Philadelphia and Denver have also taken the steps towards pushing back times, with former Philadelphia superintendent William Hite citing the need for “stability.”

Music

Lizzo Sparks Ableism Debate Over Her New Song ‘Grrrls’

Singer songwriter Lizzo created waves this week over her new song, “Grrrls,” set to appear in her new album, “Special.” Only, it wasn’t the kind of response she was hoping for. Instead, intense backlash came her way due to the song containing what many have claimed is an ableist slur.

In the original lyrics, the word in question comes in the opening line of the song: “Hold my bag, b***h (girls). Hold my bag. Do you see this s**t? I’ma spaz.” Short for “spastic,” spaz’s usage in Lizzo’s song was meant to signify losing physical or emotional control. In that context, the word seems harmless.

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However, many have called it offense due to spaz being associated with people who suffer from cerebral palsy and spastic paralysis, which cause muscle stiffness and loss of movement. In the past, spaz has also been used as a derogatory term, meant to label someone uncool or weird. According to Dictionary.com, spaz is defined as “an awkward or clumsy person.”

After the backlash, Lizzo updated her lyrics to “Do you see this s**t? Hold me back.” Additionally, she posted an apology on her social media accounts, explaining that her harm was never intended, and that she can relate to derogatory statements.

“As a fat black woman in America, I’ve had many hurtful words used against me so I understand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally),” she said. “This is the result of me listening and taking action.”

Lizzo ended her apology by saying that “as an influential artist I’m dedicated to being part of the change I’ve been waiting to see in the world.” The singer’s statement was generally well-received by her audience for being understanding and supporting.

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Some have been quick to call the responses as part of “cancel culture,” the idea of holding people accountable or punishing them in some way for wrongdoings. While some pushes in the vein of cancel culture are noble, others have gotten swept up in the political discourse of the nation, ultimately being ridiculed due to sensitivity.

However, as NBC News entertainment writer Charlotte Colombo explained, the push wasn’t simply meant to “cancel” Lizzo. Instead, those hurt by the slang saw it as an opportunity to show why the word can have such a profound effect on listeners who struggle with disabilities every day.

“Calling out the use of this word in the song is important because if the word is used in a song by a widely popular artist, there’s a chance that it can become normalized again.”

The idea of race has also been discussed in the debate that’s soon sprung up, with some claiming that black singers are more likely to be called out for using derogatory lyrics in their songs more than mixed and white singers are. In 2021, country singer Morgan Waller saw his following and chart placements increase following a video of him saying the n-word surfaced.

One such Twitter user used that idea in an argument, accusing rapper Cardi B of the same actions as Lizzo, but getting away with it. The Grammy Award winner didn’t hold back in her response, stating that if she was Lizzo, she would have told people to “SMD.”