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May 19, 2021

$1400 Will Buy a Lot of Squishmallows


1. What’s a Squishmallow?

What it is: Fueled by the pandemic and a TikTok hashtag called #Squishtok, sales of a plush toy called Squishmallow have tripled in the past six months.”

Why it’s such a comfort object: Fans and hardcore collectors of the plush toy will say that #Squishtok isn’t just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. Similar to the Beanie Babies craze in the late 1990s, rare Squishmallow characters are sought-after by toy aficionados eager to resell them on the internet for hundreds of dollars more than their retail value. Certain items from the Squishmallow collection become an elevated status symbol. But for most kids and teens participating in the craze, Squishmallows are a conversation starter—an alternate world of plushy and soft collectibles that they can engage in with their friends. It also helps that the toys are super cute.

2. My Bank Account: $1400

What it is: This week marked the first time that many members of Gen Z were eligible for direct deposit stimulus money from the government. What do teenagers do with $1400? Make memes about getting it, of course.

Why it’s good to laugh along: To a teenage dependent who lives at home (and to most other people, come to think of it), $1400 is a lot of money. A simple meme format that starts “My Bank Account: $1400” and proceeds to name a ludicrous, satirical splurge started trending this past weekend in anticipation of the cash drop. (“My bank account: $1400; Me at Burger King: bring me the king” was a tweet that did numbers). Mocked-up bank statements made to look like the government accidentally deposited $1.4 million into a poster’s account, followed by the words “I am going to jail,” were also popular. In a time of financial uncertainty for many, it’s nice to know that Gen Z hasn’t lost their sense of humor about what money can (and can’t) buy. In reality, 42 percent of consumers under 34 said their stimulus was going straight into savings. 

3. Cardi B vs Candace O

What it is: Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s Grammy performance drew ire from conservative commentator Candace Owens, among others. The result was a Twitter feud for the ages that looks like it might end in a defamation suit.

Why it’s a zero sum game: Owens said that “parents should be terrified” of Cardi B’s sexually charged performance, which drew complaints to the FCC. Cardi B countered that people should stop expecting celebrities to “raise their kids,” and that she “makes music for adults.” The fight devolved into a war of words where the eloquent Owens arguably had Cardi on the ropes. To conservative pundits, “winning” against a pop singer’s profane display on television may seem highly consequential (and we aren’t here to argue that it’s not). The truth is, though, that Gen Z’s interest in institutions like the Grammys is severely waning, either way. The show experienced record low ratings this year. Many of the younger viewers who do tune in are mostly just interested in discerning who should get deplatformed next. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s possible to watch a performance like Cardi’s neutrally, without being affected. But if Cardi does make one good point, it’s this: neither the FCC nor celebrities like herself should take primary responsibility for what our kids take in through media—that responsibility is ours as parents.

Slang of the Week

stimmy: stimulus money from the government. (Ex: “When that stimmy hits, you know you’ll find me at the mall.”)  

Caught in 4k* 

A new trend on TikTok (language) involves playing the intro sound from PornHub videos in front of other people and filming them to see if they recognize it—thus, outing them for watching porn. Most of the captions for the trend involve some variation of the phrase “caught him/her in 4k,” which means “caught him/her red-handed” (and generally meaning with photographs, screenshots, or a video). The trend uses the TikTok song “hey lol” by khaleel, which fuses the PornHub intro to the beginning of “Redbone” by Childish Gambino.

Most of the people in the trend are smiling and laughing after their boyfriends, girlfriends, teachers, little brothers, and parents look up. For some who get “caught in 4k,” hearing the sound is a real source of panic, as they suddenly worry that maybe they forgot to close the website after the last time they looked at porn. Still others clearly recognize the sound but don’t want to turn around and risk exposure, so they turn their selfie cameras on and zoom in on what’s happening behind them.

Of course, as @matttheperson points out, some people just turn their heads when they hear noises, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Still, some parents are taking advantage of the trend to try to find out whether their kids have watched porn. (Given how shame-inducing this experience could be, Axis does not recommend this approach.) The reality is, early exposure to pornography is common, and in 2021 it can easily become a regular part of someone’s life before they understand the consequences of it.

We are creating resources to help parents and caring adults enter into these awkward, but crucial conversations (check out our Parent’s Guide to Talking About Pornography as well as our Parent’s Guide to Shame-Free Parenting for more). But communicating sexual integrity to the rising generation starts with our own sexual integrity. In light of that, here are a few questions we’d love to invite you to reflect on:

  • What do you think it means to live with sexual integrity?
  • How easy is it for you to see sexuality as a gift from God?
  • How easy is it to compartmentalize your own sexual life and spiritual life?

*Thanks to one of our readers for letting us know about this trend!

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

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