Vol. 5 Issue 52 | December 27, 2019
One Thing This Week
From all of us at Axis, we hope you had a wonderful Christmas. As 2019 comes to a close, we’re looking back over 5 years of The Culture Translator with immense gratitude! We started with just a couple hundred readers and now have over 55,000 subscribers in over 50 countries. Whether you’ve just joined us recently or you’ve been a faithful subscriber from Volume 1, Issue 1 (if so, whoa!), we’re so thankful you’re here. Thank you for giving us the privilege of offering insight into teen culture so that you can better connect with and disciple the teens in your life.
As we’ve learned over the past 255 issues covering around 1000 stories, the darkness in culture is easy to find and even easier to dwell on and lament. But we’ve also seen that the Light of the world is always at work, always permeating even the most unlikely of places, always more powerful than the darkness. As we’ve learned and grown alongside you, we hope we’ve pointed you back to that Light more than anything else.
Thank you for being part of our journey. We have big plans for 2020, so we hope you’ll stick around! And we hope you’ll help us reach our goals either by making a year-end gift OR by helping us serve more parents and forwarding this email to 5 people who would benefit from this info.
10 PREMIUM INSIGHTS
A broader look at the world that teens inhabit.
Skim our summary or click the links to read more.
Engage your teens in conversation about their world.
They said it best:
“Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let's not be afraid to receive each day's surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy. It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.”—Henri Nouwen
It might not be the end of an era, but it is the end of the decade historians will call “the 2010s.” As culture critics and observers track and rank what this year and this decade meant for our culture, we’re thinking about how our lives and families have been shaped by what’s happened on social media, in Silicon Valley, and in the news. While we aim to be shaped by Christ alone, it’s undeniable that these movements in the zeitgeist have an impact on how we think and what we do, as parents and as Christians.
We’ve compiled, well, a list of lists and rankings that sum up the last couple of years, along with some questions that these lists raise for the future. Use them as conversation starters for your teen as you say goodbye to 2019 and look toward what’s ahead.
1. Facebook has released a comprehensive international trends report summing up what people were talking about all over the world during 2019. The data reveals that plant-based “meat,” probiotics, vintage clothing, and ‘80s fashion trends weren’t just matters of concern at home, but also abroad. As social media dominates how teens talk to each other, “trending topics” across the world are continuing to collapse into one giant conversation. Can that global energy be harnessed for good, or will it keep exposing the cracks in our broken world more than ever?
2. The Verge has compiled a helpful timeline of the 32 events that defined technological progress in the 2010s. If you’re like us and have a hard time remembering just how much our tech has improved over the last few years, in 2010, many of us were carrying Blackberries (RIP) or flip phones. Now most of us have the whole world in the palm of our hands at all times through smartphones. People like Logan Paul became important, and Facebook was exposed as selling out its users during the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Spotify and Pandora replaced the iTunes store while algorithm tech took over all of the platforms we use to consume entertainment. If this much can change in ten years, what will the next 10 look like? And will we ever be able to wrestle down the ethics of interacting with such addictive, nonstop technology?
3. TIME Magazine has released a list of what they’ve calculated are the most notable devices of this decade. What topped the list? The most recent iterations of the iPad and iPhone, of course. Tech innovations like the Tesla sedan, Phantom drone and the Nintendo Switch were also ranked as tech touchstones. Never before has such advanced technology been so easily available to people of all economic classes. Will that mean greater upward mobility and entrepreneurial opportunities for our children, or has the tech revolution that brought us the gig economy and “influencers” already seen its height?
4. Did this year feel like an extra long one to anyone else? Google’s blog reflected on their top search trends in movies and TV, reminding us that somehow the Game of Thrones finale, The Rise of Skywalker, and Avengers: Endgame all released this year. That’s a lot of end points in sagas that viewers have been following for a decade or more. What will be the next fantasy adventure to capture viewers’ hearts and dollars?
5. Sports as entertainment is certainly not the same as it was 10 years ago. New York Magazine ranked the 10 biggest sports stories of the 2010s, noting a memorable college basketball game-winning shot (Villanova, anyone?), the Chicago Cubs’ World Series win, and the Women’s World Cup Championships. More than that, the list acknowledges how being a professional athlete has evolved, with heavy political and social implications seemingly weighing on every pro who plays a game. While team fandom lives on, the cult of the individual athlete seems just as powerful, with megastars like LeBron James representing themselves more than a team mindset. Will troubled national sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, and MLB pull off the marketing miracle it will take to be able to recapture the hearts of Gen Z or will they pivot and focus their efforts on new global markets in Europe and Asia?
6. Buzzfeed released a long and kind of exhausting listing of the 100 biggest memes of the past decade. Many of us didn’t even know what a meme was 10 years ago, and now it seems rare to have a conversation around the watercooler that doesn’t evoke a popular meme in some way, as phrases like “Sorry to This Man” and “Ight Imma Head Out” went from memes to common lexicon for Gen Z. It’s even become a party pastime to pull out our phones and show each other memes. How will memes continue to shape our culture as the people who create and share them—mostly Gen Z—mature into adulthood?
7. The Outline has published a very insider-y and thoughtful reflection on the state of music criticism. In particular, it notes the rise of pop music as a “serious” genre and the decade in which women and people of color claimed a sizeable chunk of the critical discourse, perhaps for the first time. With the pool of music critics diversified, music that was once dismissed as “pop” or “commercial” is now allowed to have critical merit and seen as art. Artists like Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen are evaluated with a critical seriousness that they might not have received at the beginning of the decade. With so many different perspectives making judgment calls about entertainment, will “best of” lists even mean anything in ten years? Or will opinions on the “good” or “badness” of a piece of art continue to become more individualized than ever?
8. The Wall Street Journal commented on the decade in foodie culture. With the rise of Instagram and other ways to share what was on your plate with followers, “food fetishes” grew into a powerful industry. People waited in line for hours for elaborate milkshakes and avocado toast. At the same time, a shift to a sustainability mindset could be seen in popular restaurant culture, with “farm-to-table” dining becoming a status symbol of sorts. Delivery apps like DoorDash and Seamless changed how people ordered meals, and meal delivery kits like HelloFresh and Blue Apron made a dent in how today’s youth learned to cook. What’s the next frontier in food culture as activists push for farming and cooking methods that are kinder to the earth?
9. “Esports” is a term that rose in prominence over the last ten years, with gaming going from a basement hobby to a viable professional career for many. Gaming site Polygon made a list of the 100 biggest video games of the decade, but you might want to go ahead and skip to the Top 10. Fortnite didn’t rank as #1, and neither did League of Legends or Pokémon Go. To Polygon, the most important game of the decade was Minecraft. The simple game with its signature pixelated graphics can be played by anyone, from young children to older adults. The concept is survival, the strategy is creativity. In the game, no two players have the same experience. There’s an enemy (zombies), but defeating them isn’t really the point. Minecraft provides an alternate version of reality where a person can farm and mine and build and live, ultimately bringing peace to their own corner of this imaginary universe. At a time when so many of us long for true freedom, Minecraft bestows it. Does your gaming teen agree that this game really is the game of the decade? What will be the longing that defines the next ten years of gaming?
10. TheNew York Times leaves us with “33 Ways to Remember the 2010s.” It was a decade of algorithms, Kim Kardashian West, growing representation for people of color in popular entertainment, Broadway revivals, comic book heroes, polarizing politics, BTS, and #MeToo, just to name a few of the topics that seized the conversation. Sometimes it felt like our culture was coming apart at the seams. Sometimes it felt like nobody could agree on anything. And in some beautiful moments, it felt like a new dawn was beginning as a generation obsessed with activism reached the age where they could start to impact the world. The legacy of Gen X and Baby Boomers has been written, and the legacy of Millennials is still unfolding. What will the legacy of Gen Z be? What do your teens believe they have to offer the world? And how can we work together to help this informed, empowered, and decidedly unconventional generation make the world look more like God’s vision for human flourishing? That is, perhaps, the biggest question we will have to answer in the years ahead.
Cheers and see you in 2020.
—The Culture Translator Premium
Keep the Faith!
The Axis Team
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