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1. The Pink Apocalypse

What it is: It’s opening weekend for the films “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” a cinematic convergence that is being dubbed “Barbenheimer.”
What to know about it: The idea of a day at the movies sampling both “Barbie,” a campy fantasy about female empowerment, and “Oppenheimer,” a biopic about the ethically tormented director of the Manhattan Project, isn’t exactly intuitive. But apparently thousands of cinephiles are down for some cognitive dissonance; AMC reports that so far, 40,000 ticket holders have booked seats to see both films on the same day. Some theaters are even staggering film times to accommodate those wanting to immerse themselves in both the existential agony of an emaciated Cillan Murphy as Oppenheimer and the earnest, colorful innocence of Margot Robbie as Barbie. Parents should be aware that “Oppenheimer” includes prolonged graphic sex scenes and, at three hours long, is being called emotionally exhausting. “Barbie,” on the other hand, has drawn criticism from some for seemingly espousing progressive political ideals.
Start the conversation: If you could choose any two films for a double feature, what would they be?

2. Seeing Red

What it is: Gen Z blames the Supreme Court and Republicans for the 6-3 SCOTUS ruling that blocked a plan to repay up to $20,000 of student loan debt per borrower.
What people are saying: A poll of 783 college students and recent graduates showed that 47 percent said the Supreme Court is responsible for student loans not being forgiven, and 38 percent said Republicans were responsible. It’s a small poll, but seems indicative of a larger sentiment. For many Gen Z borrowers, the prospect of a $10,000 to $20,000 repayment from the government would represent forgiveness of most or all of their student debt. According to the Education Data Initiative, Gen Z currently holds only 6.4 percent of the total student loan debt, with an average debt of $14,315 per borrower and 1.77 million borrowers who owe $10,000 to $20,000. But because they’re less likely to have a mortgage and other major debts, student loans are more likely to account for 30 percent or more of Generation Z’s total debt—making this issue one that feels incredibly significant for them.
Start the conversation: How do you feel about the student loan forgiveness plan that was offered by the government?

3. Hanging by a Thread

What it is: Meta’s Twitter competitor, Threads, debuted with a splash. But two weeks in, it’s already shedding active users. One report says the app is down from 49 million daily users to 23.6 million.
What it means: For the first few days, Threads seemed like it could be a user-friendly hub of silly memes and easy-to-track conversations between friends. The app rocketed to 100 million users within four days of its launch, but after that, use started to taper. At least at this point, the feed lacks features like emoji integration, trending topics, hashtags, and a chronological feed. So while it functions in a way that Twitter users will easily recognize, it doesn’t exactly work like Twitter. Unless Threads can establish that users need it for something new, it seems unlikely to change the social media habits of digital natives who are already burnt out by the pressure to constantly post. For more on Threads, check out our new episode of The Deep Dive.
Start the conversation: What is social media for?

Song of the Week

“Seven (feat. Latto)” by Jung Kook: Sitting at #5 on the Spotify USA Top 50 and #20 on Apple Music’s Global Top 100, “Seven” is a single by South Korean superstar Jung Kook. The song was released while BTS, the K-Pop supergroup in which Jung Kook is a member, is taking a break. With an explicit version and a clean version available, this smooth pop love song, entirely in English, is about loving someone seven days a week. The lyrics primarily focus on the more, ahem, physical acts of love as opposed to aspects like commitment, self-sacrifice, and emotional connection (although there is one line about devotion). The more sexual and explicit lyrics signal a shift from Jung Kook’s more family-friendly and clean sensibilities as a member of BTS. For the lyrics of the clean version, click here. 

Culture: Translated

People might not typically associate the theme of nuclear warfare with Barbie. But trailers for Greta Gerwig’s interpretation suggest that at least some of that film’s inciting incident will have to do with Barbie going through an existential crisis like Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer; in one trailer, Barbie interrupts a dance party to ask, “Do you guys ever think about dying?”

Somehow, the man who created the atom bomb and Barbie herself seem to have something in common here: a fear that a perfect world might just be a pipe dream, and that darkness lies underneath.

It’s a pattern we can see over and over again, in everything from the drama of Threads to the reaction to SCOTUS’ decision on student loan forgiveness. When Threads first launched, it was full of posts like “I hope this place stays as loving and friendly as it is right now.” For a moment, everyone seemed to have gotten amnesia about the lifecycle of social media. Within two weeks, Threads had created yet one more space for unmoderated and even harmful speech. People are leaving in droves, saddened and somehow surprised by the inevitable. When it comes to student loans, the same kind of blind hope seemed to prevail. Despite the fact that only 39% of Gen Zers say they trust the government, many began to believe that in this instance  the government might be their saving grace. But things didn’t work out the way many Gen Zers had hoped.

Hope is a very human thing. There’s something rooted deep within us that tells us a good thing is just on the horizon, what C.S. Lewis called “the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from.” Unfortunately, if our hope is rooted in the temporary structure of this world, it can only last until something bad enough happens that we come crashing down to earth. Hope will fail us every time, unless it comes from Someone who can’t fail. Romans 15:13 refers to God as “the God of Hope,” and Psalm 121 tells us what we can expect from Him: “The Lord will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Our fears and failures have no impact on the steady faithfulness of God. He promises to satisfy our deepest longing, to bring us to the place where all the beauty comes from: His own heart.

Here are some questions to spark conversation with your teens about these topics:

  • What are the main things you think people tend to put their hope in?
  • What do you turn to for hope?
  • How does the hope God promises differ from the hope offered by our culture?