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1. “Super” Satisfying

What it is: The “Super Mario Brothers” movie broke box office records when it debuted last week.
Why the internet is divided: “Super Mario Brothers” was produced by Illumination, the studio best known for the “Despicable Me” franchise. So it should be no surprise that this is decidedly a children’s movie. The plot is manufactured to take viewers on an expansive journey through the Mushroom Kingdom with the level of nerdy references turned up to the absolute maximum. Some viewers may have been hoping for a more sophisticated end product, while others seemed pleased to sit back and enjoy the wholesome, 80s-tinged nostalgia. There was initially much hand-wringing over Chris Pratt’s casting as Mario, but his Italian accent (or, more accurately, lack thereof) turns out to be a non-factor. And Charlie Day, who voices Luigi, is surprisingly restrained. The real surprise breakout performance is Jack Black, whose unhinged portrayal of a lovelorn Bowser is capped with a campy, earnest piano ballad that’s funny, easy, and fun.

2. This Trend is Making Me Thirsty

What it is: Recipes for water on TikTok are going viral, with #flavoredwater collecting 322 million views as of this writing.
Why it sparked a war of words: There’s a reason why that mammoth Stanley tumbler with a reusable straw is at the top of many teens’ wish lists. Young women, in particular, have grown vigilant about staying hydrated. These water “recipes” are meant to make the task more delicious, going way beyond a twist of lemon or an added slice of cucumber to enhance the taste. Complicated cocktails of artificial sweeteners, syrups, and stir-in powders create a beverage that is, arguably, more like juice (or a diet soda) than water—an observation so-called “WaterTok” influencers vehemently push back against. Sometimes pouring in some sugar, stirring up some crushed ice, and taking a long sip of something refreshing is just a fun hobby. However, for some H2O alchemists, the obsession with crafting a tasty beverage that is net zero in its calorie count can be a symptom of a weight loss fixation.

3. Ex-“Lover”

What it is: Taylor Swift and her boyfriend of six years, the British actor Joe Alwyn, appear to have parted ways.
Why Swifties are not okay: Alwyn and Swift seemed to be the picture of enduring domestic bliss. Many speculated that the two were secretly married, or at the very least engaged, pointing to clues in Swift’s song lyrics throughout her past five albums. They were creative collaborators during that period, with Alwyn even co-writing four of her songs. Swift’s latest record, “Midnights,” didn’t just break records, it has shattered them, and many of the record’s biggest hits seemed to be odes to her relationship. The biggest hint to a breakup might be Swift swapping songs in her Eras tour setlist, including replacing the song “Invisible String,” which is about soulmates, with “The 1,” a song about the one that got away. Whether or not the rumors are true, Taylor Swift fans have taken this could-be news hard, posting that true love is dead and they are feeling the heartbreak on a personal level.

Slang of the Week

Passenger Princess: A term for a girl who prefers to sit shotgun and be driven rather than drive herself. The word is usually applied to girls who like to have their boyfriend drive them, and who might not even know how to drive themselves. The term has been used in both serious and satirical TikTok videos, some with young women reveling in their royal status, others with young men, parents, or pets enjoying the princess seat.

Translation: This Trend is Making Me Thirsty

We all know we need to drink water, and powders and flavors to make that task easier and more delicious are nothing new. But #watertok influencers, with their peppy videos and massive, charmingly-pastel Stanley cups, are selling us on the idea that even water can be optimized. After all, who wouldn’t want their water to taste like a day at the fair, a sunset, or a first kiss?

Trends like #watertok aren’t suggesting that our lives need to be remade, but they hint at the idea that our habits and behaviors could be just a bit more interesting. You can be you, they imply, but better. #flavoredwater may be mostly innocuous, but it’s still selling the promise that the right recipe can make water more enjoyable and make you feel more interesting, too. And of course the implication is that staying hydrated helps maintain a healthy weight. Water that’s flavored is more fun to drink, with the implied reward of getting thinner if you drink it.

It’s not a bad thing to want to be healthy, and weight does play a part in that. God created our bodies, and wanting to take care of ourselves is honoring that design. But part of the temptation of trends like these is that sometimes they can encourage us to turn looking a certain way or doing a certain thing into what defines us. And when we begin to define ourselves by how we look rather than who we are, we can miss out on living the life God has for us. Satisfaction comes from union with Christ, not from matching what culture says is attractive or cool. No trend can compare to a relationship with Him in which we are infinitely, unconditionally loved, no matter what we look like.

Here are some question to spark conversations with your teens:
  • What do you think about the #flavoredwater trend? What are some positive things you see about the trend? What are some negative things?
  • Why do you think so many trends have to do with the way we present ourselves and our lives? Do you think that’s a social media issue or is it part of real life too?
  • What are ways you find value in what others think about you vs. what God thinks about you?