1. We Need an American Girl Doll Who Loves Meme Accounts
What it is: Meme pages dedicated to American Girl dolls are evoking nostalgia as well as a longing for more “precedented” times.
Why it hits different in 2022: The American Girl brand, now owned by Mattel, became known for depicting each of their dolls with a unique personality shaped in part by different historical events in American history. There was Molly McIntire, a girl who grew up during World War II, and Samantha Parkington, a wealthy Victorian era girl. The “American Girl Doll Who…” incorporates an opportunity for hyperspecificity, humor, and self-recognition—an American Girl Doll who taught VBS in an evangelical church in the summer of 1998, for example, might be kitted out in a meme with knee-length khakis, VeggieTales on VHS, and WOW Hits on CD. As the Huffington Post (language) points out, this trend is also being used to capture unease and political unrest. Young adults in 2022 have the uncanny feeling that they are living through moments that will be recorded in history books. The Gen Z version of an American Girl doll would be pandemic-tested, recession-wary, and Supreme Court-savvy, to say the least.
2. A World Away
What it is: The first photos from the James Webb telescope were released by NASA, and the stunning results had everyone talking.
Why it’s awe-inspiring: It’s incredible to consider that the images the James Webb telescope is capturing have never before been witnessed by the human eye. Dying stars, exoplanets, and galaxies far, far away tell a story of a God who creates things for His own delight. As Psalm 19:1 says, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” These photos are also a stark reminder of just how little we know for sure about the cosmos. We can marvel at the abilities that God has given us to observe and document His creation. We can also gain some valuable perspective, as Christians, about how God so values our brief lives and small bodies that He would love us so abundantly.
What it is: There are rules that govern how influencers are supposed to disclose their brand sponsorships on TikTok—but nobody enforces them.
Why it’s Social Media 101: Influencers are in a unique position where their audience sees them as a friend and source of trusted information, and brands practically push each other out of the way to get that kind of visibility. Some brands look for partnerships with creative studios, who they may assume abide by Federal Trade Commission regulations about how sponsored content is disclosed. But those studios, and all associated with creating the content, seem to openly flout those regulations. Brands, influencers, and studios are complicit in the excess of shady advertising tactics that can thrive on TikTok, even on bigger accounts with millions of followers. Older teens can probably identify any content that’s poised to sell them something from a mile away, but younger ones who are just getting their digital feet wet might be easily confused about whether their favorite TikToker really feels passionate about a new novelty drink or if she’s just getting energized about her paycheck.
Song of the Week
“Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” by Kate Bush: still riding waves from its inclusion in season 4 of Stranger Things, this 1985 hit is shaping up to be one of the biggest songs of the summer. Lyrically, the song is about the difficulty of being able to truly see things from another person’s perspective, but its use in Stranger Things is as a catalyst for persevering through times of darkness and despair; in the show the song actually helps save someone’s life. For an article on the song’s usage in the show (with spoilers), click here. For lyrics, click here.
Translation: We Need an American Girl Doll Who Loves Meme Accounts
When a fifteen-year-old makes a joke about needing an American Girl who does TikTok dances or loves Harry Styles, they’re also asking an important question: “Am I living through history?”
The simple answer to this question would be that all of us are living through history, all of the time. But Gen Z has, in their short lives, lived through a unique (some might even say uniquely traumatizing) set of experiences. The generation’s beginning is marked by the events of 9/11, their elementary school days by the Great Recession, and their high school experience by the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions. Why shouldn’t they want an American Girl doll who felt the impacts of terrorist attacks during preschool, whose parents lost their house in 2008, or who got maskne (mask-induced acne) before their virtual prom? Gen Z wants to validate the extreme nature of the events that have shaped their lives by acknowledging their historic significance.
There is a young woman in Scripture who would likely understand the feeling that history was being made in her time. Esther was a young Jewish woman living under Babylonian exile, one of the most significant and traumatic times the Jewish people had ever experienced. She was brought before King Xerxes in his search for a new wife, and he chose her to be his queen. At the same time Haman, the king’s advisor, was plotting the extermination of Esther’s people. Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, gave her the words many remember from this book of the Bible, words that perhaps Gen Z needs to hear: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Here are some questions to spark conversation with your teens:
- What do you think you’ve lived through that will end up in history books?
- If you could see the future, how would you hope people would remember you?
- Do you believe that God has a unique part for you to play at this point in history? What do you think that could be?