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1. After Midnights

What it is: Taylor Swift’s new album broke all kinds of records (some first set by Swift herself) when it debuted on October 21.
Why Swift got into a bit of trouble: It’s 2022, so not even Taylor Swift can release an album without inciting some backlash. The video for the record’s lead single, “Anti-Hero,” features the statuesque Swift standing on a scale that tips to read “FAT.” The on-screen moment syncs up with lyrics about Swift’s own body dysmorphia and eating disorder, which she has spoken out about in the past. Body positivity activists said that the scene is triggering, since it could be viewed as supportive of unattainable beauty standards. (Read: If Taylor Swift thinks she’s fat, what hope is there for the rest of us?). The scene has since been removed in some versions of the video. Parents should also know that Midnights features Swift at her most confessional and presumably autobiographical yet, and sometimes that means she uses explicit language and addresses themes of depression, ambition, loneliness, love, and sexuality.

2. Andor-phins

What it is: The latest Star Wars original series on Disney+, Andor, has been a gritty portrayal of politics and rebellion in the shadow of an abusive empire.
Why there’s no Jar-Jar Binks here: Andor expands the scope of how “adult” Disney is willing to go while telling stories set in the Star Wars galaxies. In just the first few scenes we see a man meeting a violent end, another man begging for his life, a suggestive love scene, and a space brothel. Subsequent adventures are a bit milder, but only just. Broody and self-reliant mercenary Cassian Andor hasn’t cracked a smile in eight episodes, and for good reason: He’s spent his entire life being retraumatized by the government he lives under, and he’s about to get radicalized to the point of no return. (Think Han Solo, but with less swagger and zero levity). Many television critics and Star Wars die-hards think it’s the best thing Disney’s done with Lucasfilm’s IP yet. Parents should know that Andor feels more like a period piece than a space Western; it’s missing the signature slapstick and silliness that abound in scripts for the Mandalorian and the Skywalker saga.

3. Good and Scared

What it is: With Halloween on Monday, all things jump-scare and creepy will be trending at their height this weekend. The Guardian explains the neuroscience of why getting spooked can sometimes feel pretty good.
Why it’s helpful to understand: Researchers theorize that tricking our brains into feeling scared, even when there is no perceivable threat, can be a more mature version of children making up stories in the playground. It can serve a similar purpose, too; in moments when we marry our imagination with our fight-or-flight instincts, we play out ways to protect ourselves in a worst-case scenario. We can also experience a cascading euphoria when the adrenaline from being scared wears off and our brains feel they “survived.” We have the true crime media industrial complex and the continued popularity of horror movies as evidence that attest to how deeply our culture longs to feel this tension and release. But what’s entertaining for one person might be truly terrifying for another, and there are certain topics that shouldn’t be exploited for any reason. As Christians, we know that meditating on the person of God can be a source of purpose, joy, and light, while keeping company with our darkest fears can breed more darkness in us.

Song of the Week

“Anti-Hero” by Taylor Swift: the lead single from her new album Midnights and the #1 song on Apple Music’s Top 100: USA chart, Swift describes this song as a “guided tour” of the things she hates about herself. The chorus, which includes the lines, “It’s me, hi / I’m the problem, it’s me,” almost feels reminiscent of G.K. Chesteron’s answer to the newspaper article that asked readers, “What’s wrong with the world today?” Chesterton’s answer was, simply, “Dear Sir: I am. Yours, GK Chesteron.” At the time of this writing, 12 of the songs from Midnights were in the top 15 on Apple’s chart, although they were nowhere near the top on Spotify. As we said above, several of these songs have been given an explicit rating. For the lyrics to “Anti-Hero,” click here; for the music video, click here.

Translation: Good and Scared

There’s no question that our culture loves a good spook. There are endless genres of horror movies for a visual scare, haunted houses that provide a more concrete terror, and even rollercoasters which, though they may not be “scary” in the traditional sense, still provide that rush of adrenaline. And it all comes home to roost on Halloween. In addition to being a testament to our love for, as we described above, the “tension and release” that a rush of adrenaline and the subsequent comedown provide, Halloween is a day to celebrate any number of activities, from the wholesome to the less so.

Some parents choose not to interact with any Halloween-related activities at all for the sake of protecting their families from its darker side. And others hold a loose rein over the holiday for the sake of all the fun there is to be had. When it comes to Halloween, the best advice we at Axis can give you is to approach the holiday with wisdom and prayer for an awareness of God’s best for your family.

In Philippians 4:8 we are told: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” We have to practice self-reflection and examination, be aware of the quality of our thoughts, and be in the consistent habit of bringing our minds into alignment with God’s will. While we shouldn’t just buy into everything culture says is good, we also need to remember that when we belong to God, we don’t have to live in fear of what might happen to us in this world. We can celebrate—or not celebrate—Halloween in peace, knowing that ultimately there is nothing that can take us out of His hands.

Here are some questions to spark conversation with your teens:

  • What do you think about Halloween? What are some good things about it? What are some bad things?
  • Why do you think people love Halloween so much?
  • How do you think you can balance cultural things like Halloween and being rooted in God?