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While You Were Out: New Harper Lee Novel Announced, Saved by the Bell Reunites, and More


“While You Were Out,” is a Friday feature of short notes and commentary from the week. Whether it’s something you’d discuss at the water cooler or at happy hour, you’ll find it on our grid, together with our opinion as to whether it’s praiseworthy or cringeworthy. We’re pleased to bring you the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week.

Super Bowl Recap!

In case you were in deep hibernation this week, the nation’s biggest sporting event happened. The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl after a tight game against the Seattle Seahawks. Among the most notable plays in the roller coaster ride of a game was the Seahawks’ last offensive play, which everyone from sportscasters to social media fans criticized as possibly Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s worst call of his career—to throw the ball rather than run it from the one yard line for a sure touchdown. Needless to say, the Patriots intercepted the ball and the trophy.

Meanwhile, Katy Perry performed the best halftime show in recent memory, with assistance from Lenny Kravitz, Missy Elliott, and two unsynchronized dancing sharks. Kravitz rocked out as spectacularly as can be expected, Elliott surprised everyone with her 90s-nostalgic rap hits, and Perry ended the night flying into the sky with fireworks. But perhaps what will be remembered most from this year’s halftime show is an adorable being now known as Left Shark. While singing in a California-inspired set, Perry shared a couple songs with cartoon-like characters bopping along—except some were more coordinated than others. Left Shark lost timing, hit himself in the face, and, far from matching the crisp dance moves of Right Shark, looked like he maybe had one too many sips of rum punch at the beach party. His goofy flub won America’s heart.

Oh, and of course we can’t forget the big day’s commercials. I am happy to report there’s noticeably less hypersexualized ads of GoDaddy infamy as past years. Advertisers seem to instead be focusing on getting a laugh out of viewers—or a cry. In addition to several generally funny commercials (the best of which I’d say were the Doritos airplane bit and Snickers Brady Bunch spoof) three other trends emerged: the “Downers” (Nationwide’s dead children mood-killer and Nissan’s neglected-son ditty take the cake); the “Dad-Huggers” (Dove and Toyota both spotlighted fathers), and the “Self-Deprecating Women with Alliterative Names” (Lindsay Lohan mocking her bad driving record, Kim Kardashian mocking her vanity, and Sarah Silverman mocking her lack of trophies). Arousing emotion may definitely be good for ad effectiveness, but at the end of the day the Downer advertisers might benefit from learning: When it comes to choosing an emotion to associate your brand with, maybe try choosing a good one.

Mary Rose Somarriba

Super Bowl Prostitution Sting

Prostitution has become a disturbing trend that linked to Super Bowl weekend, but this year saw a different response tactic. Law enforcement collaborated across the nation to arrest more than 500 sex-buyers and nearly two dozen pimps or traffickers in a large-scale sting operation. In addition to arresting traffickers who are known for targeting and traumatizing young girls to populate the sex industry, law enforcement is now targeting sex-buyers by arresting those who reply to online ads. While this offers a disturbing glimpse of how many men support the sex industry,  we’re happy to see more attention being given to curb demand.


Harper Lee’s Next Book

Fiction lovers everywhere were stunned at Tuesday's news that Harper Lee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird, would be publishing a second novel this coming July. At 88 years old, it was assumed by many that Lee would only every publish one book in her life (and if you are only going to publish one book, Mockingbird is the way to go!), but when the rediscovered manuscript of Go Set a Watchman was received favorably by Lee's friends, she agreed to it being published. Watchman, which was actually written before Mockingbird, centers around an adult Scout, a character whom readers fell in love with as a child in To Kill a Mockingbird. Apparently when Lee, a first time author, gave Go Set a Watchman to her editor, the editor was so taken with the flashback sequences to Scout's childhood that Lee was persuaded to write a novel centering on Scout as a young girl. While we should all give belated thanks to that editor for putting the idea of To Kill a Mockingbird in Lee's head, many current fans are skeptical that Go Set a Watchman can live up to the hype. To those people I say, if Watchman is even half as good as Mockingbird was, it will be better than the majority of books I have read in recent years. I am looking forward to seeing how Jean Louise "Scout" Finch grew up.

Monica Weigel

The Vaccine Debate

A divisive debate erupted across the nation this week about whether vaccines should be mandated to protect public health from highly contagious viruses. The measles outbreak in Arizona continues to spread to more people, including potentially to members of a daycare. Words from famous supporters and dissenters of vaccines have been going viral as a result—from illustrator Roald Dahl who lost his child to measles to Jenny McCarthy who believes her son’s autism is due to vaccines—and even Congressmen have joined in the unfriendly banter. Wherever one stands on the issue, the cultural discussion would certainly benefit from less demonizing and belittling the side one doesn’t agree with.


Saved by the Bell Reunites!

Jimmy Fallon basically solidified himself as this week’s favorite late-night TV host, at least among '90s kids. In a move that may be forever remembered as the best thing any SNL alum has ever done, Fallon seized the vacuum left by Saved By the Bell after it was pulled from the air in 1994 by facilitating and nailing a long-overdue reunion with our favorite Bayside High characters. According to ABC News, Fallon has been pushing for this glorious eight minutes of television since 2009, and although Dustin Diamond and Lark Voorhies were noticeably absent, it was basically everything you could ever hope for.

Complete with corny dialogue, Zach's giant cell phone and a portly Mr. Belding, the segment also included hysterically timed sketch elements that are characteristically Fallon. After discovering Kelly is pregnant, Zach promises they'll move to a whole new California zip code (a reference to Tiffany-Amber Thiessen's time on Beverly Hills: 90210). Slater strips down to his wrestling unitard and does a few unnervingly graceful pirouettes, and Zach mentions those moves might be suited for "Dancing with the Dweebs" (Mario Lopez, of course, came in second place the season he competed on Dancing with the Stars). When Fallon's character says he's moving to New York and might date Nicole Kidman, Zach points out that a date with her is as likely as Jessie becoming a stripper (Elizabeth Berkley arguably ended her career by taking on the role of an exotic dancer in the deplorable film Showgirls).

The thing that absolutely must be said about this, though, is that these now 40-year-old actors do not seem to have aged a day since either real or television high school. And Elizabeth Berkley's hair? She might just single-handedly bring the spiral perm into our century!

—Hannah Allen White

Too Much Of A Good Thing Can Be Wonderful

This week I had the good fortune of catching the Dancing With the Stars Live tour, and I must tell you: The live performance blows the show out of the water! Straight out the gate, viewers are wowed with Carlton’s signature dance, followed by a group dance to an explosive routine to the best beat on air right now—you guessed it—“Uptown Funk” to killer choreography that has never aired on TV and may never be viewed again outside of this live tour. Attendees also get to see former pro champion Kym Johnson perform, hear Mark Ballas sing from his latest album, watch Val Chmerkovskiy play violin, and laugh while the charming season champion Alfonso Ribeiro emcees. It may be a smorgasbord, but somehow it works. Fans on the west coast can still snag tickets for the remaining tour stops. Everyone else can tune into the next season on ABC, premiering March 16.


Frozen Fever Glimpse

As if Disney's new live action Cinderella opening next month wasn't already exciting enough, a mini sequel to last year’s astoundingly successful Frozenwill be played immediately preceding the feature. Frozen Fever is a short film which takes place a few months after the events of the first. We return to Arendelle and meet up with the gang just in time for Anna's birthday. Of course Elsa, Christoph, Sven, and Olaf have a huge celebration planned but unfortunately Anna has a cold which throws her powers out of whack. The filmmakers are being pretty tight-lipped about any other plot points, but we're considering this the frozen whipped topping on the sweet Cinderella cake!


Is that Rihanna Singing that Acoustic Hit Right Now?

Yes, and it’s her new song “FourFiveSeconds” featuring Paul McCartney and Kanye West. With the many Rihannabes on the airwaves these days (I’m looking at you Selena Gomez in “Come and Get it,” Beyonce on her digital album, and Rita Ora in Iggy’s “Black Widow”), it’s hard to know when the voice you’re hearing in a radio hit is in fact Rihanna’s. I’ve found the key is if it blows you away. Rihanna may have some flaws, but singing raw and painfully powerful vocals is not one of them. This is one striking collaborative track.


Have You Heard?

Johnny Depp got married this week! After a quiet ceremony at home, Depp and his new wife, Amber Heard, are preparing for a larger ceremony in the Bahamas.


Uplifting News of the Week

These days cyber bullying, both large- and small-scale, runs rampant. We're so glad to bring you a story that starts out as one of bullying and concludes with support and validation. Kristen Layne of Sumner County, Tennessee, decided to sell her junior prom dress via a community Facebook group in order to pay for a gown she would wear to senior prom. Not a bad idea, right? She posted a photo of herself wearing the dress in question and waited for bids and messages to start rolling in. Unfortunately two males in the community began posting derogatory comments about her appearance, weight, and ultimately worth.

In a delightfully faith-restoring turn of events, members of her online community saw this and leaped to Layne's defense. Not only did they call out the two offenders out as bullies and insist they stop commenting, they showered both Layne's beauty and her grace in the face of such ugly behavior. Layne told the press she is not used to receiving compliments on her appearance and that so much praise was a bit overwhelming, but the support didn't end there. They started a GoFundMe campaign called "Kristen's Senior Prom Dress" to ensure she would be able to get the most perfect dress for her possible. Along with comments assuring her that she is the picture of beauty and loveliness, the campaign raised more than $2,000.

There are some sad people on the Internet who will use any platform to try and diminish the light of others for equally sad reasons. But it is always nice to know that there are also wonderful, caring, and generous people who will turn lemons into lemonade when given the opportunity.


Buzzfeed Video of Changing Ideal Body Types

Speaking of the power of cultural standards on body image, Buzzfeed shared a video surveying the many “ideal body types” of women throughout history—from ancient Egypt to Victorian England to the modern-day standard à la Kardashian cover. It’s pretty cringeworthy how the features the video depicts as today’s standard of beauty are described as being influenced by plastic surgery and difficult to achieve in reality. This latest standard was dubbed, I’m guessing for lack of a better phrase, “postmodern beauty.” I’m pretty sure they meant “pornstar.”


Equal Opportunity Objectifiers?

As Sports Illustrated’s annual Swimsuit Edition prepares to hits newsstands, word is out that an ad in this year’s issue features a plus-size model. Good heavens—just one woman who looks different is causing a stir! The company called Swimsuits for All has purchased an ad showing size-16 model Ashley Graham donning a black bikini. While we applaud the idea of showing a variety of body types, we can’t help but notice it's still super sexualized, treating her as an object for men to look at. I guess that's what we can expect from the SI swimsuit issue, and I’m glad there's so much positivity around this move. But when we’re talking about objectification of women, I’m not exactly going to cheer to see it, no matter the woman's size.

—Kara Eschbach

But What About When GPS Makes Mistakes?

Driverless taxis may soon be a thing... but all I can think of is that tragicomedy episode from HBO’s last season of Silicon Valley!


If Any Good Can Come From Fifty Shades of Grey

Ahead of the release of the new Fifty Shades of Grey movie in cinemas on Valentine’s weekend, anti-domestic violence activists have launched a campaign to encourage people to donate the cost of a movie date night instead to local shelters for abused women. The effort is catching on with the hashtag #50DollarsNot50Shades. As the campaign’s Facebook page says, “Hollywood doesn’t need your money; abused women do.” Hard to argue with that.

Sophie Caldecott