“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 if it’s praiseworthy or cringeworthy. We’re pleased to bring you the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Feel-Good News of the Week
Two young girls in Oregon proved themselves wise beyond their years when they started a campaign to help their peers notice the good and not the bad. After realizing that their friends were falling prey to body image issues, Avery Burn and Genae Vanek began their “Love My Reflection” campaign to help young girls see themselves in a positive light. The girls wrote positive messages inside compact mirrors donated by a local drugstore and handed them out to their fellow students at school. Their website proudly states that, “Love My Reflection is a project based on the belief that beauty doesn’t come in a size or shape and that all girls have the right to feel beautiful, confident, strong, and amazing.” The results have been so overwhelmingly positive that the girls started a GoFundMe campaign and have reached out to cosmetics retailer Sephora for donations so that their message can reach young girls all across the country.
April Fools' Pranks
April 1 is a horrible day to cull stories from the web. You never know if your eyes are playing tricks on you or not. You may have noticed on Wednesday that the Google logo was backward all day. But it didn't stop there. Google Maps introduced a feature where you could play Pac-Man on the map. It was a fairly nice way to waste time.
Subscription service Birchbox offered a Mail Order Beard Box, complete with facial epoxy, beard wave, a "bag o' whiskers," comb-in dye, and a beard comb.
Samsung's Galaxy S line of smartphones introduced the Galaxy Blade Edge: the world's first smart knife for chefs and home cooks alike. It's waterproof and fireproof, with a thermometer stylus and a foldable handle. It also chops 50 percent faster than traditional knives. No word yet on whether it will update your Facebook status. In the same vein T-Mobile unveiled Pets Unleashed, which allows customers to add their pets (dogs, goldfish, cats) to family plans.
We also learned that Uber will be switching to exclusively feline drivers. "Using cars with GPS-guided red lasers, we signal the correct route to the four-legged kitty captain behind the wheel to make your trip as quick and efficient as possible," the statement reads.
Thankfully, virtual reality can go back to normal now.
Trevor Noah for The Daily Show
We have a host! Of The Daily Show, that is. This week, Trevor Noah was named John Stewart's successor as host of the satirical news program. The Internet has been atwitter since, mostly asking two questions. First, who is Trevor Noah? Should we be concerned about his past jokes about Jews or women? And does another man filling the headlining role signify we're living in a sad sexist culture that thinks females can't headline prime time shows?
OK, let's back up a bit. When Stewart announced in February that he'd be leaving the role, the Twitterverse exploded with votes for Jessica Williams, a regular reporter for The Daily Show. When Williams responded that she didn't feel qualified or experienced though, many diagnosed her with an inferiority complex, suggesting all she needs is to forcefully lean in and step up to the plate. Turns out Williams is not only talented, she's a strong-willed woman and, suffice it to say she didn't appreciate the unsolicited diagnoses. Could I see her filling the role excellently? Totally! Was it lovely to see her in The Daily Show seat in the futuristic episode imagined by Hot Tub Time Machine 2? Sure! But, in reality, it's not my decision to make. If the job were offered to her, it's her decision to make. Amy Poehler is another female candidate who would hit it out of the park, but she, too, had other plans. Are these failures for women? I'd say no, because women should be free to make their own career decisions. If we want to improve the status of women, let's start with the real battles where women experience limited options for growth, not with imagined battles where we think they don't realize their potentials. After all, these are adult women we're talking about, and successful ones at that.
So back to Trevor Noah. He's a South African comedian who was in fact on The Daily Showas a contributor in December. All best to him on his accomplishment. While I'm not a friend of his, and his ability to fill Stewart's shoes has yet to be seen, now's a good time to remember: Not every gain for a man has to be a loss for a woman.
Downton Abbey Ending After Next Season
All good things must come to an end. And, as hard as it may seem, some good things (perhaps especially all good television things) should come to an end. We found out this week that Downton Abbey’s sixth season would be its last. Sad? Yes. Terrible? No. Downton Abbey has been a surprise hit from the get-go, capturing the hearts of millions and managing to stay afloat after the departure of key characters a few seasons in. But I’m sure I am not the only person who realized, after the death of the family dog this past season, that we may have passed the point of plausibility when it came to the timeline of the show. In five seasons, thirteen years have passed. No wonder the dog finally had to die! And if the dog had to die, what about (oh my!) the Dowager of Grantham? After the announcement that Maggie Smith would be leaving the show after season six, it should come as no surprise to fans that the entire show would come to a close. You can’t have Downton Abbey without cutting remarks from Granny. That would never do. So, take heed, fans. Enjoy the final season. Be thankful that the show’s creators had the sense to call it quits when it was time. And know that the Internet (or DVDs for the more traditional viewers) is always there for you if you need a Crawley fix.
Younger Premieres on TV Land
This week TV Land aired the pilot episode for Younger, a comedy series from the network that brought us the delightful and successful Hot in Cleveland. I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the new show’s premise after reading Buzzfeed’s “11 Reasons NYC is the Best Place to Reinvent Yourself” inspired by the premiere. The show follows a 40-year-old woman named Liza (Sutton Foster) who adopts a younger facade to get a job in the career of her dreams and start a journey of self-discovery along the way. It may not be as seamless as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but it takes off from a similar recipe of laughs and insight. Yay for an emerging genre!
Stevie Wonder Surprises Church in Minneapolis
We all know Stevie Wonder’s talent is on a supernatural level. But this week he showed he has a spiritual side as well, as he cooly surprised a church in Minneapolis. Just hours before his soundcheck for a show he was performing in town, he surprised a congregation with his presence, some impromptu tunes, and a generous donation to the church.
Which reminds me, CBS still needs to release on video “Songs in the Key of Life”—the Stevie Wonder tribute special that aired after the Grammys this year. Among the highlights were Ed Sheeran covering Wonder’s “I Was Made to Love You” and an explosive version of “As” sung by India Arie, Janelle Monae, and Jill Scott. As of now, I can find no high-quality recordings of these songs online, but the evening was proof of just how much influence one singer can have on so many others—and how gorgeous it can be to behold.
The Verdict is In: Ellen Pao Loses Gender Discrimination Case
Ellen Pao, current interim CEO of Reddit and former junior partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, has had her day in court—and lost. Pao was suing her former employer, one of the most venerated venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, for gender discrimination while she was employed and in her termination. In the world of high-tech venture investing, women are a rare breed: Only 6 percent of venture firm partners are women, and the lower ranks are also quite thin.
Over the course of the month-long trial, the tech and feminism worlds were appropriately buzzing. Pao's case was more of a general indictment against old-boys-club culture, with tales of all-male outings, women being assigned seats in low-power positions in meetings, and inappropriately sexual jokes. Pao was painted as generally unlikable, a charge that makes it difficult to succeed in business, woman or man. Sure, there are men who seem like jerks but are so good at their jobs that people put up with them anyway, but that really isn't the norm. In pretty much any industry, if people dislike working with you, it will be pretty difficult to be successful regardless of gender. Even though Pao lost, it is good to see more light shed on the inherent biases that people hold—this is one case where I do truly believe that knowledge is power, and the more aware we all are, it will only be for the better.
Mark Wahlberg Making Boston Marathon Movie
Mark Wahlberg will produce a film on the Boston Marathon bombing, tentatively called Patriots Day. CBS Films announced Tuesday that they have secured the rights to Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis's story for a film based on his firsthand account of the manhunt for the brothers behind the 2013 bombing.
The studio will work alongside 60 Minutes senior producer Michael Radutzky, screenwriter Matt Charman (Bridge of Spies), and producer Mark Wahlberg to tell the story spanning the five-day investigation to apprehend the suspects: Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a shootout days after the bombing, and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The April 2013 attack killed three people and injured more than 260. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is on trial facing the death penalty.
An Unexpected Friendship
BuzzFeed contributor Matt Stopera has written one of my favorite long-form pieces in a while. His laugh-out-loud hilarious story takes us along on his adventure traveling across the world, becoming a celebrity, and embarking on the most epic of bromances. And it’s all because of a stolen iPhone. Rather than ruin the outcome of this crazy tale, I recommend you read it in its entirety. Believe me, it’s 20 minutes well worth your time.
Teen Mom Reality TV Star’s Boyfriend Posted Explicit Photos
This week the ex-boyfriend of an MTV Teen Mom star was charged with a felony for video voyeurism after posting explicit videos he had taken with former girlfriend Briana DeJesus from days when they were in a consensual relationship. The news serves as a reminder of the reality of what’s now called “revenge porn”—when an ex-partner posts compromising content recorded in the past in an effort to hurt, punish, or blackmail the other partner. Topics like this definitely reignite cultural conversations on whether taking explicit pictures or videos is problematic. But overall, when it comes to this man being charged with a felony for his wrong actions, it’s great to see justice being served.
All the while, though, I can’t help but feel that MTV gets off scot-free airing shows like Teen Mom that exploit vulnerable people for TV ratings. It might not be a felony on their part, but it sure is voyeurism.
You Know Something, Jon Snow
It’s no secret that Game of Thrones is one big sex and violence fest, and it has been argued that its portrayal of women isn’t exactly an empowering one. Despite the fact that the female actors in the series haven’t expressed any concern about being treated like sex objects, one of the male stars has done just that in a recent interview.
“It’s not just men that can be inappropriate sexually; women can be as well,” Kit Harington said. “To always be put on a pedestal as a hunk is slightly demeaning... it can sometimes feel like your art is being put to one side for your sex appeal. And I don't like that.”
No kidding. Maybe it’s time to question the show’s creators about this fine art they’re creating.
iHeartRadio Music Awards Happened
Which is OK if you missed it last Sunday, because it's the weirdest award show I've ever seen. Tuning in for the first time, I found myself wondering, who exactly is the award show's host? Jamie Foxx as advertised? Or the disembodied husky male voice who explained to us how much we love radio music and why? Or the disembodied female voice—truly who was this?—who I think is supposed to represent the voice in our head, and who even interrupted Jamie Foxx during his audience-interview segment while he was "hosting" the show?
The iHeartRadio Award Show is not only disjointed, it's laced with a weird homage-to-obsessed-fans vibe. In one of the many pre-recorded interviews, Selena Gomez described an occasion, when a teen fan showed her that she bought her entire outfit to match one of Gomez's paparazzi photos, as one of her favorite things about her career. Really, influencing people to uniform themselves with your clothes? Bandmates from Imagine Dragons described a fan who, after they signed their names on a fan's arm, went out and got it tattooed permanently on herself. It's one thing to show gratitude to fans whose support keeps you employed; but it's quite another to fan the flames of disordered thinking of putting musicians on a pedestal.
After Taylor Swift won "artist of the year," the disembodied female voice ended the night with the star-worship faucet on full force, all but saying "Taylor Swift is so cool, just five minutes of her life would be worth a lifetime of mine!" I'm pretty sure even Taylor Swift herself would agree that every person's life is valuable, and that you don't have to be a celeb, or be obsessed with one, to find meaning. C'mon iHeart; we can support radio and fans without stooping so low.