Over the past month, the world learned about the new COVID variant, Omicron. While people began to think the worst was over from the coronavirus pandemic, the world was working towards opening back up again. Unfortunately, we have been hit with a reality check with Omicron as people are starting to become more cautious about going out. The music scene that seemed to be back up and running with live events, now have many artists calling for cancellations until further notice.
These cancellations are a concern for the music industry. If another possible lockdown is on the rise, this disruption will change the organizational structure of the market as “the surging COVID-19 pandemic’s toll on an already-struggling industry” (Billboard). Artists such as Taylor Swift, BTS, Doja Cat, and many more have announced cancellations. People can refer to the Billboard article to keep track of the shows put on pause for another year.
Late rapper Jarad Higgins, also known by his stage name Juice WRLD, passed away on December 8th, 2019 from a drug overdose. His legacy will live on as people watch the documentary Into the Abyss on HBO on December 16th. Tommy Oliver, the director of the Into the Abyss documentary explained to BillBoard, “It was really emotional. Just imagine getting handed somebody’s diary who is no longer here and you just have all of their most intimate, honest, and vulnerable thoughts.” Without having one single conversation with Juice WRLD, Oliver got the approval from his mother for the final film. The documentary will explore Jarad’s life, giving the fans an opportunity to see and appreciate him in another light.
Elon Musk, billionaire and founder of Tesla and SpaceX, was announced as Time Magazine’s 2021 Person of the Year, which has taken the internet by storm. Time Magazine commented on the nomination writing, “few individuals have had more influence than Musk on life on Earth, and potentially life off Earth too.”
Musk received backlash on Twitter after Saturday Night Live announced he would be a guest on the show. Many took to social media to voice their disappointment such Variety writer Jenelle Riley posting, “A host should have some discernible talent other than … being rich? Or at least not be someone who lies about a takeover, spreads misinformation about a pandemic, and is known for abusing employees.” Many are frustrated by Musk’s tweets as he spread misinformation about the coronavirus during the pandemic. While Musk is hated, he is also admired, with people ready to take his tweets at face value. His social media influence is huge, with people buying stocks or Bitcoin by his tweets, changing the market.
The first Marvel movie featuring an Asian superhero made his way to the big screens in Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings. Chinese-Canadian actor, Simu Liu, previously casted in the sitcom Kim’s Convenience, steps into his power as Marvel superhero Shang-Chi. For the first time ever, the world gets to watch an Asian superhero.
For the past couple years, Asian representation has begun to make its mark in Hollywood. This diversification of American cinema has been a long time in the making. Finally, young Asian children have a superhero that looks like them. The director Daniel Cretton explains that the film not only brings Asian-American visibility into the media space, but that “Shang-Chi’s relatability as “a superhero that doesn’t get splashed with chemicals to get his superpower” makes it easier for audiences to connect with the film’s themes of identity” showing that within our ordinary self, everyone can relate to this and be our own superhero.
Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings is now available to be seen on Disney+, making it even more accessible to people to watch.
The cast of Harry Potter will reunite in January 2022 for the 20th anniversary television special since “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”. It was reported by The Washington Post, “British author J.K. Rowling, who wrote the books the movies are based on and worked closely with the film’s producers, is absent from the lineup for the Warner Bros. Television show” While there is no concrete answer as to why the woman who started it all will not be in attendance, it may be because of her controversial statements on Twitter about transgender women, which caused a backlash against her.
The main actors of the series, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint cut ties with Rowling and said they supported the trans community. Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter, wrote for the Trevor Project, a LGBTQ youth suicide prevention group, saying, “Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I” (NYTimes). This support has been important to Harry Potter fans, who grew up with the magical series. The fans, who have criticized Rowling on Twitter, are showing how powerful a group can be on social media, utilizing their voices to spread information and support for people who feel alone.
Is our world as disconnected as we think it is? Even with multiple social media platforms at our disposal to communicate with each other, Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook seems to think otherwise. Zuckerberg claims that the current virtual space is missing presence. He is calling this digital universal shift “Metaverse”. The Metaverse is described as an immersive 3-D realm taking public spaces in an online form described as “Virtual reality, for all its creative possibilities, demands that you adopt a fundamentally unnatural relationship to your surroundings.”
Throughout the pandemic, many individuals have been reliant on their screens, using our devices as a barrier in return for in person communication. While our world has adapted to video calls to instead of group meetings, the Metaverse takes it a step above with “fully simulated interaction—…will be a boon for the subset of the population that has a difficult time engaging in traditional face-to-face conversation, or that wishes to reinvent their physical persona in some way.”, experiencing human connection in a way that has never been explored before. Living in a remote world does not sound obsolete. With VR technology, individuals can participate in the Metaverse, which of course comes with physical limitations as the real world still exists. Using virtual reality technology requires space to move around, depending on the activity within Metaverse, crashing into things may pose a concern.
Interestingly, over the years the popularity of televisions created a new set up in our homes, typically a TV mounted on the wall, a coffee table in the middle of the room, and a couch against the wall, giving the ability to get up and move especially if using a gaming console like Wii. In the near future, it may be possible if Metaverse gains popularity that, “we will eventually have empty “imagination rooms” in our homes where we can explore the Metaverse without physical impediments.” This new media technology may begin to blur the lines between virtuality and reality. Will this become a new existing society, absorbing ourselves into a new kind of world? Social media is already addictive enough and comes with consequences when having too much screen time, which may pose a threat to the users of Metaverse.
The news that Drake removed his Grammy nomination one day before the ballots were posted surprised the music industry. Drake is no stranger to the Grammys, having 4. His unusual decision to pull out of the nominations was not an indication of him not wanting his music to be eligible for a Grammy, as the nominations are submitted by a member of the artist’s label, which is agreed upon with the artist beforehand. The announcement of the awards goes out on all mass media platforms, and to be removed without notice is uncommon in the award show.
While it is still unclear as to the reasoning behind his sudden removal, “Some have speculated that his decision might have something to do with him being named in lawsuits surrounding the tragedy at the Astroworld festival in Houston last month, where 10 people died when the crowd rampaged during headliner Travis Scott’s set, which featured a guest appearance from Drake”.
Drake’s behavior is not unprecedented as he did throw shade at the Grammys last year, “… during his acceptance speech in 2019, when “God’s Plan” won Best Rap Song. The awards show producers cut off his mic after he claimed awards hold no value.” His discontent stemmed from the fact that his friend and fellow musician, The Weekend, was snubbed when the Grammys failed to acknowledge the fact that The Weekend had one of 2020’s top albums and songs. Frustrations with the Grammys have been revealed during this time, making people wonder if other artists will come forward standing with or against Drake.
News of the new Coronavirus variant, Omicron, recently identified in Southern Africa, has begun to sweep the world. As the mutation is new, it is hard to predict how much of a threat the virus poses as it has already entered the United States and many other countries.
Travel lockdowns have already begun and flight restrictions are underway, but much controversy exists over whether this is merely a punitive step to South Africa when the world should be thanking them for their advanced notification. With the recent information of Omicron, people have begun to panic due to the uncertainty of how dangerous the variant could potentially be.
People throughout the world have panicked with the news, stock markets have fallen, and the real future of this variant is still unknown. The CDC has warned the public to use good protections that we learned will protect us, including vaccinations, boosters, mask wearing, hand washing, social distancing, and continuing COVID regulations. Health officials also stated that “…experts have urged caution,…there is as yet no firm evidence that Omicron is more dangerous than previous variants like Delta…” The World Health Organization has determined Omicron “a variant of concern” due to the amount of mutations which looks to be a threat posing individuals to reinfection. This does not appear to be playing out. Even though Omnicron is more contagious than COVID-19, at least from South Africa’s experience, the Omicron virus does not appear to be more virulent.
Some people have been finding out about the Omicron variant from people on the internet making fun of the name, “Veterans of American sorority and fraternity life might have noticed the system has skipped the next two letters in the alphabetical order: Nu and Xi” (NYTimes). Omicron, derived from the Greek alphabet, has made people make jokes about how it sounds like a name of a fraternity or sorority calling it Sigma virus, Theta virus, Lambda virus. Unfortunately, this style of comedic relief can only go so far in lightening the seriousness of this pandemic.
In late October, on the movie set of Rust, American actor Alec Baldwin set off a prop gun, killing cinematographer, Hayla Hutchinson, and injuring director Joel Souza. Hayla Hutchinson is remembered as being a very focused and talented director who was adored by many. On Thursday, December 2nd, ABC News George Stephenopoulos had the exclusive interview with Baldwin investigating what happened that tragic day, asking how a live bullet made its way into a typically unloaded prop gun. It is still undiscovered how live ammunition made it into the gun as it was even checked by Assistant Director David Halls before he handed it to Baldwin. Visibly emotional, Baldwin recalled that tragic day when he explained what happened from the moment the gun was placed into his hands. He was directed by Hayla Hutchinson for a marking rehearsal, catching a specific angle placed towards the side of the camera in her direction. Baldwin said he never pulled the trigger to the weapon.
When asked why he pointed the gun at Hutchins and pulled the trigger when that wasn’t in the script, Baldwin said, “I would never point a gun at anyone and then pull the trigger, never.” Baldwin discloses that he was doing what he was directed to do and said, “I’m holding the gun where she told me to hold it, which ended up being aimed right below her armpit, was what I was told,” Baldwin said. The actor was clearly distraught over the tragic event and has taken responsibility for his part in what happened.
Camera assistant Lane Luper spoke to ABC about sending in his resignation letter before the fatal accident happened which entailed, “lax COVID policies, the housing situation — driving to and from Albuquerque — and specifically gun safety, a lack of rehearsals, a lack of preparing the crew for what we were doing that day” as all reasons he was leaving the set. It comes into question that the insurance of cast and crew safety was compromised and overlooked by the importance of the film. Those in charge of the crew of the film refute Luper’s description of their treatment.
The question of where the accountability lies, and how this unfortunate situation will affect Baldwin’s media image is still unknown. While people have been placing the blame on him, the fault does not lie with the actor as people on set were trained to handle firearms and it is not his job to do this. He has tried to focus the tragedy on the loss of Hayla Hutchinson and the many people whose lives have been devastated by the loss.
Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie were on a cross country road trip. The couple posted their journey on YouTube and Instagram, but the trip became suspicious when Brian Laundrie returned home by himself. Exactly 10 days later, the Petito family filed a missing person report for Gabby.
Where was Gabby Petito? The questions about Gabby’s disappearance affected the media’s ability to sell the news. In turn, the media encouraged public support and opinion about this strange case. Although “hundreds of thousands of people are reported missing in the United States every year,” this individual case remained in the public eye which made some wonder why people were concerned about a white woman’s disappearance when no one cared about the whereabouts of minority women.
After Brian Laundrie came home from his fateful trip alone, he went missing. Originally, the press was told he was on a family camping trip and people thought his parents helped him escape. However, the FBI’s involvement put people’s suspicions to rest.
TikTok shows one doesn’t have to be a trained criminal investigator to study the cases. Many TikTok users took matters into their own hands to spark a conversation about what could have possibly happened to Gabby, and later where Brian Laundrie could be. TikTok users had their own suspicions of where he could be hiding and were glued to the details of this story, dedicating themselves to explaining and debating the case, creating their own form of journalism. TikTok shows one doesn’t have to be a trained criminal investigator to study the cases.