Ella Yelich-O'Connor has a problem that very few thoughtful, bookish 17-year-olds—"socially observant" is the term she uses for herself—are ever likely to have. As the singer/songwriter more popularly known as Lorde, Ella has already touched the lives of millions with her breakthrough hit "Royals," a catchy, cleverly produced paean to the joys of living the pop life on a budget, which brings her to the top five of the singles charts this week—a feat that's totally unprecedented for someone of Yelich-O'Connor's age, genre and nationality. (The song is just that smart, that good.) But now that she's reaching stardom, Ella risks becoming a dangerous cliche of her own—that of the successful singer performing outsider songs from the inside, of becoming a part of the machine that she originally mocked. And because of that, it's hard not to wonder how "Royals" will age as a result.
The first verse of "Royals" details Lorde's humble, small-town roots, growing up in the suburbs of Aukland, New Zealand:
I've never seen a diamond in the flesh
I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies
And I'm not proud of my address,
In the torn-up town, no post code envy
In the pre-chorus, we find out that the reason she's bemoaning all this is because of the disconnect it creates between her and the pop world she's exposed to—maybe the more hip-hop side of it—whose fabulous and unapologetically ostentatious trappings she can't at all relate to:
But every song's like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin' in the bathroom
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin' the hotel room...
But everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your time piece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash.
The details described by Lorde sound enticing but inherently ridiculous, and it's pretty clear that even if a part of her aspires to them in some way, she mostly sees them as silly and unnecessary. This is confirmed when she gets to the conclusions of the pre-chorus:
We don't care, we're driving Cadillacs in our dreams.
We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair.
However, there's two different (and arguably conflicting) sentiments being expressed her. The "Cadillacs in our dreams" line makes it sound like Lorde and her implied friends don't live the pop lifestyle because they don't have the means, but are OK with it because they can fantasize about it with one another and that's almost as good. But the "love affair" line makes it sound like they're simply not buying what the pop world is selling, that they don't want the Cadillacs at all, that they aren't tempted but such showiness.
The conflict of this message is echoed in the sentiments of the chorus proper:
And we'll never be royals (royals).
It don't run in our blood,
That kind of lux just ain't for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.
The "Royals" of the title makes its appearance here as an obvious stand-in noun for standard pop stardom, a status which Lorde declares herself not only to not be a part of—by her DNA, even—but which she seems to hold no aspiration towards, saying that she wants something else out of her life and her music. (Again, she uses the "We" here to strengthen her position, implying a group of like-minded individuals backing her up—a feeling echoed in the song's layered backing vocals, even though all are actually just Lorde herself.) But the second part of the chorus offers a somewhat different perspective:
Let me be your ruler (ruler),
You can call me queen Bee
And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule.
Let me live that fantasy.
Here, Lorde does seem to be shooting for some sort of pop stardom, though the changing of "we" to "me" and "you" makes it sound like now she's addressing her friends as their representative to the outside world, saying "let me tell our story to the Top 40." In other words, it seems like Lorde does want a seat at the mainstream pop table, but perhaps only on her own terms, and only as long as she continues to express the views of her own people.
The final line, "Let me live that fantasy," makes it sound like Lorde realizes that as wonderful a world as that would be for her, where she gets to be a pop star while being herself and still speaking for her small-town friends, the whole thing is pretty farfetched and will probably never happen. However, in fact that is exactly what's happening right now, and Lorde seems a little bit scared of all of it—in a recent interview with Billboard, she seems uneasy with all the time she's spent in New York recently, and tells the mag that "part of me wanted to go back to writing for me and for my friends, and write something that I felt related to us a little bit." She seems worried about losing that connection with her own people, and subconsciously becoming one of the Cristal-sipping, Maybach-driving stars she derides in "Royals."
It's a fair concern, and one that a number of pop stars have had to come to terms with over the years—when you build your name on your independence, how do you reconcile that with becoming part of the mainstream? Fellow 2013 breakout stars Macklemore and Ryan Lewis came across this problem when their Heist album went supernova, but they've mostly dealt with the problematic issues of becoming the world's most popular indie act by ignoring them entirely, excusing the contradictions made by them performing an edited version of their anti-Nike song in a commercial for NBA All-Star Weekend by acknowledging their own hypocrisy and saying that just makes them "human." Some fans have understandably been turned off by Ben and Ryan trying to have their cake and eat it too, but it certainly hasn't hurt their popularity any.
Will the words of "Royals" similarly come back to haunt Lorde, should she perform the song at the Grammys in a big gown and jewelry and with none of her high-school friends on stage with her? Her obvious reticence to step whole-heartedly into the spotlight would lead us to believe she'll do a better job of skirting such issues, but we'll have to see what happens when Lorde releases her debut album Pure Heroine later this month and likely takes her career to yet another new level in the process. We're rooting for her to mostly keep it real—as is the majority of suburban New Zealand, no doubt—but better women than her have been tempted by the jet planes and gold-leashed tigers. If she ends up selling the song to a Timex commercial or a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills promo, then we'll know we're in trouble.
It was an inside job.
TW: This article contains references to sexual assault and abuse.
Let's get one thing straight: Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself.
According to official reports helmed by top medical examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson, Epstein hanged himself in his cell—but later medical reports suggested that his injuries resembled those of a homicide more than a suicide. When Epstein died, he had been removed from suicide watch, left alone and not checked on for hours because the two guards assigned to watch him were "sleeping," and, conveniently, the cameras outside his cell "malfunctioned." Recently, a former Navy SEAL went on Fox News and blurted out, "Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself."
- What's up with all the Epstein didn't kill himself memes ... ›
- 23 'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' Memes That We All Fell For - Funny ... ›
- Fox News Guest Blurts Out 'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' meme ... ›
- Jeffrey Epstein 'Suicide' Stumps Expert Pathologist, Case May Be ... ›
- Why wasn't Jeffrey Epstein on suicide watch when he died? ›
- There's 'no way' Epstein killed himself: Former MCC inmate ›
- Memes Are Keeping the Jeffrey Epstein Story Alive | MEL Magazine ›
- Epstein Didn't Kill Himself: Trending Images Gallery (List View ... ›
- Jeffrey Epstein: How conspiracy theories spread after financier's ... ›
- Epstein Didn't Kill Himself | Know Your Meme ›
Porn videos games and video game themed porn are suddenly on the rise.
One of the biggest things that sets Millenials and Gen Z apart from previous generations is their relationship with technology, a common critique being that video games have replaced real life for many young people, particularly young men.
It's true that many 20-and-30-somethings began playing video games when their brains were still malleable.This was before psychologists began raising concerns about the effect it may have on the brain, concerns that are now backed by a mountain of evidence. Frequent video game playing has been connected to a myriad of issues, including decreased life satisfaction, loneliness, decreased social competence, poorer academic achievement, increased impulsivity, increased aggression, and increased depression and anxiety.
These concerns have only been further highlighted in cultural conversation by the sheer number of people who play video games: 67% of Americans, to be exact, a number that has grown exponentially in recent years. Perhaps even more startling, according to Pew Research Center, 72% of men younger than 30 report playing games often. Scariest of all, Douglas Gentile, a psychologist who's been studying the effect of video games on the brain for decades, estimates that roughly 8.5% percent of young people who play video games in the United States are addicted — not including the number of people who are inevitably underreporting how much time they spend playing.
There's also plenty of evidence that video games can be a positive thing for brain development. According to Psychology Today, playing video games can help children develop "perception, attention, memory, and decision-making," as well as "logical, literary, executive, and even social skills."
But regardless of what side of the evidence you choose to believe, there's a new factor to consider in the conversation about video games' psychological effects: their relationship to porn. Most notably, according to a study by Laura Stockdale and Sarah M.Coyneif, playing an excessive amount of video games greatly raises your chances of becoming addicted to porn, and, likely, vice versa. This is because both sources of stimulus, primarily visual and aural, affect the same pleasure center in the brain, specifically the ventral striatum which helps elicit the good feelings you get when you do something good, can be done in the same environment (alone, in a technologically connected room), and are both sources of immediate satisfaction and escapism.
Prominent Stanford University psychologist, Phillip Zimbardo, conducted an in-depth study into 20,000 young men's relationships with video games and pornography. He said of the experiment: "Our focus is on young men who play video games to excess, and do it in social isolation - they are alone in their room. Now, with freely available pornography, which is unique in history, they are combining playing video games, and as a break, watching on average, two hours of pornography a week." He goes on to say, "It begins to change brain function. It begins to change the reward centre of the brain and produces a kind of excitement and addiction. Young men -- who play video games and use porn the most -- are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety."
As these commingled addictions develop, they soon (similarly to drug addictions) require greater and greater degrees of stimulation to get that same chemical release. But since these two addictions seem to affect similar demographics and often coincide with one another disproportionately, there's something that sets them apart from other forms of addiction. According to Zimbardo, porn and video game addictions are "arousal addictions," which differ from drug and gambling addictions in that the attraction is in "the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content." So while drug addicts need increasing amounts of a substance to get high, they still crave the same substance over and over, while arousal addicts need an increasing intensity and variety of stimuli, as well as more and more.
This leads to a desire for increasingly intense stimuli, leading addicts to more violent and bizarre video games and porn in pursuit of novelty. Fascinatingly, and perhaps disturbingly, while these addictions are interwoven, they used to require separate stimuli to satiate — but even that's changing. In an inevitable progression, the two addictions have begun to seamlessly merge in the form of pornographic video games and video game-themed porn, allowing an addict to satiate both needs simultaneously, setting off a veritable fireworks display of dopamine responses — at least until the viewer becomes desensitized. For example, Fortnite-inspired porn is apparently so widely consumed that "Fortnite" was one of the top 20 most-searched terms on Pornhub in 2018, and in 2016, when Overwatch rose to popularity, searches for Overwatch porn jumped by 817% in a matter of months.
Perhaps even more distressing is the advent of porn video games, where players take an active role in the plot of the explicit content they're viewing, perfectly intermingling the already connected addictions. While some of these games show consensual sexual intercourse, many do not. For example, RapeLay, produced in Japan, is a game where a player plays as a disembodied penis to simulate rape of a woman and her child daughters over and over again. There was a massive outcry against the game when it was released, ultimately causing Amazon to stop selling it — but not before millions and millions of people purchased the game.
As an article on the topic in Men's Health points out, this trend of combining two similar and symbiotic addictions is understandable as video games already often feature hyper-sexualized characters, porn is being watched more and more on video game consoles, and animated porn allows for a level of fantasy live-action porn can't reach. If your brain is lighting up in a similar way when you play video games and when you watch porn, of course you'll begin associating the two. Throw in the feeling of power that comes with having control over the results of the stimuli, as a player does in porn video games, and you have a perfect chemical spider web, one that ensnares young men in an endless and isolating cycle of escape.
There are legitimate physical issues that can result from addictions of this kind. There's evidence that it can lead to debilitating sexual dysfunction in young men, called porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED), a term coined by Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, an associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School — an affliction that can get worse as a video game addiction feeds off a porn addiction in a vicious cycle of dopamine release. Many doctors are reporting that more young men than ever before are coming to them with ED, and they think the cause is, at least in part, because of this rise in virtual escapism in young men. "I have absolutely seen a pretty drastic increase in ED rates among young men, especially in the last two, three years," says sex therapist Vanessa Marin. "My average client base is starting to get younger and younger."
Even more troublingly, Zimbardo concludes that the effects go even deeper, and that this toxic combination creates a "generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment." Of course, this estimation doesn't take into account countless other factors at play in the lives of young men, not to mention the risk that comes with shaming people for sexual exploration. As Dr. Marin goes on to say, "We're not having any conversations about what are healthy ways to engage in porn. So no one has a general sense of what's healthy and unhealthy when it comes to porn. And of course it's not black and white either, but I do see a lot of younger men engaging in porn in ways that aren't healthy, in ways that make it more difficult for them to connect with partners and make it more difficult to engage in their own healthy sexuality."
Perhaps the same can be said of video games, that are treated dismissively by parents, as a quirk of young men that should be, for the most part, discouraged until outgrown. Perhaps, the culturally polarized narrative surrounding video games and porn is part of the problem, and the conversation we need to be having is how young men can indulge in video games and explore their sexuality, without the shame that can often foster addiction — and without letting it consume their lives.
- Why Men Need to be Rescued from Pornography and Video Games ... ›
- Internet & Video Game Addiction – Your Brain On Porn ›
- Video Game Addiction - The Control Center ›
- 'The Demise of Guys': How video games and porn are ruining a ... ›
- Why Are So Many Guys Addicted to Internet Porn and Video Games? ›
- Groundbreaking Study Finds Video Game Addiction Is Linked To ... ›
- How Gaming and Porn Addiction Are Ruining a Generation ›