Culture Feature

People Who Want Joe Jonas's Disembodied Hand Should Be Put on a List

Who would want this, and why is Expedia giving away 250 of them?

Have you ever loved a celebrity so much that you wanted their autograph?

Okay, that's pretty normal stuff. What about a lock of hair? An item of clothing? A severed hand?

We are now officially in serial killer territory, and for some reason Expedia and Joe Jonas are condoning it with their "Helping Hand" giveaway. The travel company teamed up with the "Cake by the Ocean" singer to offer 250 lucky "fans" — in this case referring to the original meaning of "fanatics," e.g. uncomfortably obsessive people — a molded replica of Jonas's right hand.

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Build Back Better

It's been said many times: Leaving Trump behind feels like emerging from an abusive relationship, or perhaps renewing one's relationship with a former BFF (America) after she leaves her sh*tty man.

After all, Trump is a classic abuser. He gaslights, he lies, he cheats, and he is leaving behind an America with 200,000 people dead and more dying every day. He never admits his mistakes, creating a vicious cycle wherein he does something atrocious, gets a tan, and then shows up smiling with flowers (or in his case, a last-minute attempt to curry favor with the Black community by befriending several aging rappers).

Many Americans are still under his spell, and there's not much a lot of us can do about it. People in abusive relationships are often in denial about what's happening to them, and they often won't leave until they decide to. Shaming someone in an abusive relationship is rarely an effective way to get them out of it, as they've likely already been shamed many times.

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Culture News

Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner Are Expecting a Baby

The Jonas Brother and the actress got married last year.

Just nine months after their kitschy Las Vegas wedding, Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner are expecting a baby!

Us Weekly confirmed that the middle Jonas Brother and the Game of Thrones star are expecting their first child together. The pair wed last May during a surprise ceremony after the Billboard Music Awards, in which they exchanged Ring Pops in place of proper rings; a video of the wedding appeared on Diplo's Instagram. They held a more traditional ceremony a couple of months later in France.


Jonas has already proven to be an awesome uncle to his two nieces, while Turner's effervescent coolness is sure to translate well into motherhood. Unfortunately, pregnancy means she'll have to lay off the wine…

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MUSIC

"Happiness Begins": The Jonas Brothers Aren't Trying and That's Okay

A little bit better than the least they could do.

The currency of musical success is controversy, a theory proven true over and over again by artists from Ariana Grande to Kesha.

A pop song or album paired with a highly public break up or story of familial redemption is a recipe for a smash hit, regardless of the actual quality of the music. Take Grande's "thank u, next," for example. It's an average-to-boring song with an excellent back story—Grande's split from Pete Davidson and the death of Mac Miller, her former boyfriend. People listened because of the same impulse that leads them to read tabloids: the desire to feel connected to a celebrity and a part of a cultural conversation.

Similarly—after spending much of the last year in the headlines because of their respective weddings and familial reconciliation—the Jonas Brothers could have released just about anything and people would have listened, simply to be a part of the comeback of a 2000's teen-pop staple. What the brothers did release, a 14 track LP called Happiness Begins, is a little bit better than the least they could do. It wouldn't be fair to say that their decade-long hiatus ruined the trio's sound, because they never had much of a distinctive sound to begin with. A Jonas Brother's song from 2006 to 2009 can be distinguished by whiny vocal runs, a dated boy band sound, and a distinctly Disney channel sweetness. Now, in their 2019 renaissance, those things remain true—minus the juvenile innocence. On Happiness Begins, one thing is made clear: The Jonas Brothers have cast aside their purity rings and they want listeners to know it. Their new songs are decidedly and intentionally steamy, focusing on the ins-and-outs of love (they're practically begging you to think about Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas on their wedding night). The songs are essentially adult versions of the 2008 hit "Burnin' Up," in content and form.

The lead single, "Sucker," remains far and away the best the album has to offer, with songs like "Used To Be" and "Rollercoaster" still managing to hold their own by depending less on synthy effects and more on harmony and storytelling. Throughout the 14 tracks, the brothers' virtually identical singing voices intermingle and glide over basic pop beats, occasionally incorporating seemingly random genre influences, like the marimba on "Only Human" that gives the track a jarring reggae sound. Otherwise, the production doesn't differ much from that of the songs released in the era when the Jo-Bro's donned untamed curls and fashion scarves to the delight of tween girls everywhere.

Happiness Begins is decidedly one thing: a brilliant ploy to ensure sold-out concerts. It's an album just similar enough to vintage Jonas Brothers music to be nostalgic and just different enough to entice a new generation. While listening, you can almost picture the stadium show: the brothers rising from the stage to frantic screams and a sentimental slideshow of childhood photos playing in the background as they harmonize and strut the stage to a ballad like "Hesitate."

Summarily, it's an unremarkable, safe collection of tracks obviously written by the churning machine of the music industry for use by the highest bidder. But that's all it needed to be. We culturally welcomed the Jonas Brothers back to the forefront of fame with open arms, and consequently, they could have force-fed us any version of their tepid boy band pop and we would have gulped it down eagerly. Perhaps listeners can be grateful that it's at least a solid, listenable album—albeit formulaic and unsurprising.

Happiness Begins

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The Jonas Brothers' upcoming "Happiness Begins" tour is a nostalgic flash of early 2000s pop music, Disney Channel's golden age, and trendy purity rings that successfully marketed sex to tweens by constantly reminding them not to have sex.

Nick Jonas recently shared his discomfort at the time, telling The Guardian, "What's discouraging about that chapter of our life is that at 13 or 14 my sex life was being discussed. It was very tough to digest it in real time, trying to understand what it was going to mean to me, and what I wanted my choices to be while having the media speaking about a 13-year-old's sex life. I don't know if it would fly in this day and age. Very strange." Undoubtedly it was strange; for a while in the 2000s we treated the topic of sex like a minefield that would detonate if we spoke of its reality. Thankfully, we seem to have gone from praising Disney Channel stars' manufactured wholesomeness to embracing frank depictions of puberty in all its disgusting glory.

From Big Mouth and Pen15 to Eighth Grade, media's depictions of teens figuring out sex, masturbation, and sexuality have taken full 180 turns from the shame-based silence and push for abstinence that dominated the 90s and 2000s. In reality, "The Rise and Fall of the Pop Star Purity Ring" was the result of a generally conservative political climate and brilliant marketing. Specifically, the sinking record company Walt Disney Records found their saving grace in marketing their stars' virginities as standout additions to the lust-addled pop music scene. The Muse noted, "The real reason puritanical sex ed managed to infiltrate Top 40 radio for a bizarre moment in the aughts had less to do with the actual personal beliefs of its stars and far more to do with the conservative political climate that helped create them."

Indeed, Nick Jonas, now 27 years old, has described his family as "incredibly religious" and recounts "a person in [their] church who at one point demanded that all the kids in the youth group put these purity rings on and make this commitment. So without a full understanding of what we were stepping into, we all made this commitment."

Additionally, while the Jonas brothers, famously lauded and mocked for their purity rings, believed in the token sentiment, no young teen wants the public to fixate on their sex life. "It was such a strange thing to a lot of people to wear these purity rings, especially as young men in a pop boy band," Nick added. "But I think when I'm looking back on it, although it was challenging to live with that, to be seen and have that attached to our name was very tough."

jonas brothers purity ring NexisLexis

In fact, between 2007 and 2008 the use of the word "virginity" in news, blogs, and magazines saw a huge spike in popularity. Politically, there were powerful conservatives pushing abstinence and fostering a "purity panic" to maintain their influence over policies. Sara Moslener, professor of religion at and author of Virgin Nation, noted, "The purity movement was about conservative evangelicals keeping access to political power. And it was young people, sexually pure young people, who could best make that case." Consequently, abstinence-based sex education programs in schools flourished in the '90s, including organizations like Silver Ring Thing, which received over $1 million in federal funding thanks to President George W. Bush's 2001 Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) program.

But how does that lead us to Big Mouth's celebrated depictions of awkward early sexual encounters, manifested onscreen as a lascivious hormone monster and menacing shame wizard? Well, studies prove across the board that abstinence-only education doesn't work. They're "not just unrealistic, but it leaves our young people without the information and skills that they need," one researcher concluded. We fail our young people when we don't provide them with complete and medically accurate information."

big mouth hormone monster Big Mouth: Hormone MonsterGiphy

big mouth shame wizard Big Mouth: Shame WizardNetflix

Also, the Jonas Brothers and other Disney darlings who launched purity rings to popularity, like Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, and Demi Lovato, have all grown up. Some have gotten married. They have all had sex (a fact they've confirmed in what were probably not awkward interviews at all). Nick Jonas has reflected that the purity ring trend had the positive effect of showing him why sex shouldn't be taboo. He said, "I think it was a good thing. It gave me a really good perspective, to whereas now my main thing is about being OK with who I am as a man and the choices I've made, and I think everyone should have a good and solid conversation with either their parents or loved ones about sex and about what they want to do with their life, because it shouldn't be taboo. It's a big part of who we are and what makes us human, and if we can't address these things head on, then I think that it can really be challenging."

Pen15Hulu

Today's buzzwords focus on inclusion and self-acceptance through body positivity and LGBTQ+ awareness, which are pieces of a cultural attitude towards sex positivity and away from shame-based abstinence. Sure, there's a risk of producing over-sexed media that could influence teens' behavior, but history shows that making sex taboo through abstinence-only programs have not reduced rates of teen pregnancy or STDs, so what's the danger? Media will always influence teens' behavior, no matter what. So, from showing that all genders experience crude changes to their hormones to depicting fumbling sexual experiments, series like Big Mouth and Pen15 show that sexual awakenings are awkward, uncomfortable, and embarrassing. The point is to subvert the history of shame surrounding sex talk, rather than obfuscating the fact with silence and using chastity as a brand. After all, it's 2019; haven't you heard—The Jonas Brothers like sex now.