Thursday Three #49

Three thoughts on the live-action Aladdin remake:

  1. Visually too much, but in a good way. It’s the kind of movie you could watch over and over again, just to make sure you see all the things you didn’t see the first five times you saw it. (And if you have kids, you’ll probably end up seeing it more times than you can stand.)
  2. I appreciated that Jasmine was made a bit more well rounded. She was no longer the typical Disney princess who needed a prince to rescue her. In time, she could probably have rescued herself from her isolation as princess, but Aladdin sped up the process. 🙂
  3. Better than the original? Honestly, I have no idea, and I don’t think the two can even be compared. I grew up watching the original, so I’ll always have a soft spot for it, and for the original (cartoon-y) Jafar and Robin Williams’ Genie.

Falling Birth Rates

Apparently, according to this article, U.S. women are having fewer babies. I find that hard to believe because it seems like every time I turn around, I find out someone is pregnant or I’m hearing about someone’s new baby, grand-baby, or god-baby. Maybe the “fewer babies” trend is mostly in the more “blue” states like New York and California, because here in North Carolina, I’m just not seeing evidence of it.

I do think the decline in birth rate could be caused by how hard it is to establish oneself in the world as a 20- or 30-something, especially given the Great Recession in 2009 from which we’re still recovering. People my age have student loan debt, which is hard to pay off when you’re also making an inflated rent payment because you can’t buy a house because the housing market is insane. Because women are working on their careers, they are having babies later, in their 30s, and they have fewer babies because their window of fertility is smaller. There’s talk about freezing eggs, but that process is expensive and probably risky.

Some people also have the mentality that it is irresponsible to have children when there is not enough food to go around or when the world is as polluted as it is. I think those issues are more a problem with the distribution of food because I remember hearing somewhere that the world produces way more than enough food for its population. Food is poorly distributed around the world because of government or environmental factors, but there is certainly enough of it.

Another factor could be that life is easier without kids. People in this day and age want a carefree, Instagram-able life, where they can do what they please whenever they please. People also want to buy classy cars and go on expensive trips and pour all their energy into their pets rather than add another child to the world. And I’m not gonna lie: Life is indeed easier without kids. But is it better? That’s a question that you can’t really answer unless you have kids, and most people who have kids would say that their life is enhanced by them.

But as life-enhancing as they are, kids cost a lot of money, and you can’t plan for many of the expenses associated with them. How to avoid these expenses? Don’t have kids, which is now much easier because of the more widespread use and availability of contraceptives. The pill and other forms of artificial birth control like the patch and IUDs have become incredibly effective (98%) over the years (of course, only when used properly). Honestly, I don’t believe abortion is much of a contributor to low birth rates.

Is human life in the United States in danger of dying out because of the low birth rate? I think it’s too soon to tell.

Twenty Years, Little Progress

Well, today is that notorious day. Yes, April 20. Hitler’s birthday (he’d be 130), Weed Day (blaze it?), and the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

Since Columbine, we’ve had a number of school shootings, and I don’t think much has really changed. Mental health and its importance to overall health has been given greater due in the media and by medical professionals. I don’t follow the gun control debate,* but I don’t think much has improved there. Video games have gotten more graphic, violent, and all consuming. Social media has made it harder to be a teenager… and teenagers will always be fascinated with death, to some degree.

I was reading in the news about an 18-year-old female named Sol Pais who was obsessed with Columbine, even to the point of having a strange online journal that looks to be straight out of the early Internet days of the 90s and imitating the musical tastes, writing/art style, and nihilism of the Columbine killers. It seemed like she was about to travel to Columbine from Florida to make a bizarre pilgrimage to Columbine and do some kind of damage. But it turned out that the only damage she did was to herself: she committed suicide.

Back when I was 18, I was fascinated by Columbine, mostly because I was roughly the same age as the killers and many of the victims. I liked the same music and had a fascination with darkness that most teenagers end up growing out of. I would skulk around community college wearing my then-boyfriend’s trench coat and his hat (turned around backwards), but I would never have hurt a soul. I think I just wanted to look like a badass, but in reality, I was just a shy, awkward nerd. And I obviously grew out of my fake-badass stage and became a somewhat reasonable adult.

The trouble is that it is difficult to tell which teenagers will grow out of this obsession with death and which will end up committing heinous acts. Nobody foresaw Sol Pais’s destructive tendencies. She was just a quiet kid, intelligent and talented in art. People probably would have thought she was smart enough to know better than to do what she did. I don’t have any good ideas of how to prevent shootings or suicides, and although help is offered and mental illness is not as stigmatized as it was in the past, some kids still will not ask for help or realize that they need help or be recognized as someone who needs help.

I suppose mandatory mental health screenings at school or the doctor’s office would be a good first step, but the person being evaluated could always lie if he wanted to. Maybe it’s just the way the world is. There will never be perfect happiness or peace. No amount of preventive measures can stop a killer whose actions nobody foresaw or a suicidal person who kept everything inside.

*I have never owned a gun and never fired a gun (except a paintball gun, but that doesn’t count). My ignorant thought on guns is that hunting rifles and tiny guns for self-defense are fine, assuming that the purchaser is thoroughly checked out, but the trouble comes when automatic weapons (and their ammo) that are designed solely for killing can be easily obtained. I don’t see the point of anyone other than the military having access to weapons like that, and they all ought to be banned. If a collector wants to have guns, he should only be allowed to obtain guns and not ammo.