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J.J. Abrams’ Comments About The Last Jedi Stir Controversy

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  • In a recent New York Times piece, J.J. Abrams, who directed 2015’s The Force Awakens and the upcoming episode The Rise of Skywalker, made critical comments about Rian Johnson’s Star Wars film The Last Jedi.
  • Actors from the film also gave remarks to the Times implying that they favored Abrams’ direction over Johnson’s.
  • This stirred a massive controversy online between a fandom already heavily divided on the latest trilogy, with some thinking that Abrams should not speak negatively about the film or Johnson.
  • Others thought fans should not attack Abrams for being critical.

Controversial Comments Made in New York Times Article

Stars Wars fans sensed a disturbance in the force after director J.J. Abrams criticized the franchise’s eighth episode, The Last Jedi.

The Last Jedi, which came after Abrams’ The Force Awakens and precedes his upcoming The Rise of Skywalker, divided many fans. While The Force Awakens, which was largely well-received, was criticized for staying too close to Star Wars tradition, The Last Jedi was criticized for the opposite reason. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, the movie broke a lot of elements of the Star Wars mold. Because of this, some fans hail it as one of– if not the best– film in the franchise. Others felt about The Last Jedi the way Anakin Skywalker felt about sand in Episode II and were not pleased.

This stark disagreement is made apparent on Rotten Tomatoes, where critics give the film a 91% and the audience gives it a far less favorable 43%. This is the lowest audience score for a Star Wars film, including the prequels and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Some have accused fans of review bombing the film to tank the score.

While speaking with The New York Times in a Wednesday article, Abrams addressed the divide and criticism the film received. As writer Dave Itzcoff points out, Johnson’s film had an unconventional approach to the universe. 

“Each time [The Last Jedi] addressed one of several cliffhangers left dangling from ‘The Force Awakens’ — what would happen when Rey returned Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber to him? who were her parents? who was the nefarious Supreme Leader Snoke? — Johnson’s movie seemed to say: the answers to these questions aren’t as important as you think,” he wrote. 

While Abrams did say he liked that The Last Jedi was “full of surprises and subversion and all sorts of bold choices,” he also noted his issues with the movie. 

“On the other hand, it’s a bit of a meta approach to the story,” he said. “I don’t think that people go to ‘Star Wars’ to be told, ‘This doesn’t matter.’”

Abrams was not the only one from the franchise to make these kinds of remarks to the Times. Daisy Ridley, who plays the trilogy’s heroine, Rey, said she cried when she learned that Abrams would be returning to finish up the saga. 

John Boyega, who plays ex-stormtrooper Finn, also said that he was looking forward to seeing where Abrams’ storyline was going. In another profile, he said that he found The Last Jedi to be “iffy” and that he disagreed with some of the choices made in it.

Fans React Online

Because Star Wars fans are already split on almost every aspect of the franchise, perhaps with the exception of Baby Yoda’s cuteness, these remarks started a massive conversation online. Many of the thoughts shared stemmed back to peoples’ feelings on The Last Jedi, and the direction this trilogy is moving in as a whole. 

Some thought it was disrespectful for the cast to malign Johnson and his film in the press.

While others took to complement Johnson’s work, noting that Abrams is the one who handed him the saga in the first place.

Others found an element of hypocrisy in The Last Jedi fans so eagerly criticizing Abrams when they stood on the defense of Johnson for so long. 

Some thought it reflected the general problems in regards to the newest trilogy.

Vanity Fair writer Joanna Robinson, who has experience covering global pop culture phenomenons herself, said that that the press has to walk a very thin line when covering things like Star Wars. In this case, that line ended up steering in a wild direction. 

Yahoo Entertainment writer Kevin Polowy worked to settle some tensions by sharing positive comments Abrams has made to him about Johnson and The Last Jedi. 

“I don’t think [Rise of Skywalker] would’ve been nearly what it is without the choices that Rian made, so I’m nothing but grateful,” he said. 

Boyega’s Comments About Social Media

This was not the only Star Wars-related controversy fans were discussing. Variety published an interview with Boyega on Wednesday that caused backlash as well. In the interview, Boyega, a frequent user of sites like Twitter and Instagram, discussed his relationship with social media. The reporter notes that his co-star, Kelly Marie Train, who plays Rose Tico, quit social media after being repeatedly harassed online. He was asked how he handles the positive and negative sides of the Internet. 

“Being in this position, you just understand the masses, how the masses think, you know. Through social media, we get to engage, we get to have fun,” he said in response. “But at the same time, for those who are not mentally strong, you are weak to believe in every single thing that you read. That’s, you know, it is what it is.

Many fans saw this as a dig to Tran, thinking he was specifically calling her weak.

Boyega went to Twitter to clear his comments up, saying they had nothing to do with Tran and were “badly worded.”

He also referenced his previous comments about online harassment that he made back when Tran left social media. “Harassing the actors/ actresses will do nothing,” he said at the time.

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (The Nerdist) (Esquire)

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Disney May Have Halted Lizzie McGuire Reboot Over Adult Themes

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  • A new report from Variety alleges that production of the Lizzie McGuire revival came to a halt because star Hilary Duff and showrunner Terri Minsky wanted to include adult themes, while Disney wanted to keep it family-friendly.
  • Minsky was fired from the production over a month ago, with Disney citing creative differences. She told Variety she wants people to see what Lizzie is up to now and hinted that she wanted the project to move to Hulu, where more mature content is allowed.
  • Duff did not comment on the matter but did make a potential jab in her Instagram story. The show Love, Victor was just switched from Disney+ to Hulu because of family-friendly content issues. She shared a headline and said, “sounds familiar.”

Disney at Odds With ‘Lizzie McGuire’ Creator

When fans learned that Disney would be bringing back Lizzie McGuire, they thought it was what dreams are made of. Now, it seems like this picture-perfect plan is in limbo.

Production for the nostalgic revival came to a halt in January when showrunner and original creator Terri Minsky was fired after just two episodes were filmed. Disney cited the need “to move in a different creative direction” at the time. The original Lizzie McGuire series aired on the Disney Channel between 2001 and 2004. Disney+ was set to be the home of the new revival, which would show the character living in New York at the age of 30. The show has not resumed production or found a new showrunner since.

A Wednesday report from Variety alleges that the “creative direction” in question was the exploration of mature themes on the show. They say that Minsky, along with the show’s star, Hilary Duff, wanted to do an adult version of Lizzie, while Disney wanted to keep it family-friendly like the original.

According to Variety, this dispute has put the show’s fate in jeopardy. Duff is reportedly upset with the dismissal of Minsky. While Disney is working to find a new showrunner to replace her, sources close to the matter believe that finding someone who can balance both the desires of Duff and Disney is becoming “increasingly unlikely.” Variety says many in the industry have speculated that “the revival will not move forward” because of the clashing plan on how to approach Lizzie’s new adult life. 

Disney+ and Family-Friendly Content

Disney wanting to keep its streaming service squeaky clean is nothing new. On Monday, they announced their original show Love, Victor, an adaptation of the movie Love, Simon, would be switching from Disney+ to Hulu when it makes its debut in June. The show follows a gay teenager in high school, and many cited it not being “family-friendly” as a reason for the move. 

The character’s sexuality, however, was likely not the factor behind this. Deadline reported that the show also shows alcohol use and marital issues on top of sexual exploration. Becky Albertalli, who wrote the book that Love, Simon and Love, Victor are based on, also said the decision was based on other content in the show.

“For what it’s worth, it’s not based on the show featuring a gay teen love story. Disney knew what it was when they got it,” she wrote on Twitter. 

Many ran away with the issue of family-friendliness, and the news got a lot of attention. It caught the eye of Duff, who posted an article on her Instagram story highlighting a headline that mentioned this and said, “sounds familiar.

Many interpreted this as Duff breaking her silence on the seemingly mysterious pause in the making of the Lizzie McGuire reboot. She had previously been vocally excited about the show, promoting it at various events and sharing photos of production on Instagram. 

Duff did not speak to Variety for their report, but Minsky did. The former showrunner expressed that she wanted fans to see the new Lizzie. She also said that she wished the revival might follow the path of Love, Victor and find Hulu as a home.

“I am so proud of the two episodes we did. Hilary has a grasp of Lizzie McGuire at 30 that needs to be seen. It’s a wonderful thing to watch,” she told the outlet. “I would love the show to exist, but ideally I would love it if it could be given that treatment of going to Hulu and doing the show that we were doing. That’s the part where I am completely in the dark. It’s important to me that this show was important to people. I felt like I wanted to do a show that was worthy of that kind of devotion.”

Disney maintains that this does not mean the reboot is dead in the water. 

“We paused production on ‘Lizzie McGuire’ a few weeks ago to allow time for some creative re-development,” the entertainment giant said in a statement to Variety. “Our goal is to resume production and to tell an authentic story that connects to the millions who are emotionally invested in the character, and a new generation of viewers too.” 

Fan Reactions

When the reboot was initially announced, fans were ecstatic to see what Lizzie was up to over 15 years later. Much of the show’s core audience is now in their 20’s and 30’s, and they were excited to see one of their favorite childhood characters all grown up. 

“Lizzie has also grown up, she’s older, she’s wiser, she has a much bigger shoe budget,” Duff said about Lizzie’s growth at D23 in August. “She has her dream job, the perfect life right now working as an apprentice to a fancy New York City decorator. She has the perfect man, who owns a fancy restaurant. She’s getting ready to celebrate her 30th birthday.”

Now, many online were outraged that the revival is in danger. Some called for it to move to Hulu like Love, Victor so that adult themes could be appropriately explored. 

Others maintained that the new Lizzie McGuire should not have to be family-friendly since kids today do not have any familiarity with the character. They think it should be geared towards the adults who watched it when they were young.

Some don’t see why Disney+ can’t make room for the reboot, seeing as they already have shows like The Simpsons that contain mature content.

Right now, it remains unclear what will happen next with the reboot. No release date had been set for the project. Original cast members were involved with the show, including Adam Lamberg who played Gordo; and Hallie Todd, Robert Carradine, and Jake Thomas, who played her parents and brother. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Vanity Fair) (Mashable)

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FCC Received Over 1,300 Complaints About J.LO and Shakira’s Super Bowl Halftime Show Performance

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  • The Federal Communications Commission shared a list of over 1,000 complaints it received about Shakira and Jennifer Lopez’s Super Bowl halftime performance.
  • Many cited that the performance was too sexual and used harsh phrasing. Some complaints compared the show to pornography, accused it of promoting sex trafficking, and said their eyes had been “molested.”
  • Last year, the FCC only received 58 complaints about Maroon 5’s performance, with most citing Adam Levine taking his top off. These are still far less than the 200,000 complaints received in the five days after the Janet Jackson incident in 2004. In general, the FCC receives a high volume of complaints about sex and nudity on television.

Complaints About Halftime Performance

When Shakira and Jennifer Lopez lit up the Super Bowl LIV stage for a lively halftime show, some audiences felt that their eyes were “molested”  and that they had witnessed “harm to our society,” according to over 1,300 complaints to the Federal Communications Commission.

The complaints were originally obtained by WFAA, a news station in Texas. The performance was broadcast to the over 102 million people who tuned in for the February 2 game. As it was happening, many praised it online as one of the best halftime shows they had seen but it seems that others watched in horror. 

The bulk of the complaints said that the show was too sexual and provocative, though many accused the routine of being far worse. Almost 400 of the complaints compared it to pornography.

“Completely inappropriate half time-show with simulated orgies, stripping, and borderline pornography. This is a family event during prime time and should never have happened.” – Fort Wayne, Indiana

“The performance during the half time show was raunchy, lewd and not at acceptable for all viewing audiences…The scantly clad butt shots of JLo, especially when she turned to the cameras and bent over, was nothing short of hard porn.” – Lexington, South Carolina 

Some tried to argue that the performance was especially bad for efforts to stop sex trafficking.

“In an era where sex trafficking is increasing such programs only tend to feed the problem. If I wanted to see this type of activity I would go to a strip club,”  Instead, my living room was invaded by this.” Southlake, Texas

“During a time when we are trying to stop Sex Trafficking and prevent Rapes why are we showing children women who are scantily clad during the half time show? Why was the camerman so obsessed with showing us Jlo’s crotch and anus? Why are we showing our children a stripper pole dance? Is your network encouraging more rapes and sexual assaults? Disgusting display of sex on tv. There wasn’t even a parental warning.” – North Las Vegas Nevada

People even threatened to boycott Pepsi and the NFL as a whole. Others encouraged the FCC to fine the league and those involved in the show. 

“From start to finish, both Shakira and JLo did nothing but cause harm to our society. If there is no consequences from the FCC, then there might as well not be one. And they will only get my outrageous.” – Fort Myers, Florida

Others used particularly bold language when lodging their concerns. 

“We expected to watch football and a quick concert but instead had our eyes molested. Shame on you all for allowing that to infiltrate our homes.” – Spring Hill, Tennessee

“No one wants to watch a bunch of whores dancing half naked on TV. This has to stop. Our children are watching. And women wanted to be respected? Bull crap.” – Larkspur, California

“The super bowl half time shows have GOT to be changed. No sex period. You are part of the problem with kids turning into horrible adults. Get your shit together.” – Kerrville, Texas

Previous Super Bowl Complaints

Complaints about Super Bowl halftime shows are nothing new for the FCC. Last year they also received complaints about indecent attire when Maroon 5’s lead singer Adam Levine took his top off. In total, however, the FCC only received 58 complaints about 2019’s show, just four percent of the amount they saw this year. 

These are both nothing in comparison to the 2004 incident with Janet Jackson, which brought in 200,000 complaints within the five days following the show. As time went on, some reports indicate that the number of complaints more than doubled that. 

The FCC did hit CBS with a $550,000 fine afterward. After years of legal back and forth, it was tossed out.

Sex on TV and the FCC

Sex and nudity are not the only things viewers complain to the FCC about. Beyonce’s 2016 halftime show brought in over 40 complaints, with many outraged that she paid homage to the Black Panthers. 

Complaints outside of the Super Bowl vary too. Over 100 people lamented that the 2016 presidential debates were often required a cable package or streaming subscription to be viewed. Game of Thrones saw concerns about sensational cruelty, Stephen Colbert has been hit for mocking the bible, and plenty of shows have been hit for language.

Still, sex and nudity are among the top things viewers file complaints about. While the FCC does not provide a breakdown of the subjects of the complaints it receives, based on public documents, as well as materials collected by MuckRock, it is one of the most common. The aforementioned shows also saw complaints regarding sex and nudity. Other programs ranging from Seth Macfarlane’s hosting of the 2013 Oscars, to innuendo on the Big Bang Theory, to bits and jokes on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, to a sneaky 50 Shades of Grey references on Sesame Street have been the subjects of FCC complaints as well. 

See what others are saying: (WFAA) (CNN) (The Hill)

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Bob Iger Steps Down as Disney CEO in Surprising Announcement

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  • Disney announced on Tuesday that Bob Iger will step down as CEO and will instead spend the last 22 months of his contract as executive chairman.  
  • Iger will be succeeded by Bob Chapek, the head of the company’s parks and resorts unit. 
  • The announcement surprised many industry analysts and company insiders, who are speculating that there might be more to the reasoning than what was revealed.
  • Iger said he plans to help ease Chapek’s transition into the role before leaving altogether, and that the timing of the move was not expedited for any reason in particular.

Surprising Announcement

Bob Iger stepped down as CEO of Disney on Tuesday after 15 years in the role, a change that is effective immediately. 

Though Iger’s move was not out of the question, the timing of the announcement was surprising. He still has 22 months remaining on his contract, which the company says he will spend as executive chairman. 

Iger, 69, is ending his reign as one of the nation’s most successful CEOs. Under his leadership, Disney has expanded with several major acquisitions, including Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and much of 21st Century Fox. Iger was also a key player in Disney’s transition into the streaming era, as it was under him that Disney+ launched last November. 

“With the successful launch of Disney’s direct-to-consumer businesses and the integration of Twenty-First Century Fox well underway, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO,” Iger said in a statement alongside the announcement.

What’s Next for Disney?

In his new role as executive chairman, Iger plans to focus on more creative aspects of the business as well as help ease the transition of his successor, Bob Chapek. Chapek has most recently served as the head of Disney’s parks and resorts unit. 

Though Disney seemed positive about the change, some industry analysts and company insiders were blindsided by the sudden news. After the announcement, Disney’s stock dropped about 3% in after-hours trading on Wall Street.

“Why is the CEO changing today?” Laura Martin, a media industry analyst at Needham & Co, asked The Los Angeles Times. “What is the urgency?”

“This was somewhat of a shock to us as shareholders,” Timothy Lesko of Granite Investment Advisors said to Yahoo Finance. “They’re usually much more scripted than this.”

“No one knew this was coming,” said one senior Disney executive, according to The Wall Street Journal.

According to NBC, Iger said on a phone call with investors after the announcement that the move was “not accelerated by any particular reason.” 

Chapek beat out a handful of projected potential successors, including direct-to-consumer chairman Kevin Mayer, who recently oversaw the successful launch of Disney+. Some on Wall Street thought the CEO title would go to Mayer.

“The market had no warning,” Richard Greenfield, partner of Lightshed Partners, said to The Los Angeles Times. “The big question remains: What happens with Kevin Mayer? … It was Kevin Mayer’s job to lose.”

Chapek, for his part, is eager to step into the role. He has experienced success at the company himself; in recent years he has overseen the two major additions of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attractions in Disney theme parks in both Anaheim, California and Orlando, Florida. 

“When I was growing up in Hammond, Indiana, the son of a World War II veteran and working mother, my parents would take us on a family vacation to Walt Disney World every year,” Chapek said on a call with analysts, according to Business Insider

“That young boy could have never imagined that one day he would get the chance to lead this extraordinary company as the seventh CEO in its nearly 100-year history,” Chapek added.

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (NBC) (Wall Street Journal)

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