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#ChallengeAccepted Trend Faces Criticisms for Alleged False Activism

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  • 5.5 million people, including many A-list celebrities, have participated in the #ChallengeAccepted trend, where women post black and white photos of themselves to promote female empowerment.
  • However, the trend has been heavily criticized by people like The New York Times writer Taylor Lorenz and actress Emmy Rossum who both said it actually doesn’t do anything to actively help women.
  • Others have claimed the trend has lost focus and meaning, thinking it originated in Turkey, where people are sharing black and white photos of women to raise awareness for high rates of violence against women in the country. 
  • Instagram has stated that the trend in the U.S. is not tied to the trend in Turkey, but many are now using the hashtag to call attention to it and to encourage their followers to support the Istanbul Convention, which is meant to protect victims of domestic violence. 

#ChallengeAccepted Goes Viral

As black and white photos of women flood Instagram feeds for the #ChallengeAccepted trend, the campaign has become a contentious subject. What started as a simple photo challenge is now under fire for not actually empowering women as it claims to do. Many are also concerned that these glamour shots are clogging up space where information about important subjects like femicide in Turkey could be shared. 

Olivia Munn, Kristen Bell, Reese Witherspoon, Florence Pugh, Jennifer Lopez, and Kerry Washington are among the over 5.5 million people who have shared black and white photos of themselves using the hashtag #ChallengeAccepted. In addition to these photos, those who partake also often share messages about female empowerment and the importance of women supporting other women. 

But the trend’s purposes and murky roots have led many to criticize the movement, and it’s unclear if any one moment served as a specific catalyst for the trend. Many now claim that it was inspired by black and white photos being shared in Turkey to raise awareness for the high rates of violence against women in the country. This has led to a lot of frustration and outrage because most of the big name celebrities sharing these photos do not mention this aspect at all, leaving their posts to just a flattering photo and brief caption.

Though, in all likelihood, this trend probably has nothing to do with what is happening in Turkey. Instagram told The New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz that the resurgence of this challenge in the United States is actually unrelated to the trend in Turkey. Versions of this trend in the U.S. have actually existed since 2016. It has been used to spread awareness for serious diseases like cancer, as well as just to share general positivity online. 

Criticism of the Online Challenge

Lorenz further discussed #ChallengeAccepted on TMZ Live, where she criticized the campaign for masquerading as a form of female empowerment while doing nothing to actually empower women. 

“Just posting, you know, ‘I’m posting this beautiful photo of myself to support other women,’ that doesn’t actually do anything to, you know, move women forward or actually advocate [for] women,” she said. “It’s not highlighting impressive women, it’s not helping your company hire more women, so it’s ultimately pretty meaningless.” 

Lorenz was far from the only critic of the trend. Actress Emmy Rossum asked her Twitter followers: “How is it empowering to other women to post a selfie?”

Though, Lorenz did think that in some cases, #ChallengeAccepted has been used for good. Stars like Rashida Jones used it to call for justice for Breonna Taylor. Also, because many are under the impression that women in Turkey are the root of the trend, many more have been using it to spread awareness about that. 

Violence Against Women in Turkey

Various infographics have been created and shared on Instagram to educate users on the platform about femicide in Turkey. Some have been liked tens, if not hundreds of thousands of times. People all over are sharing these graphics to their Instagram stories so their followers can read up on the topic.

Violence against women in Turkey has been an issue for a long time, but it is facing renewed attention because a 27-year-old woman was recently murdered by her ex-boyfriend. This has prompted protests and calls for action when it comes to the common threats women face in the country. 

According to The Guardian, 42% of Turkish women between the ages of 15-60 have suffered some form of physical or sexual violence by their husbands or partners. In 2019 alone, 474 women were murdered, mainly by partners or relatives, which was the highest rate in a decade. This number has been increasing every year for the past ten years. It is expected to climb even higher this year because of coronavirus lockdowns leading to increases in domestic violence. 

Those using the challenge to discuss Turkey on Instagram are also pointing to efforts to protect the Istanbul Convention, which is a Council of Europe treaty designed to protect victims of domestic violence and other forms of violence against women. While Turkey was among the first countries to sign it, the convention is facing a new wave of threats against it. 

Legislation that provides basic human rights for women in Turkey is in jeopardy under the country’s conservative leadership. According to The Guardian, lobbyists are working to change the Istanbul Convention, leaving its future in question. 

Celebrities Refocus #ChallengeAccepted

With all this information going around, some celebrities have opted to refocus their role in this online challenge. Actress Florence Pugh, who shared a goofy black and white selfie, discussed the Istanbul Convention in her caption. She encouraged others to do the same. 

“Women are being subjected to violence and this convention is to end forgiveness for the attacker/murderers,” the “Little Women” star wrote. “With that in mind, adjust your hashtags if you didn’t already do so.”

Pugh is also sharing information about violence against women in Turkey on her Instagram stories. Likewise, Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman is also sharing articles about femicide in hers, while singer Demi Lovato is raising awareness on her page, as well. 

With celebrities changing the angles of their involvement in this, what initially appeared to be a surface-level girl power challenge has now started to highlight an international issue that many may have previously been unaware of. While its initial direct ties to the #ChallengeAccepted campaign have been disproven by Instagram, this issue has become a driving force behind the trend’s spread. 

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (The Cut) (Elle)

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Twin YouTube Stars Charged With Felonies After Fake Bank Robbery Video

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  • The Stokes Twins, who have 25 million TikTok followers and 4.8 million YouTuber subscribers, were charged with false imprisonment and swatting on Wednesday in connection to a fake bank robbery prank video they filmed in October 2019. 
  • In the video, they run around the Irvine, California area dressed in all black, with ski masks and duffle bags full of cash to make it seem like they had just committed a crime.
  • The prank resulted in their Uber driver being held at gunpoint by police, who authorities later learned was not involved. Even after police issued the duo a warning, they continued to carry out their prank on the UC Irvine campus. 
  • Each face a maximum sentence of four years in state prison if convicted on all counts. 

Stoke Twins in Trouble 

A pair of brothers known online as the Stokes Twins are in serious legal trouble over a fake bank robbery prank video they uploaded to their YouTube channel last year. 

The brothers are 23-year-old Alan and Alex Stokes, and they have 4.8 million followers on YouTube, where they post challenge videos, pranks, and other content. They also have over 25 million followers on their joint TikTok account. 

On Wednesday the Orange County District Attorney’s office in California announced that they had each been charged in connection with their robbery prank. 

The DA’s office said the video at the center of this case was filmed on October 15, 2019. However, in the video, the twins say it was filmed over the course of three days. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it had more than 1.4 million views before it was set to private sometime yesterday. Still, reuploads of the prank have already been posted and shared, along with more details about what happened when it was filmed thanks to a press release from the DA’s office. 

What Happens in the Prank Video?

In the video, the pair dresses up in all black with ski masks and duffle bags full of cash to make those around them believe they have just committed a crime. Much of the video is filmed in the Irvine area and UC Irvine campus, where the two run around to catch people’s attention, sometimes tripping and spilling cash onto the ground.

In some parts of the video, they approach strangers and ask for directions to the nearest bank. “Do you know how tight their security is?” one brother says after getting directions from a group of students. “I’m just going to make a large withdrawal if you know what I mean.”

A short time later, they return to anyone they previously approached and offer them money for their help. “Hey man, I just wanted to give you this cause I would have never gotten this without your help,” one brother says. 

At other points, they ask people if they can buy their clothes off of them and approach women to ask them out on dates, showing off their bags of cash. They even ask some women to help them commit their fake crimes.

“So I’m actually trying to rob a bank and I’m looking for an attractive female to distract the security guards. Would you be down to do that?” they ask.

The video ends with extra footage from these encounters, where the two explain that it was all a prank and people admit that they saw the cameraman or suspected it was a joke. 

Stunt With Uber Driver Goes Wrong 

Still, there were some people who didn’t think it was a joke at all. At one point in the video, the twins get into an Uber and the driver quickly becomes uncomfortable by the situation they’ve put him in.

“What is this?” the driver asks. “Uh, our getaway driver just bailed on us so uh,” one twin says.

“We’re going to like a costume party…Could you step on it? Like step on the gas,” they add.

“This is weird. It’s not funny. Okay, I can’t just take this ride. Just get out of my car please.” the driver tells the twins.

According to the DA’s office, a bystander saw this exchange and believed they were attempting to carjack the driver, so they called the police. When authorities responded, they ordered the driver out of the car at gunpoint. He was ultimately released after they determined that he was not involved.

Police also issued a warning to the brothers at that time about how dangerous their conduct was and let them go, which the twins actually include in the video. 

When the brothers explain that its a prank, one officer says, “A public prank that gets about 15 police officers in the area hauling butt over here cause you guys are pulling off masks.

One of the twins explains that he called the non-emergency police number and notified them of the days they would be filming their video. The officer responds with, “This is what’s going to get someone potentially gunstuck or someone hurt. We have people stopping the middle of the street because they’re watching this, guys pulling up ski masks, throwing stuff of the ground, changing clothes.”

One of the brothers explains that most people were laughing and he didn’t expect this to happen, seeming to admit that they took it too far. The officers continue to try to explain the seriousness of the situation to them, with one saying, “Dude, this about what’s going on nowadays. Think about it man you’ve got to be smarter than that.” 

“You know better…I want you guys to be creative and do what you want to do, but you’ve got to be smarter than this. What do you think people are going to do? Right, and you’ve lucky you didn’t get any guns drawn at you. You’re absolutely lucky you didn’t get any guns drawn at you.”

The officers remain calm, warning them to be careful and advising them to maybe rent a space or a controlled area for future videos instead. Because the brothers placed this at the end of the video, you might believe that maybe the twins realized what they did wrong and were learning from their mistake.

However, according to the press release, the brothers performed the prank on the University campus four hours after police initially spoke to them. 

In fact, they even laugh about how they’ve had the police call on them throughout the day when talking to others that they pranked on campus. 

They tell one group of students about the incident with the Uber driver adding, “The Uber driver kicked us out of the car. One minute later, there were like 10 cop cars that pulled out guns on him. They were like rifles. They thought he was the getaway driver guns so they had like 15 guns put up. He’s like ‘I’m not even a part of this.’ So yeah, poor guy.”

What Were They Charged With? 

The brothers have each been charged with one felony count of false imprisonment affected by violence, menace, fraud, or deceit, and one misdemeanor count of falsely reporting an emergency, which is often referred to as swatting. They both face a maximum sentence of four years in state prison if convicted on all counts.

When announcing the charges, D.A. Todd Spitzer condemned their actions, saying in a statement, “These were not pranks.”

“These are crimes that could have resulted in someone getting seriously injured or even killed. Law enforcement officers are sworn to protect the public and when someone calls 911 to report an active bank robbery they are going to respond to protect lives. Instead, what they found was some kind of twisted attempt to gain more popularity on the internet by unnecessarily putting members of the public and police officers in danger.”

The brothers have no made any public comments about the charges as of now. 

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNN

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Katy Perry and Portia de Rossi Share Support for Ellen

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  • Ellen DeGeneres received words of support from her wife Portia de Rossi, singer Katy Perry, and others following accusations that her the workplace behind the scenes of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is toxic.
  • Several reports indicated that DeGeneres might be departing from her show, but NBC News confirmed Tuesday that she is staying for an 18th season.
  • The allegations against top staffers on the show include bullying, racism, and sexual harassment.
  • WarnerMedia is conducting an investigation into the workplace, and DeGeneres said she is committed to making changes going forward.

Stars Defend Ellen

Rumors have been swirling that Ellen DeGeneres might be leaving her post as the host of her own talk show following allegations of a toxic workplace behind the scenes. However, those rumors were quelled on Tuesday morning, and celebrities began to speak up in support of the daytime host. 

Pop star Katy Perry tweeted support for DeGeneres, saying she has “only ever had positive takeaways” from her encounters with her. Perry also praised DeGeneres for the strides she has made when it comes to representation and equality on television and elsewhere. 

On Monday, DeGeneres’ wife, actress Portia de Rossi, shared an Instagram photo that said “I Stand By Ellen.”

Country singer Brandi Carlile responded to the post, calling the attacks against DeGeneres “unprecedented.”

“Ellen has made my life so much easier for me and other LGBTQ people,” she commented. “I’ll never stop being grateful for that.”

Some Speak Out Against Ellen

Other stars have been quicker to condemn Degeneres. Brad Garrett, best known for his role on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” said these issues are well known and start at the top. 

“Know more than one who were treated horribly by her.⁩ Common knowledge,” he tweeted.

“Back to the Future” actress Lea Thompson replied to an article sharing Garrett’s statement and said it was true. 

Twitter has also been quick to punish DeGeneres. Several reports indicated that she was leaving and speculated that James Corden might be her replacement. On Monday, #ReplaceEllen was a trending topic where users suggested personalities that they believe should step into DeGeneres’ shoes. 

The reports suggesting she is leaving the show have been disproven. On Tuesday, NBC News confirmed that DeGeneres would be staying on for an 18th season.

What Are the Accusations?

The accusations against DeGeneres and her staff are serious. Some former staffers say that producers use intimidation and fear tactics on set every day. Others say they have faced racism. WarnerMedia is conducting an investigation into the matter. DeGeneres herself released a statement on Thursday addressing her staff. 

“On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect,” she wrote. “Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. I could not have the success I’ve had without all of your contributions. My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that.”

Following her response, more allegations were shot at leaders of the show. BuzzFeed News published a scathing piece accusing three of the show’s top staffers of sexual assault and harassment, including head writer and executive producer Kevin Leman. One ex-employee said Leman asked him if he could give him a handjob or perform oral sex while at a company party. Another said they saw Leman grab a production assistant’s penis. 

Almost a dozen also said it was common for him to make inappropriate sexual comments and jokes. Leman told BuzzFeed that these allegations and their article were malicious and misleading.

Executive producer Ed Glavin was also accused of inappropriately touching women, and allegedly “had a reputation for being handsy with women.” 47 former employees also told BuzzFeed that he led with intimidation and fear on a daily basis. Prior to BuzzFeed‘s publication, several reports indicated that as a result of WarnerMedia’s investigation, Glavin could be departing the show. 

Co-executive producer Jonathan Norman was accused of grooming a former employee by taking him to concerts and giving him other perks. That employee alleges that one night, Norman attempted to perform oral sex on them. This was corroborated by three former employees. Norman also denied this to BuzzFeed, claiming that the accusations come from someone with ulterior motives.

It is not clear what other actions will be taken as a result of these accusations. 

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Washington Post) (People)

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Emmys Preparing Remote Telecast for September Show

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  • As has long been assumed, officials with the Emmys confirmed that the awards show will be conducting a remote telecast on Sept. 20.
  • A letter sent to nominees by host Jimmy Kimmel and several other producers said that aspects of the show will be coming to nominees’ homes to create a virtual show.
  • According to that letter, technicians, producers, and writers will work with the nominees and with Kimmel to create the show. Nominees will be filmed from their homes or other remote locations of nominees.
  • No further details about the show, including if segments will be pre-taped or if winners will be announced in advance, have been released. 

Emmys Go Remote

Instead of its traditional dazzling red carpet and Los Angeles backdrop, the 2020 Emmy Awards will be coming to you from the homes of television’s biggest stars. 

It has long been assumed that the show would not go forward in the Microsoft Theater, as coronavirus lockdowns, social distancing protocols, travel restrictions, and case increases in L.A. make that a seemingly impossible concept. Host Jimmy Kimmel, along with some of the show’s producers, confirmed this in a letter addressed to nominees, obtained by Variety on Wednesday. 

“At a time like this, we’re taking the opportunity to create a moment that is more relaxed, more entertaining, more enjoyable not only for you, but for the millions watching at home,” that letter stated. “It’s still television’s highest honor, and we never want to lose the significance of being nominated for, and maybe winning, an Emmy, but we’re going to do in a way that is appropriate to the moment (and guarantees you a memorable night).”

“But we cannot ignore the circumstances, and aside from NOT being able to come together in one place, we also acknowledge that our world is going through a challenging moment in many ways,” the letter continued. “We’ll be producing an event that is filled with warmth and humanity, which celebrates the power of television to bring us together and to help us shape our world.”

What to Expect

As for how this works come show night on Sept. 20, the letter further explains that a team of technicians, producers, and writers will work with Kimmel and the nominees to capture essential awards show moments from the homes of nominees or another remote location of their choice. 

Fashion wise, the letter said that the theme of the night is “come as you are, but make an effort!” So, if people want to suit up or throw on a ballgown, great. If they’d rather chill in their bed in PJs, that’s fine too, but powder those cheeks and make sure those pajamas are designer. 

While this COVID-19-era set-up now potentially gives Americans the unprecedented chance to get a peak at A-lister’s living rooms, it also leaves a few major questions unanswered. For example, it is still not known if the whole show will run live or if portions will be pre-taped. 

Likewise, we also don’t know if winners will be hearing of their victory for the first time during the broadcast or if they will be told in advance of the show. Setting up live cameras, audio, lighting and other logistics for every single nominee in the event they win is a difficult feat. 

While the letter states the intent for nominees to work with the show for some technical aspect like this, it is unknown if every single nominee will appear on screen and participate the way they would during a normal show. 

The Emmys will air on Sept. 20 on ABC. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (The Hollywood Reporter) (Vanity Fair)

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