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Whatever happened to last year's breakout stars?
It’s about a cake. It’s about a graduation ceremony. It’s about so much more. It’s about what we, as Americans, should have the right to do — and the right to refuse to do.
Let’s start with the cake. This week, the Colorado ACLU filed a discrimination suit against Lakewood, Colo.’s Masterpiece Cakeshop after the owners refused last year to make a cake for same-sex couple Dave Mullin and Charlie Craig. The ACLU says it has affidavits from two other gay couples who have been likewise refused wedding cakes from Masterpiece.
At the time of Mullin and Craig’s thwarted order, owner Jack Phillips told CBS News, “If gays come in and want to order birthday cakes or any cakes for any occasion, graduations, or whatever, I have no prejudice against that whatsoever. It’s just the wedding cake, not the people, not their lifestyle.” But it doesn’t much help Masterpiece’s credibility that its owner allegedly didn’t blink when recently asked to make a cake for a dog wedding.
The Colorado case isn’t isolated, either. Earlier this year, the owners of the Sweet Cakes bakery in Gresham, Oregon walked pretty far back on their stated promise of cakes for “ANY occasion” when they declined to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. The women also claimed that owner Aaron Klein told them they were “abominations to the Lord.” The bakery then came under investigation by the Oregon attorney general’s civil enforcement officers for potentially violating the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. But more damning was the sudden appearance of single-star reviews on Yelp for both their “bigoted behavior” and their “dry and tasteless” cakes.
With more states moving forward on marriage equality, these kinds of cases are inevitably going to become a litmus test of the conflict between commerce and religious beliefs. And what’s right is not always clear-cut. If you don’t want to make a cake celebrating the union of two people who love each other and want to spend a life together just because they’re the same sex, that’s just really sad and limited. Cake should be an instrument of joy, not division. But the idea that someone could be forced to participate in something that he or she doesn’t believe in doesn’t exactly sound like the greatest way to move the cause of tolerance forward either.
Mark Silverstein, the Colorado ACLU’s legal director, told the Associated Press Thursday, “We are all entitled to our religious beliefs and we fight for that. But someone’s personal religious beliefs don’t justify breaking the law.” What would Silverstein make, then, of brand new high school graduate Roy Costner IV? In full defiance of the separation of church and state, the valedictorian of South Carolina’s Liberty High School got up before his classmates Saturday with a school-approved speech in his hand. Then he ripped it up and said, “One thing I am certain of is we’re all a sum of our experiences, both good and bad. All in all, those experiences, the people who mentored us, that we look up to, they have helped carve and mold us into the young adults that we are today. I’m so thankful that both of my parents led me to the Lord at a young age.” And he launched into the Lord’s Prayer.
Costner’s small town of Liberty has in recent months attracted the attention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has fought to keep prayer out of its public schools. As CNN reports, “This spring, the foundation’s staff attorney sent a lawyer representing the district a letter about complaints of alleged discriminatory hiring and religious promotion in another county high school and praise music being played in an elementary school classroom.” And after Costner’s expression of where he stands on the matter, the Foundation’s co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor described his “clearly unconstitutional” actions as “aggressive” and “extremely rude.” But a district spokesman said there would no repercussions for the young man, adding, “The bottom line is we’re not going to punish students for expressing their religious faiths.”
One has to wonder whether that open-mindedness would have extended to a student who was expressing a non-Christian religious faith, or a declaration of non-belief entirely. And given the current state of American public education, you’ve got to question whether the smartest kid in his graduating class has any idea what he’s talking about when he naively declares, “Taking prayer out of schools is the worst thing we could do.”
Frankly, I don’t believe Christians are so terribly silenced in our culture that they can’t follow the directive to cool it for a few minutes in a public place. And Costner’s act was a little bratty, no doubt. But he took his moment in the spotlight to take a stand for something he believes. He didn’t say that anybody else had to pray along. That’s the difference.
We all have choices, and many of those choices involve how we are going to get along with each other. Every time a football player thanks Jesus, are we going to get personally offended, or let it slide? If some small-minded confectioner doesn’t believe two men or two women should be married, should we force him to do our baking bidding anyway — or just make it plain that we’re taking our business somewhere more welcoming? Yes, we need to continually fight for the freedom from theocracy, especially as more and more of us are declaring ourselves unaffiliated with any faith. We need to be welcoming of different ideals. But we also need to express our own views in ways that live and let live. Boycott a business. Write a scathing Yelp review. Remind people that not everybody thanks the Lord. And then move on. Be the tolerance we want extended towards ourselves. And recognize the difference between practicing a belief and forcing it on others.
The star of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” charmed practically everyone at the Oscars, where she was the youngest best actress nominee ever; she went on to film a remake of “Annie” opposite Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Jepsen, who had 2012’s song of the summer with “Call Me Maybe,” released the fifth and final single from her debut album in January 2013. She toured the U.S. in mid-2013 -- just as Daft Punk and Robin Thicke battled to succeed her as icons of the summer.
Honey Boo Boo
2012’s biggest reality star, the young pageant contestant Alana Thompson, had a quieter time this year, with a second season whose ratings were strong but whose buzz was a bit muted. America was, by now, accustomed to young Thompson, and outraged or scandalized reactions were reserved for other TLC programming, like “The Man With the 132-Pound Scrotum.”
Ocean missed out on the top Grammys for which he was nominated in early 2013; he bounced back quickly with featured appearances on albums by Kanye West, Jay Z and Beyoncé, and is at work on a new album. Things are looking up!
The “21 Jump Street” and “Magic Mike” star had a marginally less charmed 2013, with “White House Down” failing to connect with moviegoers and “Foxcatcher” delayed until next year. It may get worse before it gets better: His big 2014 sci-fi flick, “Jupiter Ascending,” looks … well, a little weird!
With their third album in 21 months hitting No. 1 immediately upon its fall 2013 release, the boy band that broke into America in 2012 would seem to be here to stay for a while. Still, they looked a bit nervous in their reaction shots during the Video Music Awards’ ‘N Sync reunion; maybe not this year, maybe not next, but eventually, the Justin of One Direction is going to break out. For now, though, things look good!
Lana Del Rey
The famously uncomfortable “Saturday Night Live” musical guest overcame endless mockery from 2012 to land her first top-10 hit in the summer of 2013 -- a remix of a year-old song, “Summertime Sadness.” As the co-writer of “Young and Beautiful,” the love theme from “The Great Gatsby,” Del Rey is such a front-runner for the best original song Oscar (last won by Adele) that there has been a direct-mail campaign to academy voters against her. The song was also played at the most romantic event of the year: Kanye West’s stadium marriage proposal to Kim Kardashian.
Wilson, who charmed fans of 2012’s “Pitch Perfect,” had a rockier 2013, with her sitcom “Super Fun Night” struggling creatively and in the ratings. Her next planned movies are both sequels, to “Kung Fu Panda” and -- hoping lightning will strike twice -- to “Pitch Perfect.”
Another 2012 music icon, Gotye won the record of the year trophy at the 2013 Grammys for “Somebody That I Used to Know.” He released no new singles in 2013, and has told the press he has been struggling to complete new material. Good luck, Gotye!
The golden boy of the 2012 Olympics, without feats of aquatic derring-do to distract the public this year, saw his always-tenuous persona completely shift from “amiable jock” into “utter dolt” with his E! reality series. Worst of all, the series was canceled.
In 2012, the young actress -- best known for her role in the indie “Winter’s Bone” and a supporting part in the “X-Men” franchise -- had marquee roles in the first “Hunger Games” film and in David O. Russell’s comedy “Silver Linings Playbook.” In 2013, she played to her strengths: After winning an Oscar, she starred in the second “Hunger Games” movie, on whose publicity tour she managed to charm everyone in America, and had another role in a David O. Russell comedy, “American Hustle,” for which she might just win ANOTHER Oscar. By 2014, she may end up running a major studio, or serving as president.
The breakout bikini model of 2012 made a repeat appearance on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue -- and got to do high-fashion spreads in Elle, Vogue and Vanity Fair. She was cast in a Cameron Diaz comedy, too. Some types of appeal are eternal!
E. L. James
The “50 Shades” novelist now gets to help share some input into a movie adaptation set for release in 2015. She probably never needs to work again! Isn’t that great? Isn’t that … just … great?
The “Gangnam Style” phenom performed at New Year’s 2013, but will spend New Year’s 2014 flipping channels to find his pistachio ad, his goofy antics having been outdone in the past year by “The Fox” singers Ylvis. Nothing meme can stay.
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