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After watching Johnny Depp testify in court maybe it's time to rethink celebrity culture
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Johnny Depp

You’d be pretty hard pressed to take even a three-second scroll through the internet without seeing headlines about the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.

Depp, who is suing Heard for $50 million in part over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed piece alluding to her being a victim of domestic abuse (the abuser being Depp), recently gave testimony in court. And, like many personal matters belonging to a celebrity, it has been the subject of public scrutiny.

In the video (see below) Depp touched on his own experience with abuse in his childhood, wanting to protect his children, his drug addiction, disturbing texts he had sent to friends about Heard and how heartbroken he was that those he mentored or had given advice to might be questioning themselves now, thinking him to be a fraud. Just to name a few points.

Johnny Depp Testifies On Why He's Suing Amber Heard For Defamation www.youtube.com

While there is certainly lots to unpack there, there is still one bit that I find more striking:

“One day you're Cinderella and then in zero point six seconds you’re Quasimodo. I didn’t deserve that and neither did my children.”

If this isn’t the epitome of what’s problematic with our culture's misguided celebrity worship, I don't know what is.


It's been an interesting year so far for movie stars. With one slap, Will Smith went from one of Hollywood’s most likable guys to its most notorious. Ezra Miller, once regarded as a beloved LGBTQ savior, is now reduced to the punchline of some odd Spongebob meme. In his “Cinderella” days, Depp was by and large a consummate actor who, performance wise, could do no wrong. Now franchises find him untouchable.

The rate at which household names can go from “greatest” to “worst” of all time is enough to cause whiplash if you’re looking too closely. And what’s worse, in this act of dehumanizing, we are often at risk of losing touch with our own humanity. Which is especially ironic and tragic given that artists in particular serve a purpose to connect us to our humanity.

If it’s not obvious: I wanted to add a small disclaimer that I am not excusing bad actions, or waving the flag of anti cancel culture. There is definitely something to be said about how celebrity status often exonerates wrongdoing unfairly. But really, I find that worship and vilification are two sides of the same coin. And maybe, just maybe, what we really need to do to break us of the movie star spell is to toss away the coin altogether.

There was a time when actors and artists weren’t seen as beyond human. In fact, it could be argued that back in the days of traveling thespian shows, actors were seen as subhumans, but that’s beside the point. Perhaps this recent fall of the movie star is a chance for us to collectively reclaim some mental freedom away from fame’s siren song. As we have recently seen, it’s certainly not the guarantee for happiness it once was.

A growing number of Americans no longer have gods to revere or royalty to idolize. In their absence, celebrities have taken up that mantle for many. But in this modern age of information traveling at the speed of WiFi, illusion and mystery are no longer the great shields they once were. Now, the spotlight mercilessly peers down into every crack in the veneer. And much like a real dying star, it’s as though these people are collapsing in on themselves, crushed by the massive weight of their own fabricated persona.

Perhaps it is unfair to view any human as some sort of celestial being. As we have seen multiple times, this leads to disappointment, abuse of power and unrealistic expectations. And perhaps worst of all, it removes us from compassion. Tons of debates are being had about whether Depp or Heard is lying, about whether this will be Hollywood’s “ugliest” breakup or if that will go to Will and Jada, and about whether or not we’ll ever see Depp on the screen again. Few are discussing the tragedy that their family must be going through, or talking about the heartbreak of love turned toxic. And then there’s the question: should we be weighing in on their life at all? It’s a fine line, being a public figure and all, but something worth considering.

Hollywood continues to adapt (for better or worse is up to viewer discretion). And as it does, movie stars like Depp might continue to lose their luster … if not eliminate it altogether. But hopefully that leads to a new renaissance. One where no one is beyond accountability or unworthy of empathy. Hopefully we don’t find new false idols, but instead value discernment above all.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


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Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment "What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

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No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

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Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

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Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.