The 2023 Trend Forecast
A few ideas of where things are going to go this year.
For the second year, we’re going to discuss some storylines that may define this year. I do not fancy myself a proper trend “forecaster” but a big part of The Trend Report™ is the result of noticing “a story” emerging in culture, which is shared through round-ups and essays. Through literary thinking and pattern recognition, I hope to shine a light on the path versus offering a map. Take these thoughts as you will!
There was a clip of Bo Burnham that went viral last year, pulled from a 2019 panel where Bo and actor Elsie Fisher spoke about the film Eighth Grade’s themes with ABC News. “They’re coming for every second of your life,” he says of media companies and social networks. “They have to grow. Their entire models are based off of growth.” As we wander toward environmental collapse and a likely recession, the fingers are no longer pointing at ourselves as individual actors in these issues but at the people upstairs, at the corporations and billionaires who are doing this to us all again: capitalism’s insatiable hunger, to grow and grow and grow, is killing us all. There are so many varieties of conversations around this now – the inability to retire, that there are no ethical billionaires, corporations gaming inflation, complaining about capitalism, the loss of quality goods, “eat the rich” narratives, the oncoming techno real estate collapse – but they all are about how the need to growth is making us all crazy, deteriorating the planet and our minds. As a culture, as a planet, this is the issue as it touches everything, from racial and societal inequalities to our posting on social media. A growing number of things suggest this – Extinction Rebellion “quitting,” talk about a “polycrisis,” conversations about the endless “hamster wheeling” of busyness, universal basic income – which seem to take 2021’s “No one wants to work.” and pushes it to the logical conclusion: work sucks and should be abolished. This will not happen, even though our lives literally depend on this. We can expect a lot of conversations about alternative economic models and theories.
As the growth economy proves – and as anti-capitalism manifests – the highest luxury of all is doing nothing. We’ll keep moving beyond “I am not doing anything.” to revolt against culture, recolonizing our lives to be what we make it to be. We’re seeing this with the transition away from Kardashian always-on-ness and the rise of the secretive celebrity lifestyle like that of Emma Chamberlain: people have realized the trap of the internet and want to reclaim themselves for themselves. With Twitter going down and brands needing us to “post about them” to survive – not to mention being in a surveillance state – privacy is going to be in. I wrote about this in a ways before regarding Emma but, when everything is a camera, you have to avoid being shot. That means logging off and disappearing. Everyone wants to be famous, but no one wants the paparazzi.
Simply put: there is too much content. Now that we can all literally have channels, now that every channel has their own streaming service, now that every brand wants to be a human: there are too many storylines, leaving us glutted with endless queues, making watching things a full time job. No wonder we want to log off! To exist on line is to be marketed to and to market. It sucks! This is also to say: Hollywood is killing itself because there is too much of it. We are a child who asked for cake and now we are the tenth day straight of eating only cake. This has created a texture of everything “feeling the same” in culture, a homogeneity where everything is trending, thus core core, thus all of our streams being hellscapes. When we think about the growth economy, when we think about doing less, the biggest targets are placed on social media and Hollywood, which people are realizing are very much industries and not just a magic place of dreams and movies. Take awards shows: fun, sure, but it’s basically someone’s work party, full of rich people and nepotism families, performing for the camera so you can continue to fill their pockets with your coins. Not to mention that movies and shows are just too fucking long these days. There are too many needless shows and seasons! Fewer and fewer entertainers and creatives recognize the power in leaving a party early, of ending things, of saying “This is finished.” No wonder everything feels dissolved, non-cohesive, and void of a message: because there’s simply too much going on for too long to focus on anything.
The heyday of “Gen Z is novel and they are the boss now!!” seemed to have reached its peak last year. Yes, we’ll obviously this group will continue to be a driver of conversation but they’re hitting a saturation or normalization point in that their being “new” to adulthood and the world at large is no longer as appealing as the entire marketing and social landscape has been molded in their image. This means: those who rewrote their rules for them are going to start holding them accountable, to think more critically about what it means to “reach Gen Z.” We are seeing this with emerging conversation that I’ve written about regarding the cultural conservatism that Gen Z plays in, which dovetails into the Zoomers-are-bullies trend, which dovetails into the Zoomers-are-surveillance-operators trend, which is going to run into the Zoomers-going-lo-fi and Zoomers-going-indie and Zoomers-living-in-2003 trends of living in the past. We’re hitting a point where everything is becoming a satanic panic, largely driven by TikTok and Zoomers who see the clout in pointing fingers or who are mashing together “cores” for kicks, which businesses about-face to get their dollars. Take the recent and ridiculous Coach satanic panic as a great example of this. As fabulous as Zoomers are, as much as I love them, we’re reaching an accountability tipping point, where conversations are going to de-center this group given their smaller size – at least until the next election.
The irony of all this and the aforementioned is that we as a society are losing religion. We all know this! We now are standing in a growing shadow, which means respectability politics are in as we try to escape things like allegations of being a groomer, getting canceled for being racist, etc. The dissolution of religion is good, meaning the government may become less theocratic while we realize how absolutist these philosophies can be. With generations getting more and more liberal (Stay tuned on Gen Z though.), religion is going to become a niche culture and aesthetic instead of a practice. Yes, we will have exhaustive moments where a religious line of thinking grips society – but we can see the downfall or degradation of these institutions in our lifetime. (At least in America, as other places in the world are still very religious.) The question, as many of us have reflected on, is what will replace religion. We’re seeing “self-care” take the lead, followed by shopping/consumerist identities and fandoms. Hopefully, we’ll be more productive and more mindful than this, turning to the planet and our communities to think more expansively about what it means to be together.
Smaller trend items I’m watching –
The continued super power of fandom. More powerful than generations are fandoms. Just ask Coachella booking Bad Bunny and Blackpink! You can also see this with Ana de Armas’ fans suing filmmakers for deception. Fans are legitimate. We will continue to see their power grow!
Illiteracy. With the years of Covid having chipped away at a generation’s reading and writing and other school skills, we’re going to start noticing that so many lack the ability to understand big problems in the world. We’re already seeing this, particularly with the left. It’s a battle of brains versus those who can speak loudest. We all lose.
2013 & 1983. If I had to put my money on years and times making an aesthetic comeback – not in media though, but in fashion and on TikTok – it would be these two years. The 1980s has yet to have a breakout moment with Gen Z, which the end of Stranger Things will yield along with the longing for the lo-fi (not to mention Barbie and 80s core girls). Moreover, post-2012 seems right to go beyond “indie sleaze” and into post-hipster grunge, which will dovetail into the re-rise of the adorkable.
Make things dumb again. Particularly men and dogs, as those dogs with buttons are so very firmly out of style and seen as a bit cruel. Here’s a great essay on this.
The Julia Roberts comeback. Of all the stars getting their third acts, it’s time for Julia’s. So many signs point to this. Now is the time, with her inevitable entry into something like a Marvel universe.
Redo it. Recycling and thrifting are going to turn into an era of customizing old clothes. Think the work of Marine Serre taken to smaller levels, like Mutt Museum and Come Tees.
Forever online. The madness of the “chronically online” discourse is going to get crazier and crazier. This relates to conservative Gen Z but we can expect more things like this to happen in response.
Wastelessness. I think the era of the wasteful, ridiculous, slightly porn-y creator is going to come to an end as the call-out adjacent reality check creators like @tanaradoublechocolate have proven in the past few months.
The end of fillers. I feel like this is a long time coming but, now that we understand how difficult fillers are to remove, this era seems to be coming to a close. Pair this with the end of designer bodies as shown by the Kardashians and we’re going to start unplugging from plasticized beauty as such.
Questioning the questioners. The TikTok person-on-the-street interview trend is going to take weird turns because…most of them aren’t that good at their job. We can expect a lot more of these parodies related to TikTok culture.
What do you think? What are you watching? What are you predicting? Do you like posts like this??
I think you are so insightful and spot on with a lot of these. The way that you distill all of the patterns and themes that you see in current media is genius and much needed. Anyway, I love reading your analyses. Whenever I see them in my inbox, they are mostly read immediately. Thank you.
Illiteracy and hyper literacy. For some, Death of twitter and distrust of tik tok algorithm could lead thirsty internet kids towards better long form media. SubStack forever