8 Movie & TV Trends We're Ready to Leave Behind in 2023 (& 1 We Want More of)


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movie tv trends ghosted
Apple TV+

Throughout 2023, we've shipped Carmy's slow-burn romance on The Bear, salivated at the sight of Elizabeth's recipes on Lessons in Chemistry and chuckled at Logan Roy's unfiltered comebacks on Succession. And of course, we can't forget about the fast-paced adventures in Mission: Impossible 7 or the juicy love triangle on The Summer I Turned Pretty. It's been a very entertaining year for movies and TV, to say the least. But it wasn't without its fair share of off-putting themes and trends that, quite frankly, we're ready to leave behind in 2023.

For instance, what's with the lack of chemistry between romantic leads? And why are so many Netflix comedians problematic? Keep reading for eight trends we're ready to say goodbye to this year (and one we're craving more of in 2024).

devi ben never have i ever
Courtesy of Netflix

1. Narrow Depictions of Interracial Relationships

Eric and Adam from Sex Education. Devi and Ben from Never Have I Ever. Belly and Jeremiah from The Summer I Turned Pretty. Whitney and Andrew in The Sex Lives of College Girls. What do all of these couples have in common?

Yes, they’re all interracial couples—but you’ll also notice that all of them represent the same kind of interracial relationship: a BIPOC character with a partner who is white.

Now, of course, this isn’t to suggest that it’s wrong for people of color to have white love interests. (In fact, we totally ship some of these couples.) But here’s the problem: They feel like a very narrow representation of the complexities of interracial dating—and we see this particular pairing all the time. This trend didn't start in 2023, but it was certainly everywhere this year. (If you need more proof, consider Ezra and Amira from You People, or Mira and Ron from Love Again.) Meanwhile, examples of interracial couples between two non-white characters—like Elle and Tao from Heartstopper—are few and far between, and this shouldn’t be the case. Can we please change this in 2024?

2. "Blindfold Darts" Casting

Aaand speaking of on-screen romances, why did 2023 in particular bring us so many romantic leads that lack chemistry? Honestly, it’s as if casting directors were blindfolded and just threw darts at headshots when it came to pairing certain co-stars.

For instance, Netflix's You People starred Lauren London and Jonah Hill as interracial couple Amira and Ezra, but we weren't at all convinced that these two were in love. In fact, the chemistry was so non-existent that, if you look closely at the final kissing scene, you’ll notice that it was done with CGI. (Yes, seriously.)

Another noteworthy example is Sadie and Cole in Ghosted, played by Ana de Armas and Chris Evans. Although the actors previously joined forces for Knives Out and totally impressed fans with their chemistry in the film (though not as lovers), their relationship in Ghosted felt forced and there was zero connection, which turned out to be a major letdown. If we’re getting a film that’s going to center on a romantic couple, the least directors can do is ensure that the leads are believable as a couple.

3. Pandering Nostalgia

It’s no secret that this was a big year for nostalgia (too big, we would argue). Hollywood has offered plenty of opportunities to revisit the fondest memories from our past, and we fans have been all too happy to hop on board. But at what point does this nostalgia simply become pandering?

Millions flocked to the theaters in 50 shades of pink during the premiere of nostalgia-fest Barbie (don't worry, Greta Gerwig, we loved the film), and the live-action Little Mermaid, was there to take us right back to our childhoods. We got to throw things back again with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (a film all about mix-tapes and classic rock), Fast X (another entry in the Fast and the Furious universe that first debuted in 2001) and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (ahem, childhood memories). But guys, does this all seem a little…much?

Sure, many of these nostalgic titles have done well at the box office, but we can only feast on nostalgia for so long before it feels like we're being manipulated. Philip Mutz, VP of News and Entertainment at PureWow, writes, “A new Mission: Impossible (the franchise debuted in ’96), a Shrek spinoff (we first heard Mike Myers say 'Donkey' back in 2001), another Transformers (remember the toys and the ‘80s cartoon?!), another Creed (a spinoff of the classic Rocky), another Indiana Jones, another ScreamDungeons & Dragons…ANOTHER Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! It seems likely that this trend will continue well into 2024 and beyond. Let’s just hope our legs don’t get tired on what is bound to be a very long stroll down memory lane.”

4. The Problematic Stand-up Special

Guys, is no one vetting these stand-up comedians or at the very least watching their specials before they air? It's become a familiar cycle: A comedian releases their stand-up special on Netflix and, within just a few days, it hits the top 10 list of most-watched offerings. But in the following weeks, you spot headlines like: “Comedian Sparks Controversy” or “Comedian Responds to Netflix Special Backlash.” 

Sound familiar? That’s because we’ve seen the exact scenario play out with comedians like Ricky Gervais, who got called out for using an ableist slur in his routine, and Shane Gillis, who angered Australians after joking that the continent has "zero exports." Oh, and we can’t forget about Matt Rife, who came under fire after making an insensitive joke about domestic violence and insulting a 6-year-old's mom on Instagram. We're not here to be the comedy police (and there's an argument to be made for not being too sensitive to every single joke), but fingers crossed the new year brings us great specials that aren’t problematic or prone to backlash…

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Prime Video

5. So. Many. Penises.

Before you accuse us of being prude or anti-male nudity on screen (we're fully aware women have been bearing all in movies for decades), hear us out. We're not sure if we missed the memo, but has anyone else noticed that penises really are all over the place these days? Particularly in situations where it doesn't serve the story.

There's the 16-foot phallic monster in Beau Is Afraid, the Rock Bridge High School dog mascot that includes a giant schlong in Bottoms and Rufus's penis explosion in Gen-V—which is arguably one of the most disturbing scenes to ever air on TV. Plus, we can't forget about the abundance of large male genitalia in Rotting in the Sun. According to Entertainment Critic Coleman Spilde, "There were so many dongs in one frame that it was practically a carol of the bells—or rather, balls."

Sure, male nudity has been an ever-growing trend on screen in recent years. Perhaps it's about time, considering how long female actresses have been doing full-frontal, but not male actors. But this year in particular, it seems like the trend has morphed into a major obsession with big penises and it's...kind of a lot. We won't be forgetting that final dance scene from Saltburn or that torture scene from Obliterated anytime soon. Perhaps we can scale it back a smidge or take a break from the comically large iterations in 2024?

ezra miller the flash
Warner Bros. Pictures

6. Superheroes, Dumbed (All the Way) Down

We've seen it in this year's disappointing adaptation of The Flash, where Barry Allen's goofy, childish qualities are highlighted so much that he appears to lose all common sense. (He is often outshined by fellow Justice League heroes like Batman and Supergirl, which makes it hard to take him seriously.) And we saw this in Shazam: Fury of the Gods, where his maturity level just doesn't seem to grow at all (just take a look at his shared scene with Wonder Woman.)

Also, let's not forget about Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, where Scott's lighthearted, goofy side is put on full display and he appears less intelligent than he actually is. Rather than the resourceful and brilliant electrical engineer we met in the first movie, he's been dumbed down to a frazzled dad and memoirist who always seems overwhelmed and confused—even in battle. Sure, these titles may have a sillier tone, but if you ask us, this seems to be a common theme with superhero movies that flopped in 2023. Why reduce our favorite heroes to silly caricatures instead of developing them into nuanced characters we can actually relate to?

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Screen Gems

7. Facial Scars = Villain

While we're on the subject of Quantumania, you may have noticed that the main villain, Kang the Conquerer, has two prominent scars on his face. Obviously this is a trope that has existed for decades, but this is 2023, guys—it's time to let it go. You might also recall the demon-possessed Henry whose face is covered with little scars in The Pope's Exorcist, or Ellie's facial scarring in Evil Dead Rise.

Before you ask—yes, we're aware that these kinds of scars typically have a backstory behind them. For instance, we know that the demon within Henry is technically abusing his body. Even so, constantly associating scars with just evil villains can reinforce negative stereotypes, which explains why, earlier this year, major streaming platforms were asked to include disclaimers about villains that have visible differences.

Per Variety, Sex Education star Beth Bradfield, who has facial scarring, spoke out in support of this initiative. She said, “It’s so important that the film industry talks about the impact of harmful tropes of films of the past while making way for new and exciting stories that normalize those with visible differences on screen as real people with real stories to tell.”

8. Lack of Documentary Diversity

True-crime documentaries can be absorbing and eye-opening, but we can't help but notice that people of color are rarely the focus in the genre—especially when it comes to the victims and survivors who get interviewed. For example, the majority of victims who share their stories in Escaping Twin Flames are not women of color, even though the leaders target victims from many different backgrounds. The same can be said for titles like Victim/Suspect (take a look at the trailer above) and American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing.

While some titles do feature one or two victims of color, it still feels limiting because they don't get as much screen time as others (like Drea and Shanise—two Black women— from Escaping Twin Flames). Documentaries and docuseries are all about sharing the truth, and we're not saying we should change that. But clearly, there are more diverse true-crime stories and a more diverse pool of women who have stories to tell.

lastofus hero

One Trend We Want to See More: Solid Video Game Adaptations

Don't judge us, but we've had "Peaches" on repeat since we watched The Super Mario Bros. Movie. This charming adaptation brought in a whopping $1.3 billion at the box office, making it the second-highest-grossing film of 2023. And then we have HBO's The Last of Us, a thrilling story about a smuggler who escorts a teen across a post-apocalyptic United States. While Super Mario Bros. leans heavily on strong animation and nostalgia (yes, we know this runs counter to our "Lay off the nostalgia" argument, but we'll make an exception for Mario), the latter has solid storytelling, compelling characters and great action sequences. Both titles capture the essence of the original games, making them enjoyable for fans and newcomers alike. So, we wouldn't complain if we saw this trend of video game-inspired content pick up even more.

As of now, we know for sure that Fallout, Borderlands, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Arcane season two are all slated for 2024, so it may officially be the year of video game adaptations. Let's hope they're actually executed well...

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