11 pop culture predictions for the 2020s

The streaming boom. Gangnam Style. Baby Yoda. It'd have been nearly impossible, in 2009, to predict all the twists and turns pop culture would make in the 2010s.

Still, while it might be next to impossible to predict what will be the "Sorry to This Man" of the 2010s, there are plenty of emerging trends that suggest what the next decade could look like. Here's what our crystal ball says lies in store in the next 10 years of entertainment.

1. Dead movie stars will be the new (alive) movie stars

People have been speculating that CGI actors will replace real stars for years, but it seems like the 2020s might be the decade it finally happens. While dead actors like Paul Walker and Carrie Fisher have been resurrected for franchise roles, some creators are already exploring the possibility of casting long-gone stars in new, original features. Finding Jack, a Vietnam War film currently in pre-production, has reportedly cast James Dean, who died in a car crash at the age of 24 in 1955, in its lead role. It likely won't be the only time we see a dead actor appear in the top billing this decade.

2. Americans will get over subtitlephobia

From Roma to the popularity of this year's Parasite, The Farewell, and TV shows like Los Espookys, more and more foreign language films and shows are resonating with American audiences. Part of that is likely because of our nation's growing bilingualism; about a fifth of Americans can speak more than one language, a number that is on the rise. Part of it also might be a growing appreciation for our country as a linguistic melting pot; just look at the crossover popularity, for example, of songs like "Despacito." This is exciting stuff — without being limited to English, there are so many more great movies, TV shows, and songs that can be enjoyed.

3. A woman will become the head coach of a major men's sports team

This November, Rachel Balkovec joined the New York Yankees' payroll to become "the first woman hired as a full-time hitting coach by a big-league team," The New York Times reports. Also this year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers became the first NFL team to hire two full-time female coaches, while four women are already on NBA coaching staffs. And while we still might be a few years away from a woman becoming the head coach of a major professional men's sports teams, it seems like the reign of all-male coaches is rapidly coming to an end in America.

4. Streaming will further blur the lines between TV and movies

When the influential French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma named a TV show as the "movie of the decade," they were, deservedly, roasted. But the question of what constitutes a movie vs. a TV show is increasingly nebulous and confusing. On the one hand, this debate evidences how good TV has been these past 10 years; when people debate if something like Twin Peaks: The Return is a movie or TV show, they're usually "discussing the quality of production, storytelling and acting," writes The New York Times. "The better a TV show is in this regard, the more likely it is to be referred to as a multi-episode 'movie.'" But on the other hand, we've seen medium-bending works on the rise. What of O.J.: Made in America, for example, which was broken up in installments but won best documentary feature at the 2017 Academy Awards? We've just experienced the tip of the iceberg here; don't expect the debate to get packed away any time soon.

5. Quentin Tarantino will "retire"

If you believe Quentin Tarantino when he says he's going to retire after 10 movies, then he only has one more movie left in him before putting himself out to pasture. I'm willing to bet that not only do we see his "last" movie in the next 10-year span, we see him come back out of retirement for his 11th feature, too. If one fact holds true across all decades, it's this one: Celebrities never really retire.

6. Climate horror will be the new "elevated horror"

Mankind only has until 2030 to head off catastrophic climate change, but world leaders seem more intent on insulting teenage girls than actually doing anything to help. As such, expect to see climate anxiety become a major theme in horror films from around the world in the coming years. While so-called "elevated" horror by Ari Aster, Jordan Peele, and Robert Eggers dominated the 2010s, movies like 2019's Crawl and Godzilla: King of the Monsters signal a shift. Moving into the 2020s, we'll see an adaptation of Jeff Vandermeer's Hummingbird Salamander, inspired by our "dystopian present" — and likely many more where that came from.

7. We'll usher in the era of highbrow agitprop

From President Trump being in office to worldwide movements centered around climate change and immigration, it can be easy to look at the modern era and argue that nothing can be apolitical any longer. What's more interesting, though, is the uptick in directors who are using the public's intensified interest in politics to make movies that serve as calls-to-arms. From 2019 films like Dark Waters and The Report, thrillers that underscore the broken American political system are more than just propaganda: they're a uniquely 21st-century genre that's just coming into its own.

8. Avatar 2 will finally come out

This feels like the shakiest of my predictions but yes, I do think that more than 10 years after Avatar premiered in 2009, this will be the decade we get the second installment in James Cameron's four-part series. At the time of writing, Avatar 2 is planned for 2021, which means you can peg Avatar 3 to come out sometime around ... 2033.

9. We'll get a whole series of movies with a "female James Bond"

The gender-swapped movie was a staple of the 2010s, be it the women-led Ghostbusters, Ocean's 8, or What Men Want. Perhaps the biggest classic hero to have remained — so far — untouched, though, is the swaggering playboy James Bond. With Daniel Craig assuring that, no really, he never, ever, ever wants to play 007 again, the space was wide open for creators to cast Lashana Lynch as the new MI6 agent. That being said, hopefully we'll get some original women badasses this decade, too.

10. Music biopics and documentaries are here to stay

Whether it's a biopic like Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, or a concert film like Homecoming, it seems as if the whole film industry is betting on music-based movies to fuel the next 10 years of box office and streaming selections. While music movies like Walk the Line and Ray have long been Oscar bait, the "combination of 2015's Straight Outta Compton and [2018's] Bohemian Rhapsody have exposed just how much money can be made when a huge studio and its subject matters back a musical biopic," wrote The Week contributor Gregory Wakeman. Hang on: This trend is just getting started.

11. We're going to find out what's on the other side of "peak TV"

Just ask anyone: We're living in the golden age of television. But what happens on the other side of "peak TV?" We're probably about to find out, and soon; the antiheroes of the prestige television era have already become a thing of the past. As streaming takes over as the default mode of watching television, the old standbys of the medium — like standardized half-hour or hour-long runtimes — are becoming obsolete. And while TV is still generally constructed in stand-alone episodes or season-long arcs, we will likely see creators upend those old "givens" of the format, too. Additionally, we can bid farewell to blockbuster shows that everyone watches, like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Game of Thrones, as streaming takes the pressure off of ratings and allows for more niche and untraditional content. Plus, with Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, Apple TV+, and others throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, some exceptionally great small-budget programs will likely emerge. Ten years is a long time, though; I, for one, can't wait to be surprised by it all.

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