The 10 weirdest movie and TV trends of 2023

5 months ago 702
A composite of images from shows and films from 2023.

2023 gifted us with some excellent movies and TV shows — and some strange coincidences between them.

Who would have guessed that characters from Yellowjackets and The Great would meet the same grisly fate? Or that multiple HBO shows would pay tribute to a '70s rock hit? Or that the MCU would use the same explosive plot point twice in one year? Basically, to paraphrase Dr. Doofenshmirtz, if we had a nickel each time one of these trends showed up, we'd have two nickels. Which isn't a lot, but it's weird that it happened twice!

From supersized sex scenes to cannibalistic foreshadowing, here are 10 of the weirdest entertainment trends from 2023.

Frozen ground = cannibalism

 A young woman outside in the snow, and a group of people eating stew by a fireplace.
Credit: Composite: Kailey Schwerman / Showtime // Liane Hentscher / HBO

Cannibalism was a big trend from 2022 into 2023, thanks to everything from the coming-of-age drama Bones and All, Netflix's controversial Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, the epic teen drama show Yellowjackets, and the brilliant video game adaptation The Last of Us. It's the last two of these where cannibalism came from some grim practicality. In dark settings where death is ever-present, frozen ground means there's no way to bury bodies. And food scarcity means, well, waste not, want not. Where in The Last of Us it was a creepy cult that made stew of human flesh, in Yellowjackets it was a team effort — and some fateful but unlikely cooking — that led to Jackie going from mean girl to main course. But those aren't the only similarities these hit series have in common…Kristy Puchko, Film Editor

How to watch: Yellowjackets is now streaming on Showtime. The Last of Us is now streaming on Max.

Celebrities playing themselves — and becoming sex aids

 Pete Davidson sitting on a couch, and James Marsden leaning over a table.
Credit: Composite: Heidi Gutman / Peacock // Courtesy of Amazon Freevee

Many people may dream of having sex with a celebrity, but what about having a celebrity help you out during sex? For two TV couples this year, that oddly specific dream became a hilarious reality — and it's all thanks to Pete Davidson and James Marsden. The two play fictionalized versions of themselves in Bupkis and Jury Duty, respectively. Somehow, both actors wind up in the middle of some bizarre sex capers. 

For Pete Davidson, that means helping his family friend Roy (Brad Garrett) get some extra, erm, "thrust" when his hip dysplasia acts up in an encounter with a sex worker. Meanwhile, James Marsden helps two jurors (Edy Modica and Mekki Leeper) hook up for the first time by… jumping on a bed. It's the kind of cringe comedy you just have to see to believe. — Belen Edwards, Entertainment Reporter

How to watch: Bupkis is now streaming on Peacock. Jury Duty is now streaming on Amazon Freevee.

Sex scenes with superhuman size differences

 A young woman in a white button-up shirt, and a 13-foot-tall young man stooping to avoid hitting his head on the ceiling.
Credit: Composite: Brooke Palmer / Prime Video // Courtesy of Prime Video

The sex trends continue with a double whammy of shows courtesy of Prime Video: Boots Riley's I'm a Virgo, and The Boys spinoff Gen V. In the former, 13-foot-tall giant Cootie (Jharrel Jerome) has sex with his crush Flora (Olivia Washington), a normal-sized human. In the latter, superhuman Emma (Lizze Broadway) shrinks down to satisfy a coercive college hookup. 

The tone of each scene is wildly different, with I'm a Virgo's leaning into the comedy of the size difference and the surprisingly sweet ways Cootie and Flora work around it. Gen V's scene, on the other hand, is deliberately uncomfortable, as Emma is pressured into shrinking, a process linked to disordered eating. However, both scenes do share some impressive visual effects work to bring these wild size differences to life. (And this certainly isn't the first time a show from The Boys universe has used a giant model penis). — B.E.

How to watch: I'm a Virgo and Gen V are now streaming on Prime Video.

Timing your crying

 A young woman sitting on a bench, and a woman in a dark suit sitting in a conference room.
Credit: Composite: AppleTV+ // David Russell / HBO

Compartmentalizing one's emotions seems like a Herculean task for most of us, but some of our favorite TV characters really leaned into scheduled crying this year — specifically by making time to do it. Apple TV+'s Shrinking saw Harrison Ford's therapist character, Paul, suggesting "15 minutes of sadness" for the grieving Jimmy (Jason Segel) and his daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell) — for which they both turn to Phoebe Bridgers (who else?). Condensing one's emotions into a neatly packaged private moment also underscored Succession, with the Roys managing their grief in different ways — while Kieran Culkin's Roman lets rip on a mountaintop at Alexander Skarsgård's Lukas Matsson, Sarah Snook's Shiv books meeting rooms for 20-minute sessions to process her emotions. "You're scheduling your grief?" Tom asks. But his cruel incredulity is misplaced — honestly, I can get behind both of these suggestions, and so do some therapists. — Shannon Connellan, UK Editor

How to watch: Shrinking is now streaming on AppleTV+. Succession is now streaming on Max.

Death by falling through ice

 A young woman reaches through a hole in an icy lake to grab someone's hand, and a young woman in white furs stands in a snowy forest.
Credit: Composite: Kailey Schwerman / SHOWTIME // Christopher Raphael / Hulu

TV this year saw no shortage of dramatic deaths, from Logan Roy's mid-flight pulmonary embolism to the many, many Clicker kills of The Last of Us. But if you wanted to off a character in trendy fashion in 2023, nothing was hotter (so to speak) than falling through ice. 

In the second season of Yellowjackets, Javi (Luciano Leroux) meets a brutal end in the icy waters of the wilderness. The same goes for The Great's Peter the Great (Nicholas Hoult), who, after surviving two and a half seasons of assassination attempts, plunges into an icy river in the show's third season. Both deaths are horrifying accidents with major consequences for the rest of the season. Javi's death sends the Yellowjackets further into ritualized killing and cannibalism, while Peter's loss pushes Catherine (Elle Fanning) into a deep grief and an unsuccessful cover-up attempt. Oh, and to make the connection even stranger, both episodes aired in May. Something must have been in the air (or in the icy cold water). — B.E.

How to watch: Yellowjackets is now streaming on Showtime. The Great is now streaming on Hulu.

Taylor Swift provides the ultimate TV soundtrack

 A man on the phone in a car, a young woman in a high school gym, a young man in a forest, and a young woman in a blue ball gown.
Credit: Composite: Chuck Hodes / FX // Erika Doss / Prime Video // Samuel Dore/Netflix / AppleTV+

Devils roll the dice, angels roll their eyes, and Taylor Swift songs dominated pop culture this year beyond her record-breaking tour and box office-smashing concert film. The pop monarch debuted various (Taylor's Version) tracks on trailers, but Swift's music was especially prominent in TV shows. From Richie's triumphant car rendition of "Love Story" in The Bear to Heartstopper's perfect use of "Seven," The Buccaneers' excellent use of the vulnerable Phoebe Bridgers duet "Nothing New," to the avalanche of Swift songs in The Summer I Turned Pretty, music supervisors were leaning hard into the artist's catalogue this year. As Mashable's Elena Cavender writes, "If The Bear and Heartstopper prove anything, it's that Swift's gifts as a storyteller can add emotional weight to a singular moment. When well-placed, it not only draws her fans into a show, but elevates the whole story." — S.C.

How to watch: The Bear is now streaming on Hulu. Heartstopper is now streaming on Netflix. The Buccaneers is now streaming on AppleTV+. The Summer I Turned Pretty is now streaming on Prime Video.

Cool planet, MCU. Sure hope nothing happens to it. 

 A woman in a red, blue, and gold supersuit and a man in an exploding spaceship.
Credit: Composite: Laura Radford / Marvel Studios

Post-Snap, the MCU has been mired in grief. And if the dogged focus on death and mourning wasn't depressing enough, two of Marvel's tentpoles this year introduced audiences to cool new planets with intriguing inhabitants — only to annihilate them. It's like fridging on a planetary scale! First, the cuddly animal-human hybrids of Counter Earth were exterminated in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3. Then, The Marvels ushered us into the musical theater planet of Aladna, where all communication is sung (and danced). But no sooner do we get to see Captain Marvel duetting with an intergalactically dashing prince than in comes a Big Bad to blow them out of the canon. Back-to-back it not only felt frustrating but lazy. Here's hoping the next phase brings back the fun — without immediately smashing it to bits. — K.P.

How to watch: Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 is now streaming on Disney+. The Marvels is now in theaters.

HBO shows pay tribute to "Desperado" by The Eagles

 A man in a suit in a karaoke bar, a man in a brown jacket, and a bearded man seated at a piano.
Credit: Composite: Macall Polay / HBO // Merrick Morton / HBO // Liane Hentscher / HBO

One song unified three of HBO's best offerings of 2023: The Eagles' "Desperado." First appearing as a prospective karaoke choice for Succession's Connor Roy (Alan Ruck), it then popped up as musical accompaniment for Gene Cousineau's (Henry Winkler) one-man show in Barry. To make matters weirder, both "Desperado" mentions appeared in Season 4, episode 2 of each show, which aired within weeks of each other. How deep does this thing go?

Deeper, as it turns out! Singer Linda Ronstadt recorded a well-known cover of "Desperado" — and her song "Long, Long Time" ended up playing a major role in The Last of Us' tear-jerking episode of the same name. We may never see any of the Roys interact with Barry, or with Joel and Ellie, but at least we'll have this (very tenuous) musical connection. — B.E.

How to watch: Succession, Barry, and The Last of Us are now streaming on Max.

Horror franchises coming back from the dead

 A cloaked killer in a Ghostface mask, an undead woman in a bathtub, and Billy the Puppet from Saw
Credit: Composite: Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures / Lionsgate

Big horror movies often end up with a sequel or two, but it's not often they're as popular (or profitable) as the original. And by the time a franchise is four, five, six movies deep? Usually it's just the diehard fans clinging on. Not in 2023, though. This year, alongside a bunch of brilliant new horror movies, there were also some gory resurrections. 42 years after the original, Evil Dead Rise gave the franchise a dusting off that proved successful with both audiences and critics; Scream VI, meanwhile, become the first movie in the franchise since 1997's Scream 2 to pass $100 million in domestic sales; lastly, Saw X, the series' 10th installment, was so well received that Mashable's Siddhant Adlakha described it as not just good, but "good in a way that none of the other Saw films have been." Maybe 2023 was the year that brought horror franchises back from the dead? — Sam Haysom, Deputy UK Editor

How to watch: Evil Dead Rise is now streaming on Max. Scream VI is now streaming on Paramount+. Saw X is now available for rent and purchase on Prime Video, YouTube, and Google Play.

Hot dogs become the star of the show

 Two men and a woman talking in a kitchen, and a woman in sunglasses.
Credit: Composite: Richard Foreman Jr. / A24 / Paramount+ with Showtime / Courtesy of Netflix

After Everything Everywhere All at Once made hot dog fingers a phenomenon, two buzzy, late-2023 titles harnessed the power of hot dogs for some other memorable moments. In director Todd Haynes' May December, Julianne Moore's Gracie utters the seemingly mundane line,"I don't think we have enough hot dogs." But when paired with Moore's uber-serious delivery, some dramatic piano music, and a well-timed zoom, this banal phrase becomes something else entirely. It's one of May December's most overt nods to melodrama, keeping us at a distance from the troubling story at its heart.

Elsewhere, hot dogs become a conduit for cringe in Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie's The Curse. In the show's third episode, HGTV stars and oblivious white saviors Asher and Whitney (Fielder and Emma Stone) buy a house, only to find a Somali family already living there. When Whitney learns that father Abshir (Barkhad Abdi) is making hot dogs, she makes a snap assumption and asks whether he makes them with rice. Nope, to her disappointment, Abshir is just making them with buns — or "cookout style!" as she proclaims. Who knew a hot dog could evoke so much second-hand embarrassment? — B.E.

How to watch: May December is now streaming on Netflix. The Curse is now streaming on Paramount+ with Showtime.

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