2017 is drawing to a close. Some may shed a tear but most would say, “Good riddance!” Of course, it is the annual human fallacy that things will be better “next year.” While that may be true for some individuals, the world always holds fast to its course on the Doomsday Train. Some resolutions are kept, most are abandoned, and things are looking about the same as last year by, oh, February.
That’s not to say that things don’t change. The general trajectory does not but the train cars gets shuffled around, people get booted out of first class and others take their seats, and sometimes whole carriages are lost. Seismic shifts happen in the little lives of the people on board, though to a distant observer, things are chugging along as they always have.
2017 brought some substantial cultural and political shifts to the American landscape, and to the world as well. Several perplexing political leaders emerged and explosive social causes burst forth like the xenomorph from that unlucky dude’s stomach. The nation was shocked by horrific acts of violence (though also not shocked), scandals toppled entertainment and business royalty, and all of creation groaned under the generic Latin dance hit “Despacito.” It wasn’t all bad news, though. DC finally realized that copying the Marvel formula results in a hit movie, and the most divisive Star Wars movie since long, long ago wrapped up the year in a Porg-patterned bow.
So what might next year look like for speculative entertainment? If this year was any indication, movies, books, and TV shows are going to become more political, and likely more liberal. Many may applaud this trajectory, but if you’re a Christian, don’t expect things to get more Bible-friendly (Jesus kind of promised this wouldn’t happen). Given the national backlash against conservatism (in its true and false political forms) by younger generations, urban dwellers, and especially Hollywood, I would say that the LGBTQAXYZ$&% agenda is going to become even more front-and-center in speculative entertainment. There is already a groundswell of support to couple Wonder Woman with a female love interest in the next film.
2017 was definitely the Year of the Women. Perhaps this was in reaction to Trump’s presidential victory, though who knows what would have happened if Hillary Clinton had won the election. There is a deliberate effort in the entertainment industry to put women in the spotlight, in front and behind the camera. Some may say this is a long overdue course correction, while others may say this is forced political correctness at the expense of storytelling. I suppose each case is different, but considering how successful the recent female-led Star Wars movies have been, along with Wonder Woman being the standout superhero movie of the year, most people don’t seem to mind.
That course correction will also continue with racial diversity. Black Panther will be the first nearly all black-cast superhero movie and it is going to be a smash hit whether it’s good or bad. The Last Jedi featured the debut of the first Asian-American actress in a Star Wars movie. Scarlett Johansson’s Ghost in the Shell didn’t go over so well (for a variety of reasons) but a big black mark against it was the studio’s choice to cast a white actress for a film based on Japanese anime. You can bet Hollywood won’t make that mistake again, at least for a few months.
I predict 2018 to be the year of overt identity politics in speculative politics. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it can easily become an irritating distraction. That’s not to say we should maintain the status quo and make movies with just hetero white males. It’s good to have diversity in the universes that we make from scratch. I’m not an uber-geek so I don’t cling to my fandoms as much as other people do, but I know that a lot of this rubs people the wrong way because it doesn’t feel natural. No one likes having their precious memories and imaginative properties become pawns for issues and causes they don’t care about or even oppose. The good news is that there are more choices than ever, so there’s no excuse to complain that you’re stuck with something you don’t like. And who knows…maybe Bibleman will get a blockbuster reboot!