The savviest minds couldn’t have predicted what 2020 wrought, from a global pandemic to journalists successfully cheering on a presidential candidate.
The same held true for the world of entertainment.
Theaters shuttered nationwide. Virtual concerts replaced the real thing. Celebrities mocked their fans in revolting ways for wanting to restart their shuttered businesses.
So what might pop culture bring in 2021? The new year may bring another round of surprises, but the following predictions are safer bet given current trend lines.
Stars Backpedal, Continued:
This year saw several stars renounce their own work, something that rarely happens. Sure, George Clooney never stops trashing his tenure as the Dark Knight in “Batman and Robin,” but actors are generally gracious enough to avoid bashing their own projects.
Plus, a gig’s a gig, and even the biggest stars have a few clunkers on their resume.
Now, if an auteur is suddenly deemed beyond the pale, like Woody Allen, stars will regret appearing in his films, like Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Hall did this year.
Or, if a film is suddenly considered racially insensitive for real or perceived reasons the cast may send their regrets, as Viola Davis did when she regretted appearing in 2011’s “The Help.”
More recently, British actress Gemma Arterton said she wished she never played a Bond Girl, a trope suddenly out of vogue in the #MeToo era.
Expect more of this … and the backpedaling may occur before anyone can even fake outrage about the role or movie in question.
Hollywood and the PC Police:
More stars will be pulled over by the PC police for both saying the “wrong” thing or “newly resurfaced” comments. That’s a lock. Cancel Culture roared back following George Floyd’s death after a brutal police altercation. While most Cancel Culture victims will do the humiliating Apology Tour others might wake up to its toxic nature.
That’s what happened when comic turned actor Jim Gaffigan got trashed for starring in a movie, “Being Frank,” about a father and son. Some critics seized on the storyline and wondered why the movie didn’t follow a mother and daughter instead. That brand of woke criticism flummoxed Gaffigan, and he said so during a chat with Joe Rogan.
Sarah Silverman had a partial change of heart about Cancel Culture when she lost a film role for performing in blackface on her old Comedy Central series. It didn’t matter that the moment highlighted cultural racism.
She got punished anyway and quietly changed her mind about Cancel Culture.
Late Night Finds New Targets:
Colbert, Kimmel, Fallon and co. spent four years trashing President Donald Trump while ignoring political targets with a “D” attached to their names. Now, with President Joe Biden around the corner, these self-styled “truth-tellers” will swiftly stop speaking “truth to power.”
They won’t lay a glove on either Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris. Instead, these partisans will lean even harder on their biases.
They may start crafting jokes that amplify the Biden-Harris agenda at the expense of the GOP, Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro or other notable conservatives.
It’s what happened on “Key & Peele” via its Obama Anger Translator routine, a sketch which glorified President Obama over his rivals. If Harris ascends to the presidency we’ll see comedians actively fawn over her, ignoring any real or perceived flaws in her administration.
None of this will be remotely funny.
The Streaming Wars Will Get Ugly:
Many rejoiced when services like Netflix and Hulu allowed them to cut the cable cord – and save big bucks in the process. Now? If you subscribe to Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and other emerging services (Peacock, HBO Max) it may cost as much as your average cable bill.
At some point consumers will start getting choosy about the services they enjoy, forcing a price war between the various companies.
Big Tech Declares War on Conservative Comedy:
It’s already happening.
Comics like JP Sears, Nick Di Paolo and Ryan Long already face censorship for sharing right-leaning yuks. That will intensity under a Biden administration, no doubt.
Most mainstream comics (Comedy Central stars, late night hosts, “Saturday Night Live”) will avoid mocking the new president, opening a huge opportunity for comedians who work on the periphery.
Rising stars like Andrew Schulz, Tim Dillon, Sears and Long will continue creating comedy that doesn’t fit a progressive mold. They’ll have to get crafty to reach their fans as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and others continue to throttle their reach. That might lead them to newer platforms that embrace free speech, like Rumble (YouTube), Parler (Twitter) and MeWe (Facebook).
Movie Theaters Aren’t Coming Back (Yet):
Film fanatics will keep watching their favorite movies, and the newest releases, at home in 2021.
That marks a trend that started before the COVID-19 pandemic but blossomed under strict lockdown orders.
Consumers now expect, and receive, movie-style content in the comfort of their homes. Platforms like Netflix deliver just that, films created by some of Hollywood’s brightest visionaries (“Mank” by David Fincher, “The Irishman” by Martin Scorsese). Disney+ served up “Soul,” a Pixar film originally crafted for the big screen. “Mulan” similarly bowed on the pay service.
There’s another factor in play. The media spent nearly an entire year scaring Americans about COVID-19, burying hopeful news and amplifying the worst of the worst. We responded in kind, abandoning theaters even when big-budget fare graced their screens (“Tenet,” “Wonder Woman 1984”).
Warner Bros. recognized this reality a few weeks back, announcing all their 2021 theatrical releases will simultaneously debut on HBO Max as well as surviving cineplexes.
It will take time, and less frightening headlines, before Americans fully trust the movie-going experience again. That won’t happen in 2021.
Christian Toto is the editor of the Colorado-based HollywoodInToto.com.