What’s Next for Popculture?
For the last eleven years, Marvel has dominated cinema and for the last eight years Game of Thrones has dominated our TV screens. Both of these entertainment juggernauts are ending their original storylines this year, so what’s next?
From the time Iron Man hit the big screens in 2008, Marvel became a pop culture phenomenon that no one could escape. The world has followed the first three “phases” of The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to it’s conclusion with Avengers: Endgame earlier this year and Spiderman: Far From Home, which will release later this year. On the small screen, the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones premiered in April of this year and will end on 19 May, after which HBO will release a documentary about the making of the show. With both of these franchises ending their original run, it is safe to say that this is an end of a pivotal pop culture moment. Both the Marvel movies and Game of Thrones have changed their respective mediums.
The 22 Marvel films have turned superheroes into a cultural phenomenon and created a previously unseen popularity for the genre. The films also introduced the “extended universe” medium to Hollywood by having all their films connect in some way or other. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has also shown that films with minority or female leads can make as much money as others, with Black Panther making over a billion dollars in the world-wide box office and the same goes for Captain Marvel.
Game of Thrones has also changed the television environment by proving that bigger budgets can pay off, according to Variety each episode of the final season had an estimated budget of 15 million dollars. The show has also shown that audiences appreciate a higher production value, this can be seen through the show’s reliance on movie-quality CGI and large-scale sets. Game of Thrones has shown that risks and boldness are something a TV audience can appreciate, the show has never shied away from being explicit with more mature content and has taken bold steps as far as storyline goes by killing off their main character in the first season.
“With both of these franchises ending their original run, it is safe to say that this is an end of a pivotal pop culture moment.”
So, what’s next? Well, neither of these franchises are slowing down, with HBO confirming a prequel show already in the works for the Game of Thrones universe, and another three potential spin-off series. Marvel is not going anywhere either as Disney announced eight other Marvel movies coming after Spiderman: Far From Home, as well as three confirmed Marvel series coming to their Disney+ streaming service. With all these projects surrounding these two franchises, the question has to be asked as to whether audiences will eventually become bored with these stories and start to wonder whether it’s time for something fresher.
There is however some hope as to the direction these two powerhouses are going in. HBO’s CEO Richard Pleper told Variety that the prequel series will have a “fresh, exciting perspective”. As for Marvel, the studio has taken more risks recently by hiring more creativity-driven and stylistic directors such as Taika Waititi (Thor Ragnarok) and James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and 2). The studio has also shown an interest in representation by casting minority and female leads. These decisions could lead to a very different and diverse Marvel universe in the future.
The future of pop culture could go anywhere from here, although, cinema has shown an increased interest in the horror and sci-fi genre. It is unknown whether either will tap into the level of popularity that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had. As for television, there has been an increase in single-season tv shows, that could mark a shift from the long-running series formula that we have seen in the past. With the popularity of streaming services, it is unlikely that any show will ever have the same feeling as Game of Thrones, where everyone is watching the show at the same time and talking about it the next day, now everyone can watch different shows at different times, this could mark the end of the communal quality of tv.
It is impossible to answer the question “What’s next for pop culture?” definitively. No one could ever have predicted the pure scale and popularity of Game of Thrones or The Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the entertainment industry will no doubt rush to find the next Game of Thrones or Iron Man, it is important for audiences to appreciate that they were part of this cultural movement the franchises have created. Audiences should be excited about the doors they have opened and the potential they created in film and television.
Image: Elmarie Kruger