Culture At Large

2023 Pop Culture Preview

Sarah Welch-Larson

As we settle into January, we’re looking forward to the pop culture scheduled to come out in 2023—and speculating on what movies, music, and television will raise the sorts of theological ideas we like to explore at Think Christian. While we can’t predict the future, here are a few of the things we’re excited about in the year to come.


Shania Twain, Queen of Me (Feb. 3)

Country music is known for its laments, yet despite leaving her “heart in a watering hole in Ohio,” as she sings in her new single “Giddy Up,” Shania Twain isn’t interested in lamenting. Instead, she sings about living life as a celebration, even when it doesn’t always make sense to be happy, because life is too short to waste time on the losses. That infectious spirit spreads to the rest of the singles released so far from the upcoming Queen of Me: “Last Day of Summer” might be wistful about an ex, but the music maintains its upbeat drive, while “Waking Up Dreaming” is powered by a peppy kick drum. The entire album promises to be a party.

Depeche Mode, Memento Mori (March)

A few months after the unexpected death of Andy Fletcher, the band’s cofounder and keyboardist, Depeche Mode returned to the studio. They’d been working on an album since the beginning of the pandemic and they felt they needed to “find stability in what we know and love, and [focus] on what gives life meaning and purpose.” Their new album is titled Memento Mori, which translates to “remember you must die.” Sounds like psalms of lament for a broken world, set to the pounding beat of the relentlessness of time … and perhaps a reminder that death is cause for sadness, but not despair.

A$AP Rocky, Don’t Be Dumb (tbd 2023)

A$AP Rocky’s languid verses display his confidence; when he isn’t rapping double time, he sounds like he’s holding himself back, forcing himself to go just a fraction slower than the beat. The effect is a feeling of effortlessness, as though he’s floating through his songs. That attitude sounded like carelessness in his first mixtape, but his more recent material bears the weight of responsibility, alongside the weight of material possessions (“Got new bags under my eyelids, new bags up in my closets,” he says on “F*** Sleep”). A$AP Rocky’s best songs feel like he’s talking to himself. Don’t Be Dumb could be a command to someone else—or it could just as well be a reminder to himself not to lose sight of who he is.


Poker Face (Peacock, Jan. 26)

Created by Rian Johnson, Poker Face is a mystery-of-the-week whodunnit series in the spirit of Columbo. Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne) can tell when people are lying, an ability that helps her solve crimes . . . and gets her into trouble. Johnson is dedicated to exploring different genres and pushing them in surprising directions, without resorting to trickery or cliches. Poker Face, like Johnson’s Knives Out and Glass Onion, promises to be a raucous romp laced with mysteries. We would love to see Johnson’s love for genre extended to the vast cast of characters he’s assembled here, in all their faults.

Ted Lasso Season 3 (spring 2023)

Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) is a good person, which makes him easy to underestimate. He doesn’t know anything about soccer, the sport he’s been hired to coach, and many of the people who meet him think at first that he’s a pushover and a fool purely because he’s kind. Ted usually wins them over, though he’s not perfect; Season 2 included an arc about the unintentional alienation of one of his coaching staff. Season three promises to be the show’s last. Ted’s team has been promoted to the Premier League and he’s started to get a handle on the panic attacks he’s endured. It remains to be seen whether Ted’s simple kindness will carry him and his team to victory. If the show stays true to the lessons of the first season, then winning or losing won’t matter either way.

The Acolyte (Disney Plus, late 2023)

Another Star Wars series in the vein of The Mandalorian and Andor, The Acolyte will follow a Jedi and her former Master as they investigate a sinister conspiracy at the heart of the High Republic, before the events of the prequel movie trilogy. Show creator Leslye Headland intends for the series to explore “what went wrong” with the Jedi Order—a theme that rhymes with the events in the Old Testament, in which Israel rises to power, then is conquered and scattered. In both stories, the heroes look for the rise of a chosen one who will save them.


Creed III (March 3)

The Rocky movies have always been about underdogs who don’t know when to quit fighting; the comparisons to the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy, where he writes about “fighting the good fight, finishing the race, and keeping the faith,” practically write themselves. This newest installment, directed by and starring Michael B. Jordan, features Adonis Creed at the top of his game; he’s already fought the good fight and won. But no matter how well Creed runs, he can’t outrun his past in the form of an old friend named Damian (Jonathan Majors). Now that he’s on top of the world, will he be able to persist in the way he used to?

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (June 2)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse remixed the classic “with great power comes great responsibility” lesson from the original Peter Parker narrative with a story about the great potential of Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore). Across the Spider-Verse promises to take Miles back to the colorful multiverse of the original movie, this time as he starts to approach adulthood. He’ll have to assert his own identity independently from the other versions of Spider-Man, including one played by Oscar Isaac with “no sense of humor” and a penchant for destruction. The Miles we know is more open-hearted; to quote 1 Corinthians 13, “When I became a man, I put childish things behind me.” Here’s hoping that Miles doesn’t put away love in the process.

Barbie (July 21)

Greta Gerwig has made a reputation for herself as an actor and a filmmaker in touch with nuanced and complicated emotions—her adaptation of Little Women is widely beloved for this reason, as is her directorial debut, the coming-of-age drama Lady Bird. A movie inspired by Barbie dolls doesn’t seem like it would be a project Gerwig would tackle, but then again, she’s been able to find emotional depth in unexpected places and creative choices. Barbie dolls are plastic and the original toy was created to be cheap, almost disposable; movies that adapt toys and video games are often treated the same way by the filmmaking industry. What better director to find value in something that other people might see as worthless?

Topics: Culture At Large