This list appeared first in the Daily Dot’s newsletter web_crawlr. Every week, our Assistant Newsletter Editor Kira Deshler dives deep into the world of fan culture in her “Decoding Fandom” column. If you want to see more content like this before everyone else, sign up for the newsletter here.
10) Fans save Warrior Nun
It’s been a hard year for TV, in part due to the strikes that shook up the industry. Numerous beloved shows were canceled in 2023. But we’re also in an era where fan campaigns are more prevalent than ever, and in some cases, these efforts pay off. Case in point: The Netflix series Warrior Nun, which was canceled at the end of 2022 but revived in June due to a dedicated fan campaign. EP Dean English later revealed the series would return as a trilogy of films and thanked fans for their support.
Warrior Nun’s cancellation is part of a broader trend of LGBTQ-focused shows—especially those involving queer women—getting the axe in recent years. Other canceled fan favorites include A League of Their Own and Motherland: Fort Salem. Both these shows have spawned fan campaigns that are still ongoing, though neither have achieved the success of Warrior Nun.
9) Martin Scorsese joins Letterboxd
2023 was a banner year for film lovers, as we saw the release of both beloved blockbusters and understated indies. For chronically online cinephiles, one of the most delightful moments of the year was when acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese joined the movie-cataloging app Letterboxd. Scorsese has been in the news a lot lately, initially because of his comments about Marvel movies and more recently as a result of his TikToker daughter, Francesca.
Both of these developments have turned Scorsese into a hero for cinema lovers, and his decision to join Letterboxd—which was almost certainly a PR stunt to promote Killers of the Flower Moon—only made fans love him more. Cinephiles can claim Scorsese as one of their own now, even if probably logs on to Letterboxd.com from his senior citizen-approved iPad.
8) ‘Ahsoka’ divides the ‘Star Wars’ fandom
According to the wiki platform Fandom, Star Wars was the biggest fandom of 2023, buoyed in large part by the popular Disney+ series Ahsoka. The first episode of the series racked in 14 million views worldwide, though those numbers declined significantly by the finale. Star Wars fans had a lot to say about Ahsoka, which proved to be a rather contentious entry in the universe.
From mysterious fan theories to debates about the title character’s Jedi status, Ahsoka gave the fandom plenty to chew on. One of the biggest controversies on the show was the surprise appearance of Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. The series used de-aging effects to make Anakin the right age, a creative choice some viewers took issue with. It may no longer be in the headlines today, but Ahsoka had fans captivated for a spell.
7) Booktok drama goes viral
BookTok was a huge cultural force this year and has even become powerful enough to influence book sales. But like all internet niches, the fandom is not without controversy, and the BookTok drama is particularly gripping. The biggest drama of 2023 involved the unexpected intersection of hockey and romance novels.
Seattle Kraken player Alex Wennberg became a hot topic on BookTok after fans decided he was the perfect model for hockey romances. Many BookTokers made videos featuring Wennberg’s face, and the Kraken took note and leaned into the connection on social media. Things got testy when Wennberg’s wife, Felicia, called out BookTokers for making sexually inappropriate comments about her husband online. Popular BookToker Kierra Lewis was implicated in the callout, and made a response video, creating another wave of controversy. The incident was a fascinating example of the tenuous boundary between fantasy and reality.
6) ‘The Hunger Games’ has a renaissance
It’s become more and more common for media producers to try and capitalize off the trends of online fan communities, and one trend this year was especially serendipitous. In March of 2023, Lionstage put the original Hunger Games trilogy on Netflix to get fans excited for the prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. This strategy paid off even better than expected as a new wave of fandom emerged: the Hunger Games renaissance.
Longtime fans and those new to the series began watching the films and sharing their thoughts on TikTok. When the prequel came out, fans put their thinking caps on and made connections between the films and real-life events. Though the decision to put the movies on Netflix was a marketing move, fans’ engagement with The Hunger Games was a natural outcropping of the series’ continued relevance in today’s political climate.
5) Marvel fans lose faith
Just a few years ago, Marvel Studios seemed to be the most dominant enterprise in Hollywood. While the studio is still producing plenty of content, their popularity has waned as of late, even among diehard viewers. Critics were unimpressed by Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and fans questioned Secret Invasion’s AI animation and bloated budget.
But Marvel’s biggest hit in terms of public perception was The Marvels, which had the lowest-grossing box office run in MCU history. Though some fans defended the film, many admitted they were less invested in the MCU now because of a perceived decline in quality. The integrity of the film notwithstanding, The Marvels represents a turning point for the studio, and the loss of these once-passionate fans will likely prove difficult to come back from.
4) ‘Scream’ fans outraged by political firing
Fandom and politics collided quite a bit in 2023, and one of the most interesting examples of this was the ghoulish Scream controversy. In November, Scream actress Melissa Barrera was fired from the upcoming Scream 7 film for posting on Instagram in support of Palestine. Fans were outraged and immediately railed against Spyglass Media Group, the production company behind the film.
When Jenna Ortega announced she would no longer be starring in Scream 7 (supposedly because of a scheduling conflict), fans stood behind her. Barrera and Ortega became heroes amongst Scream fans, many of whom agreed with Barrera’s position on Palestine. Despite their earlier excitement for the film, many fans instead shared their hope that the project—and the production company as a whole—would flop. This event exemplifies the fact that producers and fans of media so often don’t see eye to eye on social and political matters, a disconnect that’s only becoming more common.
3) Taylor and Travis go public
Taylor Swift ruled the world in 2023, which is probably why Time Magazine named her Person of the Year. Her Eras tour recently became the first tour to gross over $1 billion, and the accompanying concert film had fans in a tizzy. But when it comes to online fandom, one of the most-discussed topics was Swift’s relationship with football player Travis Kelce.
Things came to a head during Swift’s show in Buenos Aires, when she changed the lyrics to her song “Karma” in reference to Kelce and then ran into his arms and kissed him after the show. Fans went wild for Swift’s public declaration of love and expressed their adoration for the pair online. It’s the most public relationship Swift has ever been in, and the Swifties are all in.
2) Beyoncé puts fans on mute
Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour was one of the most monumental tours in recent memory, a fact that was reiterated in her concert film. The tour also became an online phenomenon, with fans filming and even livestreaming the concert for those unable to attend. The most viral moment of the tour was dubbed the “mute challenge,” and it took on a life of its own.
In the song “Energy,” Beyoncé sings the line “Look around, everybody on mute,” and then proceeds to silently pause and observe the crowd for several seconds. During her first show in Stockholm, many fans followed her instructions and zipped their lips, but it wasn’t until she landed in the U.S. that the line became a “challenge.” Because of the discussion online, fans became quite committed to being as silent as possible, and a competition of sorts emerged between cities. Though Beyoncé wrote the lyric, it was the fans who made the moment a viral trend.
There’s no question that Barbenheimer, the double feature of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, was the cinematic event of the summer. But there’s another way to look at it, and that’s through the lens of fandom. The Barbenheimer phenomenon was driven by fans—fans of movies in general as well as fans of the two directors.
Though it almost seemed like a marketing stunt at the time, Margot Robbie revealed in her Actors on Actors segment with Cillian Murphy that the studios had nothing to do with it. Movie fans were simply excited that the films were coming out on the same weekend, and they expressed this excitement so creatively—and hilariously—that the meme went completely viral. Fans flocked to the theaters dressed as Barbie and Oppenheimer, giving a real boost to the box office. Following a few rough years for cinemas, Barbenheimer made going to the movies fun again.