[2019—it’s been real, it’s been good, but it ain’t been real good. Actually, I’m not even sure I’d say it’s been good, but it has definitely been eventful. So this week I’ve AmericanStudied a handful of major 2019 stories I haven’t been able to cover on the blog, leading up to these predictions for what’s likely to be an even more eventful 2020.]
Last year at this time I wrote that I wasn’t gonna predict a thing about the year to come in politics, and I feel even more confident this time around that none of us have a clue about what’s next. Hopes and prayers, definitely; worries and fears, most definitely; a clue, most definitely not. So once again I’ll focus my predictions on other aspects of American society and culture:
1) Changing cultural forms: Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, one of the biggest movies of late 2019 from one of the most acclaimed directors in film history (and likely by the time this post airs one of the most nominated films of awards season), was produced by and largely aired on Netflix. That’s just the most overt of many signs that our cultural forms are drastically changing, not only in where and how we experience them, but also in how and where they’re made and shared. While I know it makes me sound roughly 1000 years old, I’ll note that I still find great (or at the very least distinct) value in watching a movie in the theater, and I hope that mode doesn’t ever disappear entirely. Moreover, modes of film distribution and viewership have been evolving for decades, since at least the inventions of home video and cable TV. But as the Scorsese deal illustrates, the changes in our cultural landscape are coming more rapidly and strikingly than ever, and I have to believe we’ll see even more evolution in the year to come.
2) Athletic activism: Another significant late 2019 story were the decisions, first by lawmakers in California and then by the NCAA itself, to make it possible for college athletes to use their images and skills to make money while in school (as, of course, other college students have always been able to do, such as a violinist on a music scholarship offering lessons on the side). I believe the broader conversations about compensating student athletes will continue throughout this year, as they should. But the late 2019 controversy over the relationship between the NBA and China, along with the continued frustrations of Colin Kaepernick’s blacklisting as more and more NFL teams start backup QBs, make clear that the even more overarching conversations about whether and how athletes can be social activists are likewise reaching a boiling point. I expect at least a few more high-profile controversies this year, perhaps linked to the presidential election (and/or impeachment), that will push that debate even further into the public eye.
3) The kids are all right: I’d go further with that final prediction, and note that college or even high school athletes are at least as likely to push the activist envelope as are their professional peers. I’ve been highlighting youth activists for some time in this space, whether an individual like Santana Jayde Young Man Afraid of His Horses or a community like the Parkland High School students. This past year saw the emergence of one of the most prominent such youth activists in decades, Greta Thunberg, who in late 2019 took another unexpected activist step by rejecting a major environmental award. Between these and many other young activists, including the two (pictured here) with whom I’m blessed to share my home and last name, the future (however horrific it might get) is clearly in good hands. I predict that the under-20 crowd will continue to provide me with much of my hope and optimism in 2020.
Next series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Other 2020 predictions?
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