2023 Top Trends Spotlight: Pop Nihilism

September, 2023

More on this trend can be found in our Top Trends 2023 Volume 2 report. Click ‘Download PDF’ for the full report.

The Culture Shift:

As people turn to awe-inspiring experiences to manage an increasingly tense world, we also see a countertrend emerging: Pop culture nihilism as an enticing, dark-humor-driven coping mechanism. 

Things are looking bleak. In an early 2023 report on the continued effects of inflation, we found that the American Dream of a prosperous future for those who work hard is dead for nearly two in three Americans. On top of this, climate woes loom large. 6 in 10 US adults told us they feel overwhelming environmental anxiety,* and 6 in 10 Gen Z’s 18-25 feel that humanity is “doomed.”**

But there’s fun to be had amid the fear. Canadian fires turning the NYC skyline apocalyptic orange? Why not make a Wes Anderson-style TikTok! Crises abound, and people are finding an outlet in doom-filled fantasies. While it’s darkly nihilistic and sometimes quite literally dirty, it’s connective, sometimes humorous, and surprisingly optimistic. 

40% of US adults find apocalypse-themed entertainment (movies, TV) extra entertaining.**

Why it matters: 

For brands, there is an opportunity to share in the relief. Forget saving the world, Pop Nihilism is all about acknowledging and leaning into feelings of pure dread. As end-of-the-world fantasies become more humorous and cathartic, brands are invited to play along – and it’s more than ok to get dark.

For the full report, click ‘Download PDF’ below.

*Source: Horizon Media Finger on the Pulse. Survey Fielded June 2-13; n=984
**Source: Horizon Media Finger on the Pulse. Survey Fielded June 26-July 5; n=1,001

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