’s Best Essays of 2023: A Year in Film, TV, and Gaming's Best Essays of 2023: A Year in Film, TV, and Gaming

A collection of thought-provoking essays exploring the diverse realms of popular culture

As we bid farewell to 2023, presents a compilation of its most captivating essays from the past year. While the world of literature often takes center stage, this selection delves into the realms of film, television, and gaming, offering unique perspectives on the ever-evolving landscape of popular culture. From discussions on emerging genres to deep dives into beloved franchises, these essays provide a rich tapestry of analysis and reflection. Join us as we explore the highlights of’s foray into the world of visual storytelling.

Competence Porn and Cozy Fantasy: Exploring New Genres
By Rachel Ayers and R. Nassor

The first pair of essays takes us on a journey through two emerging genres: Competence Porn and Cozy Fantasy. In “Competence Porn Is Comforting — Where Can I Find More of It?” Rachel Ayers delves into the gratifying appeal of witnessing individuals excel in their chosen fields, highlighting the joy that comes from seeing hard work pay off and the shared triumph of a group of talented individuals. Meanwhile, R. Nassor’s “Sixties Fantasy Sitcoms and the Rise of Cozy Fantasy” explores the emotional resonance of cozy fantasy, which weaves magic into the fabric of everyday life, evoking warmth, comfort, and a sense of escapism.

Movie Moments from 2023: A Glimpse into Memorable Films
By Maya Gittelman, Leah Schnelbach, and Kristen Patterson

From the poignant to the fantastical, these essays examine notable moments from the world of cinema in 2023. Maya Gittelman’s “To Every Other Jobu Tupaki After Jamie Lee Curtis’s Oscar Win” reflects on the bittersweet reality of storytelling, where certain narratives take center stage while others remain overlooked. Leah Schnelbach’s “How a Chonky Dragon Wyrmed His Way Into Our Hearts” celebrates the endearing charm of a lovable dragon character, highlighting the joy it brings to audiences. Kristen Patterson’s “I Said I’d Make a Woman: Barbie and the Pygmalion Paradigm” explores the enduring narrative of transformation and the mythological roots that underpin Barbie’s story.

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Perspectives on Horror in Film and TV: Exploring Fear and Powerlessness
By Jay Kang Romanus, Sarah Welch-Larson, and Corrado Nai

Horror, a genre that taps into our deepest fears, is the focus of the next set of essays. Jay Kang Romanus’s “Not Much Choice”: Disability and Monstrosity in the Alien Franchise” examines the representation of disability in the Alien franchise, shedding light on the societal biases that perpetuate ableism. Sarah Welch-Larson’s “The Horror of Powerlessness: Skinamarink and the Rapture” delves into the unsettling experience of powerlessness depicted in the film Skinamarink, exploring the intersection of childhood fear and existential dread. Corrado Nai’s “Science, Fiction, and Fungi: What The Last of Us Gets Right” examines how stories like The Last of Us ground us in the realities of our present, urging us to confront the importance of understanding and combating real-world threats.

Spotlight on Superheroes: Uncovering Nuances in Iconic Characters
By Monita Mohan, Leigha McReynolds, and Leah Schnelbach

Superheroes have become a cornerstone of popular culture, and these essays offer fresh perspectives on their narratives. Monita Mohan’s “How Miles Morales Reclaimed His Own Story in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” celebrates the empowering portrayal of Miles Morales and his refusal to conform to societal expectations. Leigha McReynolds’ “Eugenics and the Human/Animal Divide in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” delves into the ethical implications of eugenics within the context of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, challenging viewers to question their own complicity in perpetuating harmful ideologies. Leah Schnelbach’s “Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, and Terrence Malick Meet at a Diner to Discuss Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania” takes a playful approach, imagining a conversation between renowned directors and their thoughts on a superhero film.

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Deep Dives Into Star Trek: Unearthing the Heart of the Franchise
By Emmet Asher-Perrin, Jaime Babb, and Jonathan Alexandratos

Star Trek, a cultural phenomenon, continues to captivate audiences with its exploration of humanity’s future. Emmet Asher-Perrin’s “Why Did Star Trek: Picard’s Final Season Focus on the Wrong Family?” dissects the narrative choices of Star Trek: Picard’s final season, questioning the decision to sideline Beverly Crusher’s character arc. Jaime Babb’s “A Critical Division of Starfleet Intelligence”: Section 31 and the Normalization of the Security State” delves into the moral complexities of Section 31, a covert organization within the Star Trek universe, and its portrayal in recent series. Jonathan Alexandratos’s “Ben Sisko’s Non-Linear, Non-Binary Arc in Deep Space Nine’s ‘Emissary’ Saved All My Lives” explores the profound impact of Benjamin Sisko’s character arc and its representation of non-linearity and non-binary existence.

Gaming Is Life: Exploring the Intersection of Fun and Identity
By Kali Wallace, Melissa Kagen, and Tyler Dean

The world of gaming offers unique opportunities for exploration and self-expression. Kali Wallace’s “I Am a Mature and Responsible Adult Who Will Attach Rockets to Anything Just to See What Happens” celebrates the importance of fun and pleasure in a world consumed by productivity. Melissa Kagen’s “The Very Small and The Very Large: Outer Wilds as Interactive Space Opera” examines the immersive experience of Outer Wilds, a game that seamlessly combines grand cosmic questions with intimate human connections. Tyler Dean’s “How Baldur’s Gate 3 and Honor Among Thieves Finally Captured the Soul of D&D” delves into the essence of Dungeons & Dragons, highlighting how recent adaptations have successfully captured the game’s core themes of belonging and personal agency.

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Conclusion:’s collection of essays from 2023 offers a captivating exploration of the diverse facets of popular culture. From the emergence of new genres to nuanced analyses of beloved franchises, these essays provide a window into the ever-evolving landscape of film, television, and gaming. As we reflect on the past year, let us continue the conversation, sharing our thoughts and celebrating the power of storytelling in all its forms.