Pop culture and entertainment tend to follow waves and patterns, as certain themes come in and out of popularity.
I first started to notice these waves back in 2010, when people were all about vampires and werewolves because of Twilight, but suddenly everyone was getting into zombies with the beginning of The Walking Dead (my first foray into the nerdisphere).
As zombies ran their course, ending around the mid-2010s, there was a chunk of time where it seemed Pirates were fighting with Cowboys to be the next wave. Pirates had games such as Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and Sea of Thieves, and the last Pirates of the Caribbean films, and Cowboys were chugging along with Westworld, Logan, and even Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur. Unfortunately, the timing of both themes fighting it out might seem like neither got the day.
I will say that all of these have been capped due to Superheroes’ long stint as a decade long-theme. It seems like not much could stop the comic characters from taking over the biggest entertainment franchises. Of course, there are theories that Supes’ have come to and end, with Endgame giving us a beautiful finale in Marvel, and DC’s failing attempts to get much off the ground in a big way. If comics are winding down, what is primed to take it’s place? My theory is vikings.
Obviously none of these waves of popularity have clean beginnings and ends, and they all overlap. So with the huge success of Skyrim back in 2011, it might not have been focusing on vikings themselves, but the Nords are obviously heavily influenced by vikings, based on ship design, primary weapon options, theology of an afterlife achieved through combat, and even the Jarl’s longhouses are all very viking in nature. Obviously this isn’t enough to completely seal the deal, but I think Skyrim did great groundwork for viking popularity.
In the same year, the MCU debuted the first Thor movie, which, while rough to start, was one of the “Big 3” characters, along with Iron Man and Captain America. While literally a Norse god, nothing in the MCU felt very viking. This was the opposite of Skyrim, everything was in name only. However, because of Marvel’s popularity, more people know about Odin, Loki, Midgard, Asgard, Mjolnir, Ragnarok, and Valkyries. Again, not in the true sense that Norse historians might want, but much more than before.
Vikings (History Channel)
This is where I really think the Viking theme began to take off. History channel has a show called Vikings, that is a beautifully crafted story of the first vikings to arrive in present day U.K. While not historically accurate, the show makes vikings seem super cool and intense, with their beards and boats and swords and drugs and belief system. It’s just a well made show that you should checkout if you get the chance.
The Last Kingdom
Edit: Addition suggested by WaynesBooks.Games
Another show that was originally made by BBC, and was been continued by Netflix, is based on the book series The Saxon Stories. This show is a bit more historically grounded than Vikings, according to WaynesBooks.Games. As opposed to the idea of Vikings discovering the Anglo-Saxons that Vikings, is based on, The Saxon Stories takes it’s concept from an actual viking earl named Uhtred the Bold of Bamburgh Castle. The show has been compared to Game of Thrones, and the third season has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
This show, made by Netflix, is a Norwegian-language drama/superhero show that is also rising in popularity. In it, the main character realizes he is the embodiement of Thor, and must fight against a family that are secretly Frost Giants from Jötunheimr. While it hasn’t been received well, it is another example of popularity of Norse mythology in modern media.
A parody of Vikings, Norsemen has become very popular in Norway, where the show is filmed, and has received some popularity here in the US as well. My worry is that once parodies of a topic come out, that sometimes signifies the end of a wave. For example, once Warm Bodies came, zombies as a genre was coming to an end, but when Superhero Movie came out, it was merely the beginning of comic book movies.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla
Announced this week, the new Assassin’s Creed game is going to feature vikings and Scandinavia as the backdrop to the game. Assassin’s Creed has done pretty well at feeling the pulse of popularity when it comes to their game themes, as noted above when they released two Pirate-based games when it looked like pirates were the big thing. Even though these games are getting a little Pokemon-y with their frequent releases with small changes each time, the games are still wonderfully made and clearly with a lot of care.
Well, whether or not vikings are the next thing, I think after that it’s going to be Samurai. With the popularity of games such as Sekiro: Shadow’s Die Twice, the growing popularity of anime, and that amazing episode of Westworld, I think people are ready for some Samurai stuff.