Rejected by History
The inverse of Vindicated By History

(permanent link) added: 2012-03-15 19:16:29 sponsor: Folamh3 (last reply: 2012-04-01 10:41:37)

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Inverse of Vindicated by History. Vindicated by History is when works initially have a chilly critical or public reception, but later get recognized for their aesthetic or historical importance. This trope is the opposite - when a work is initially well-received, but critical opinion of it later cools.

This is not about a work being well-received but eventually being forgotten, in spite of its aesthetic merit. This is specifically about a work which is liked upon its release and later actively disliked, not merely fading into obscurity.

Why might this be the case? To name but a few possibilities, Values Dissonance plays a significant role; as much as defenders of the work might insist that the morals advanced by the work were Fair for Its Day, many viewers and critics may find it difficult to stomach works which have views on race, gender and sexuality vastly different to contemporary ones. Aesthetic values and techniques also go in and out of style and can go a long way towards dating a work (particularly in video games, where the increased hardware capabilities of later console generations can date a work's visuals mere years after it's first released). In sci-fi settings, Zeerust can be so thorough and widespread that the work is robbed of whatever social relevance it might once have had and comes off as hopelessly quaint and old-fashioned. And so on.

See also Vindicated by History, Values Dissonance, Values Resonance, Harsher in Hindsight, Hilarious in Hindsight, "Funny Aneurysm" Moment, Follow the Leader, Hype Backlash and Mainstream Obscurity. Akin to a real-life version of This Is Going To Be Huge. Creator Backlash is when this happens to a work by its own creator. Compare The Greatest Story Never Told. Often related to Seinfeld Is Unfunny (when the original, innovative aspects of a work become so heavily imitated that the work itself no longer seems particularly original in retrospect). Deader Than Disco is closely related.

Note: As a rule of thumb, try to limit examples to cases in which it's been at least ten years, give or take, since the work was released/concluded.



  • American Beauty was subject to rave reviews upon release, but critical opinions now hold it in less high esteem; Premiere magazine, for example, included it on a list of highly overrated films. This was even noted by the film's director Sam Mendes, who thought that critical reaction to the film upon release was perhaps overly enthusiastic.
  • The Graduate, while not outright despised, is certainly no longer thought of as the ageless classic it once was, as illustrated by Roger Ebert's two reviews of the film, one from 1967, the other from 1997. In the former he describes it as "the funniest American comedy of the year" and gives it four stars out of four; in the latter, he only awards it three stars and notes many aspects of the film which have not aged particularly well.
  • When Star Trek: Insurrection, the 9th Star Trek film was first released, it received fairly positive reviews, with some even saying that it broke the Star Trek Movie Curse (even-numbered movies good, odd-numbered bad). But as time passed, with more viewers agreeing with the villains, and the whole Trek franchise grinding to a standstill, it's regarded as one of the weakest Trek films today.


  • A well-known example is Uncle Tom's Cabin which sold incredibly well and was written by a woman who wanted slavery abolished. It is now so hated that the term "Uncle Tom" is used to describe outdated, racist portrayals of black characters. This has to do with the fact that the main character is too passive, the melodramatic and sentimental writing style has fallen out of favour, and the mixed race/lighter skinned black characters are often portrayed as "better" than their darker peers.
  • In the same vein as Uncle Tom's Cabin, much of the work of Rudyard Kipling has been rejected due to its support of imperialism and its racism overtones. A good example would be the poem 'White Man's Burden'. However, The Jungle Book averted this fate.

Live-Action TV

  • Sex and the City has had a fair bit of this, mostly due to the critically savaged movies damaging the reputation of the contemporarily fairly well-received TV show. That said, the TV show has aged rather poorly. It's just so of its time, full of hot topics, clothes and guest stars that are less relevant now than in the late 90s/early 00s. It has also been attacked for its attitudes to sexuality and gender politics.

Video Games

  • Bonks Adventure was the flagship title for the Turbografx-16, but when it was re-released on the Wii's Virtual Console, reviewers, both professional and player, gave it largely mediocre scores.
  • Parappa The Rapper achieved mainstream popularity via Sony's aggressive marketing, its bizarre art style, and it being the first big Rhythm Game. Even now, people commonly associate the Parappa series with the first PlayStation. However, the genre has expanded considerably since then, and Parappa no longer sits well due to its Simon Says type of gameplay and the fact that every Parappa game can be finished within an hour. When the creative team reunited to make Spiritual Successor Major Minor's Majestic March, it failed to make a dent anywhere and was quickly put in the bargain bin.
  • Mortal Kombat once rivaled Street Fighter II in popularity on account of its over-the-top violence, but it has shown its age due to shallower play mechanics.
  • Altered Beast was praised when it was released but when it came out in the virtual console, it received rather mixed reviews.
  • The original Donkey Kong Country got massive praise when it was first released, in good part thanks to its noteworthy graphics. Now it doesn't look as special, it still gets recognition as a good platformer, but nowhere as outstanding as it once was. 1Up and GameSpy both included it on their lists of highly overrated games. Its sequels, however, have fared rather better.

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