Created By: neoYTPism on May 2, 2011 Last Edited By: ShiningArmor87 on July 29, 2012

Softer In Hindsight

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This was drawn when President Reagan was staring down the Soviet Union with an arms buildup. It all seems very long ago now... thank heavens.
- Bill Watterson on this Sunday page from Calvin and Hobbes.

The opposite of Harsher in Hindsight, this is when a dark moment is made milder in light of later events, whether in the story or in real life, often involving the knowledge that the perceived threat behind said "dark moment" was eliminated since. The horror and/or edginess of the scene was based on audience uncertainty as to what would happen, and so, awareness of the answer helps dilute this intensity.

For harsh moments made softer in light of real events, Time Marches On tropes (especially Science Marches On and The Great Politics Mess-Up) could frequently cause this. For in-story, it might be noticeable in Earn Your Happy Ending stories...


Newspaper Comics

Western Animation
  • In the The Simpsons episode "myPods and Boomsticks", Bart says that his family shouldn't fear his new friend's family; one of the reasons being their last name is Bin Laden. This becomes much funnier after the acts of Seal Team 6.
    • Also, in "The Otto Show", one of the goods being sold is a Spinal Tap shirt with the band kicking Mommar Gaddaffi in the butt. Much like the Family Guy and Looney Tunes examples, Gaddaffi was hated by the Egyptian people and thus made his departure and death more satisfying.
  • The two South Park episodes in which Osama bin Laden gets shot in the head by a U.S. soldier ("Osama bin Laden Has Farty Pants" and "It's a Jersey Thing") became a lot funnier now that that has become a reality. To further add much deserved insult to injury, Comedy Central ran an Osama mini-marathon before the May 4th episode.
  • In the third installment of the Family Guy Star Wars parodies "It's A Trap!", you see Osama bin Laden pop out from behind a sand dune on Tatooine and shout "Still Alive!". Sure ya are.
    • In a similar vein, "Meet The Quagmires" had Peter and Brian living in an alternate reality where Lois and Quagmire are married to each other. Lois mentions that America finally found Osama bin Laden in the cast of MA Dtv (which Quagmire adds is, "...the one place no one thought to look"). What used to be a Take That! on MA Dtv being an unpopular, hardly-recognized Expy of Saturday Night Live becomes funnier (in a dark way) now that both MA Dtv and Osama bin Laden are dead (MA Dtv got canceled in 2009, while Osama bin Laden was found and killed in Pakistan by Navy SEALS in 2011).
  • The 1943 Looney Tunes short "Tortoise Wins By A Hare" features the news headline "Adolf Hitler Commits Suicide", two years before that actually happened.
  • A rather grim example from The Venture Bros.. In an early episode, Dr. Rusty Venture steals a kidney each from his sons after getting his stolen. Much less grim upon the revelation they are replaced by clones often due to being Too Dumb to Live.
Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • May 4, 2011
    Can you actually give an example of something that is Softer In Hindsight after the death of bin Laden?
  • May 5, 2011
  • May 6, 2011
    ^^ See Youtube comments to various Family Guy and South Park clips relating to bin Laden. Many say they're easier to laugh at now that the real bin Laden is dead. I'm guessing it applies even more so to more serious works whose threats were based on bin Laden.
  • May 9, 2011
  • May 9, 2011
    Perhaps for the examples in light of in-universe events, but not for the ones in light of out-of-universe events.

    Even for the former, though, I am not sure if knowing the context implies knowing how it ends, let alone if disturbing and intense should be conflated. (The latter could refer to anything from suspense to horror to even simply depressing moments.)
  • July 5, 2011
    I don't think Softer In Hindsight has the ring to it that Harsher In Hindsight does, probably due to the lack of an alliteration.

    Can I suggest Reasonable In Retrospect? Alternatively, you could try for a play on words with "the end justifies the means", although I'm having trouble finding appropriate replacements for "justifies" and "means".
  • July 5, 2011
    This isn't about whether or not ends justify means, though that can be a related concept. This is about something not feeling as harsh in light of being based on something that got better.
  • July 5, 2011
    I know, that's why I was suggesting altering the saying. The trope is related to The End Justifies The Means, so I figured the trope name could be similar. If it did describe the trope, I'd just suggest going with that trope name directly.
  • July 5, 2011
    A rather grim example from The Venture Bros. In an early episode, Dr. Rusty Venture steals a kidney each from his sons after getting his stolen. Much less grim upon the revelation they are replaced by clones often due to being Too Dumb To Live.
  • July 6, 2011
    "The trope is related to The End Justifies The Means" - Aielyn

    ... what do you base this on?
  • July 6, 2011
    "related", neo. I'm not saying they're the same thing, I'm referring to the idea that something that happens later can reduce the severity of something that happens earlier. In the case of the saying "The End Justifies The Means", it's the end result of the action that would reduce the severity of the action. And indeed, based on the description so far, some instances of that would fit into this trope, even.
  • July 7, 2011
    If it is related, it is only very vaguely, in that sometimes the notion of the ends justifying the means can contribute to some varieties of these kinds of moments. It's certainly not central enough to the trope to justify working into the title.
  • July 7, 2011
    So, do we have any solid examples yet? Except for Bin Laden and the C&H strip, I don't really know anything that fits this.
  • July 10, 2011
    Moments affected by the death of bin Laden are more so a set of examples, like how the moments affected by 9/11 are a set of examples.
  • February 5, 2012
    Here's a few things now Softer In Hindsight because of the death of Osama:
  • July 29, 2012
    This seems like a good trope idea: "Something that was meant to be serious is now funny because what caused the seriousness has been removed." Bump, and I'm taking control.
  • July 29, 2012
    I think the Topic of this shouldn't be "Serious then, Now it's funny" (to me that's Hilarious in Hindsight). but now "It was Serious then, but now it doesn't have any impact." Take these Osama Bin Laden jokes and story elements and try to view them Sixty years from now. People simply won't care much about them, since they'll be caring about the new jerkass. The title itself makes me feel this topic could be better suited to stand away from either hilarious or heartwarming.

    Also got a meta example for you. In the 1986 Transformers: the Movie, Optimus Prime dies for the first time in franchise history, with many children crying and leaving the theatres. Near the end of the Cartoon run, he is resurrected to save the day. However now, at least once in every series, Optimus Prime dies and is resurrected.