Dork Age / Real Life

Back to Dork Age

    open/close all folders 

  • One can't help but get the impression that architectural schools were infiltrated by the KGB during the Cold War, placing in vogue the Stalinist trend known as Brutalism - which produced ominous, concrete blocks of pure authoritarian coldness.note  The future seemed bleak for decades, until Postmodernism rode in from the West, kicked out the commies, and saved the day. The legacy of this jarring midcentury trend can be seen today on public urban buildings and state university campuses. The city of Boston, unfortunately, fell victim to Brutalism when a new city hall was commissioned. The chaotic, faded mess that ensued elicits near-universal disgust from visitors, and remains a testament to the failures of The Eastern Bloc, and its Western sympathizers. The only city to actually get the concept of Brutalism the right way was none other than America's capital, DC, in the form of the Washington Metro Underground System. Its uniquely carved concrete walls and ceilings that interlock with each other in archs at every hallway and mezzanine prove that Brutalism isn't always a regression of aesthetics. In fact, the architecture in the WMATA underground would be something that the Moscow Metro would dream of looking like, had it curiously not been designed with the more uncharacteristically beautiful baroque architecture that permeates every surrounding station in a country that isn't known for "bourgeoise" aesthetics. One of the big downsides of concrete is that it does not age gracefully in a temperate climate, much less in one with any degree of air pollution. This problem is of course less notable in "indoor" spaces such as Washington Metro.
  • In the Eastern Bloc itself this Dork Age of architecture lasted until the fall of communism. Even after that new aesthetic influences reach the urban landscape rather slowly, thus the depressing views of endless concrete blocks and boxy, edgy monuments are there to stay. Yet in some former communist states what structures have been built, while decidedly ungainly and undesired (some monuments are known under Fan Nicknames such as 'seven-winged five-dick' owing to their lack of aesthetics), are now left in a state of decay due to intense corruption after the Hole in Flag revolutions, with no intention to improve or replace them. This has led to a sentiment along the lines of "at least they used to build stuff back then and put some flowers around it" — that the architectural Dork Age was followed by an even bigger Dork Age.
  • The worst part of Brutalism was that it caused just as many problems as it solved. Sure, it was cheap and quick to build (because it was all concrete), but it became very expensive to maintain (because its all concrete). Combine this with the above-mentioned air pollution issue (which became rampant in the 20th century until at least the 90s, and still ongoing in some countries), many of the structures became little more than crumbling, moldy tenement halls. At least it gave us a great art style for Doom levels.
  • In general the era of the "automotive city" with its barren concrete plazas, urban highways on stilts and tearing down entire neighborhoods to make way for roads and parking is now considered the worst of all architectural dork ages. Almost all other styles and epochs have their defenders and people who "revive" them today, but this one is so extremely derided, that it explains the bad rep of brutalism (which mostly happened in the same era) described above.

  • Remember all those great cars Detroit came out with in The '70s? No? A toxic combination of lack of innovation, poor design and quality control, Congress relaxing import quotas (allowing foreign automakers to sell more cars in the USA), new emissions and fuel economy regulations, and the oil crises of 1973-74 (prompted by the Yom Kippur War) and 1979 (prompted by the Islamic Revolution in Iran) nearly destroyed the industry. Chrysler required a government bailout to survive, American Motors collapsed altogether and saw its pieces snatched up by Renault and later Chrysler in The '80s, and Ford and GM were better off only by comparison, rapidly losing market share to Japanese and German automakers who built smaller, more efficient, and more reliable cars. It did destroy the city of Detroit itself (and most of Michigan for that matter), and to this day, there are many Americans of a certain age who still refuse to buy domestic. Auto writer Murilee Martin coined the term "Malaise Era" to define the years from 1973 to 1983 when the quality and performance of American cars seemed to be in active decline. While Detroit did start making some good cars again from the mid '80s onward (cars like the Ford Taurus, Chrysler's "K-cars" and minivans, and GM's Saturn brand and A-body platform showed that they still knew how to innovate), they still put out more than the occasional stinker (see: the Chevrolet Cobalt) until the mid '00s, when Detroit realized that they were going to completely lose the market to foreign competitors and upped their game. As of now, there are lots of domestics that are every bit as good as foreign cars (and, in many cases, better), but anyone with any sense will be very careful about most used domestics from model years prior to 2009 or so.
  • The Ford Mustang II, 1974-78. Basically a Pinto with a fancier body, no V8 option, and enough mid '70s chrome, vinyl, and fake wood for a much larger car. Ford was returning the car to its roots as basically an economy car with a big engine after the previous car had gotten larger and become a decent road racing platform. Sales for the Mustang II were actually much better than the late 60s/early 70s Mustangs, but it alienated enthusiasts. Even after it got a V8, any performance benefits gained from the lighter, more nimble body were negated as Ford nerfed its engines in response to emissions regulations and fuel economy concerns; this led to disgruntled fans calling it the "Disgustang". Meanwhile, to add insult to injury, the Mustang's rivals, the Chevrolet Camaro/Pontiac Firebird twins, underwent something of a Golden Age in the '70s. While they too felt the effects of the new standards (they were nearly killed in 1972 due to a UAW strike concerning the new regulations), their performance didn't suffer nearly as badly as the Mustang's, and their bodywork wasn't nearly as garish as other cars during the era. The Camaro and, to a lesser extent, the Firebird outsold the Mustang by 1977, because they were some of the only cars at the time worth getting for sports car/post-muscle car enthusiasts (especially made all the more apparent with the release of Smokey and the Bandit, which really boosted sales of the Camaro and the Firebird that year). To this day, the Camaro and Firebird are probably the only American performance cars to not have their legacy stained by WTH engineering/designing departments even during The '70s. The only low point in the Camaro's career was the Iron Duke design of The '80s, but that was a separate model and did rather little to hurt the Camaro's popularitynote .
  • British cars were far worse during the period, leading to most brands falling under ownership of British Leyland, which eventually collapsed, taking the entire industry with it. Top Gear couldn't find a single bright spot during the era. British Leyland was problematic for many reasons. Having most of the major British car companies under one organization was a good idea in theory. The problem? None of them knew how to work together! Having so many companies under one roof didn't change the fact that many were competing against each other in the market, this resulted in cars being a Suspiciously Similar Substitute of other cars, development of new models was slow, and many models were produced cheaply and quickly. The Morris Marina is widely considered one of the worst cars ever produced by the company, despite the amount of cars sold. Add trade union disputes, oil crises, and the "Three-Day Week"note  and you had the poster child for everything wrong with the industrial problems in Britain in the '70s. The company went bust in 1975, and had to be nationalized just to keep the lights on at the factories. Nowadays, all the major British car manufacturers are owned by foreign organizations, with Rover having sadly disappeared in 2005.

  • Lockheed in the The '70s decided to bribe various government officials and cover up problems with the F-104. As a fighter plane, it was good; as a light bomber, not so much. The scandals almost killed the company. The commercial failure of the L-1011 TriStar didn't help matters any, either.

    Computers & Electronics 
  • Apple:
    • Their product range during the tail end of the 1980s and early 1990s had degenerated from the insane greatness of the classic Apple Macintosh to the extraordinarily bland Performa range. Although the Powerbooks sold well, and the Power Macs and Quadras got good reviews, none of the company's products were particularly exciting.
      Strapped for cash, Apple even took to licensing clones of the Mac hardware, which raised money in the short term but ate into long-term Macintosh sales. The company was in pretty bad shape before Steve Jobs came back in 1997 and the original iMac was released in 1998, and it took them a few more years after that to finally get rid of the mess that the classic Mac OS had become.
    • On the phone/tablet front, Jony Ive's signature flat, Helvetica-soaked design language (replacing a previous, less-harmonized appearance that a lot of people found excessively skeuomorphic on both platforms) has been divisive since debuting with iOS 7, while iOS 8 was not only buggy, a class action lawsuit filed at the beginning of 2015 alleged that it was so bloated that it didn't leave enough room for user content. The iPhone 6's larger size (4.7 and 5.5 inches for the standard and Plus models) was also contentious. While some were excited that Apple was finally making a 'phablet' to compete with similarly large Android offerings, those who liked the smaller, older iPhones were dismayed by it — especially Jobs loyalists, given that Jobs had made a point of never making an iPhone with a screen greater than 3.5 inches, which he felt was the perfect size for a smartphone screen (he derisively compared larger phones to Hummers). The release of the "budget" iPhone SE in 2016, combining the power of the 6S with the form and four-inch screen size of the 5S, is generally seen as an attempt to Win Back the Crowd on that front.
    • The announcement later that year that the iPhone 7 would be removing the headphone jack, instead using Bluetooth and Apple's proprietary Lightning port for headphones, wiped out any goodwill that had been earned and then some. Many saw it as an attempt to force users to shell out extra to replace their headphones with new ones that used the licensed Lightning connector (especially given Apple's aforementioned purchase of Beats), without thinking about those who depended on the headphone jack for other uses (car connectors, credit card readers, et cetera). While there were those who defended the decision, saying that it allowed Apple to make the phone thinner while adding more internal hardware, others argued that those two goals went against each other, and questioned why phones needed to be so thin in the first place given how many people bought protective cases for them anyway.
  • Microsoft:
    • The common joke about Microsoft's Windows operating systems is that they go in a cycle between a Dork Age and a quality product. Windows 95 was successful for the innovations it brought, but also extremely buggy to the point where it was the butt of many jokes in the '90s, while Windows 98 corrected the technical flaws and provided an all-around quality product. Windows Millennium Edition (or ME) was such a notorious dud that it killed off the Windows line derived from MS-DOS, with many users choosing to either stick with 98 or, if they had to upgrade, going with Windows NT (their business OS) instead. Windows XP, derived from NT, was a return to form and arguably the most successful operating system in history; released in 2001, it didn't drop its title as the OS with the greatest market share until 2011, when it ceded it to Windows 7, and it was still supported with regular updates until 2014. The reason for this is Windows 7's predecessor, Windows Vista, a buggy mess that quickly became an Old Shame for Microsoft, with Windows 7 generally seen as the 98 to Vista's 95 in terms of correcting its problems. Windows 8, released in 2012, didn't suffer from the bugs that plagued ME and Vista, but its "Metro" user interface implemented on Start Screen and Setting Screen, while only affecting few user interface leaving the desktop unscathed, was built around touchscreens, and it had such scathing reception from users of conventional desktops and laptops, again leaving people (especially business/office users, historically the core of Microsoft's base) unwilling to upgrade from XP and 7. Amidst this fiasco, Microsoft went to work on Windows 10, skipping over 9 completely in hopes of distancing themselves from the poor reception of 8, which combined 8's Metro User Interface with Start and Settings that was far more user-friendly for desktop users, to the rejoicing of Windows users...
    • That is until the free upgrade promo (from July 2015 to July 2016) abuses Windows Update to the point that those who didn't want Windows 10 are getting it, conflicts and all, without setting up updates manually...
    • As for Windows 10 itself, over the hood it's unable to set updates (normally Windows 10 will download any and all available released update and install them as soon as available while Windows Update since its Windows 7 and 8 times has rather bad track record of conflicts and system instabilities) to download manually although workarounds do exist, mobile app style content delivery (which means expect suggestion and ads to Windows apps on Windows store and the flood of freemium), alleged collection of user data, and the fact that support for the more personalize-able Windows 7 and 8 is increasingly deprecated to the point that CPU launched from 2016 onwards only supports Windows 10.
    • The Internet Explorer browser, from version 6 to roughly version 9. IE6 was the browser with the biggest market share in history for years, mostly because it was the standard for many business users who had software developed that worked great with it but simply wasn't easily ported to something newer. As a result, people kept using IE6, despite it being outdated and unsecure. The compatibility requirements put 7 and 8 incredibly behind Chrome and Firefox. IE9 was a return to form, but the bad reputation Internet Explorer earned with 6 was still there. Microsoft would eventually phase out the Internet Explorer themselves, replacing it with Edge in Windows 10.
  • Early on in the new millennium, the otherwise top-of-the-game Intel fell behind an increasingly competitive AMD with the Netburst-based Pentium 4. Promising to eventually break the 10GHz barrier, it instead ran inefficiently and incredibly hot. The company was finally out of the woods mid-decade with the release of the Core 2, a more modernized take on the P6 architecture, along with a steady yearly update schedule allowing for step-by-step refinements, and haven't looked back since.
  • NVIDIA fell into this with the GeForce FX GPU, which used a substandard implementation of DirectX that allowed then competitor ATi (now AMD) to wipe the floor with its GPU. NVIDIA came back the next generation and stumbled a few more times but not nearly as badly as this.
  • The BlackBerry line of smartphones had one around the beginning of The New '10s, due to its obsolescence in the face of the iPhone and Android-based phones, and slowness in developing new models. The latest models based on BlackBerry 10 have been well-received, and the company has returned to profitability, but it's still a far cry from its previous stature in the smartphone industry it pioneered.

  • During The New '10s (well, November 2014 - March 2018), Select Fashion was seen as being the Effective Knockoff of brands like New Look, Marks & Spencers, and an increased focus on sports tops, crop tops and shorts / athleisure wear got mixed receptions. The brand was already in trouble anyway due to the political situation in the United Kingdom, and the Dork Age was compounded by a controversial website ( that people complained was bug-ridden with Game Breaking Bugs and a user interface that was seen as slower than rivals such as Marks & Spencer and New Look. Some people consider the site an Obvious Beta at best.
    • Adding to the Dork Age was some people considering the store a Genre Throwback to 1990s-style clothing, or being a British Captain Ersatz of Hot Topic (fashionable-style clothing).
    • Also, some people saw it as having a Periphery Demographic for womenswear, since despite it's supposedly younger demographic, older women were buying the sports bras and crop tops more than the 20-somethings and Millennials that the brand aimed at.

    Food & Drink 
  • In The '80s, Coca-Cola decided to change its secret formula that had been the same for the better part of a century. Ironically, the "New Coke", as the media dubbed it, tasted more like Coke's chief rival, Pepsi (part of the whole point, actually). Die-hard Coca-Cola drinkers said "They Changed It, Now It Sucks!" and Pepsi drinkers kept on drinking Pepsi. This new formula actually made Pepsi the number-one selling soft drink for a while, partly because most of its advertising during the period was "Hate the New Coke? Drink Pepsi!" Pepsi actually saw the New Coke blunder as such a major win, they gave all their employees a day off in celebration. The original formula returned to the market 80 days after New Coke's debut; the original formula was branded "Coca-Cola Classic" while the new one was branded as simply "Coke." The rest of the decade found Coca-Cola shilling (New) Coke with a Younger and Hipper advertising campaign starring '80s phenom Max Headroom, but with very little impact. New Coke was eventually rebranded (quietly) as "Coke II" but faded to its death in the late 1990s and finally perished in the early 2000s. This debacle became a running joke for years. Even in Futurama, the "Slurm" episode poked fun at it.
    • Dave Barry lampooned this in one of his books with a "test your business IQ" question that went something like "You are the world's largest manufacturer of soft drinks. You are using a tested and proven formula that has remained the same for nearly a century. Your product's name is virtually synonymous with 'soft drink' in many areas. You should:" Of the choices, one of them was "Immediately change your formula." (Another, aimed at a more or less contemporaneous Pepsi PR disaster, was something like "Set a celebrity on fire.")
    • This one was such a debacle that there actually exists a conspiracy theory claiming that New Coke was a Springtime for Hitler moment, that Coca-Cola deliberately changed the formula so that they could create enough outrage that people would demand the original Coke back, leading to a long-lasting boost in sales once they quietly shelved New Coke and brought back the original article. A slightly different theory claims that New Coke was done in order to cover up the switch from cane sugar to high-fructose corn syrup in the original Coke, by distracting people with a radically altered formula. (In truth, this shift from sugar to HFCS occurred five years before the New Coke debacle.) Both of these theories assume that there's no possible way that such a major corporation could shoot its business model in the foot so badly... right? To quote Donald Keough, then the company's president and chief operating officer:
    "Some critics will say Coca-Cola made a marketing mistake. Some cynics will say that we planned the whole thing. The truth is we are not that dumb, and we are not that smart."
  • Jack in the Box (the restaurant) had one between 1980 and 1994. Read more about it on Wikipedia. In short, what happened was originally Jack in the Box had a typical West Coast hamburger stand feel to it: you talked into the clown's mouth to order, and advertising featured an early version of Jack as well as several other characters. But in 1980, the chain ran a series of commercials where Jack was destroyed. New marketing was toward the "affluent yuppies". The menu expanded at an alarming rate of two new items a year. They even tried to rename the restaurant to "Monterey Jack's". Around this point, the chain also withdrew from several markets east of the Mississippi, including New York state, Chicago, and Detroit. A massive e. coli outbreak at several Jack in the Box locations on the West Coast (which made 623 people ill and killed four) also did damage to the chain's reputation — but at the same time, it led to Jack in the Box completely overhauling their food safety procedures, and many other fast food chains soon followed their lead to ensure that an outbreak that large would never happen again. Jack in the Box has also begun expanding again, filling in markets such as Cincinnati and Indianapolis.
  • Hardee's went through a similar dip in The '80s and The '90s. The chain, already taxed by buying out other chains (most prominently Burger Chef and Sandy's), attempted to cut costs buy using frozen instead of charbroiled meat patties. A 1990 buyout/conversion of Roy Rogers restaurants (based in the Northeast, where the Hardee's name was totally unfamiliar) was met with such backlash that most of them were quickly reverted. Issues with quality control and constant menu changes brought the chain to its nadir in 1997, when tons of locations were closed (most of the franchises in Detroit were sold to Wendy's or Canadian chain Tim Hortons, giving the latter its second successful American market), and the remainder was sold to California-based Carl's Jr. For the next six years, Carl's Jr. struggled in attempts to merge the two chains by keeping Hardee's still-successful breakfast menu and Carl's Jr.'s lunch/dinner menu and logo. The change was rough at first, resulting in a schizophrenic mess of stores, with some stores still having the pre-1997 menu and orange-and-brown logo well into the 2000s. But one last Re Tool of the menu to focus on "Thickburgers" seemed to finally turn things around and re-establish the chain with a more "upscale" image than McDonald's, Burger King, or Wendy's. As of The New '10s, Hardee's/Carl's Jr. has once again been in expansion mode, gradually filling in markets that had been abandoned in the 90s or earlier, such as Chicago.
    • Speaking of Roy Rogers, Hardee's singlehandedly caused a deep Dork Age for that chain thanks to the aforementioned buyout/conversion plan. However, some history is in order. Roy's was founded in 1968 by Marriott- yes, the hotel chain. They had been in the restaurant business for years prior to hotel ownership, by by the late 60s, their chain of "Jr. Hot Shoppes" (fast-food style versions of their original "Hot Shoppes" eateries) wasn't doing so well, and Marriott wondered what to do with them. Meanwhile, Marriott had recently acquired the franchise rights to a place called RoBee's, which sold roast beef- but they couldn't use that name outside of Indiana. Marriott board-member Bob Wain (the namesake of Bob's Big Boy) came up with an ingenious idea- merge the two chains together into one that would offer hamburgers, roast beef and fried chicken- plus a "Fixin's Bar", where the customer could garnish their meal with dressings, condiments and toppers as they wanted. He then reached out to famous Western movie star Roy Rogers to have his name on the chain and endorse its products. The concept was a wild success, and by the late 1970s, Roy's had expanded from its Washington DC-area base to all over the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. They were further boosted when they acquired rival burger/chicken chain Gino's in 1982. The chain looked to be set for the future- until Marriott decided to get out of the food business in 1989. Hardee's bought Roy's and immediately set out to use the chain for Northeast expansion- many company-owned Roy Rogers were converted to Hardee's, and with the exception of the fried chicken (which was offered at Hardee's- even those that weren't Roy's- through the late 90s), Roy's familiar items were eliminated. Loyal Roy's customers revolted, and by 1994, Hardees was selling off locations left and right, often to McDonald's, Wendy's, and Boston Market. By 1997, only a few franchised stores in the DC/Balitmore area, and some stragglers located in highway rest stops, were left of the once-mighty Roy Rogers. In 2002, Peter and Jim Plamondon- twin sons of one of the original Roy's executives- bought the rights and chain and began an effort to prevent the name and menu from falling by the wayside. They've built new locations and expanded franchising, and slowly but surely the chain is inching its way back- notably in New Jersey, where 4 new locations have opened in the past few years, and the return of Roy's is always dedicated with long lines on opening day. But the chain still has a long road ahead of it.
  • Wendy's went through a similar plunge in The '80s, due mainly to poor upkeep of its stores that created cleanliness issues, as well as a failed attempt to adopt a breakfast menu (unlike McDonald's or Burger King, Wendy's never fully got on board with breakfast, and it was only available at a handful of locations {mostly in 24-hour truckstops} before quietly being dropped in 2014). However, it was not a long-lived or detrimental decline like Hardee's suffered — by The '90s, the chain recovered from its eighties slump, thanks to storewide renovations and a highly popular series of ads featuring founder Dave Thomas. By the mid-90s, Wendy's was considered the best in quality and service among the "big three" burger chains, and despite closing most of its international locations later in the decade, it has been a solid #3 ever since.
  • A&W Restaurants went through this in The '70s and The '80s. This was mainly due to their drive-in restaurants aging and becoming less feasible as McDonald's took over the fast food world — except in warmer climates, drive-ins often had to close in the winter, as very few had indoor seating, while the increased presence of drive-through at McDonald's and its ilk made drive-ins seem dated. The chain went on a huge closing spree and franchise freeze, slimming the numbers down greatly; they also sold all of their Canadian locations to Unilever (to this day, Canadian A&W has no connection with its southern counterpart). A subsidiary was spun off to sell A&W root beer in grocery stores. New sit-down locations with drive-throughs were piloted, and A&W began to push into shopping malls as well (due not only to a buyout of Carousel Snack Bars, but also due to the company being owned by shopping mall developer A. Alfred Taubman at the time). The chain ended up in the hands of Yum!, the owners of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut (and also Long John Silver's at the time), who aggressively expanded the brand with "2 in 1" stores combined with KFC or Long John Silver's. Although A&W and Long John Silver's have since spun back off from Yum!, the co-branding largely remains, and A&W has been fairly secure ever since.
  • Tropicana orange juice went through a bizarre and brief Dork Age when they hired the Arnell Group to redesign their packaging. The new design was so ugly that it actually caused a 20% drop in sales. Thankfully, it was reverted after just a few months.
  • English cuisine went through its Dork Age in the 20th century. Until the industrial revolution, the cuisine of England was well-regarded throughout Europe, but due to the industrial revolution and the two world wars, the cuisine of England saw a drastic decline in quality and reputation when mass produced food became popular. The Dork Age has started to decline since the '70s, but the reputation still persists.

  • In the early 1990s, Las Vegas was facing stiff competition from not only Atlantic City drawing away gamblers on the East Coast (at its height, AC had over twice as many tourists as Vegas), but the looming threat of Native American casinos, legalized in 1988note , drawing away gamblers from Middle America as well. As a survival mechanism, Las Vegas began its now-infamous attempt to expand its appeal to tourists by rebranding the city as a destination for family vacations. Every Strip hotel built over 1990-93 had at least one theme park-esque attraction and theme, with the new MGM Grand boasting a full-blown theme park.

    This backfired badly. Adult tourists who preferred to gamble and party without dodging kids were upset, hotel-casino staffs trained to operate adult-oriented resorts couldn't handle the unique needs of families, cases of parents rushing off to the gaming tables and leaving their kids to fend for themselves made the news –- one abandoned child ended up kidnapped and murdered -– and the theme parks turned out to be a bomb that closed in 2002. This age ended with the opening of the Bellagio in 1998, which was explicitly geared towards a very classy and very adult clientele with its fine art gallery, conservatory, resident Cirque du Soleil show, and high-stakes poker tables. While the hotels that opened to serve families are still around, and Vegas still markets itself as being about more than just gambling, said hotels have been progressively de-themed and the city's entertainment mix now mostly excludes families.
    • This was referenced and summed up pretty well at the end of the film Casino.
    Today it looks like Disneyland. And while the kids play cardboard pirates, Mommy and Daddy drop the house payments and Junior's college money on the poker slots.
    "The town of Vegas has got a different face / Because it's a family place / With lots to do. / While in The '50s a man could mingle with scores / Of all the seediest whores, / Well now his children can too!"
    • The film Vegas Vacation in 1997 parodied the family era of Las Vegas, with Clark Griswold taking his wife and kids on a trip to Vegas with his bonus check. Without parental supervision, Rusty gets a fake ID and becomes a high roller, while Audrey gets a job as a stripper thanks to the influence of Cousin Eddie's trashy daughter Vicki.
  • Paul Pressler’s run as president of Disneyland from 1996 to 2000 is a textbook example of someone excelling in one field but completely failing in another. After a very successful stint as the head of The Disney Store (which itself underwent a Dork Age after he left, thanks in part to focusing on films like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules that aren't exactly merchandising-friendly), Pressler was promoted to the top position of Disneyland, which at the time was undergoing a radical change. The park was slowly losing new customers, and an attempt to add a second Disney park to the area had failed miserably. He was charged with saving money and enticing new people to the park – which he did by seriously cutting attraction maintenance and operating hours, and by homogenizing merchandise within the park down to only a few major items like T-shirts and plushies, basically turning the park into a glorified Disney Store. He then turned to saving even more money by completely shutting down smaller low-capacity attractions like the Motor Boat Cruise, and helping “trim” the budget to a massive redo of the Tomorrowland area.

    For his “success” at Disneyland he was promoted to the head of the entire theme parks division in 2000, where he oversaw development of the long awaited second theme park in the Disneyland area, Disney’s California Adventure. The park opened to great fanfare in 2001… and very quickly became a spectacular flop. The park itself was accused of being cheap and uninteresting, with more of an emphasis on shops and dining over shows and attractions. After two years of trying and failing to fix California Adventure, Pressler resigned in 2003 to become the head of The Gap, and thankfully taking Disneyland’s Dork Age with him.
  • The German Baltic Sea Coast had this, particular in the former East due to no fault of its own. During the 19th century, resorts at the Baltic coast were among the most priced and widely sought after places for the well to do to spend a Kur (a unique German type of stay at a spa that supposedly rejuvenates and increases health) and many grand old hotels date to that era and had crowned heads among their guests. The introduction of the railroad made more and more spas accessible to the growing middle class and soon tourism vastly overtook fishery in economic importance. Then two world wars hit and with it came German partition. While the resorts had always bounced back before, some were now close to the border and could not continue to operate whereas others lost almost all of their former cross-border guests. Still those in the GDR enjoyed a steady stream of tourists of all classes, aided by the fact that travel to the West was out of the question and even holidays in "socialist brother countries" like Hungary or Poland were a bureaucratic hassle for GDR citizens to say nothing of the long trips there in relatively slow trains or the Trabbi. After 1990 the border opened and suddenly GDR citizens either moved West, had become unemployed or wanted to explore all those countries beyond the Iron Curtain that had always been beyond their reach. Baltic Sea towns suffered and even some in the West had problems with (ironically) Westerners abandoning them for resorts in the East. At the same time dockworks in Rostock (one of the other major employers in the region) collapsed and the GDR fishery, which had been unsustainable to begin with, lost its reason for existence. It seemed for a time that with rampant emigration of every young person who could and economic problems the region had entered a deadly tailspin, but while some of these problems still persist, tourism has bounced back. In part because (former) GDR citizens did in the end return to the beaches of their youth, in part because some Westerners found their love for East German beaches and in part because the G8 summit in Heiligendamm (the one with the quirky picture of world leaders in a ''Strandkorb'') put the region onto the international tourism map for the first time in over half a century.
  • Both Universal Studios resorts went through this in the Turn of the Millennium. To underscore just how bad things were, there's an infamous part in Universal's adaptation of The Cat in the Hat where, during the Ms. Kwan ride near the end, the Cat suddenly stops the film and holds up two pamphlets advertising the Universal theme parks before winking at the audience and resuming the movie. Judging by how blatant this form of product placement is, it's doubtful that most executives who worked at Universal during the film's production are still employed.
    • Universal Orlando enthusiasts deem the period during and after the 1999 resort redesign as this. During this period, many of Universal Studios Florida's classic attractions, such as Ghostbusters Spooktacular, Kongfrontation, Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies, Stage 54, The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera, The Wild Wild West Stunt Show, and Back to the Future: The Ride were closed in an attempt to "modernize" the theme park in order to keep it competitive with Disney. The enthusiasts' reactions to most of the replacements for these rides ranged from extremely polarizing in the case of Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast to incessant mockery in the case of Shrek 4-D, and served to only further drive the park down the drain until The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter opened in 2010. The only rides that weren't mocked were Revenge of the Mummy (which was quite thrilling compared to Kongfrontation), Men In Black: Alien Attack, and The Simpsons Ride, and even the last one had something of a Broken Base due to it having replaced Back to the Future: The Ride. It also didn't help that during this time, Universal scrapped plans for building a second resort just a few miles away for economic reasons, with nearly disastrous consequences.
    • Universal Studios Hollywood didn't fare much better, but had it even worse than Orlando. Most of the park's attractions from the late '80s all the way up to the early 2010s got replaced left and right just to keep the park competitive to Disneyland, and even then, most people just visited the park just to ride the iconic Studio Tour.note  The most negatively received of the newer attractions at the time was Spider Man Rocks, a live stage show that replaced Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue. It is frequently mocked by almost everyone who watched it, and it made Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark look like a Tony Award-winning musical by Bob Fosse. It ended up being the only Marvel-related attraction Universal Studios Hollywood had; it closed in 2004 to be replaced by Fear Factor Live (which also was a target of mockery), and Marvel regained the California theme park rights for their characters in 2008, which fell into Disney's hands the following year when they bought Marvel. Only with the opening of Hollywood's Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Springfield areas, along with Super Silly Fun Land seemed to signal the age was starting to die down.
    • As of now, some enthusiasts have come to see Universal Orlando as having fallen into another Dork Age. In particular, they cite a perceived overreliance on motion simulator rides at the expense of more traditional rides and stage shows, especially now that, with both the original Studios park and Islands of Adventure mostly filled in, Universal had to close old attractions to make way for these new rides. While the replacement of Twister...Ride it Out with Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon wasn't too bad (Twister was a polarizing attraction to begin with, so replacing it with an equally polarizing one didn't change much), replacing the well-received Disaster! (one of the few remaining attractions at the park to date back to its 1990 opening, albeit in the form of Earthquake: The Big One) with Fast & Furious: Supercharged, which met a scathing reception even from casual park guests, wasn't. Volcano Bay, Universal Orlando's third theme park (and first water park), also received very mixed reviews on opening day in 2017 for being an Obvious Beta, with complaints about the rides breaking down frequently, the wireless TapuTapu wristbands used for the virtual lines being glitchy, and said virtual lines being several hours long, such that Universal was forced to cap ticket sales in order to prevent overcrowding (leading to guests being turned away from the gate as early as noon).
    • For Halloween Horror Nights Orlando, meanwhile, the years from 2012 through 2014 are often cited due to the increased focus on licensed properties (especially The Walking Dead) and lack of "icon" figures in favor of "having the event represent itself" (which usually translated to a heavy emphasis on The Walking Dead in the marketing). This period reached its nadir in 2013, when every scarezone was themed around The Walking Dead. The Dork Age ended with the 25th anniversary event in 2015, featuring the return of many popular characters from past events, a more generous ratio of licensed to original content, and The Walking Dead being kept to one house.

  • Math education in the U.S. (and, to a lesser extent, Europe and Japan) went through a Dork Age in the 1960s with the "New Math" format. It involved teaching students advanced topics like boolean algebra, bases other than 10, abstract algebra, and set theory from an early age instead of emphasizing memorization, word problems, and, well, actual numbers. The idea was to create a generation of engineers, scientists, and mathematical thinkers capable of competing with the USSR, but the results were disastrous. Most children were unable to grasp the concepts because they hadn't learned basic arithmetic like the multiplication table firstnote . Most teachers didn't fully understand what it was they were teaching. The subjects taught weren't even that useful for their intended engineering/physical science purpose. And an entire generation thought of math as even less useful and relevant than children usually do. Today, New Math is remembered as an utter catastrophe of misguided education reform Gone Horribly Wrong. note 
  • Moviegoing in India, especially in Mumbai, became truly oppressive in the 21st Century. In most democracies, you saw loosening of censorship over a period of time, but censorship in Indian cinema and Bollywood is comparable to dictatorships and theocracies in terms of restrictions on political content, showing sexuality or bringing anti-authoritarian sentiments. While the latter three loosened somewhat recently, conservatives decided to combat it by putting anti-smoking and anti-alcohol sentiments, this they did by adding messages that came on the screen in big letters any time a character smoke and drank on-screen. Indeed, Woody Allen removed Blue Jasmine from Indian screens for these very reasons.
  • Rail travel underwent a serious dork age in most of the West between (roughly) the 1950s and the advent of High Speed Rail. The decline was precipitated by the rise in private automobile ownership and led to the abandonment of many lines as well as the bankruptcy of several private railroads. Some railroads tried their best to counteract the trend, but of course this was not always successful and some of the attempts to update the design were about as successful as "new coke". However, with the rise in gas prices as well as newer faster services such as the Shinkansen (Japan, 1960s) the TGV (France, 1980s) or Deutsche Bahn 's ICE (1990s) rail travel recovered and even managed to put a dent in the numbers of air travel along short routes. Even the much laughed about Amtrak of the United States which was formed in the 1970s in order to keep the private railroads from collapsing under the weight of money losing passenger services has increased ridership by over 50% since 2000 and carries more passengers along the Acela-corridor (Boston-New York-Washington) than all airlines combined.

     Pinball manufacturers 
  • Stern is widely considered to have gone through a dork age between 2003 and 2012. The reason is simple: During this interval, Stern was the only non-boutique manufacturer of pinball machines. As a result, innovation and creativity mostly stagnated during this time. (That being said, Stern is also partially Mis-blamed for this stagnancy, as they got caught in the tail end of a patent war among several other manufacturers that left Stern with next to nothing to use.) Stern was off to a good start with well-acclaimed early hits like Lord of the Rings and The Simpsons Pinball Party, but they got complacent soon afterwards: The Problem with Licensed Games took full effect here, as Stern was able to get themes for hot properties at the time of release, like 24 or Pirates of the Caribbean, meaning Stern's machines typically got the price of the machines back simply because passers-by familiar with the license would drop in some coins out of curiosity. This convinced operators, who mostly do not play pinball, to just buy whatever machines Stern would release. In addition, the rules were released in such an incomplete state that some games, like Batman (Stern), were near unplayable on release. The build quality also suffered, most noticeably with Iron Man's rivets and screws shaking loose in as early as six months. This changed in 2012, when Jersey Jack Pinball emerged as a competitor to Stern, and Stern's machines took a noticeable leap in quality, both in build quality and in gameplay. Whereas Stern was once practically a derogatory name among pinball fans, they are universally respected except by the most diehard Bally-Williams fans. This leap is so dramatic, several of Stern's dork age machines have since been Vindicated by History, with Stern now manufacturing re-releases of machines they never sold much of when first introduced.
  • After dominating the electromechanical era (from post-World War II to 1979) and some hits right after that, most notably Black Hole (which charged double per game compared to surrounding releases and was still popular in every arcade), Gottlieb got caught in a dork age from roughly the mid-80's and onwards that they just couldn't shake off. This downturn caused the company to financially trail behind its competitors and go out of business in 1995. The reasons, however, are not entirely clear: Ask 50 pinball fans and they will give you 50 different answers, but they all agree that the Gottlieb machines weren't quite as good. A likely underlying reason is that as Gottlieb's competitors created more intricate rules,note  deeper integration of their themes,note  and incorporated new technology,note  Gottlieb's design team were stuck in electromechanical ways of design had trouble adapting, lagging behind Bally-Williams and Data East by two to four years. When Gottlieb did adapt to the mode-based progression in the 90's, however, the disjointed gameplay, lopsided scoring, and clunky playfield geometrynote  earned it few fans. There are a few highlights within this era though, such as Stargate, Rescue 911, and Cue Ball Wizard.