Most of The Boondocks episode "Thank You for Not Snitching" follows the militarization of a Neighborhood Watch group that targets young black children. Considering what happened to Trayvon Martin, this makes the episode harder to watch.
One of the stations in the New New York tubeway system was given as "J.F.K., Jr. Airport". After the real life John F. Kennedy, Jr. died when his private plane crashed, the line was replaced with "Radio City Mutant Hall".note Though the original line can still be heard on the full-episode animatic that appears on Futurama volume one DVD and on the UK airings.
The line in the first episode about the Stop & Drop Suicide booths being "Americans' favorite suicide booth since 2008" becomes a bit wince worthy in light of 2008's economic meltdown and the invention of an actual suicide machine in the same year.
In "The Lesser of Two Evils", the main characters visit a theme park modeled on 2000s New York. There's a brief scene where the stock market drops from about 11,000 to 7,200, similar numbers to the real life 2008 crash.note Fortunately, it jumps right back up to 11,000, and all the stock brokers who jumped to their apparent deaths float back up into the building via jetpack. Considering that the scene was supposed to be a "distorted history" take on the crash that started the Great Depression; that makes this a sort of bizarre life imitating art imitating life.
There is a not-so-untrueUrban Legend about a King of the Hill episode and a Columbine survivor who was hiding during the shooting and wrote a love note she intended to give to a friend after realizing how close she was to dying, but the friend turned out to be one of the perpetrators. "Wings of the Dope," the episode with Buckley's angel, aired two weeks later and watching it helped the girl realize she didn't need permission or approval from anyone to mourn her loss (or the loss of what could have been had she spoken up sooner). In the episode, when Hank is tired of everyone talking about the angel and tries to get Luanne away from him, he says:
"I'm sure with his help you'll do just fine. You'll pass the test and he'll have finished his good deed and there'll be no need for him to come back to Earth again. And if you do see Buckley's angel again, it will actually be an evil angel of death."
The Sam & Max: Freelance Police episode "Fools Die on Friday", originally aired in 1997, is about a terrorist who hijacks an aircraft and almost crashes it into a tall structure in New York City. Of course, the aircraft is a blimp, the terrorist is just a mildly insane loser, and the crash (into the Statue of Liberty) is averted. But the overall plot and dialogue still parallel 9/11 enough that it makes the episode harder to laugh at. The episode was not shown on Gametap when they began streaming the series in 2006, but it is fully present on the DVD release.
This was inverted in the pilot episode. Comedy Central initally didn't want Toot Braunstein to cut herself, as they felt that the gag was too tasteless. A year before the show premiered, an episode of The Real World: San Diego revealed that Frankie Abernathy was a cutter. Because of its relevance, the scene was left in the show.
The episode "Unrestrainable Trainable" has Captain Hero investigate the city under attack from a giant midget (which later turns out to be his inbred son), with one of the evidence of destruction being a giant reservoir of banana pudding being drained. Bill Cosby is seen standing over it, saying that he's just another unemployed sexual predator without it. His recent accusations of sexual assault makes this not so funny.
When Steve Irwin gets tail-whipped by Medusa, he rips his heart out and puts it back in, saying "What a stinger!" This is now seen in bad taste due to Irwin's real life death after being stung in the heart by a stingray.
Siegfried getting attacked and killed by the tiger in Penn & Teller vs. Siegfried & Roy match became less funny when Roy was mauled by the tiger in Real Life.
The Show Within The Showflanderizes Unalaq, the Big Bad of book 2, in an effort to get people to realize that he was indeed the bad guy by showing him as an Omnicidal Maniac. This became unfunny when it turned out that Unalaq was indeed such after becoming the Dark Avatar.
The original series has The Ember Island Players, about a Fire Nation play about the cast, which is about as hilarious a warping of reality as the Unalaq play. Then came The Movie, where pretty much everything the actual Gaang had a "No. Just... No" Reaction to in the play was true of the movie's portrayal. The movie goes on to be considered In-Name-Only and universally reviled by fans, not even liked by people new to the franchise and unfamiliar with what the cast was supposed to look and act like, and generally cemented M. Night Shyamalan's Fallen Creator status, derailed the lot of the cast's careers, and put a hitch in the 3D revival with it's last minute conversion and the Razzies that it won for it.
This ad for◊ Clarence is a lot less funny after the creator was fired from Cartoon Network over allegations of sexual assault. However, the episode where this scene came from, "Slumber Party", did eventually air unaltered, which may fall into Too Soon territory instead.
The The Wild Thornberrys contains an episode where Eliza meets a pack of wolves in Yellowstone National Park. Eliza claims that there has never been a single human in North America killed by a wolf. The deaths of Kenton Joel Carnegie and Candice Berner, who were both killed by wolves in North America (Carnegie was Canadian, Berner was American), make this quote hard to stomach.
The episode "Call of the Cutie" sees Scootaloo tell Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon they're "stuck being stuck up". "Crusaders of the Lost Mark" reveals Diamond Tiara's mother is practically abusing her to act like a proper 'rich pony', which basically translates into being a stuck up snob to anyone beneath her, meaning Scootaloo was more right than one would think.
Seven months after the episode "Hurricane Fluttershy" aired, most of the United States' Mid-Atlantic region was devastated by Superstorm Sandy.
Season 3's "Just for Sidekicks" has Spike emulating Bill Cosby's "Chocolate Cake for Breakfast Routine". This is now harder to stomach after Cosby's rape allegations.
The Scootachicken jokes which originated in Season 1's "Stare Master" became considerably less funny when it turned out that in Season 4's "Flight to the Finish", Scootaloo has trouble flying in canon and Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon tease her for it.
A lot of the various Spike gags became somewhat sadder in hindsight after "Equestria Games" revealed he has serious self-esteem issues.
The episode "Amending Fences" does this to the very first episode. The Establishing Character Moment of Twilight brushing aside a party invite to focus on her studies with Nightmare Moon's imminent arrival? Turns out the party that she was invited to was for an old friend of hers named Moondancer, and by snubbing it and moving to Ponyville without even saying goodbye it effectively ruined the entire pony's life. Moondancer's scene where she breaks down delivers a tear-filledreason you suck speech is easily the most heartrending thing the show has ever produced.
Season 5's Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep? had Big Macintosh turning himself into an Alicorn princess during the Dream Sequence. It was seen as nothing more than a funny gag at the time... then later that season, Brotherhooves Social reveals that Big Mac developed an inferiority complex as a result of Applejack becoming a hero of Equestria and being adored by his baby sister Apple Bloom, while he was ignored. This puts his dream in a very different light.
In one episode where Jay becomes a trucker, he leaves Miami as a sign is shown saying, "You are now leaving Miami. We'll get you next time." The sign also contains a picture of an alligator holding a shotgun. Fast-forward to 2012 with the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida and the controversy of its "stand your ground" law, and this becomes not so funny.
Another episode has a banner advertising the New York City Marathon, which Jay later runs in, with the slogan "It's More Fun to Run When it's Not From a Gun". Terrorism at a marathon was unthinkable until the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 that left three dead and more than two hundred and fifty injured, making this one hit a bit close to home.
Jokes about Doris' smoking habits are this ever since her voice actress, Doris Grau, died in 1995 from respiratory failure. A notable one is when she blows a smoke cloud of an evil figure telling her that her time is coming soon.
The Duck Dodgers episode "The Menace of Maninsuit" (first aired in 2004) had Dodgers fight the titular kaiju on the Japan-like planet of Nippono in a mecha, who eventually crashes into a nuclear power plant and comments on how it's a bad idea to have one near the ocean. The 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, along with the subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster, show how it's a bad idea.
"Samurai Quack" has one gag where Dodgers carves his way through countless robots, but pulls back from striking a human because he can't get away with that with a Y7 rating (a jab at how Samurai Jack got away with plenty of violence because it was directed towards robots and not organic beings). Then Season 5 of the latter show aired, and Jack brutally slashes the throat of one of the (very human) Daughters of Aku, whom he had assumed was just another one of Aku's robotic minions.
In a bad naming coincidence, the organization which the protagonists of Archer work for is named ISIS, the International Secret Intelligence Service. Among other things, they have engaged in counter-terrorism and espionage, unintentionally racking up high body counts and causing international incidents. The group is a parody of intelligence agencies, and allows the writers, usually through Lana or Mallory, to give their opinions on the fubared nature of covert geopolitics, and the horrible things that happen when said politics go wrong. Unfortunately, in early 2014, an organization known as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, rose to prominence, the result of several geopolitical disasters in the Middle East. Among other things, they have engaged in terrorism and mass murder, purposefully causing an international incident and racking up a high body count. The trouble caused by the real life ISIS has lead to the creators to drop the name from the sixth season onwards.
One episode, SpongeBob shouts "Holy Oil Spill!" as Mermaid Man's rivals appear. note For those who don't understand, in 2010, the Deepwater Horizon incident, the largest oil spill in history, killed 11 workers, cost BP over $4 billion, and caused massive harm to nature in the surrounding area.
In an earlier episode where SpongeBob and Patrick steal a balloon, it pops and they panic. Patrick says this little gem right here. A few months after the episode aired, 9/11 and the anthrax letters occurred:
Patrick: "We're not talking about some dumb mail fraud scheme or a hijacking here! WE STOLE A BALLOON!"
Sandy Cheeks has become one after a hurricane bearing her name tore through New Jersey.
In "SpongeBob vs. The Big One", The Flying Dutchmen gets sent Davy Jones' Locker. It then shows him sitting in a locker full of Gym socks with the musician Davy Jones (of Monkees fame) standing next to him, taunting him. Considering who Davy Jones is in both maritime mythology and Pirates of the Caribbean, the Visual Pun becomes much darker after Davy Jones' death in 2012.
The "Remembering SpongeBob" montage from "The Sponge Who Could Fly" is rather heartbreaking if you think about it as remembering pre-Seasonal Rot SpongeBob.
In Steven Universe, a lot of the jokes made at Amethyst's expense (such as Garnet's "We kept Amethyst" tidbit) become a lot harsher when The Reveal shows us that Amethyst is one of many Gems created by Kindergartens, which created Gems by sucking the essence out of the Earth, with the end result of leaving it barren. Made even worse when it reveals Amethyst's deep-seated inner turmoil about this and how Pearl was oblivious to how torn up Amethyst felt about it.
Littlest Pet Shop (2012): The episode "Lotsa Luck" has a flashback scene where Mrs. Twombly's retirement from kung fu quilting overshadows Neil Armstrong's moon landing. Considering that the episode was likely written around the time of Armstrong's death, the news retroactively comes off as this.
Rugrats: In "The Santa Experience", Angelica meets a shopping mall Santa and one item she tells him she wants is a "911 working emergency stethoscope kit", pronouncing "911" as "Nine-Eleven".
The relationship between demon dragon and Big Bad Shendu and his son Drago in the final season of Jackie Chan Adventures starts carrying more weight when the real Jackie Chan became estranged from his own son Jaycee, which culminated in Jaycee being arrested for drug possession, which in the People's Republic of China could have given him the death penalty. The relationship between the cartoon Chan and his niece Jade falls into this as well, and the strainedrelationship between Shendu and his ownsiblings has the possibility of qualifying. All of these may be Harsher in Hindsight instead.
The short "Magic Time" features expies of Sigriend & Roy who mistreat their animals and wind up getting attacked by them at the end. Six years after it aired, Roy Horn got attacked by one of his own tigers.
"A Quake, A Quake" is pretty funny, but the end line (which references the then-recent Lebanese Civil War) takes on a new Oh, Crap! meaning after 2006:
"We want to find some peace and quiet, so we're moving to Beirut"
The episode "Plane Pals" has an in-flight safety film that pokes fun at various potential in-flight disasters. A few years after the episode aired, one such scenario came true:
"Welcome to Air Pacific, the Jolly Airline. Our deluxe 757 is equipped with a number of safety features to use in case of an emergency, such as our fuel tanks explode, and we crash like a fiery ball into the sea."
"Potty Emergency" has a scene where Wakko tries to use the women's restroom at a movie theater due to the men's room being out of order and gets kicked out. The controversy over transgender people and gender-specific bathrooms in the mid-2010s makes this moment cringe-worthy.
One episode of Muppet Babies, "Scooter's Uncommon Cold," had a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot in which the babies imagined themselves going inside a sick Scooter's body and learned about the immune system by seeing how Scooter's was working to make him well. Richard Hunt, the puppeteer who performed Scooter in the original Muppet Show and movies, basing the character on his own teenage self, died of AIDS (i.e. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) in 1992.
On Kids Next Door, Numbuh 5's father is a very clear parody of Bill Cosby, which might be a little uncomfortable after the multiple allegations against him of sexual assault.
A dropped pilot for Constant Payne has a scene where the daughter squeezes a balloon plane in between two buildings, shattering the windows. This came out in 2001 and is a theory for why the pilot didn't pass (though in reality, it was because the creator was pushing for unionization in the animation industry).
Moral Orel's early episodes in general. The show got considerably darker around the middle of the first season and put a lot of focus on how miserable most of the main cast are. A lot of these traits (Clay's drinking, Blobert'a Stepford Smiler tendencies, etc.) are still present in the early episodes though. They're just played for laughs and not explored very deeply. Making those scenes a little cringe-worthy if you watch them after you've seen season 2 and especially season 3.
Uncle Grandpa had a gag in "Pizza Eve" involving an awards show where Uncle Grandpa wins every single award. The gag ends with Uncle Grandpa telling the stars of the other Cartoon Network shows that they're not getting picked up for another season. Not long before this episode aired, it was established that no new Uncle Grandpa episodes would be made anymore and the crew had already been fired. Whoops.
In Disney's 1925 Alice ComedyAlice's Egg Plant, Alice has trouble filling out an order of eggs when a Bolshevik chicken heads her hens on a strike. In 1941, the Disney studio would undergo a crippling strike, which Walt Disney, in his 1947 testimony to the House of Un-American Activities Committee, blamed on Communist sympathizers.
The Transformers: At the end of "Only Human", which takes place in the then-future year 2006, "Old Snake"* who is all but stated to be a future version of Cobra Commander laments that "they simply don't make terrorists like they used to..." as the episode's villains are taken away. Even beyond 2006, real life has proven that they do make terrorists like they used to.
The Pink Panther (in its 1993 Continuity Reboot incarnation) is now this, with the episodes "Big Top Pinky" and "Rain or Snow or Pink of Night", both of which feature clowns in them. Back in 1994 and 1995 these could be seen as comic, even funny, but with the recent epidemic of Creepy Clown sightings in the U.S, Canada and the United Kingdom, these episodes can't be seen in the same light anymore. (Granted, the episode Rain or Snow or Pink of Night, featuring the panther as a mailman delivering a package to Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain Johnny Chucklehead, which involves a clown jack-in-the-box, and isn't aired much now).
Kaeloo: A Running Gag on the show is to have everybody make fun of Stumpy. The Season 3 premiere revealed that he's genuinely hurt by this.
At the end of "The Flood", as floodwaters surround PS 118, Principal Wartz stands on the roof of the school singing, "Way down yonder, in New Orleans..." This became a lot less funny after Hurricane Katrina caused extensive flooding and damage in New Orleans in 2005.
In "Helga on the Couch", Mr. Simmons gets nervous when he learns that the school psychologist will be observing his class, stuttering and asking for reassurance that she will just be observing the students, and not him, the teacher. While this is a moment played for laughs when the viewer is a child, as an older viewer who knows about Mr. Simmons being gay he was likely still in the closet and worried that the school psychologist would see through him and expose him, which could have disastrous backlash from the parents whose children attends P.S. 118.
In "Curly Snaps", Curly loses his mind because he feels like he isn't respected by the other students and teachers, locks himself in the principal's office, and assaults people with dodgeballs. The episode aired half a year before the Columbine High School Massacre, when such behavior would be considered way less funny. There's also the fact that if Curly pulled something like this the 2010s, with the many controversial "Zero-Tolerance" policies and extreme rules in place at schools, this kind of behavior would likely have the police called.