The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode "Mass Transit Trouble", an episode banned after the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 due to its plot of Robotnik plotting to bomb an airport and a subway station, becomes even more uncomfortable to watch in the wake of the ISIS attacks on Brussels Airport and a nearby subway station.
American Dad!: Several episodes focuses on Francine trying to have a more exciting life, ranging from her performing surgery to becoming a deep-sea explorer. In "National Treasure 4: Baby Franny: She's Doing Well: The Hole Story", it was revealed that a firefighter seemingly died while saving her from a well, and Francine has been wracked with guilt due to feeling that she's wasted her life away and that her savior died in vain. All those attempts to make her life more exciting now have a much more tragic meaning.
In Avatar: The Last Airbender, in "Tales of Ba Sing Se", a clip is shown where Iroh is crying over the loss of his son. Before the episode was aired (but after the rest of the voice-overs for that season were completed), the voice actor for Iroh, Mako, died.
The second season of Avengers Assemble "The Arsenal" featured Stephen Collins as Howard Stark. The episode aired around the time TMZ leaked an audio recording of Collins admitting to now ex-wife Faye Grant that he had molested several underage children decades before.
The interactions of Joker and Penguin inside Penguin's night club, The Iceberg Lounge, in "Joker's Millions" become this in one of the "Arkham Stories" during Batman: Arkham City.
Just try watching "Over the Edge" after Batman: Arkham Knight and season 3 of Arrow, and knowing what was All a Dream in the former is mostly reality in the latter two, as all three involve similar plot points: the daughter of a cop ends up having something bad happening to her (DCAU!Barbara/Sara Lance getting killed/Arkham!Barbara Gordon ends up getting kidnapped and seeming commits suicide after a dose of fear toxin), her father (DCAU and Arkham!Commissioner Gordon/Quentin Lance) ends up getting pissed at someone (DCAU and Arkham!Batman/Ollie and Quentin's other daughter Laurel) for keeping a secret (Barbara's double life as Batgirl and Oracle/Sara's death itself) from him and decides to cut off ties from the hero, and the hero's identity gets outed (DCAU!Gordon learning the truth from Barbara's computer/Arkham!Scarecrow forcing Gordon to remove Batman's mask on live TV/Arrow!Ra's al Ghul decided to frame the Arrow and tell Quentin Ollie's the Arrow). In "Over the Edge", the whole thing turned out to be a nightmare that Barbara had after getting dosed with Scarecrow's fear toxin; in Knight, Bruce was tripping on Scarecrow's fear toxin and hallucinated a similarly-dosed Barbara committing suicide, only to learn the real Barbara was still alive, but the rest really happened; and in Arrow, Ollie is saved when Roy, in part due to guilt for killing a cop due to a Mirakuru-fueled rage, decided to take the fall for Ollie and Sara would later be resurrected. But perhaps the worse thing isn't from an Alternate Continuity, but from Sequel SeriesBatman Beyond, as the episode "Eyewitness" sees Barbara herself getting tricked into thinking Terry killed Mad Stan by Spellbinder and go to the very lengths she feared her father would go before Terry cleared his name.
In "Make 'Em Laugh" the Joker uses microchips to alter the minds of innocents to make them criminals. ThencomesRotJ.
In the episode "Be A Clown", Mayor Hill's son Jordan is kidnapped by a disguised Joker and tricked into performing criminal acts against Batman. Jordan is horrified when he finds out. In Return of the Joker, the Tim Drake Robin is manipulated by the Joker via Mind Rape into becoming Joker Jr., later taking on the role after he unwittingly kills the Joker in a freak accident; and causes chaos in Gotham in the years that followed.
Another episode worsened by Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is "I Am the Night", where Batman angsts over the possibility of his friends and allies being hurt...including Robin (at the time of the episode, Robin is Dick and not Tim, but still).
Yet another one episode worsened by Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is "Joker's Favor". Charlie Collin's Heroic Heelization Speech is horribly right, because Batman will not be the one who brings out Joker's demise.:
Charlie Collins:... I found this blown out of the van. (reveals a Joker bomb) This is how it ends, Joker. No big schemes. No grand fight to the finish with the Dark Knight. Kinda funny. Ironic, really." Looks like Tim destroyed a man's dream.
Batman's origin story in this continuity (as well as others), as of July 20, 2012. In this continuity, Batman's parents were murdered by a thug (implied to be Joe Chill, but he was never named) shortly after seeing a film. The film he saw? Gray Ghost, which was the in-universe inspiration for that continuity's Batman. Flash forward to July 20, 2012, several people were killed by a madman in a shooting at a Century theater in Aurora, Colorado. The movie that was being shown on that date? A midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises.
In "Paging The Crime Doctor", Rupert Thorne needs heart surgery. His actor, John Vernon, died in 2005 of complications from heart surgery.
In "The Laughing Fish", The Joker tries to have his Joker Fish copyrighted, and the patent guy tells him he can't copyright food. Twenty years later, Monsanto wants to do just that.
Meta example from "I Am The Night" - Batman laments the fact he's merchandised to death, on t-shirts and action figures, despite his intent. Not only was the cartoon used to sell a toy line, but not long after Warner began a massive ad campaign to push Batman toys, shirts, and other merchandise onto children.
In Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy, after the Eds wrongfully accuse Jonny of being a "serial toucher" and sentence him to rolling down a hill in a giant tire. When Double D calls Ed out on this, Eddy calmly responds "You know what they say, a little childhood trauma builds character." Given that The Movie reveals the abuse at the hands of his brother, Eddy might honestly believe it to be true.
In the Family Guy episode "Dog Gone", Brian unties a large dog left outside, only for said dog to violently attack and kill a smaller dog (before being shot to death by cops), this scene became even more uncomfortable to watch after something similar happened in real life.
In the same episode, the ending where the family believes Brian died in a fire is this when you consider the events of "Life of Brian".
Peter's "Gary the No-Trash Cougar" character breaking into an elementary school cafeteria and threatening children with a gun in order to get them to throw out their garbage in the episode "Blind Ambition" definitely seems harsher as a result of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December 2012.
Three weeks after "Turban Cowboy" aired, the Boston Marathon Bombings happened. Suddenly, the main plot of Peter converting to Islam and being a pawn in a terrorist attack and the cutaway joke of Peter plowing through runners in his car aren't so funny (in a sick way) anymore. Even Seth MacFarlane called out having his episode being used in a video that "predicted" the bombings would happen. The episode was banned from airing on FOX and Hulu, but has come back on cable (TBS and Cartoon Network) and can be seen on Netflix's streaming program (of course, this was months after the Boston Marathon attack was news).
The infamous episode "Seahorse Seashell Party" angered many fans due to the Family-Unfriendly Aesop that "staying with your abusers is good for them", and the very next episode "Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q" was a Very Special Episode that made it clear that staying with an abuser is bad. This led to many criticizing the show as being hypocritical or offering a hackneyed apology to those who were offended. It should be noted that "Seahorse Seashell Party" (along with the loosely related episodes "The Hurricane" from The Cleveland Show and "Hurricane!" from American Dad!) was to originally air 5 months earlier (and not followed by "Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q") before being pulled due to a series of tornadoes in the southern US several days before the original airdate.
"No Brian, that’s what the press would have you believe, but he's not. Bruce Jenner is a woman. An elegant, beautiful, Dutch woman." Although "harsher" may not be the correct word to use in this example, it certainly feels like a massive case of foot-in-mouth today.
The G.I. Joe episode titled "Cobra Quake" involves G.I. Joe trying to stop Cobra from causing an artificially created earthquake to destroy Tokyo. In 2011, an 9.0 magnitude earthquake actually hit Japan. Because of this, The Hub suspended airing this episode on its channel until further notice.
Little Rosey was one among many Celebrity Toons and Spin-Off Babies featuring a no doubt slightly unrealistic portrayal of Roseanne's childhood. Considering her later incest allegations and the fact that the character Buddy was based on Tom Arnold and the ugly, bitter end to their marriage, it's best to pretend this never happened — and not because it was a bad cartoon.
The "Bright Lights" series of My Little Pony 'n Friends featured a pop star, modeled after Michael Jackson, whose manager stole fillies shadows as a form of Applied Phlebotinum. Years later, Michael Jackson began to face accusations of taking indecent liberties with children.
The episode "Trade Ya": Twilight Sparkle decides not to sell her books, saying that just because they don't need to be read again doesn't mean they don't possess value; they're a part of her history and what made her who she was, and were quite precious. Four episodes later in "Twilight's Kingdom", they along with the rest of the Golden Oak Library were destroyed by Tirek.
The Season 1 episode "Owl's Well than Ends Well" involved Spike having an insane fit of jealousy over Twilight seemingly replacing him with an owl, cumulating in him running away because he felt she didn't love him anymore. The Season 3 premiere "The Crystal Empire" puts his actions in a new light, as we find out that Twilight no longer needing him is Spike's worst fear.
Season 1's "Griffon the Brush-Off" ended with Gilda ditching Rainbow Dash as her friend. Four seasons later, the events of the episode is re-explored, and we learn that griffons literally have no concept of friendship, putting everything involving Gilda in a much different light. Rainbow Dash is the only friend she's ever had, and she has little idea how to reconcile that with Rainbow having other friends. They become friends again in the end of the episode.
In Season 1's "Look Before You Sleep", Twilight says that she's never had a sleepover before and calls out Applejack and Rarity when their bickering almost ruins her first slumber party. The Season 5 episode "Amending Fences" puts the whole episode in a different perspective when we see that Twilight had friends in Canterlot and her context implies that she never had a sleepover with any of them. It becomes even worse when we see that Twilight leaving Canterlot left an emotional scar on her old friend Moondancer.
In the season one episode "Call of the Cutie", Scootaloo tells Diamond Tiara she's 'stuck being stuck up' as a Shut Up, Hannibal!. We find out much later that she's literally stuck, as her mother was browbeating and emotionally abusing her to be a stuck up Rich Bitch like her.
A lot of Over the Garden Wall. Wirt blames his brother for getting them lost because he feels that Greg's antics are what caused them to fall into the pond where they're both currently drowning. He eventually gives up on attempting to get home and lies down on the ground to sleep, i.e. loses the will to live.
In Rick and Morty, Rick Sanchez's catch-phrase is "Wubba-lubba dub dub". At the end of the first season, we find out it is not a nonsensical phrase, but rather a comprehensive sentence in the language of the Bird People: "I'm in great pain. Please help me." When did he first say it? In the episode "Meseeks and Destroy", not long after Morty was molested and nearly raped.
It's a little unsettling watching the musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire where they call New Orleans "The Sodom and Gomorrah of the Mississipi" after Hurricane Katrina. Because of this, UK broadcaster Channel Four had to make a public apology for airing the episode around the time that news of Hurricane Katrina's destruction was still fresh in everyone's mind and it has become a Banned Episode. That episode caused considerable controversy when it originally aired for that and lines like it. The following episode, "Homer the Heretic", had Bart apologise in the chalk board gag. Oddly, the song was intended as a send up to the song about London from Sweeney Todd, and two Cajun audience members were planned to walk out in disgust, but no one could do a Cajun accent.
Try watching "Bart of Darkness" where Bart thinks Flanders killed his wife now that Maude has been Killed Off for Real on the season 11 episode "Alone Again, Natura-Diddly". Or "Realty Bites" where Marge thinks the Flanders got killed in a house that was once the scene of a grisly murder involving a jockey and his wife. Or "The Springfield Connection," in which Homer tricks Flanders into thinking his wife and kids are dead by putting police tape outside his house.
Beyond Blunderdome had special guest star Mel Gibson turning to Homer of all people for advice on how to improve his remake of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, simply because Gibson happened to read an angry letter that Homer wrote about it from a test screening and became convinced that Homer was the one person who was actually being honest with him, and despite everyone telling him otherwise Gibson ends up going along with Homer's rather childish and stupid suggestion of making the ending an ultra-violent action movie type climax, which turns the film into a critical and commercial disaster, seriously damaging Gibson's reputation and star power in the process (the episode ends with Gibson angrily kicking Homer out of his limo once he realizes that Homer really is just a stupid jerk and not a valid critic). A few years later Gibson's life and career fell apart when he couldn't cope with the negative critical response to his very bloody The Passion of the Christ. On the other hand, all of this is Hilarious in Hindsight because this episode depicts Mel Gibson as being beloved and everyone fawning over him.
Many Simpsons episodes featured bullying as a comedic plot device — Harsher in Hindsight due to today's public awareness about the emotional harms of bullying, and several tragic cases where kids felt driven to suicide or violence due to constant bullying. If you're concerned over how cruel kids are these days, or if you were a victim of bullying, the following episodes won't be considered funny to you:
"Bart the General" — though at the end Bart warns that violence is never the answer
"Eeny Teeny Maya Moe" (the subplot about Maggie being bullied by babies and maybe the main plot about Moe cracking jokes about his girlfriend who is a female dwarf, but Moe does learn his lesson on not to be so shallow after Homer tells him that, despite what happened, he found someone who actually loved him and Homer does save his daughter from being bullied).
In "$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)," one of the many failures at Burns' casino is that Siegfried & Roy expies Gunther and Ernst are mauled by their own tiger while entertaining. Ten years later, it happened in real life to Roy Horn. The writers mentioned in the DVD commentary that the incident was bound to happen sooner or later and they were amazed when it did.
The beginning of the episode "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy" note The episode where Lisa creates a doll that's actually a good role model for little girls while Grampa gets a job at Krusty Burger so he can be young and hip, only to learn that God wanted people to get old so they can criticize everything He's doing wrong where a bunch of elderly fans attack Matlock (Andy Griffith) and Grampa Simpson swipes his heart medication (and the subsequent shot of Andy Griffith getting rushed to the hospital) is now not so funny anymore thanks to Andy Griffith's real life death from a heart attack in July 2012.
During the cold open to the 2008 Halloween episode, Homer tries to vote for Obama, but the voting machine keeps repeatedly choosing Republican John McCain. Four years later many machines have been reported of doing the same supposedly in favor of both Obama and Mitt Romney (though this time because of poor calibration).
"A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again" has Bart sabotaging a cruise ship so his dream vacation will never end, causing the ship's passengers to endure progressively worse conditions. In February 2013, the Carnival Triumph blew out its engines and was stranded for four days in the middle of the ocean before it was rescued.
"Sleeping with the Enemy" has Lisa being concerned about her weight and going to a store that sells ultra-thin clothing below size zero. This becomes even more painful after the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch revealed that they don't make clothes higher than large because it discriminates against larger people.
In "Treehouse of Horror XII", at one point during the segment "Hex in the City", a helicopter crashes into Moe's Tavern, crushing Lenny and Carl to death. Then in 2013, it happened in real life when a helicopter crashed into The Clutha, a bar in Glasgow, killing ten people.
"Trash of the Titans": Viewed today (and ignoring the fact that this was the episode that had Homer as a full-blown jerkass), the episode seems like a satire about the rise of the Tea Party, as Homer goes around spewing angry rhetoric at a respected politician with little thought about how he'd do better if elected. Ray Patterson's lines "Nobody wants to hear the nonsensical ravings of a loudmouthed malcontent!" and "Simpson, the American people have never tolerated incompetence from its elected officials." hit harder than ever in light of how badly-received the Tea Party-dominated US Congress has been, receiving the lowest approval rating of all time in 2013.
"Homer To the Max" featured a bit at the beginning of the episode poking fun at a pay dispute between Fox and the show's cast, during which Ned Flanders walks up and comments that voice actors can be replaced and the change would be indistinguishable. As part of the gag, Ned's voice was provided by Karl Wiedergott rather than his regular actor, Harry Shearer. Shearer himself would later leave The Simpsons before production on its 27th season began (Though he would return soon after)
Dr. Hibbert's whole situation (by original design and Flanderization) of being the anti-Cliff Huxtable, in light of the Real Life crimes that Bill Cosby has done, even during the filming of said show. Especially in "On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister", where Hibbert makes a reference to dealing a sexual harassment lawsuit.
"Bart to the Future", which aired in March of 2000, portrayed a future President Lisa Simpson trying to deal with the mess left behind by the worst possible President the writers could think of: Donald Trump. Lampshaded in the opening of "Havana Wild Weekend", the first episode following the 2016 election, where Bart's chalkboard gag read "Being right sucks".
The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "The Smoking Peanut" is about a clam at a zoo going berserk after SpongeBob throws a peanut at it. Several years later, a tiger escaped from its habitat and attacked three teenage boys at the San Francisco Zoo. Some people believe the boys had taunted it. Also in that same episode, the clam throws one of the zookeepers while on a rampage. In 2010, an orca killed one of its trainers at Seaworld.
Star Wars Rebels: In the tie-in comic "No Sympathy", Agent Kallus arrests two young and disillusioned Imperial officers, including a former student of his, because they tried to defect to the rebels. In "The Siege of Lothal", he and Darth Vader assassinate Minister Maketh Tua because she tried to defect, and frame the rebels for it. The events of "The Honourable Ones", however, wind up triggering a Heel–Face Turn for him, which ultimately leads to him becoming a Reverse Mole and later defecting from the Empire, with extremely strong parallels to what Tua and the two young officers tried to do. Which puts his earlier actions in a far harsher light than they already seemed, and it's entirely probable that he knows this.
In the movie, Anakin and Ahsoka rescue Jabba's child. In Return of the Jedi Jabba tries to have Luke (Anakin's son) executed twice, and has Leia (Anakin's daughter) chained to him in practically nothing, which ultimately backfires when she strangles him with her chains.
Episodes 15-18 of Season 4 are about Obi-Wan going undercover to uncover a Separatist plot against Chancellor Palpatine. On January 26th, the day before the second episode in the arc premiered, Ian Abercrombie (Palpatine's voice actor) passed away. Fortunately the voicework of Season 4 was already done, and so Abercrombie was able to finish voiceovers before he died.
Remember the Father's warning to Anakin when he refused? That his selfishness would haunt him and the galaxy at large for refusing to replace the Father? Although at the time the episode was made, they probably were intending to mean the oncoming Jedi Purge, but after the revelation of Abeloth's ties to the Ones in the final book of Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse, as well as what Abeloth did throughout that series, the Jedi Purge actually seemed not so bad in comparison. This one, at least, is no longer canon.
In "The Deserter", Rex states that if the Republic loses the Clone Wars, then "our children and their children could be forced to live under an evil I can't well imagine". Little does Rex know, that such a fate will befall the galaxy when the Republic (or, more accurately the Empire) ''wins'' the Clone Wars, with the galaxy falling under Palpatine's control. Not helped by the fact that both the Canon and Legends timelines would turn the later victory against the Empire into a case of Happy Ending Override.
In "Monster", Savage Opress tells Ventress that "so long as I live, you will not harm him!", referring to his brother, Feral. Soon after, Savage was rather brutally proven right: Ventressdidn'tharm Feral. Savage himselfdid.
Ahsoka fighting a brainwashed Barriss in "Brain Invaders" becomes this after the season 5 finale, where Barriss is attacking Ahsoka of her own free will.
Also at the end of the episode Ahsoka wonders whether she should've killed Barriss (who in a moment of clarity, even asked her to do it) because her mercy could've potentially jeopardised the lives of many others. Barriss ends up killing at least seven Jedi, at least two civilians, and injuring many others with bombing the Jedi Temple.
On a similar note, Ahsoka mentioning Clone Sergeant Slick's betrayal to Barriss in the same episode also becomes this when Barriss betrays the Republic and Jedi Order for similar reasons to Slick.
Ahsoka's line in the pilot movie, "I'm a Jedi Knight! Or soon will be." In the season 5 finale, she rejects the possibility of knighthood and leaves the Jedi Order.
In "Clone Cadets", Bravo Squad's line "Time to watch the Dominoes fall" becomes this when you consider the ultimate fate of Domino Squad. Also in the same episode and deliberately invoked at the time of making, Hevy's promise of coming back to 99 for his medal. Considering that the episode was a prequel to the Season 1 episode "Rookies", fans who've watched the episode beforehand know that's not going to happen.
A lot of the series is inevitably going to be this in light of the events of Episode 3. The friendships we see developing between main Jedi characters and various clones makes Order 66 all the more tragic. In The Clone Wars Anakin is also gets to be a lot more personable and likeable than the movies that are centered around his downfall which makes his friendship with Obi-Wan much more believable. This only serves to increase the tragedy of said eventual fall. Of particular note is the friendship displayed between Anakin and Mace Windu, whereas in Revenge of the Sith, Mace reveals he never really trusted Anakin.
In "Weapons Factory", Luminara tells Anakin that she is prepared to let her go of her apprentice Barriss in the event of her death, and asks if Anakin is willing to do the same with Ahsoka. Come "The Wrong Jedi", both of them are forced to let go of their apprentices for reasons that neither of them expected.
Luminara Unduli being held prisoner by reanimated Geonosian warriors in "Legacy of Terror" becomes a lot more disturbing when you consider her fate in Star Wars Rebels.
The opening arc of Season Two becomes much, much harsher in hindsight after Season Two, Episode Eight of Rebels. Here, we see that the Inquisitors kidnap helpless babies with the intent of raising them in the ways of the Dark Side. And this time, the Jedi Order and the Republic aren't around to stop Palpatine's plans.
Ahsoka saves Tarkin in "Citadel Rescue" from being killed at the hands of a Separatist general. Guess what Tarkin would go on to do to Alderaan in A New Hope...
A mind controlled Ahsoka fighting Anakin in "Altar of Mortis" becomes harsher after the Rebels Season 2 finale, when she confronts Darth Vader.
Seeing R2-D2 and C-3PO run out of power and Threepio giving a eulogy-like speech to Artoo in "Nomad Droids" becomes much sadder after Kenny Baker's death.
The Transformers Rescue Bots episode "Tip of the Iceberg" contained what happened to be a heartwarming moment when Dr. Morocco handed the Burns family a painting of Chief Burns' grandfather. "Changes" revealed that that he didn't do it out of any kindness, but as a way to sneak in a spy camera so he could spy on the family and the Rescue Bots.
Season 4 of Ultimate Spider-Man features a lot of heartwarming moments with the Scarlet Spider where he learns to trust others and open up to Peter, his friends, and Aunt May—which became a lot less so in with "The New Sinister 6, Part 1", where it was revealed that he was really The Mole for Doctor Octopus, meaning those moments were really him playing Peter to make his betrayal hurt worse.