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All Hail the Great God Mickey!
The Courier: This building is... interesting. What do you know about it?
The King: (in Elvis accent) Near as I can tell, it was some sort of religious institution. Oh, I know it says "school" out front, but everything in here seems to be related to the worship of some guy back in the day. People used to come here to learn about him. To dress like him, move like him. To be him. If that's not worship, I don't know what is.

In the future, long after our current society has crumbled into nothing, mankind survives. They have been reduced to tribal beings, clinging to the last throes of survival. But all is not lost for humanity, for this tribe has discovered the God of the new world. He shall lead their tribe out of the darkness. He shall bring humanity back to what it once was. Hey... wait... is that Abraham Lincoln they're worshipping?

Yes, after all records of society were erased, the poor, confused tribal humans of the future stumbled upon The Constant of their predecessors. It may have been a monument, or it may have been a pop culture icon of the past. But in their confused state, the poor tribesmen have mistaken it for an image of the gods, and have begun worshiping it in kind.

It should be noted that this is a separate trope from Cargo Cult, though the two can overlap. A Cargo Cult is when an object is interpreted as a sign of the gods or a god itself. All Hail the Great God Mickey! is similar, but occurs After the End, when the remnants of a past society are mistaken for a sign of the gods. Due to cultural drift, this trope may also be found attached to Days of Future Past.

Compare Future Imperfect and And Man Grew Proud. Not to be confused with Disney Owns This Trope. See also Single Precept Religion.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comicbooks 
  • First Comics, a comic company back in the 80s was fond of this. In both Grimjack and Nexus there are references to a "St. Elvis".
  • In the Tim Truman comic Scout there was a wandering prophet who used the works of J.R.R. Tolkien as his bible.
  • In Romero's Axa, the middle people consider freeway intersections to be temples, and TV sets to be altars.
  • The strip "The Tower King" in Eagle was set in a post-appocalyptic setting where electricity generation was impossible. The hero encountered a cult based in Battersea Power Station who worshiped electricity and pretended it still existed.
  • De Kiekeboes: In the album De Wereld Volgens Kiekeboe (translation: "The World According To Kiekeboe") Kiekeboe travels to the far future, when mankind has destroyed most of its civilization during a world war. They rebuilt everything afterwards and discovered the entire collection of Kiekeboes albums (except for the one they are currently appearing in). They enjoyed the books so much that they built their entire civilization according to the universe in Kiekeboe's stories. Naturally they do get a lot of things about our century wrong, because the albums are the only artefacts they can base their knowledge on.

    Film 
  • At one point in Enemy Mine, Davidge quotes Mickey Mouse, and the alien Jeriba Shigan assumes the cartoon character is actually a "great Earthman teacher," which Davidge does not correct. This leads to a hilarious bit during a later argument, when Jerry thinks he's deeply insulting Davidge's beliefs by calling Mickey Mouse "one big, stupid DOPE!"
  • In Battlefield Earth, the few surviving humans believed that advertising statues left from before the Psychlo's invasion of Earth were gods that had been turned into stone as punishment for falling in love with mortal women.
    • The partial Trope Namer is The Nostalgia Critic's review of the film:
      Tribesman: [On a bunch of mall manequins] Look at these poor bastards, though. They really, really angered the gods!
      Nostalgia Critic: [waving his fingers] Over here you'll see the statue of the mouse god named "Mickey"!
    • Also lampshaded by RiffTrax, as Kevin notes that while the Egyptians left the pyramids, the Incans left behind Machu Picchu, America left behind the giant fiberglass bunny on the 6th green of the local Putt-Putt.
    • In the book, the bald eagle on the Great Seal of the United States (as seen on coins, belt buckles, etc.) draws the same reverence.
  • In Waterworld, Deacon, the leader of the Smokers, every so often mentions "Old Saint Joe" with the same reverence as some sort of deity: Near the end of the movie it's revealed that the Smokers' base is the remains of the Exxon Valdez and "Old Saint Joe" is a portrait of the ship's disgraced captain, Joseph Hazelwood.
  • The kids in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome are waiting for Captain Walker (à la John Frum) and believe things like records and radios are magical, even if they don't know how to use them. "Captain Walker" is a Shout-Out to Riddley Walker, another classic post-apocalyptic tale.
  • The humans in Beneath the Planet of the Apes worship a hydrogen bomb left over from before the war that killed most of the humans.
  • Done deliberately in the hilariously bad movie Zardoz, where Frayn chooses the name Zardoz in order to help the main character to eventually realize that he made it up, taken from The Wizard of Oz.

    Literature 
  • In Mick Farren's Armageddon Crazy the only religion that has managed to remain independent of the fundamentalist Christian government are the Elvi, worshipers of Elvis Presley.
    • Farren was clearly quite fond of this trope. His first novel, The Texts of Festival, is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the survivors believe rock lyrics are the fragments of holy texts.
  • In The Dark Tower series, Roland's world has "moved on", and in some places remnants of the old technology are used as icons of worship, such as an Aamco gas pump. Roland's home city also based itself on the legends of King Arthur.
  • In Earth Abides, one character knew that the ruins of the cities and bridges were built by people called "the Americans". He then wondered if the land and skies were built by the older Americans depicted on coins.
  • In Gathering Blue, a group of survivors worshipped a cross recovered from a Christian church. They did not know what Christianity actually was composed of before the apocalypse, but they did know that the cross had some importance.
  • Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines series includes this classic example: "...Mickey and Pluto, the animal-headed gods of lost America."
    • Theres also a good one in Fever Crumb, where she encounters "...celebrants in robes and pointed hats whirling and clapping and chanting the name of some old-world prophet, 'Hari, Hari! Hari Potter!'”
  • Motel of the Mysteries is an illustrated gag "archeological report" on relics found in a long-ago hotel room, as written up by future archeologists with a very Future Imperfect understanding of our era. One of their ongoing debates is about which "ancient altar" was the more revered: the television or the toilet.
  • In the short story By The Waters of Babylon by Stephen Vincent Benét, the protagonist visits the sacred and forbidden ruins of New York City (which his tribe believes to be the former home of the gods) and prays to a statue of George Washington.
  • Possibly the Trope Codifier, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World has its future dystopian society view Henry T. Ford as a God-like figure (to the point where Ford's name is used in phrases where "God" would have been used originally). It's because he invented the system of production lines that they use to produce everything (including children). He has also become merged with Sigmund Freud in the public mind.
    • In issues of psychology, however, they refer to "Freud." However, they're apparently believed to have been the same person.
    • It is also implied that this religion was designed to allow for easy conversion of Christian symbols: cut off the top part of a cross, and you've got a perfectly servicable T, which is used similarly in the Ford religion. It doesn't even seem to be a secret in-universe that this religion is made up (constructed by people who knew it wasn't true) either, but most people probably ignore this.
  • In the H. Beam Piper short story "Return," which takes place after a nuclear war, a pair of explorers discover a tribe whose religion is based on the Sherlock Holmes stories.
  • From 1939 to 1941, Nelson S. Bond wrote a series of science fiction shorts about Meg, a priestess of a Lady Land who rebels against her tribe, partly by taking a man as an equal partner. A typical story, "Magic City", describes the journey from the land of Jinnia (in the country of Tizathy: at one point Meg actually recites an ancient magical incantation that begins with the line, "My country, Tizathy") to the far-off city of Noork, to slay Death who dwells in a temple called Slukes. When Meg's companion points out that the temple is clearly marked STLUKES, she assures him that the "t" is silent. Later on, Meg stops a band of marauders by standing in their way, raising an arm and yelling "HOLD!"; she's got a big book in her other hand, and is mistaken for a familiar New York landmark which everyone has naturally assumed to be the image of a goddess.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs The Moon Men aftter being conquered by the eponymous moon aliens the American flag becomes an object of worship to the rebellious underground.
  • In a series of short sci-fi stories collected under the novel heading Mallworld the humans that live in space (the titular Mallworld) are shown worshiping such things as Saint Betty Crocker and Elvis.
  • In the Clark Ashton Smith short story of the same name, an archaeologist in the distant future lectures his audience on the religious fanaticism and mass human sacrifices of the ancient and barbaric cult of "The Great God Awto".
  • In S.M. Stirling's Emberverse the Dúnedain Rangers have a quasi-religious reverence for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Just how serious they take this reverence varies from individual to individual. The older members, with the extreme exception of Astrid, tend to take it less seriously while the younger members consider them actual histories and swear by the Valar. Given that they pal around with a bunch of Wiccans who consider just about any god or god figure from classical religion or mythology to be aspects of the same multifaceted divinity or divinities and have a fairly laissez-faire attitude toward worship, it's reasonably justified.
  • In Robert Lynn Aspirin's Phule's Company series the company chaplain is a follower of "The King". Guess who that is?
  • In The House of Lions, written in the 80s the title building is thought to be a temple containing magical treasures. It's actually the New York Public Library.
  • In Paul O. Williams' book, The Ends of the Circle, second in the Pelbar series, The Children of Ozar worship a creator god, Ozar. This is actually the airplane that crash landed a thousand years before, bringing their ancestors to the area.
  • In Michael Moorcock's History of the Runestaff, the pantheon of the Granbretan Empire includes such gods as Jhone, Jhorg, Phowl, Rhunga and Chirshil.
  • In The Martian General's Daughter there is an orgiastic cult dedicated to the goddess Marilyn.
  • The first chapter of Walter M.Miller Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz is set in the 26th century. A 17-year-old novice named Brother Francis Gerard is on a vigil in the desert. While searching for a rock to complete a shelter, he encounters a pilgrim who inscribes Hebrew on a rock that appears the perfect fit for the shelter. When Brother Francis removes the rock he discovers the entrance to an ancient fallout shelter containing "relics", such as handwritten notes on crumbling memo pads bearing cryptic texts resembling a 20th-century shopping list.] He soon realizes that these notes appear to have been written by Leibowitz, the founder of his order. The discovery of the ancient documents causes an uproar at the monastery, as the other monks speculate that the relics once belonged to Leibowitz.
    • Played straight: the items were used as evidence in Leibowitz's canonization process, thus making them actual holy relics under the Church's definition.
  • In Patrick Tilley's Amtrack Wars series the Mutes worship the Great Sky Mother Mo-Town. While the Federation seems to be technically atheistic they have a quasi-religious reverence for the First Founder George Washington Jefferson.
  • "History Lesson", a short story by Arthur C. Clarke, opens with a tribe of primate people migrating south to avoid the glaciers of an oncoming ice age. They carry with them sacred relics of the past, the most treasured of which is sealed in a flat round metal container. At the end of the story, it's revealed to be a Walt Disney cartoon.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an original Star Trek episode on a world where nuclear war destroyed civilization and the survivors descendants are divided into Yangs (Yanks) and Coms (Communists) the Yangs worship the Constitution without understanding its real meaning.
  • In Red Dwarf, a cat society has lived in the recesses of the ship for 3 million years. They discovered Lister's plans to open a fast food franchise, and mistook it for a Church of the One True Religion. They now have holy wars over what color to make the fast food hats, because Lister neglected to write down that detail.
    • And both sides got it wrong.
  • On Babylon 5, G'Kar wonders if Daffy Duck is some sort of household god in Earth religions upon seeing a poster in Garibaldi's quarters.

    Videogames 
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, the Kings became a gang of Elvis Impersonators. After finding a school filled with memorabilia, instructions on how to act like him, and a metric ton of hair gel, they figured it must be a place of worship, and that they'd keep his memory alive. They're not wrong, per se...
    • Without even knowing his name - in all that memorabilia, nothing readable or functional explicitly said what the name of the person being emulated was, just that he was 'The King' (thus "The King's School of Impersonation").
      • Could actually be because the estate of Elvis Presley owns copyright on the name; his general appearance and the name "the King" fall under fair use.
    • Downplayed in that the Kings — at least, the leaders — figure that the King wasn't a god — just someone who obviously most be worthy of emulating, since the ancients had an entire school dedicated to teaching people how to act like him.
  • That's not the first time Fallout has misconstrued pre-war information as some kind of religion. In the Fallout 3 DLC "The Pitt", your reward for finding all 100 ingots in the steelyard is a suit of power armor. While it resembles Ashur's own suit, Everett mentions that some of the local tribals fashioned this power armor to resemble their "gods". Although the colors are faded, the armor is clearly decked out in the black and yellow colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ashur's own armor has an identical color scheme, so it's possible he's simply exploiting local superstitions to appear as a "god".
    • Then there's also the fact that Abraham Lincoln (via the remnants of the Lincoln Memorial, where the Gettysburg Address is still legible) is seen as something of a deity to freed slaves.
  • Hard to bring up Fallout without mention of its predecessor Wasteland, which had its own Cult of the Bomb and their resounding chant of "NRC! NRC! NRC!"

    Webcomics 
  • Reverend Theo Forbius, resident Chaplain for Tagon's Toughs in Schlock Mercenary, refers to 'The Gospel of Uncle Benjamin' when confronted with the quote "With great power comes great responsibility" and Greyskull's Power as part of an exorcism rite (the first time was in a dream sequence, but the second was a direct reference of his own).
  • The lemonade cult of Romantically Apocalyptic.
  • A quite literal example (although not post-apocalypse) here in Alone in a Crowd.
  • In Sinfest the devilgirl Pebbles thinks Jay-Z and Jesus are the same person, quoting lyrics from one of his raps as scripture. She also thinks Santa and Satan are the same, In later strips Seymour can be found preaching from the Gospel of Voltron although whether he considers Voltron an apostle of Jesus or an aspect of same is a little unclear.
  • Partially Clips has "Monk Reading", where, After the End, monks study and try to find wisdom in stories about the struggle between the Messiah and the Dark One... in other words, Popeye comics.

    Web Originals 
  • In 1983: Doomsday, a minority of people in the Republic of Lincoln seem to worship Abraham Lincoln as a deity. However normal circumstances that bring this about are subverted: the cult seemed to have formed because "the people are desperate for any piece of old America, no matter how small."
    • There's also the "Cult of the Once and Future King," in New Britain, which worships King Arthur and the British Royal Family as divine. It's practically a step away from turning the British Empire itself into a god.
  • In Fallout: Nuka Break, Ben the ghoul, trying to recall something from before the bombs fell, misremembers "By Mennen" as being from a hymn or something similar, and the three main characters use it similarly to "by God". Mennon is the company that makes, among other things, Gillette razors, which have "By Mennon!" stamped on their packages.

    Western Animation 
  • In the South Park episode "The Wacky Molestation Adventure", the children of South Park manage to send of all adults on false molestation charges. Later, in the ruins of the town, they are seen worshipping a statue of John Elway made of trash that is supposed to represent "The Great Provider", a supreme being that provides them food and shelter (as a faint memory of what their parents did for them). Played for Laughs when we find out it's been only one week since all adults have left.
    • In another episode, Cartman tells Butters that the government is watching everything they do, and Butters interprets that as the government being a benevolent god. He and a handful of converts start confessing their sins at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • Futurama brings us "Oprahism", which is considered a mainstream religion. In addition, all recordings of Star Trek were sent off of Earth because the religion that formed around it was growing too fanatical.
    • The sewer mutants have a church where they worship an atom bomb. However, no one is very observant, going only on Easter and Christmas.
  • In an episode of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, the gang encounters a cult that has a soft drink commercial as its inspiration and use its jingle as their hymn.

    Real Life 
  • This trope is often cited by archaeologists to discourage their colleagues from jumping to conclusions about the meanings or uses of artifacts and buildings — for example, the archaeologists of 10,000 years in the future might see the Statue of Liberty as a sun/fire goddess because of the torch she holds and the "rays" coming from her head.
    • That small statuette of a buxom nude may be a representation of some fertility goddess - or it may be a palaeolithic centerfold.
  • There is an African American Church of St. John Coltrane
  • In Rastafari, Emperor Haile Selassie I is the embodiment of God. Bob Marley is a saint.
  • This website holds up Elvis Presley as a god.
  • The church of Spongebob Squarepants and the church of Google.
  • A variation shows up pretty much anywhere there's monumental architecture of forgotten origins: among countless other examples, the Aztecs held the long-abandoned city-state of Teotihuacan to have been built by the Gods; 19th-century white settlers often attributed Mississippian earthworks to biblical figures, a mythical race of giants, or even God himself; the classical Greeks blamed Mycenaean fortifications on the cyclopes; and the construction of Stonehenge has been associated at various times with giants, druid sorcerers, Merlin, St. Patrick, and aliens.
  • The church of Haruhi Suzumiya, more like a fan club though.
  • The US Department of Energy looked for ways to subvert and prevent this from happening at Yucca Mountain and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, as described here, since the very last thing you want people to do with a nuclear waste storage facility is to mistake it for a place of worship...
  • Ironically, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, which did an entire episode warning about the dangers of cults, actually spawned a cult in Russia that worships Gadget... who (again, ironically) was the most against the cult to start with.
  • Invoked one by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who coined the term "Manhattanhenge", a twice-a-year phenomenon in New York City when the sun sets aligned with the grid street pattern of Manhattan. Tyson also claimed that the two instances each year tended to happen near or during Memorial Day and the Major League Baseball All-Star game, and postulated that "Future anthropologists might conclude that, via the Sun, the people who called themselves Americans worshiped War and Baseball."


ALL SING PRAISES TO OUR LADY OF THE ZOETROPE!
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