"You're just like Indiana Jones; a role played by Richard Dreyfuss in our universe!"This is a fictional counterpart of Richard Nixon the Used Car Salesman — in Alternate Universes, your favorite books, movies or music might have never been created or may be different, sometimes even beyond recognition. When the creators actually did the research, this may be based on What Could Have Been. It may also be related to Celebrity Paradox: In the fictional universe, actors who play the main characters usually don't exist, so other people took their other roles. Or sometimes it's just done for sake of making a funny pun on a popular real-life work's title.
— Alternate History Artie Ziff, The Simpsons, "Treehouse of Horror XXIII"
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- In Ex Machina, created by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris, the main character considers hiring Vaughan and Harris to make a graphic novel based on his life, but decides to go with Garth Ennis and Jim Lee instead. Also, one of the first major clues as to where the protagonist's strange powers come from? A reveal that there have been radio transmissions received that feature unreleased/unproduced B-sides of famous musicians.
- Alan Moore likes playing with this trope. The existence of superheroes in Watchmen and Top 10 leads to superhero comics never gaining popularity; instead, pirate and Slice of Life stories take their place. In particular, the pirate comic that features prominently in Watchmen is meant to represent what Moore himself imagined he'd be writing in this universe instead of Watchmen. (It also plays off a real example of what could've been — right before the formation of the Comics Code, EC Comics attempted to start another trend with Piracy, a new title full of swashbuckling yarns; true to form, Gibbons' fake cover drawn as "Walt Feinberg" for the story, down to the Feldstein-esque signature - and occasional EC artist Joe Orlando's contribution to Issue #5 - are very much in the publisher's typical style.)note
- In the Marvel Universe, Marvel Comics had lost the rights to Captain America comics, which are now owned by a small company which gets bought by one of Cap's big fans.
- In the nuclear-powered future of Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space there's an advertised kaiju movie Greenzilla (created by the evils of alternative energy) and a documentary Who Killed The Gasoline Powered Car? A popular weekly serial The Y-Not Files has two stalwart G-Men seeking to debunk the lunatic conspiracy theories spread by the evil Marijuana-Smoking Man. A Petting Zoo Person is writing a sci-fi story about a shapeshifting alien disguised as a man who stumbles into a camp of huskies in Antarctica and starts taking them over one by one; it's called Who Grows Hair?
- The objective of MediAvengers, especially with the two very different movies covering the same Battle of New York. One is a big action movie directed by Michael Bay with Nicolas Cage as Iron Man (a role he actually had considered in our universe), the other is an indie thriller by David Fincher, ironically casting Edward Norton as Bruce Banner (reversing The Other Darrin Mark Ruffalo).
- In the world of Paris Burning, there are Cities, the humanized personifications of cities of sufficient population and identity. As such, the destruction of cities is presented as much more horrific than in our world. Cities can also only be killed with fire, so many fictional firebugs have been changed (Fantastic Four's Johnny has lightning powers, for instance). Also, the City of Atlantis still exists, so there's hardly any mystery about the city of Atlantis.
Film — Animated
- The car-ified versions of earlier Pixar movies appear in the end credits of Cars, including Toy Car Story, Monster Trucks, Inc., and A Bug's Life. The sequel actually combined this with Early-Bird Cameo for Brave.
- The sequel also has the theater advertising The Incredimobiles.
- As discussed here, as a Freeze-Frame Bonus in Flushed Away, Roddy's DVD case has along with actual DreamWorks and Aardman movies many pun-based titles - the one taken out for the Bond Gun Barrel parody that follows references James Bond films, Die Again Tomorrow.
Film — Live Action
- Mixed with Celebrity Paradox in Last Action Hero, in which a boy travels to a world of an action movie. Because the movie's main character is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, in this world no such person exists and the main character of The Terminator is played by Sylvester Stallone.
- In The Lost World: Jurassic Park, a video store has standees for a film version of King Lear starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jack and the Beanstalk with Robin Williams as the giant (possibly a Take That or a In-Joke to a certain movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola), and Tom Hanks in "Tsunami Sunrise".
- In I Am Legend, one of the billboards in the abandoned Times Square is for a Superman/Batman movie. Which is now almost an accurate prediction as now there actually is a Superman/Batman movie.
- CSA: The Confederate States of America has the film A Northern Wind, a different version of Gone with the Wind... though not by much.
- Regularly played with in the Nightside series, where many stores offer items from alternate histories. This includes alt-history media works, such as Beatles rap albums, pornographic versions of Agatha Christie mysteries, and Orson Welles' epic Batman movie Citizen Wayne.
- In "Swellhead", one of the signs that the characters are slipping into an alternate universe is that the hero finds a copy of 2001: A Space Odyssey written by Ray Bradbury.
- Idlewild by Mark Lawson has John F. Kennedy surviving his assassination attempt in Dallas and winning a second term as President. Thirty years later, there's a mention of Oliver Stone making a movie titled LBJ, about "The best President we never had".
- In the Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures, Fitz has assembled a collection of parallel universe Beatles records, including "Feel the Love", their Live Aid song.
- Moving Pictures has CMOT Dibbler get the idea for a romance movie he intends to call Blown Away. It also features a movie-in-making where a man in a lion costume is telling another character the movie is about following a yellow sick toad.
- A recurring theme in the second and third The Science of Discworld books is making sure the right works get written, because otherwise humans don't make it off Roundworld before it's "snowball time". In the second book, humans suffered a lack of imagination because William Shakespeare never existed, and stunted versions of his plays were instead written by Arthur J. Nightingale ("I'm nae listening to them, they've got warts!" - The Short Comedy of Macbeth). In the third, scientific progress was halted to some extent when Charles Darwin wrote Theology of Species. (Or when Charles Darwin never went on the Beagle at all, and his place was taken by Preserved J. Nightingale, who went on to write Watches Abroad.)
- While talking about the development of life on Earth in The Science of Discworld, they also say that intelligence appears to be a useful enough trick that something would develop it sooner or later, they speculate that if sentient crabs had evolved on the Earth in humans' place, three of them might be writing 'The Science of Dishworld'', about a bowl-shaped world that's carried on the backs of gigantic marine invertebrates.
- In Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191, Sam Clemens' daughter reads Louisa May Alcott's After the War Was Lost, Armstrong Grimes mentions Humphrey Bogart starring in a movie called The Maltese Elephant note , and an American actor named "Marion Morrison" becomes famous for playing Theodore Roosevelt on-screen.
- In Harry Turtledove's Ruled Britannia, some of Shakespeare's plays got different titles, at least. One of his major hits there was Prince of Denmark. He's also noted to be working on Love's Labours Won, whose plot is notably changed to accommodate the Catholic hegemony. The plot centers around two new plays he writes: King Philip, a tribute to the late King of Spain who conquered England, and Boudicca, which sparks a rebellion that drives the Spanish out of England. While he wrote King Philip more or less under orders from the Spanish authorities, he did put his full energies into it, and later asks that it be performed.
- Incidentally, Shakespeare apparently did write "Love's Labours Won", though it was lost.
- In Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, we have Rescuing Private Renfall, a reference and homage to the movie Saving Private Ryan starring James Dean. Dean also starred in The Battle of Chicago, a depiction of an in-universe battle between the US Army and invading Space Lizards paralleling Stalingrad.
- Done in a very meta way in Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. Eddie Dean mentions The Shining as a film, which is initially a bit of a internal joke, as Stephen King wrote that too. It becomes much more significant later as Stephen King appears as a character within the story (in a different universe), along with the presence of characters from other Stephen King novels (which may also come from different universes). In the case of the Shining example, Eddie doesn't make a connection between it and meeting Stephen King later.
- In one of the many parallel universes featured in Outrageous Fortunes: A Novel of Alternate Histories by Steven W. White, Return of the Jedi was still entitled Revenge of the Jedi and George Lucas based much of its action on Kashyyyk rather than Endor and had the Wookies rather than the Ewoks help the rebels destroy the second Death Star. Chewbacca even had a love interest! It seems these were part of Lucas' original plan for the film.
- Anno Dracula:
- Johnny Alucard opens in The '70s with Francis Ford Coppola in Transylvania, shooting a Troubled Production of Dracula that stars Marlon Brando as Dracula and Martin Sheen as Jonathan Harker. Other movies are mentioned throughout the book, often bankrolled by Alucard: Bat 21 and Top Gun are both about the US Army's vampire soldier project; The Rock has a completely different story because Alcatraz is still operational as a vampire prison, and so on. The sixties Batman series is unchanged, although reference is made to the fact it pretends the very real Batman isn't a vampire.
- Earlier, Dracula Cha-Cha-Cha included a section about the phenomenon of Alternate History novels, popularised by Bram Stoker's famous book where the Count lost. I Am Legend is about Dracula settling in America instead of Britain; Big Brother is about the Communists taking over the UK in Dracula's wake; and A Dance to the Music of Time is a very subtle one; it takes some reading before you realise it's set in a universe where there aren't any vampires at all!
- Dracula Cha Cha Cha also has a subplot in which an Italian film company is making a version of Jason and the Argonauts starring Kirk Douglas, Orson Welles (as the ship), Fritz Lang (as the voice of God), and Clark Kentnote .
- In The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Orson Welles succeeded in making his film adaptation of Heart of Darkness.
- Another take on this trope is alternate histories with their own alternate fiction.
- The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick contains an alternate 1960s California controlled by the Japanese after a defeat of the Allies during WWII. There is mention of another alternate reality, apparently revealed to an author who writes a book about such an alternate in which the US does not lose WWII. This is slowly revealed not to be "our" alternate, but one dreamed up by the writer, and of no special significance.
- Resurrection Day, by Brendan DuBois, is set in a United States that has become a military dictatorship after the Cuban Missile Crisis turned hot. JFK is blamed for having started the war, but at one point an alternate history fiction is mentioned that proposed what would have happened to US history if he'd evaded the crisis. Needless to say, there's no out-of-the-blue event involving him being assassinated by a lone gunman.
- Small Change. Several references are made to a science fiction novel titled 1974.
- A Tim Pratt short story called "Impossible Dreams" runs with this, with the protagonist discovering a video store from an alternate timeline, with all the differences that come with it (and all the difficulties that come with actually renting, buying and *playing* the movies, since the movie-playing technology in that universe is different and so, for the most part, is the monetary and credit system). Among the many differences include the survival of the full cut of The Magnificent Ambersons (but on the downside, Hearst prevented the release of Citizen Kane), Tom Selleck being Indiana Jones, The Breakfast Club having a sequel, a John Wayne WWII movie about the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands, and a famous female film director who doesn't exist in our timeline. The woman who is the store's cashier is just as fascinated at the differences as the protagonist is.
Live Action TV
- In Fringe's featured alternate universe, there's quite a bit of this.
- Many DC Comics properties are slightly different - Green Lantern and Green Arrow are Red Lantern and Red Arrow, Jonah Hex is a member of Justice League International instead of Guy Gardner, Superman died in Crisis on Infinite Earths instead of Supergirl and, apparently, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman have switched their main stars, becoming The Man of Steel Returns And The Death of Batman.
- In Season 4's version of the alternate universe, a character called "The Mantis" fills the same role in pop culture that Batman does.
- Eric Stoltz is Marty McFly in Back to the Future, obviously based on the fact that Stoltz was the second choice to play Marty in Real Life. (Michael J. Fox was the original choice, but was unavailable because of Family Ties. Stoltz was lined up for the part but a few weeks of filming showed he wasn't right for it, so they tried even harder for Fox.)
- At one point, Broadway is shown in the alternate universe, complete with a poster for the musical Dogs.
- One character mentions offhandedly that Taxi Driver was directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
- There is mention of The West Wing continuing several years longer than in our world, apparently with President Matthew Santos as the new protagonist.
- In one episode Lee uses the phrase "The stuff that dreams are made of" and claims to be quoting Cary Grant; in another Fauxlivia thinks Casablanca starred Ronald Reagan. Apparently, Over There's Humphrey Bogart just didn't have a career.
- Given that every episode of Sliders featured at least two or three parallel universes, this trope comes up occasionally. In a universe where the traditional gender roles were reversed, TV shows included The Fresh Princess of Bel-Air and Hangin' with Mrs Cooper while another episode mentioned Skipper's Island. In terms of films, one episode referred to Back to the Future Part IV while another showed Quinn, Rembrandt and Maggie outside of a cinema advertising The Man Who Would Be King starring Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart. This was based on the fact that John Huston had tried, unsuccessfully, to make a version of the film with those iconic Golden Age stars in the 1950s. A Deleted Scene from the pilot mentioned that Ronald Reagan was the Mayor of San Francisco in 1995 and that he was best known as an actor for playing the first Howard "Mr. C" Cunningham in Happy Days.
- In the universe of The Walking Dead, zombie fiction doesn't exist. Hence, the characters are Genre Blind and use any word to describe the zombies *except* "zombie".
- Everyday Chemistry is an album of mashups derived from songs created by the members of The Beatles during their solo career, with the central conceit being that it's actually an album from a parallel universe where they never broke up.
- GURPS Infinite Worlds, set in a world with regular cross-dimensional travel, includes a list of "alternate bestsellers" that were brought home from other Earths. These include a complete Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens, an account of the WWII invasion of Japan by Admiral Robert Heinlein, and a biography of Fidel Castro's years as a pitcher in the American League.
- BioShock Infinite shows Elizabeth opening a dimensional "tear" to a 1980s street with a theater showing Revenge of the Jedi (the original proposed title for Return of the Jedi). In the game proper, it's La Revanche du Jedi.
- Similarly, Columbia's liberal use of space-time anomalies means they have access to many songs well before their invention, leading to strange, 1912-esque versions of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," a barbershop-quartet version of "God Only Knows," a soulful dirge "Fortunate Son," and others.
- Darths & Droids has an extended gag about this, in The Rant to comic #50. Star Wars doesn't exist in the players' universe, because the comic wouldn't make sense if it did. So various other Star Wars-influenced things are also different, including Darths and Droids itself, which has become Wands and Warts, a Harry Potter comic. There's a link to a mockup of a Wands and Warts page, with a similar rant at the bottom, except that it links to a comic based on The Sound of Music (Notes And Nazis), and so on and so on.
- In fact, all Campaign Comics wouldn't make sense if their source material existed.
- This goes through several more steps and comes around full circle in the Pirates of the Caribbean comic, Barnacles & Bilgewater, where The Rant actually makes reference to Star Wars.
- It's since continued past that, unabated, with 24 levels of it thus far.
- It also comes full circle in a different way in the rant of this strip of Comments On a Postcard.
- A VG Cats comic shows a world where Aerith and Leo are dogs who play games such as Minor Konflict and the Shadow the Hedgehog-esque Yoshi the Dinosaur.
- In Catena, the characters (who are anthropomorphic cats) go to see the musical People.
- In Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, Commander Badass claims that he was once sent back in time to win the Vietnam War for America...only to then be sent back again to undo his actions because a world without the Rambo movies was too bizarre.
- In Rhapsodies David Lean's Dune is mentioned.
- In El Goonish Shive, Elliot, Sarah, Grace and Tedd go to see Dragon Liver.
- Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72: The timeline periodically refers to which films won that year's Academy Awards. At first they're mostly the same films as our timeline, but as the years go on and changes accumulate, more and more different films appear—often reflecting the different influences from the changes in the global situation. The timeline also mentions changes in television: for example, Gene Roddenberry made Star Trek: Phase II, Star Wars was never made after George Lucas died in a car crash, and All in the Family had a different arc based on the increased poverty in this world's version of the United States. According to Roger Ebert, the fourth Dirty Harry movie featured "A washed up old quarterback who couldn't act," because Clint Eastwood was sick and tired of creating racist propaganda. There's also an in-universe 1984 film.
- Wall Street also changes drastically. Back to the Future is also heavily changed by the political climate and various other butterflies-for starters, Biff and George work at the local telephone company, (which is important later) but besides that, everything goes as planned, save for a 1980s "brick box" cell phone hidden in Doc's car, which is a Camaro this time. However the movie has a very tragic ending- George ends up with the phone, and the timeline's communication technology advances ridiculously fast, making the McFlys incredibly rich-but at the cost of Marty not existing. The filmmakers confirm that it was a dig at the current political climate, especially its historical revisionism. Pale Rider is different as well, as is The Coca-Cola Kid, which, in the American cut, features the protagonist getting the local eccentric committed to a psychiatric institution and claiming his current assistant is a Communist spy. Someone was trying to write a message about the current political climate there...
- Look to the West: No media after about the 1760s is the same as our timeline's. Periodically examples of literature, art and music are discussed. One major change is that, because Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart became a military leader rather than a musician, classical music has not had the influence of his works. Architecture is also very different: the alternate French Revolution favoured utilitarian buildings rather than neoclassicism like OTL, so neoclassical architecture is less discredited, and increased trade with India and China means there is a fashion in Europe in the 1820s for emulating Oriental styles of architecture. Speculative Fiction, here known as paracthonic romance, has different traditional tropes and genre boundaries. For instance, what OTL would consider "hard" sci-fi is instead considered a branch of speculative romance (i.e. alternate history) rather than scientific romance (i.e. science fiction).
- A World of Laughter, a World of Tears: Due to the increasing conservatism of President Disney's America, many filmmakers and musicians flee to Europe, leading to a much different pop-cultural development. Orson Welles encounters Ed Wood, hires and befriends him, and films a version of Faust, which becomes a massive success; the Quarrymen are a jazz-fusion combo; Motown takes off in England...
- That Wacky Redhead has this as its main focus — it starts with Lucille Ball not selling Desilu Studios to Paramount, and continues with the accumulating changes from there. They naturally start out in television.
- A Giant Sucking Sound: This timeline focuses a lot on popular culture, specifically how the events of the timeline influence it. Sam Raimi directs the Star Wars prequels, which become critically acclaimed, George Lucas and Christopher Nolan make a film adaptation of Metal Gear Solid, Hayao Miyazaki produces a film of Barefoot Gen, etc.
- In one episode of The Lost Cat, the narrator journeys to a parallel universe and learns that, while the Terminator films exist, the star was Sylvester Stallone.
- Player Two Start has Nintendo and Sony managing to work out their differences over the Super Nintendo CD addon, leading to, foremost, an altered console war where Sega is still a major player. It also has a side effect of causing major butterflies in the other entertainment fields, namely comics, movies, and children targeted productions.
- The SCP Foundation has SCP-1756, a DVD player that causes any film played in it to be replaced by an episode of Siskel & Ebert reviewing it. If the film hasn't been reviewed on the show, it plays a new episode with the critics reviewing it as they normally would, even if the film came out after their deaths. The device works on non-movies as well, and there are episodes of Siskel and Ebert critiquing television shows, video games, music CD's, books on CD-ROM, and live news broadcasts as if they were theatrically released fiction films. Word of God suggests a distraught Siskel and Ebert fan created it as a gateway to another universe, possibly the afterlife.