We can understand having trouble coping with change. The realities of The Vietnam War, for instance, were a very hard change for the veterans of World War II to accept. In fact, there might even be the urge to revert some of those changes, or at least live as though those changes never happened.
Yet to do that with pop culture?
It's one thing if you have trouble getting over The Beatles breaking up. This trope would be about people who act as though they are still around, plaster posters all over their homes, compare every other rock song in existence unfavorably to Beatles songs, and may listen to other music as long as it's nothing past 1980 (or by ex-Beatles). These people are basically trying to bend reality back by force of will. And that's with a band who are still relatively popular and influential; those who are besotted by something that is Deader Than Disco can be even worse.
Usually, this is played for laughs. We get a funny character, who is a walking anachronism by simple virtue of denial. Bonus points if this character forces other people to act as though this reality is true. Curiously enough, more than a few of these characters have an affection for disco music, hence the title.
Compare Born in the Wrong Century, Fish out of Temporal Water, Outdated Outfit. Contrast Fan of the Past, New-Age Retro Hippie. See also Awesome Anachronistic Apparel , which is wearing what should be absurdly outdated outfits and making it work. Can lead to Unfortunate Implications if the character insists on reviving some cultural practices that we had very good reasons for getting rid of (as in the Kalifornia example below).
Not to be confused with "Disco Dan" Ford, the former major league baseball player, Disco Dan, the 80s ZX Spectrum computer game in which the player fixes nuclear reactors by jumping around inside them, or with Cool "Disco" Dan, the Washington, DC graffiti artist.
Note: Real Life examples are constantly changing, in part due to revivals of trends through the Popularity Polynomial, and in part because of a once-visible style or genre still surviving as an "alternative" subculture that it is no longer trendy to show on television (such as the Punk or Goth music genres and subcultures, which are still very much around, but whose fans may be perceived as Disco Dan by outsiders unfamiliar with the fact of the genre's continued existence).
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Played with in Sonic X. The Chaotix still have one of those old-timey video projectors, and they try to play an HD Dolby Digital 2.1 Sonic X DVD on it. Then, Espio is assigned to go "borrow" a DVD player for them. Charmy is in awe.
In Spider Riders, one episode has Prince Lumis trying to impress a girl he likes. Hunter comes up with a disguise that he actually calls Disco Dan. Hilarity Ensues.
The Image Comics miniseries Phonogram is about this: a "phonomancer" who draws power from Britpop comes into conflict with a group of "retromancers" who wish to reshape the cultural memetics of Britain just so that they can clutch on to their youth.
The ridiculous Spider-Man villain Turner D. Century.
The (somewhat) more serious Spidey baddie Hammerhead talks and acts like he was a member of Al Capone's mob; he liked to go to the movies as a kid and the gangsters he saw on the big screen left a big impression on him. Hammerhead even has a vintage limo in The Spectacular Spider-Man, which is kind of Badass.
Briefly happened to Green Arrow after he was resurrected. His soul (which opted to remain in the afterlife) only allowed Hal to bring back a previous version of himself, one from before his life fell apart. The reborn Arrow doesn't know what year it is, thinks a man is a super-villain simply for owning a modern (for 1999) computer, and mistakes a cellphone for a walkie-talkie. By the end of the story, his soul rejoins his body, bringing him back up to date.
The main character of independent comic The Griffin is a slightly Jerkass high school student who, in 1967, is met by aliens who convince him to join their galacic war in exchange for Flying Brick powers (including freezing his aging at 18), since humans are one of the few species the superpower procedure works on. He agrees, leaving behind his best friend, girlfriend and family. Twenty years later he deserts and goes home. Although he'd accepted that society would have probably changed, he had assumed everyone he met would have put their lives on hold and stayed the same. Therefore he's actually shocked to discover that, in the intervening years he'd been declared dead, his best friend and brother had grown up into mature adults, his parents had another child and his girlfriend (who he'd always assumed would wait for him) got married. He takes It's All About Me to a whole new level.
In Howard Chaykin's The Shadow miniseries, Lamont Cranston is a little... well, let's just say that well into the 1980s, he still feels that women should speak when spoken to or else risk a good thrashing.
In Image's Deadly Duo, Kid Avenger mixes this with Fan of the Past; He's actually from the very end of time, but for some reason loved the 1970s and only knows about culture and politics and technology from that era.
Indigo from Impact Comics. Because he's been in jail so long, he was unaware of the leaps and bounds made in technological developments in the last three decades.
Icon featured a Luke Cage parody named Buck Wild Mercenary Man, who showcased all the most ridiculous and offensive aspects of 70s "Blaxploitation" super-heroes. This was because the experiment that gave him his powers also literally froze his brain in 1973.
Captain America gets hit with this after he's unfrozen in both the comics and the movies. Subverted in that while Cap does eventually catch up with the times enough to function in society, his values system remains rooted in the 1930s and 40s (which usually serves as a tool for the writer to contrast Cap's idealism with the cynicism of the world around him).
Thanks to the circumstances of his resurrection, Jimmy Woo still acts like he's in the world of the 1950s.
In White Devil Of The Moon, Luna still acts like the Moon Kingdom exists, which causes conflict when she refuses to explain to Fate why she had to speak to Nanoha. Not to mention she's horrified that Nanoha (who in this fanfic is the reincarnated Princess Serenity) defers to Hayate (her commanding officer in the TSAB), sees the Moon Kingdom as nothing more than an old relic, and has no intention of claiming her birthright as the Moon Princess.
Fly Guy, a pimp who got out of prison in the 1980s (after being a big shot in the 1970s) in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, decides to hit his old stomping grounds in full pimp regalia: a white tiger-striped suit, a giant hat with a pink feather, six inch platform shoes with goldfish inside, and a jeweled cane. He gets laughed off the street in a second. He ditches his outdated pimp gear by the end of the film.
Gary King, the Anti-Hero protagonist of The World's End, still dresses and acts as if it's 1990 and he's 18 years old instead of forty.
The themed Disco boys from Mystery Men, who emerge from prison and refuse to believe that Disco is dead: "Disco is Life!"
Bonus points for Tony P, the head of the Disco Boys, being played by Eddie Izzard.
Billy Madison returns to high school fully decked out in 1984's idea of cool, with an acid-washed denim jacket over his REO Speedwagon shirt and Billy Squier blasting out from the speakers in his Trans Am. He immediately becomes a laughingstock and a target for the next O'Doyle bully.
In The Wrestler, Randy "The Ram" Robinson seems to be stuck in The Eighties, the time of his Glory Days. He plays Nintendo games with neighborhood kids and talks about how much he hates modern music, preferring hair metal from the eighties.
A rather dark example in Kalifornia, as it involves not outdated fashions or fads so much as outdated attitudes. Early Grayce (Brad Pitt) is an "unreconstructed redneck" type who speaks in a slightly animalistic Southern accent. One of his more reactionary beliefs is that women should not only be inferior to men, but should be kept in a state of perpetual childhood. As such, his female companion, Adele, is forced to wear baby-doll dresses at all times and doesn't smoke cigarettes because "Early broke me of it." In addition, she's often seen playing with a yo-yo and speaks in a very whiny voice. When Adele finally starts acting like a grown-up and gives Early a Shut Up, Hannibal! speech, Early kills her; he then abducts the hero's more modern, liberated female companion and turns her into a sex toy, with a halter top and cutoff shorts. (Of course, since Early is also an unapologetic serial killer, his Politically Incorrect Villain tendencies are just the tip of the iceberg.)
Lovecraft's own distinctive style belonged to an age about 30-40 years before most of his writing was done as more mainstream writers like Fitzgerald and Hemingway were championing minimalist prose.
The novel Wicked Game features a radio station run by vampires, all of whom are musically stuck in the era that they died in.
The characters in Toby Litt's Beatniks are determined to live the Beat lifestyle, refusing to acknowledge modern technology or music - even though they were born in the 1970s.
Anne Rice's vampires are so afflicted by this trope, holding onto the eras in which they were alive, that many commit suicide in a world they no longer recognize. Armand asks for Lestat's and later Louis' help in connecting to the present, so that he doesn't die of culture shock in this way.
"Haply, gentlemen, you are versed and learned in matters of errant chivalry? Because if you are I will tell you my misfortunes; if not, there is no good in my giving myself the trouble of relating them;"
Jon L. Breen wrote an Ellery Queen pastiche where a head injury caused him to be mentally stuck in the 50s. When he solved a case requiring knowledge of US presidents, several of whom were elected post-1959, his father made a remark about him being back to normal. He replied that he had no idea what his father was talking about and that "President Winkler" had better do something about the moon colonies before it was too late.
Live Action TV
Some people from the Doctor Who story "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" plan to literally revert modern-day Earth back to prehistory using Time Travel technology.
In the post-shark seasons of Happy Days, when the show was encroaching into The Sixties, Fonzie refused to let go of his Greaser ways. In an earlier episode, he even lampshades this himself: "If it was up to me, it would stay 1955 forever!"
A 1997 episode of Saturday Night Live took a look at the "Superfans" after Mike Ditka became head coach in New Orleans. Chris Farley's character Todd O'Conner, having had a nervous breakdown and now believing it was still 1985, fit this trope to a T: he mentioned he had to get home "to see Jimmy Stewart on Carson."
Similarly, an episode of 30 Rock featured Andy Richter as Liz's brother who, thanks to a "really bad skiing accident", thought it was still 1985 and that he was still a teenager despite him being a 40-year-old man. At the end of the episode, he found out the truth and held up a cocktail, complaining "I could've been drinking these for years!"
What's sad is that it's based on an actual form of amnesia, in which the afflicted victim is unable to remember information for very long ie minutes. The only discrepancy is that the brother would only forget everything at the end of the day.
Tommy Saxondale in Steve Coogan's Saxondale has a bit of this going on; an ex-roadie from The Seventies convinced he's still bucking the system, he's a bit stuck in the past and not quite the rebellious spirit he thinks he is.
Neil of The Young Ones dressed and behaved like a hippie well into the 1980s, and once stubbornly declared that "Flares are coming back in! I read it in my horoscope!"
Buffy: "Only someone who's been under the ground for decades would think that's the look".
The Price Is Right looked and sounded almost exactly the same at the end of Bob Barker's tenure in 2007 as it had in 1972. Same sets, same music, same graphic fonts for the credits.
In the Community episode "Modern Warfare", Jeff encounters an afro-ed, rollerblading Disco Dan trying to bring disco back, and mocks him. Later in the episode, when it turns into a Paintball Apocalypse, the guy has apparently succeeded in bringing disco back, and now leads an army of rollerblading, disco-dancing paintballers.
Judge Harry Stone on Night Court wears a fedora, is a huge fan of crooner Mel Torme, and loves movies and fashions from the 1940s.
Kath from Kath and Kim still perms her hair and dresses as though it's still the '80s. She doesn't even seem to realize that times, and fashions, have changed. Lampshaded in 'Da Kath and Kim Code' where Kath arrives at an 80s themed party dressed in her everyday clothes...
Kim: Oh, Mum! What a great costume!
Sharon: Oh wow, Mrs D. You look hilarious. You're gonna win for sure. Where'd you get that?
Kath:[Wearing an over-the-top 80's style pink outfit] Oh, from my wardrobe, Sharon. Costume?
Kim: Yeah, it's an 80's party.
Kath: Oh, no! Nobody told me! I would have put something funny on!
Dan Stark in The Good Guys lives and breathes this trope. To him, the whole world still works like it did in Eighties cop action shows. At times, he seems to make the world around him work this way by sheer force of will.
There are many popular musicians out there who will do a "throwback" number every once in a while, but then there are also some musicians who make that their entire gimmick. Exhibit "A" would probably have to be Southern California's Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, who not only refused to acknowledge that swing music went out of fashion in the late 1950s, but actually succeeded in hauling it back into the mainstream media for a short while.
While there are people who dislike music (or certain genre of music) made after a certain year, there are others who perform in styles that have since long fallen out of favor except by their hardcore fans, not as a gimmick but as a core part of their style because they are uncomfortable with newer styles or dislike the newer, updated sounds. One example was, toward the end of his career (and, as it turned out, life) was country singer Faron Young. "The Singing Sherriff" (as he was known to his fans), Young — a hardcore honky-tonk singer who occasionally added elements of pop music into his material — enjoyed the peak of his popularity from the mid-1950s through mid-1970s, after which radio began turning toward younger acts. Young, as the story goes, did not take kindly to the changes in the music he loved, and his sound (rooted mostly in the 1960s) was beginning to sound dated with his new material recorded in the 1980s. Young grew increasing bitter and held closer to his sound by the early 1990s, when a bright young country star named Garth Brooks set new records for sales and concert attendance ... and not always with sounds that were even remotely considered country, and certainly what Young perceived to be the true sound of country; Young was outspoken about his criticisms about Brooks and others, but few were listening or even interested in his opinions by now. In December 1996, with health problems and his increasingly bitter attitudes toward country music and life in general setting in, he took his life.
While other older country singers have never grown as bitter as Young, singers such as George Jones and Merle Haggard have been or were outspoken about what they regard(ed) as non-traditional country sounds (i.e., adult contemporary and straight-ahead pop) encroaching on their sounds of country music; acts like Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts, and more recently Lady Antebellum, have taken the brunt of that criticism. While Jones continued to record new material for the rest of his life that has been critically acclaimed (and for Haggard, continues to), their sounds remain rooted in traditional sounds.
On his album Life is Good, Nas of all people invokes this on the track "Loco-Motive", intended as a throwback to the 90s gangsta rap/boombap of the start of his career, explicitly both for the enjoyment of and a shot at those Fan Dumb who think he should remain in that style and not evolve as a musician - declaring "this for my trapped in the 90s niggas".
To be fair, the whole album, to a degree, is a throwback to 80s and 90s hip-hop, but "Loco-Motive" especially.
The schtick for Big Daddy (note: not Big Bad Voodoo Daddy) was that they were a 1950s/early 1960s group that crashed on a desert island during a USO tour. When they were "rescued" many years later, they didn't know the new styles, so when they covered contemporary songs like "Superfreak" it came out sounding a bit like "Crimson and Clover" and their version of "Dancin' in the Dark" owes a lot to "Moody River". They've actually released several albums of this stuff, including one that's a tribute to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Jon from Garfield is a fan of disco. In the animated special, Garfield Gets a Life, he's not even aware that it isn't popular anymore. In 1991. ("You learn a dance, then zango! - 14 years later, they change it!")
WWE tag team Deuce 'n Domino were a pair of '50s greaser throwbacks complete with pompadours, leather jackets, a valet who dresses in a poodle skirt (albeit muchshorter than actual ones of the period) and rollerskates, an entrance that involves them driving out in a classic convertible, and a theme song that wouldn't be out of place on the Grease soundtrack. This got a brief subversion from play-by-play commentator Michael Cole, where he mentioned that they admitted in private with him that they realize it's not the '50s, but they like the look.
They may have been prescient when it comes to rollerskates, though. Roller derby is currently making a comeback in large to medium-sized American cities, complete with the "retro" pre-1990s skate style.
Long before Deuce 'n Domino, WCW had Disco Inferno, whose gimmick was Exactly What It Says on the Tin. In his later years, in an attempt to be more current, he became Pretty Fly for a White Guy and changed his name to Disqo (a play on Sisqo, a rapper who experienced faddish popularity around the turn of the century). That didn't work out for him, and so he went back to being Disco Inferno until WCW closed.
Not nearly as entertaining as Disco Inferno, WCW attempted to cash in on the popularity of That '70s Show by turning Mike Awesome into "That 70s Guy".
And then, of course, there was Johnny B. Badd, wherein Marc Mero was done up in an almost perfect clone of Little Richard.
In 2010, Jay Lethal of TNA did a gimmick that entailed pretending to be "Macho Man" Randy Savage (including the wraparound shades and the Jive Turkey accent) and literally acting as if it were still The Eighties. The gimmick was dubbed "Black Machismo."
One the villains in Dark Champions: The Animated Series is Beatlemania; a criminal who is obsessed with the Beatles (despite having been born after they split up) and who fashions all of his crimes around Beatles themes.
The titular character of the Leisure Suit Larry series is permanently stuck in the 1970s in terms of style; in his case, it's partially justified. At the start of the series, Larry is a 38-year-old virgin who's been completely out of touch with the modern dating scene for most of his life; when he finally decides to remedy the situation, his idea of "cool" is over a decade out of date, more due to ignorance than willful disbelief. Later games, however, establish that even after coming to his senses, he maintains his "classic" look and tastes simply because he personally likes them.
Bully has an entire clique of Greaser throwbacks who believe they're still in the 1950s and are opposed to the preps — a reference to the classic Young Adult novel The Outsiders.
Miror B. in Pokémon Colosseum and its sequel is a minor boss in the first game (and a minor crook in the second) who has an Afro bigger than his head (and colored in a way that makes it look like a Poké Ball, no less) and has his own unique battle music - salsa in Colosseum, real disco in XD.
Tiger in Tekken 3, a hidden character who is merely a different outfit for Eddy Gordo. As such, he uses the same fighting style (Capoeira).
Eddie from the SSX games. He has an Afro, come on. Oh, and he's a white guy, so he really has no excuse apart from "I really never let go of my childhood."
And yet, while his style is stuck in the '70s, his personality is stuck in Totally Radical '90s mode.
Charles in Space Colony is described as an officer in the Royal Navy during World War I. He keeps a stiff upper lip, lies back and thinks of England, and won't take any sass from those Indian fellows. But he was actually born sometime in the 22nd century and currently lives in outer space. His official company profile says it's a complete mystery how the Hell he got the way he is and stayed that way.
The WarioWare series has the identical but seemingly unrelated Jimmy T. and Jimmy P. The former's parents, brother, and sister joined him in later games.
A minor character in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is a Disco Dan of indeterminate species with a French accent who flirts with Goombella. Even more random than usual for the Mario-verse.
Disco Kid in Punch-Out!!, although it can be argued that the game actually takes place in the '70s, meaning that Disco Kid grew up during the days of disco.
Serious Sam I and II have Dancing Denzell and Groovy Gregory as characters player can choose.
Toni, the Flashback FM DJ in Grand Theft Auto III. People ask her if she remembers anything after the 70s and the 80s, and she doesn't, but she also thinks there isn't anything worth remembering after those times. You also hear her in Vice City (set in the 80s) as the DJ of Flash FM, so... yeah.
Konstantin Brayko of Alpha Protocol has an obsession with the '80s and is basically a Russian Tony Montana. Hell, his boss music is even Turn Up The Radio by Autograph.
One of the zombies in Plants vs. Zombies is a disco dancer, dressing in stereotypical white leisure suit and afro hairstyle. LiterallyDeader Than Disco. (This was originally a Michael Jackson expy but legal issues forced a change.)
The Justicars of the Mass Effect universe live according to a code that was formulated thousands of years ago when the asari were the only known sentient life in the galaxy and there was little or no law enforcement to contend with. It can create... problems for the Justicars in the 22nd century.
Technology and music-wise, Strong Bad seems stuck in the 1980s or 1990s. Considering how he's been slowly upgrading his computers, it's possible that he is changing with the times, but he's fifteen years behind the curve. He marvels at his 45-pound laptop's 5-minute battery life and has no idea what a mouse is. Old Timey Strong Bad is worse; he's still using the telegraph in 1936, decades after it had been rendered obsolete by the telephone. Then there's the Videlectrix guys, who release Atari 2600 style games in the present day without realizing that they're ridiculously out of touch until they're tasked with developing the Homestar Runner game and try controlling a Commodore 64 with a Wiimote.
"It's called Japanimation! At least it was last time I checked... which was 1987."
Strong Bad's latest computer, the Compé, appears to bringing him a bit closer to the present, but only slightly: while it has a flat-screen monitor, it has what looks like 256 colors and pixels as big as fists. Which means it's, what, 1991?
In Survival of the Fittest v4, we have Joshua Krakowski, who has been literally described as "The Living Anachronism" due to his clear 90s influence, right down to using 90s slang and looking like a Surfer Dude. Daniel Vaughan also has tendencies of this, as he clearly is a little too fond of the 80s. Naturally, he and Josh get along quite nicely.
Brad Jones of The Cinema Snob, has created a character called 80's Dan. His videos are parodies of 80s style sitcoms, with canned laughter and a feel good theme song, and feature the time displaced Dan subjecting his less than enthusiastic roommates and neighbors (including a R.O.B. the Robot) to the joys of 80s pop culture. Bonus points for him actually being named "Dan".
Note that he met with 80's Dan mentioned above to trade soft drinks, so for one crossover you got twice the Disco Dan fun!
The character of the blogger running Yo, Is This Racist? is a Totally Radical'90s "out-of-work rapper" who refuses to get an iPhone as he prefers his pager, hangs out at the mall and still thinks yelling "DEEEEEEEEZ NUTS" is the cutting-edge of meme-based comedy. Possibly justified as one update implied he was actually a Human Popsicle "unfrozen in the future to spread the message about racism".
C. Montgomery Burns, whose values and vocabulary are still stuck on October 27, 1929 (just before Black Tuesday and the start of The Great Depression). His antiquated demeanor and ideas are a recurring source of humor in the series, as is his on-again off-again ignorance of history after the 1930s (he still thinks there's a Negro League in baseball...).
Even more bizarre, he scoffs at the idea of non-WASPs in the major leagues. (He's taken aback, for example, by a vintage baseball card showing Joe DiMaggio as a New York Yankee.)
There was at least one instance where Burns's Disco Dan tendencies were so extreme that they actually turned him a full 180 degrees! In an episode, he decides to emulate Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban by purchasing a pro basketball team for Springfield, and as cheerleaders he hires women whom he dresses in demure 1890s attire and forces to perform to ragtime music. The cheerleaders "entertained" the crowd in the arena by twirling their parasols and lifting their floor-length skirts to reveal their ankles. The crowd hated the act....and Mr. Burns agreed with them - because he found it too obscene!
The animated series gets around the painful Totally Radical nature of old Titans villains like Mad Mod by making them old men who hide behind illusions to make themselves appear "young" and "hip" again:
Mad Mod uses mind control to impose his vision of an Anglicized US on the Titans' hometown. (At least, England as seen through the lens of Yellow Submarine and Monty Python!)
Ding Dong Daddy, who rides a hot rod and abuses the living crap out of phrases like "Daddy-O". He's got round sunglasses and a beret.
Shaggy's wardrobe never did catch up with the times, a fact he comments on himself in Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders.
The new revival Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated has several characters very much rooted in disco-styling and the era, including Shaggy himself. But the whole setting sort of exists in the 1970s and the 2010s at the same time, so it may be perfectly justified.
In The Proud Family, Uncle Bobby still performs to this day as an old-school Funk singer straight out of the Seventies, complete with the characteristic heavy rhythmic "Owwww!" tone in his voice(which even Lionel Richie quit doing by the 80's) and which he uses even when speaking "normally".
The Futurama character known only as "the 80's guy" who lived his life like Gordon Gecko despite his perfect grasp of his temporal location. He even gets Fry to embrace his lifestyle while performing a hostile takeover of Planet Express and nearly pulls off a flawless pump-and-dump to Mom Corp. Only his death from boneitis stops him from succeeding.
Finn, one of the Dark Hand enforcers from Jackie Chan Adventures displays Disco Dan tendencies. He dresses like it's still the 70's but this aspect of his personality really shines through in an episode where he travels back in time to the 70's. He actually has to be physically dragged out of the time period while he shouts "I wanna stay!"