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Earth Drift
A work or series that starts out with many more ties to the real world than it later has. This is especially jarring if it is set in another world or universe. As the series goes on, re-viewing/reading/playing the oldest installments becomes disconcerting (if the reader is more familiar with the more recent installments) as a result of similarities to the real world being more frequent. Usually happens as a result of the work's mythology not being fully defined, or a Schrödinger's Gun that left a few traces of the original plan.

May not necessarily require the real-world references being in older works. This trope can still apply when you find a real-world reference in a newer installment and find it odd.

Subtrope of Early-Installment Weirdness and typically a result of Continuity Drift. Related to Old Shame, Art Evolution and Characterization Marches On. It may also be quite deliberate, as an aversion of Reed Richards Is Useless.

Examples:

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     Multimedia Franchises 
  • For those who have only seen the special editions of Star Wars, it's weird seeing English writing on things like the tractor beam instead of the Aurebesh that later replaced it. It's also a little weird hearing Han Solo say things like "I'll see you in hell" in The Empire Strikes Back without the "nine Corellian hells" backstory. Of course, you can file such things under Translation Convention. Justified in canon according to the Hyperspace Article "The Written Word" this is the High Galactic Alphabet. As for use of the Greek Alphabet that is also justified as the Tionese writing system.
    • Even in the remastered versions, A New Hope still contains standard numerals on screen as the Death Star nears Yavin IV. Although they don't match up with the numbers the characters are saying. (Just pretend you're imagining them.)
    • The original Marvel Star Wars tie-in comic run had many of these, with mentions of "Sunday school" by Han Solo, Jaxxon talking about "space carrots" (implying that there were places not considered to be from space — which would be assumed to be Earth), and so on.
    • The Ewok Adventure live-action TV movies had real-world horses and animals. This is explained as humans not being the only species shared with Star Wars galaxy.
    • The Star Wars Holiday Special (which, thankfully, didn't directly reference Christmas, unlike the [thankfully non-canon] album pictured) had many examples of 20th-century Earth technology, ranging from eyeglasses, which are usually a rarity in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, to what appears to be a commercially available personal computer from the late 1970s.
    • The Thrawn Trilogy starts off by mentioning hot chocolate, of all things, referring to it as "exotic" and something Lando found in his travels. But then again, we all know it comes from the same place that Lando also found Colt 45 Malt Liquor.
    • In the original A New Hope novelization (written before the movie was released), Obi-Wan says something about ducks. In this case, however, this trope is hilariously subverted when Luke, puzzled, asks, "What's a duck?"
    • American football is shown in the officer's club in one of the Rogue Squadron books. Corran Horn notes it as a strange sport he'd never seen before.
  • Real world locations and events are mentioned in the first generation Pokémon games and anime:
    • Games: A model of Space Shuttle Columbia and an NPC who discusses travels to the moon (even citing the "July 20, 1969" date) are present. Lt. Surge is, oddly enough, referred to as the "Lightning American." Also, a Silph scientist mentions being transferred to a branch in Siberia as his reason for defecting to Team Rocket. Most such real-world references are retained in the FireRed/LeafGreen remakes, though the Columbia becomes an unnamed spaceship, likely in response to its destruction in 2003, about 1 year prior to their release.
    • Gastly's Pokedex entry in RBYFRLG states that it can knock out an Indian Elephant. While the original Pokedex was made before Generation 2 Pokemon Donphan, it's still bizarre that this specific animal is mentioned at all.
    • The Kanto region is named after the actual Kanto region of Japan. Later regions are also based on real locations, but are given made up names and many liberties on their depiction are given.
    • Anime: Early episodes had several references to real world animals like worms and fish; references which are not made elsewhere. Several first season episodes also had Japanese Festivals such as Princess Day.note  Apart from a local festival in Pastoria City celebrating Croagunk which could be placed anywhere on the calendar, there have not been any references to holidays in post-Johto seasons outside of Pokemon-featured shorts.
      • In one episode they go see a premiere of a movie filmed in the previous episode. When they get their invitations Ash's mom specifically states it's being held in Hollywood, California.
    • Also, in Pokémon: The First Movie, Mew is explicitly said to have been found in the rainforests of Guyana. Real life countries have never again been mentioned in the anime Pokeverse.
      • Ash also mentions the Minnesota Vikings.
      • Las Vegas is mentioned in the episode "March of the Exeggutor Squad."
      • In more recent years, the Pokemon games have turned this trend back around again, explicitly mentioning real world locations and having characters who speak real-life foreign languages. The general implication seems to be that the Pokemon world is an alternate version of our world, with various places having different geography and names. This is all but explicit in Generation 6, which goes out of its way to state that Kalos is the Pokeverse version of France; Generation 5 did something similar, though to a lesser degree, with Unova and New York City.
  • BIONICLE was never set on Earth at any point, however the early years were heavily influenced by Polynesian Mythology and used several names from it. LEGO got into some legal trouble when they tried to trademark these names, and subsequently the Polynesian themes were toned down significantly, and most of the names were changed as a result.
    • A lot of more earthly concepts and objects kept creeping their way into the story after around the '06 saga, such as characters eating with their mouth, using wheels for transport (one of the Makuta even owned a motorbike, supposedly the only one in their universe), writing on parchment instead of stone slabs and organic animals reproducing with eggs — all of which the main characters found disgusting or just weird. The change of settings in '09 brought about references to sexual reproduction and animal droppings, and even some romantic love. These were all justified, as it was gradually revealed that the characters had been living in a constructed, artificial world all this time, and there was much more to the universe than they had thought.

    Comic Books 
  • The Spirit was originally set in New York, but the location soon became Central City (ironically, at about the same time the less realistic objects like flying cars were removed).
  • Despite being a basically realistic police procedural in its early run, Dick Tracy began introducing more and more devices out of Speculative Fiction after the Second World War ended, starting with the two-way wrist radio. Eventually, the strip got so far into science fiction that a Dork Age ensued, and it was later brought back to Earth. Many of the gadgets stayed ahead of real-world technology until recently, though, with the heroes having miniature, internet-capable wrist computers decades before Blackberries and iPhones became commonplace.
  • The earliest Superman stories had him living in Cleveland, Ohio (the hometown of Siegel and Shuster). This disappeared within a few stories, and later stories had him resident in Metropolis ever since he came of age.
  • The first Judge Dredd story was set in New York, as opposed to Mega City One (which, to be fair, in The Verse's continuity absorbed New York, Washington, Boston and most of the eastern seaboard as far south as Miami until The Apocalypse War arc). Then again, the first story also included regular police within the justice department.

    Film 
  • Despite what was described above, the original 1977-1983 Star Wars movie trilogy tried to avoid mentioning anything too familiar to 20th-century film audiences wherever possible. This is one of many reasons why both the extended "special editions" of 1997 (which are now considered to be the "official" entries) and the 1999-2005 prequel trilogy are objectionable to a large number of longtime fans; they subverted this trope, trying to make the Star Wars universe more "relevant." One of the most misguided new developments was Lucas's decision to begin inserting more "modern," self-aware shtick into the scenes and dialogue, which not only isn't very funny but severely compromises Lucas's Schizo Tech aesthetic. The Phantom Menace, for example, drew quite a few complaints for the two-headed Large Ham announcer at the Boonta Eve Pod Race (the one Anakin Skywalker wins), one of whose heads speaks perfect American English and spouts various "hip" 1980s/1990s expressions like "That's gotta hurt!" Arguably worse is the "Lapti Nek" sequence at Jabba the Hutt's palace in the 1997 extended version of Return of the Jedi: formerly a primeval jam session by merely semiskilled alien musicians, it is now a nearly Vegas-worthy lounge number with a horn section, more dancing girls, a funky blues harmonica...and Sy Snootles, who was originally supposed to be an ugly, crude creature who literally sang about eating her young, now a sassy, jazzy Space Negress with thick red lips and a Jive Turkey-accented "Uh-oh!" when Oola the dancing girl is executed by Jabba (a scene that was never supposed to be funny). Worst of all, the new musical act makes Jabba the Hutt less like a barbaric warlord and more like a Wicked Cultured showman, causing him to strike one as a little less threatening and despicable.
  • The Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher Batman movie series from 1989 to 1997 first played this trope straight and then subverted it. While the Gotham City of the films is obviously supposed to be part of our world, the first movie had more overt references to the world outside Gotham: the American flag prominently displayed in Harvey Dent's office, or lines like "I got it in Japan." Batman Returns, however, has no overt references to other geographic locations except for a few passing lines, like one about "a California king-size bed"; and while the first movie established that Gotham City imports many of its beauty products from other cities and states, Returns mentions "Gotham Lady Perfume," as if that is the only brand available. Most curious of all is the Penguin's vow that "The time has come to punish all God's children", even though he's going to be killing only 100,000 people at the most, thus almost suggesting that no other place except Gotham exists. Batman Forever began a shift away from this trend, even going so far as to include a locale from elsewhere in the DC Universe ("That circus must be halfway to Metropolis by now"); and finally, in Batman & Robin, not only do other geographic locations figure into the plot ("It's morning in the Congo"), but we actually see onscreen a sequence set in the jungles of South America (the only time in the entire 1989-1997 franchise when the camera takes us somewhere other than Gotham).

    Literature 
  • The first Redwall book has horses, dogs, references to most likely human harbors, and Portugal. All of those are gone in the subsequent books.
  • The first Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber took place on Earth, before the world of Newhon was written into the series, with the result that when collected, some lines had to be added explaining why they were on Earth.
  • The first two books in the Kushiel's Legacy series are basically political thrillers with a bunch of HistoricalInJokes and bondage sex. Gods are an acknowledged presence throughout, but until the third book, they aren't much more than flavor to the backstory. This escalates, however, through the second trilogy, culminating with the heroes of that trilogy founding a university to study magic, and the heroine of the third trilogy being quite explicitly magical.
  • The original version of The Gunslinger by Stephen King contains numerous hints that the book is set on Earth After the End, but later books in The Dark Tower series established that Roland's world was distinct from ours, and most of these hints were removed in the revised edition.
  • Early drafts and editions of The Hobbit included references to policemen, lampposts, and China, which were eventually removed. The Hobbit still, however, includes a clock on Bilbo's mantlepiece; clockwork seems increasingly out of place as The Lord of the Rings progresses.
    • Subverted with existence of the sport of golf. Golf actually has an in-universe explanation. It was allegedly invented at the Battle of Greenfields, where Bullroarer Took killed the goblin leader Golfimbul by using a club to send his head flying off and down a rabbit hole. Whether this was a premeditated alternate explanation or Ass Pull is unknown, but it is explained.
  • Zig-zagged in the Tortall Universe: The Song of the Lioness books introduce a pretty simple Low Fantasy universe where people mostly have names like George and Roger, chess is played, and there's a desert city that just happens to be called Persepolis. Starting from The Immortals, made-up names become the rule (and made-up terms for real things become more common), the world-building is a lot more elaborate, and you get the general sense that the author would retcon out some of that Early-Installment Weirdness if she could. However, Protector of the Small, while broadly following the same trend, also introduces a very close Fantasy Counterpart Culture for Japan that unabashedly uses words like "kimono," and Daughter of the Lioness and Provost's Dog draw so heavily on Spy Fiction and Police Procedurals that it's hard not to see constant parallels to the real world.
    • Tamora Pierce's other fantasy universe, the Circle of Magic world, originally rejected the kind of active and meddling Fantasy Pantheon used in the Tortall books in favor of a system where religion plays pretty much the same role as in real life — i.e., there are lots of separate, very different religions and no particular reason to believe any of them is any truer than the others. But in Battle Magic, one culture's gods suddenly get in on the plot.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Doonesbury originally was set at Yale, but this was moved to the fictional Walden College shortly into the run.
  • Garfield was originally a very "contemporary" comic strip, with liberal references to late 1970s/early 1980s pop culture: disco dancing, punk rock, even a mention of John Travolta (before he had become as famous as he did after Pulp Fiction in 1994). When Jim Davis retooled the strip in the late '80s to make it more "whimsical" and kid-oriented, the "relevant" references abruptly dropped off and the tone of the strip became more surreal...sometimes much more surreal. The one main exception to this real-world avoidance is the frequent Continuity Nods to Jon Arbuckle's former love affair with disco music, which everyone except Jon now considers an Old Shame.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering currently has a defined multiverse setting, but it originally didn't. The first sets took place in Dominaria, but then there was an Arabian Nights-themed set, which was later retconned as taking place on the world of Rabiah. Also, older cards were more likely to have quotes from real-world sources such as William Shakespeare for their flavor text. This is still occasionaly done, but only in core sets, which don't have a storyline of their own.
    • The Dark has a card called Frankenstein's Monster. When Magic took on Gothic horror tropes in Innistrad block nearly two decades later, they had similar creatures, but did not explicitly refer to Frankenstein.
  • Exalted was originally the prehistory of the Old World of Darkness. Second Edition suggested it was the prehistory of our world. Since most players ignore this piece of fluff, it remains to be seen what the upcoming Third Edition will do with it.

    Video Games 
  • Crusader Kings 2 games tend to end up like this. Since you can start your game at any point in time between 1066 and 1337, everything will be pretty much historically accurate for about the first year (to the point where the majority of characters have links to their wikipedia pages in their profiles), after which you enter a sort of alternate continuity where England is absorbed into Scandinavia, the Holy Roman Empire disbands about six centuries too early, Jerusalem has become part of Ireland, and there's inexplicably been 26 popes in a row called Pascal.
  • The Elder Scrolls series has this as a Cyclic Trope. The first two games in the series, Arena and Daggerfall, while set in an unearthly world, were also similar to most fantasy RPG settings. Morrowind, the third game in the series and arguably better known than the previous two, is set in an entirely unconventional land, with nary a knight in sight. The fourth game, Oblivion, is set in Cyrodiil, home of the very Earth-medieval Empire. It can be strange going from seeing bizarre wildlife and random giant bug things in Morrowind to seeing realistic deer and wolves bounding across meadows filled with real-world plants. Even the mudcrabs become real-world crabs. Skyrim swings back, yet again, into a more fantastical setting with random dragon encounters and draugrs, the Nordic equivalent of zombies.
  • In Ratchet & Clank, Captain Qwark becomes a bizarre holdover, being the only human-like character in any of the games.
  • Super Mario Bros. ended up losing many connections to Earth or Earth-like locations as the series went on. Note the 'realistic in comparison' settings of the original arcade Donkey Kong and Mario Bros.. games, then those of the later platform game series; then note how, after Yoshi's Island, the whole fanon/manual-led Brooklyn thing got slowly pushed into obscurity and almost entirely ignored for the rest of the series so far, only occasionally being brought up in passing.
  • Warcraft I had references to God, hell and churches with crosses. Now they have been retconned into "the Light" and "the Twisting Nether".
  • In the original The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Link has a cross on his shield, which according to Word of God was added because the series was originally going to be based in the religion of Christianity rather than the three goddesses in later games. A Christian-esque sanctuary appears in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past; the NES original makes reference to a Bible ("Magic Book" in English translation) and a cross appears as a magical artifact in Zelda II. And as late as A Link To The Past, there is artwork of Link bowing down before a cross with Jesus clearly carved on it (especially weird because that was the game that introduced the Golden Goddesses). The only remnant Christian image is the Triforce itself, originally a symbol of the Holy Trinity that can still be seen on some churches; this use has become obscure enough to be eclipsed by the Zelda franchise in fame.
    • Though such real world links were generally done away with by the time The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came around, that game still features one notable example: the use of the star-and-crescent as the symbol of the desert-based Gerudo. Both newer versions of Ocarina Of Time and subsequent games replaced the star-and-crescent with a symbol that looks like the head of some insect.
    • The "Adult Timeline" games (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks) seem to follow real-world technological progression. The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass have technology like that of Europe in the 1700s, while Spirit Tracks, which takes place almost exactly 100 years later, has technology like that of Europe of the 1800s, complete with references to trains, electricity, and motion pictures, all of which were invented in the 1800s.
  • Grand Theft Auto, over the course of the III era. Grand Theft Auto III had a reference to the city of Miami and to the then-newly elected president George W. Bush; later installments had almost no real life persons (barring figures like Ronald Reagan that are intrinsically tied to the setting, and Phil Collins' cameo in Vice City Stories), and Miami was replaced with Vice City in the next game. Then Grand Theft Auto IV comes out, which does away with even more real-life stuff — the FBI is replaced with the FIB, SWAT is replaced with NOOSE (which is also based on the Department of Homeland Security), all guns are A.K.A.-47 now, and the president in 2008 was Joe Lawton, who is stated to be a buffoon whose father was also president several decades prior.
  • Zig-Zagged with Sonic the Hedgehog. Depending on the game, the franchise either takes place on a fantastic looking world, that may or may not be Earth; explicitly take places on Earth, with realistic looking humans and locations (Bizarrchitecture notwithstanding); or a No Communities Were Harmed combination of the two.
    • Further complicated by a localization that dubbed the planet "Mobius", establishing that it is indeed a different world, which is often made canon in various alternate continuities such as the comic or the cartoon.
  • The first game in the Zork trilogy features such things as Poseidon's trident and the coffin of Ramses II. Later installments in the Zork 'verse are plainly in a different reality to our own.
  • The company Working Designs is notorious for this regarding its translated dialogue for Japanese RPGs and RTS games like Lunar: Silver Star Story and DragonForce. Lunar contains a thinly disguised attempt to lampshade this; during Nash's betrayal, Nall says that "this is startng to feel like a Dr. Jones adventure. Dragon Force contains references to Christie Love and The Lollard League.

    Western Animation 
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002) never mentioned Earth, despite one of the original series' characters, Queen Marlena, being a human astronaut.
  • One preview for Cars actually showed Mater accidentally running over a bumblebee. Not a car colored to resemble a bumblebee, an actual bumblebee. In the final film, all animals in the Cars universe are also portrayed as vehicles.
  • In the original Ice Age, the animals lived in a very realistic world. Humans (Neanderthals) were present, and the animals were just animals to Neanderthal eyes. The entire plot was saving a baby human named Roshan from Soto. The second film does not contain humans, and the animals are a little more humany. By the time of the third film, animals use weapons, wear some degree of clothes, and are the main inhabitants of the world. However, a modern human appeared in the Christmas special.
  • Sonic mentions Axl Rose in the pilot of Sonic the Hedgehog. This is a case of Early-Installment Weirdness and these are averted for the rest of the show's run.
  • The Simpsons moved in the opposite direction, starting out in an alternate world very much like (but still markedly different from) ours, where real-world pop-cultural references were relatively rare and the setting smacked heavily of the 1960s (the era of creator Matt Groening's childhood)...only to steadily introduce more and more elements from Real Life, until by the late 1990s Springfield was basically "modern-day America with yellow skin." The key turning point was the early episode "Dancin' Homer"; it had a singing cameo by Tony Bennett, who thus became the first celebrity to portray himself on an episode of The Simpsons. This reached its apex in The Movie, which, after featuring Rainier Wolfcastle, the No Celebrities Were Harmed equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger, for over 15 seasons, made Schwarzenegger himself the in-story President of the United States (with Wolfcastle's voice actor doing the honors).
  • The My Little Pony franchise experienced an Earth Drift post-G1, with the original G1 series containing rainbows acting as portals from Ponyland to Earth and vice-versa. Despite the lack of humans in the follow-up series, My Little Pony Tales, real-world technology was far more apparent, with cars and even television existing. The G3 series also has an actual Christmas special, unlike the "Hearth's Warming Eve" analogue in Friendship is Magic.
  • Doug takes place on earth, but in the Nickelodeon version many expies of real life cities, countries, and celebrities are shown, although the only one mentioned on a regular basis is William Shakespeare. The only other real life figure to be mentioned by name is Godzilla in "Doug Can't Dance." Even Beethoven is called "Ludwig Van Beetgarden." This is averted at times in the Disney version in which Batman, Superman, and real life countries like Bolivia are mentioned by name, as well as real life movies and books.

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Dropped After the PilotContinuity TropesEvery Scar Has A Story

alternative title(s): Old World Shame
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