The comic book anthology series featuring multiple genres and art styles waned during the 1940s and 1950s and finally died by the mid-1960s both because the massive size of The Golden Age of Comic Books was no longer viable and because publishers began to realize that single-genre comics were more marketable. Prior to this shift, however, the standard practice was to present short eight-to-ten-page stories, usually a few superhero features, a few pulp-inspired civilian adventurer characters, and various humor strips. When characters like Superman and Batman got self-titled comics featuring only their adventures, the comics still featured multiple short stories about those characters rather than one long story. As late as the mid-1960s, DC Comics still tended to present two stories of the star character in its superhero titles, as well as one or two half-page, usually crudely-drawn gag strip features. By the Bronze Age, however, this format was was abandoned.
The two-page prose short story featured in many comics from the 1930s up to the early 1960s was due to postal regulations requiring any publication taking advantage of the cheaper magazine bulk distribution rates to have at least two pages of prose or other written content. The popularity of the letters pages and Stan Lee's promotional "Bullpen Bulletins" pages replaced them, and eventually postal regulations changed.
Superhero stories in the 1940s often had broad comedy Bumbling Sidekick characters, usually drawn in a more cartoony style than the other characters, as characters like The Flash and even The Spectre often with the likes of the Three Dimwits (a pastiche of The Three Stooges) and Percival Popp the Super-Copp. Rather distressingly, many such comedy co-stars were extremely racist Minstrel Show caricatures such as Captain Marvel's sidekick Steamboat or the Young Allies member Whitewash Jones. Today, the only example anyone remembers is Johnny Thunder of the Justice Society of America, and even he has been revised into less of a Joke Character. To some extent, the trend continues with the inclusion of Lethal Joke Character examples like Deadpool, but even these characters generally get serious moments and do more than provide simple slapstick or Too Dumb to Live moments. The most famous example would likely be Ebony White, from Will Eisner's The Spirit; however, by the late 1940s he had been turned into more of a conventional kid sidekick.
Plastic Man's goofy sidekick Woozy Winks still shows up once in a while (or at least he did before the New 52 kicked in). And most versions of Wonder Woman still include Etta Candy in her supporting cast, though the writers seem to work very hard to not let her be funny at all (perishforbid!).
The dominance of the superhero has all but eliminated the once popular "civilian adventurer" type, who often had an exciting profession and invariably ended up battling criminals and spies. Many early comics featured the likes of aviator Hop Harrigan, TV host Roy Raymond, and adventurer Pep Morgan starring in backup features in the increasingly superhero-dominated anthologies. While some of these characters still exist, they usually survive by either becoming superheroes (like Congo Bill becoming Congorilla) or becoming part of the supporting cast of a superhero comic (like Speed Saunders, who has been tied in with Hawkman). The idea of such characters headlining their own comics is long gone.
Similarly, the hero whose sole gimmick is a unique super-vehicle of some kind — such as Taxi Taylor, Captain X, and the 1940s Red Torpedo — is all but forgotten, having long since been absorbed by superhero characters like Batman who have other gimmicks and talents besides a Batmobile or the like. A particular subset of these characters, the aviator hero with a special plane, exists today almost entirely in the form of the Blackhawk characters, who also have the gimmick of being a multinatiuonal team of flyers.
A trope from Hollywood musicals of the forties and fifties was the ballet sequence — a segment in which the movie broke away from the main action, usually as a dream, to tell a mini-story through stylized interpretive dance. It may have evolved into the Big Lipped Alligator Moment.
The Big Ballet trend in musicals was started by George Balanchine and "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" from On Your Toes (and revisted in the "biographical" Words and Music), which in turn might have been inspired by the Busby Berkeley Number "Lullaby of Broadway" from Gold Diggers of 1935.
"Gimmick" ballet sequences, such as the many films slathered with underwater versions of lavish Busby Berkeley dance routines, many featuring swimmer Esther Williams. In fact, these movies were really all about the underwater scenes (as one producer said of Williams, "dry, she's a nobody; wet, she's a star"). Rarely seen today even in parody (The Simpsons is an exception), and utterly impossible to take seriously played straight.
Bollywood remains a huge exception, where the tradition thrives to the point of being an Enforced Trope, and pretty much every Indian film must have at least one big perfectly choreographed song-and-dance number.
The airplane hijacker who demands to be taken to Cuba (inspired by a number of real hijackings) had a brief heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, but was already fading into Dead Horse territory by the 1980s, and has since been completely supplanted by hijackers with far more sinister motives.
Monty Python's Flying Circus played with this. One passenger on a direct flight to Cuba tries to hijack the plane and go to Luton. He ends up thrown out of the plane just in time to catch a bus "Straight to Luton," which was then hijacked by a man who demanded to be taken to Cuba. The bus changes its sign to "Straight to Cuba" and turns around.
Seinfeld references the Cuban hijacker trope with Dominican characters that are repeatedly mistaken for Cubans.
An Italian pop band founded in 1994 is named "dirotta su Cuba" ("hijack towards Cuba")
In P.D.Q Bach's The Abduction of Figaro, Captain Kadd, after his "I Am" Song, says he's "taking this ship to Cuba." The other characters have to remind him that he's not on a ship ("What do you mean, I'm not on a ship?").
Cracked magazine spoofed this phenomenon in the late '60s with a few pages of strips of many other modes of transportation being hijacked, including ice-cream trucks, rickshaws, magic carpets, and horses in the Old West.
Many old movies and plays about the fashionable upper classes will have characters travel to Reno, Nevada, to obtain painless divorces. (Reno developed before Las Vegas.) If the movies could be believed, only six weeks were required to establish state residency; only one spouse had to be present; and divorce was granted on request. Reno businessmen went out of their way to attract those seeking Nevada divorces with specialist lawyers and affordable extended-stay hotels. This trope disappeared due to the liberalization of divorce laws in other U.S. states.
In The Misfits, this is why Roslyn is in Reno. Right after getting her divorce she falls in love with an older local man.
One segment of The Women takes place in a Nevada dude ranch where the assorted (female) characters are waiting to establish residency. A newspaper gossip column is quoted: "[one character] is being Reno-vated".
At the time of this trope, divorce wasn't considered a polite topic of conversation, so this could be used as a complete euphemism. Here's a middle-class example from the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (having nothing to do with the main plot):
Becky:I've been in Reno.
Becky:Reno. Dad tells me you were there, too.
Miles:Five months ago.
Becky:Oh, I'm sorry.
In The Lady Eve this is the suggested remedy when Henry Fonda wants to rid himself of Barbara Stanwyck, who is actually running The Con against him.
Also referenced in The Shawshank Redemption (the beginning of which takes place in the 1940s). Andy's disloyal wife wants a divorce. Andy's response - "I'll see you in hell before I'll see you in Reno" - is part of what convinces the jury that he killed her.
In the Buster Keaton film Seven Chances, Buster has to marry someone — anyone — before turning 27 or lose his inheritance. He runs a newspaper ad for a wife and is ready at the altar with tickets to both Niagara Falls, and Reno.
In Charlie Chan in Reno, Charlie's son when he hears his dad is going to Reno—actually to consult the Reno Police on a case—is afraid his parents are getting a divorce.
On Mad Men, Betty flies to Reno at the end of Season 3 to get a divorce from Don. (Mad Men is a period piece and the episode in question was set in 1963.)
Tijuana, another once-popular destination for quickie divorces, serves the same purpose for the housewife who hitches a ride with the party-seeking college boys in Road Trip.
In the 80s and 90s, part of the Valley Girl stereotype was having a phone in her room and jokes about the immense bills run up and the impossibility of anyone else getting a chance to use the phone line. Thanks to cell phones, with some help from Facebook and IMs, this has bitten the dust. Remnants still exist, such as in Juno (though this was mostly just to make a hamburger phone joke) and in Totally Radicaladvertising aimed at teens. (You can still joke about the phone bills, though.)
Many films of the 1920s and 1930s feature plot-irrelevant montages of urban life, especially multiple people's daily routines, store displays, manufacturing processes, or popular amusements, much longer than what would be needed for a standard Establishing Shot. Such sequences, leftovers from early cinema in which simply seeing such things was a novel spectacle, eventually vanished unless they were immediately relevant to the plot. They still exist in art and experimental cinema in various forms, but in commercial fiction films it has long since faded from public consciousness.
During the 1940s, films were sometimes adapted into radio plays, usually performed by the original cast of the film. Television, being a visual medium like film, made such adaptations redundant, though they did still happen to a limited extent even into the 1980s - Star Wars being a very famous example, and also one of the very last produced in this manner.
Gimmicked "Interactive" Filmgoing Experiences. 3D has come back a few times, but what did not was everything else, up to and including systems of pulleys and winches that slung "ghosts" around the cinema to "heighten the experience", Smell-O-Vision (plus copycat AromaRama and John Waters' variant Odorama), special visors that let you see or not see monsters on the screen, and an elaborate system that gave viewers in the audience joybuzzer-style "electric" shocks so that they would think they were under attack from the movie's monster.
Part of the plot of Matinee is kids going to one of these types of films during the Cuban Missle Crisis. It's implied that they served as escapism from the Cold War.
The idea of olfactory accompaniment for movies was even older; the "scent organ" in Brave New World was merely a futuristic extrapolation of what was already being done occasionally in musical revues.
There has been one such idea that's been getting rolling lately: D-BOX theaters, where the seats shake in sync with the action on-screen.
Note that this sort of technique has become very common in theme park attractions, even if your average movie theater doesn't bother with such stunts.
In the 1920s, 'goat glands' were a quack remedy for erectile dysfunction and general lack of energy (don't ask how it was done ... Squick). The use of goat glands - with miraculous Popeye-after-Spinach type results - not only became a trope in films themselves (for example, Buster Keaton's Cops), but a film industry term for silent films that had sound hurriedly added to them to bring them up to date. Monkey glands were also used, and were so popular that they had song lyrics written about them.
Let me take you by the hand
Over to the jungle band
If you're too old for dancing
Get yourself a monkey gland!
Mary Eaton, "Monkey Doodle Doo", from The Coconuts (1929), written by Irving Berlin
Airports as places where you can expect to be repeatedly accosted by evangelists, Hare Krishnas, political activists, and the like. This was once common in American airports, which were generally considered "public forums" for free speech purposes. A 1992 Supreme Court ruling changed this, allowing airport authorities to make reasonable regulations to avoid congestion and disruption to air travelers, and 9/11 got rid of them for good.
While the scene is still funny, some of the vicarious thrill of Robert Stack's Foe-Tossing Charge in Airplane! is lost on a modern audience. A 1980s traveler really did have to pass through similar gauntlets of airport attention-seekers, and probably wanted to handle them in Rex Kramer's no-nonsense fashion. However, even if the setting is unfamiliar, the behaviour itself is recognisable to anyone who's ever walked down a pedestrianized high street.
There's even an episode of The Simpsons that gets in on this. Homer makes fun of all the people imploring him to love his neighbor until the two at the end of the line persuaded to join a cult. Another Simpsons episode inverted the trope with two American missionaries in suits showing up in an airport in India and one Indian muttering: "Oh, great...Christians."
Similarly, jokes about the presence of travel insurance vending machines in airports (and the related presumed danger of air travel) are baffling to modern audiences, since insurance vending machines haven't existed for years (at least in North America - they are still fairly common in, e.g., Japan.)
In the early days of motion pictures, leading up to and during the time of The Hays Code, one of the loopholes in the taboos against showing nude women on the screen was if the images were used for programs of "an educational nature." So ur-Russ Meyers would splash lurid stories of white slavery, prostitution, lascivious womanizing and violence on the screen and couch them as "warnings for parents — tell your children to beware!" and such. One of the most notorious was a film called Is Your Daughter Safe? which was released in 1927 but was actually a compilation reel of previously shot material, some of it already fifteen years old even then — the Mondo Cane of its day. Similarly, Virgins of Bali and Legong: Dance of the Virgins were able to show Balinese women going through their daily lives bare-breasted or even stark naked only because it was National Geographic Nudity.
"Nudist" documentaries of the time were also little more than Poor Man's Porn, where the clubs often feature a disproportionate number of young, voluptuous women rather than a wide variety of ages and body types for both genders as in a true club.
Teenage males trying to obtain pornography through methods like fake IDs, getting adults and older siblings to buy magazines for them or watching scrambled pay-per-view porn was a much joked about situation in the 80s and 90s, but thanks to The Internet removing any difficulty for anyone getting porn it's not so common anymore. Jokes about teens trying to clear browser caches, cookies, histories and hiding browsing (and download folders) from their parents could be considered a bit of a successor trope (though even that is slowly dying out as teenagers owning their own computers is becoming more common, as well as "in-private browsing" which does the clearing for you). Though the trope still works if you replace "porn" with "booze".
In the early days of cell phones, they were often depicted as little more than a yuppie toy. For example, in Clueless the protagonist (a teenager from an affluent Beverly Hills family) is eating dinner with her father and step-brother, when a phone starts to ring. This leads to all three characters looking for their cell phones to see if it's the one that's ringing. In 1995 this scene was meant to be humorous, as it was considered ridiculously yuppieish for each family member to have their own cell phone. If a teenager watches the movie today, the gag is probably lost on her, as nowadays it's common for teens (and even younger children) to have their own cell phones, and the sort of phone confusion depicted in Clueless happens quite often.
Though even this is becoming less common with custom ring tones becoming steadily easier to acquire and install. The most recent iPhone (as of February 2012) has 27 ringtone options standard, and it's the work of ten minutes or less to create and install a new one.
In some places, custom ring tones for far less advanced phones were so prevalent in the previous decade that a large number of people got fed up and started sticking with either the default tone or the one that sounds the most like an old-fashioned phone, leading to the aforementioned confusion.
The pilot episode of Get Smart (1965) opens with an obsolete gag: Max's shoe phone rings in a theater, and this is an unprecedented oddity rather than a commonplace annoyance.
Cell phones in general being so uncommon throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s. In Scream (1996) for instance, the mere fact that Billy drops a cell phone marks him as the primary suspect because he just saved Sidney from a killer known to stalk people over the phone while invading their homes. To a modern viewer this seems rather innocuous.
This gimmick is arguably still with us, in the form of "The History of..." spoofs in comic strips and TV commercials showing stereotyped scenes from past eras, often with Bamboo Technology.
You can't see through a modern keyhole; though this hasn't entirely killed the old-style keyhole outline as a frame for mystery illustrations. It's a skeuomorph.
In the late 19th century, the Rags to Riches trope usually involved a poor yet clever and virtuous boy who rises to affluence through hard work and clean living (and phenomenal luck, but they won't tell you that). This trope was arguably the basis of Social Darwinism, but it died sometime during the forties and no one can say why for certain. Presumably it had something to do with the immensity of the Wall Street Crash (for if people got rich by hard work and clean living, did that mean all those that lost wealth were lazy and uncouth, along with unlucky?), the influence of the World War II experience (with Hitler's Germany being a horrific case of many of the tenets of Social Darwinism put into action), the New Deal (which made people question the idea of individuals purely responsible for their success) and the nascent civil rights movement (springing from demographics of people who had been denied success for the color of their skin, not for the content of their character, even though Booker T. Washington to some degree embraced the theme).
Horatio Alger Jr.'s work is the classic example. Alger's work shows a real Forgotten Trope, where the boy goes from dirt poor all the way up to... working class, with no thought about becoming really rich or upper class. That would have been utterly unrealistic back then. Today it reads like tales of a man's long and difficult struggle to reach the middle.
If you actually read Alger's work, in almost every case the dirt-poor boy attracts the attention, early in the tale, of a rich merchant or financier who becomes his behind-the-scenes benefactor and/or keeps an eye on him throughout his rise. Alger himself was admitting that whom you know is what really counts.
The British equivalent is Dinah Craik's John Halifax, Gentleman and Samuel Smiles' Self-Help.
It refuses to die as long as Ayn Rand has disciples.
Charles Dickens' work ranges from unintentionaltrope overdose (Oliver Twist) to low-end Subversion (Great Expectations) to high-end Subversion (Hard Times). The last-named features a supporting character (Josiah Bounderby) who claims that his mother abandoned him soon after his birth, and that he was completely independent by the age of three. It is later revealed that his parents adored him, and scrimped and sacrificed so that he might receive a good education and a promising apprenticeship. He then rose rapidly through the ranks of society, and deserted his doting parents in their old age.
The young readers' novel Montmorency could be considered a parody, as it features a dirt-poor youth who ascends to the aristocracy through hard work ... by robbing Londoners and faking his way into high society.
Invasion Literature was a popular British sub-genre of Science Fiction (not named as such at that point) in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. This genre focused on the invasion of Britain Twenty Minutes into the Future (or earlier) by a foreign power. This foreign power was most often either France or Germany, depending on which seemed Britain's most likely enemy at the time. Its mainstream incarnation vanished during World War I, presumably because they had actual wars with Germany.
The Battle of Dorking (1871) by George Tomkyns Chesney, the Trope Codifier, though not the Ur Example. This was written in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war, which had shocked Europe with the speed with which Europe's second-largest army was defeated by a numerically smaller but technically more sophisticated foe. This theme ran through the genre.
Both The Riddle of the Sands (1903) by Erskine Childers and The War of the Worlds (1898) by H. G. Wells ended up having an effect on fiction long after the extinction of the original trope serving as the progenitors of modern espionage thrillers and the Alien Invasion, respectively. The Invasion Fiction lives, but the invader has changed.
A late example is Nevil Shute's What Happened to the Corbetts (1938). By that time, of course, most people had a pretty good idea that something bad was going to happen, even if they didn't know quite how bad it would be.
There were a few American examples of the genre, usually involving the Yellow Peril; the revival of that associated trope during World War II included a novel by Whitman Chambers titled Invasion!.
There are still quite a few books and movies in which a war suddenly breaks out between two major nations and one of them totally overruns the other because of its secret weapon. Arguably, invasion literature was the origin of the modern Technothriller genre, along with the Spy Thriller and Alien Invasion tropes. The thing that's been forgotten is the specific threat of invasion into Britain by either the French or the Germans. The notion of either of those things happening became absurd after World War I and World War II, respectively.
Mainly because of Germany's subsequent (relative) military impotence and that both France and Germany are allies with Britain through NATO and, to a lesser extent, associations with the European Union. However, this hasn't stopped people (namely Tom Clancy) from continuing to speculate about a resurgent Imperial Japan, even though they're a less capable current military force than either France or Germany and are not in a hurry to get carpet bombed again.
Several past and present Japanese service chiefs would enjoy being able to actively participate in peacekeeping efforts to show that the Japanese armed forces are more than paper tigers. Especially considering the North Korean situation.
The "threat to Britain from France or Germany" idea did make it into at least one post-Cold War techno-thriller, Larry Bond's Cauldron. The scenario involves the dissolution of NATO and a war pitting an aggressive France, allied with Germany and much of continental Western Europe, against the US, UK, and most of the former Warsaw Pact, excluding Russia. (However, the notion of England actually being invaded is never brought up.)
A modern example of Invasion Literature most Australians will know of is Tomorrow: When the War Began, wherein Australia is invaded by an unnamed country.
The genre was being parodied as early as 1909, when P. G. Wodehouse wrote his early novel The Swoop, in which England is invaded by the armies of nine different countries at once, only to be driven out by the Boy Scouts. (Oddly enough, in Saki's When William Came, written four years later, the "Boy-Scouts-as-saviours" idea is repeated, entirely seriously. The Scouts don't actually fight off the Germanic hordes, thankfully. Instead, they inspire the population to resistance by boycotting the Kaiser's parade.)
One of the later examples is the comic book series Invasion!, which ran from 1977-9. The creators had to change the Russians to "Volgans" and remove representations of Margaret Thatcher and other real life people.
The Captivity Narrative, in which a good, Puritan girl is captured by Indians and has to resist their culture, was pretty popular in America from the 17th-19th centuries. These were often folktales that were made up long before the printing press and other forms of culture were readily available in remote settlements. These, often times, exploited the Savage Indian archetype for the sake of Rule of Cool or Rule of Drama, regardless (or because) of its Unfortunate Implications.
A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, by Mary Rowlandson, is pretty much the chief example of this trope. It's a true story, too. And a very interesting one at that. It's a must read for anyone interested in King Philip's War or early Anglo-Indian relations.
And one which plays it straight, only to subvert it, is Catharine Maria Sedgwick's Hope Leslie: the young sister of the titular character is kidnapped along with Hope herself and her sweetheart Everell. At first it seems as if Hope and Everell will be executed by the evil Indians, until in a moment swiped right out of the Pocahontas story, the Indian princess Magawisca saves both their lives, resulting in their eventual release. Later, Hope's sister Faith is allowed to reunite with her family—but while she has proven unable to resist Indian culture, so that Hope and her family feel they have lost Faith forever (no one ever said the story wasn't Anvilicious), the fact Faith returns to be with the people she's come to see as her family and is much happier for it is played out with surprising sympathy and generosity.
Believe it or not, The Last of the Mohicans of The Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper is actually a subversion of this. ("No, Magua's not going to rape her, or torture her, or kill her, or even tie her up. He just took her because he doesn't like you.")
A modern subversion: in The Searchers (1956), the plot motor is whether John Wayne's bitter protagonist will rescue or shoot his Indian-kidnapped niece once he finally finds her, for the fear that she has been assimilated and tainted by evil savages.
To be more specific, The Searchers is based on captivity narratives written about (and grossly objectifying) Cynthia Parker, mother of Comanche leader Quanah Parker. Cynthia was not only happy with the Indians, she was Happily Married to one, with several kids.
This trope still lives in American society in subtle forms, according to socio-historical writer Susan Faludi. Her book about the September 11 attacks, The Terror Dream, specifically references The Searchers and its source narrative. She explores in detail how the trope influenced some of the media images and political attitudes with which America responded to the tragedy.
Modern writers have come up with pastiches of the trope.
Lucia St. Clair Robson's romance Ride the Wind is a popular example.
Deborah Larsen's The White rewrites one of the most famous captivity narratives, that of Mary Jemison.
A book called The Ransom of Mercy Carter is about a group of Puritans (adults and children) kidnapped by Indians and waiting for ransom from their families. Subverted, because in the end nearly all of the children decide to stay with their Indian families.
This genre is parodied in a skit entitled "My Captivity by Savages" by the band Rasputina on the album Frustration Plantation.
Actually the genre did not start with female protagonists, nor concerned only Puritans. An important forerunner is "Memoir On the Country and Ancient Indian Tribes Of Florida" (1575) by Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda. They were the actual memoirs of a Spanish man who spent the years 1549 to 1566 in captivity by the Calusa tribe of Florida. A best seller of the 18th century was "The Remarkable Adventures of Jackson Johonett, of Massachusetts" (1793). It was promoted as the actual memoirs of a young American soldier who survived captivity by Native Americans in Ohio. Contemporaries loved this action-packed narrative. Literary historians are convinced it was actually a novel, with numerous geographic and historical references being inaccurate. For example, the narrator claims arriving at the completed Fort Jefferson, Ohio on September 18, 1791. Remarkable if you consider the Fort started being built in October, 1791. A more genuine historical account was "The adventures of John Jewitt: only survivor of the crew of the ship, Boston, during a captivity of nearly three years among the Indians of Nootka Sound in Vancouver Island" (1815). The long-winded title is self-explanatory.
I Am Regina by Sally Keehn, published in 1991, is about this. The main character Regina is taken by the Allegheny Indians and lives with them for so long that she forgets the English language, except for a few Bible verses. This is definitely a subversion of the original trope, mainly because it portrays the Indians sympathetically, and they become Regina's family.
Another example of the Captivity Narrative is found in Don Quixote: Ruy Pérez de Viedma relates all his biography in "The story of the Captive Captain". He was a handsome Spanish captain who wanted to escape the Moors and was helped by a Zoraida, a beautiful Moorish princess who wanted to convert to Christianity. He organized a successful escape to Spain, was well received by his powerful and rich relatives and married Zoraida. The Life Embellished characteristics like the Moorish princess and the overly happy ending were a Necessary Weasel because the public of that time expected them. In real life, Cervantes was a captive who failed all his escape attempts and whose family paid for his rescue; he was always an Impoverished Patrician.
The inverse of this trope—a white woman is kidnapped by Indians, but chooses to stay with them because they are Closer to Earth, has become common. Some examples have been mentioned above. There's a whole subgenre of romance novels which use this trope.
A variety of late-19th and early-20th century stories called "Edisonades" were usually about a young man building a robot, going west, defeating savages and carving out a name for himself. Steam Punk was created partially from a desire to fight the attitudes presented in the Edisonades (despite the genre being dead for several generations).
The Anglo-Saxon riddle poem, in which a vague poetic description of an item was given and listeners were expected to recall a rote answer, is almost entirely dead today. The only popularly-remembered example, "Humpty Dumpty," is no longer perceived as a riddle about an egg, just as a poem about an egg. (This is in part due to The Weird Al Effect of Humpty's inclusion in the Alice books.)
The "riddle" in this form was alive and well in Jane Austen's day; it is especially featured in Emma. (What we now call a "riddle" was originally known as a "conundrum".)
Used almost directly by J. R. R. Tolkien in The Hobbit, specifically the riddle-contest between Bilbo and Gollum. Tolkien was aware of the trope because he was an expert on Anglo-Saxon literature, to the point of having done original translations from Anglo-Saxon into modern English.
A number of 19th century Russian novels reference the then-current fad interest in Nihilism, and while the idea of a Nietzsche Wannabe is still familiar today, that doesn't give a complete idea as to what the philosophy meant to the original audience.
Not to mention the then-current debate mentioned in Crime and Punishment over whether women have souls.
The clever young widow as The Ingenue's rival for the protagonist's affections. This character type was popular in the early 20th century, back when young ladies were supposed to be watched over by parents and chaperones before marriage: the widow had the advantages of independence, (moderate) experience and wealth, though the last of these assets often depended on gold-digging among prospective second husbands. The more dangerous Femme Fatale might be this type's eventual descendant.
Anthony Trollope liked this one, having Madame Max Goesler in Phineas Finn and Mrs. Hurtle in The Way We Live Now.
Co-ed colleges have caused the College Widow to be replaced by sorority sisters.
The Man Who Was Thursday and The Assassination Bureau, Ltd. display a contemporary fear of militant Anarchists, who in the closing years of the nineteenth century and the opening years of the twentieth killed President McKinley, King Umberto I of Italy and, perhaps most shockingly, the beloved Empress Sissi of Austria-Hungary and carried off a string of successful bombings. Over time, more immediate bogeymen displaced the Bomb-Throwing Anarchists in the imagination, though their cultural DNA survives in the Terrorists Without a Cause trope.
Travelers' Tales were a genre of nonfiction (usually) adventure stories of far-off lands. With the advent of Television and Film they seemed rather redundant.
Brain Fever. Commonly used in the past to put an otherwise healthy character into a helpless state, often after an emotional shock. The character is usually delirious and only semi-conscious, but that may not stop him from blurting out unpleasant truths. If necessary, could even be used to kill off inconvenient characters. Fever delirium still shows up from time to time to do the same job, but it is now much more specific than a generic "brain fever".
There's a common Edwardian comedy trope where some aristocrat will have a particularly good cook and their friends will do everything they can to "steal" that servant (because great food is such a crucial part of performing the part of a host). This happens in some Saki stories as well as in P. G. Wodehouse with the chef Anatole. This gets a modern use in the Miles Vorkosigan novel Memory where his parents and other relatives are tempted to steal away his new cook, Ma Kosti, but that's probably because the series is often social comedy Recycled IN SPACE!.
Perhaps a modern variation is the competition by rich families for good nannies, as seen on Desperate Housewives.
Another modern version occurred in the 3rd Rock from the Sun episode "Citizen Solomon", with Dick and Mary fighting over a maid:
Mary: Give me back my maid!
Dick: I'm sorry, Mary, but Cathy is not some product to be bought or sold on the open market. She is a living, breathing human being with feelings, thoughts, and emotions — you don't own her. [beat] I do!
Also on Game of Thrones when Janos Slynt suggests he'll be hiring Tyrions' cook
Tyrion: Wars haven been started for less.
Obesity as a sign of great wealth is not entirely dead (with tropes such as the Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit) but it is certainly a dying trope, replaced by obesity as a sign of working class subsistence on junk food and beer, the price of fresh food, lack of time for home cooking, etc.
In Nigeria in the 1970s, obesity was still a sign of great wealth. Polynesia also had positive connotations to fatness.
Another dead or dying trope associated with the rich is that of the "squeamish" rich person (you know, the one with ridiculously puritanical social mores or who is laughably behind the times) who reacts to everything in a scandalized or naive way. Such characters were usually women, but rich men were not immune either. It's largely disappeared now because the rich are now more likely to be just as sophisticated and up-to-date (if not more so) as everyone else. (Still shows up on The Simpsons, though, due to Rule of Funny.)
Before modern psychiatry and medicine, hysteria was once a common diagnosis for a woman with any sort of illness. There are thousands of documented cases of women in real life diagnosed with hysteria (and often institutionalized or otherwise marginalized) who were later found to have had heart attacks, ovarian cancer, schizophrenia, depression, endocrine imbalances, or one of any number of physical or psychological diseases.note Sometimes, all it took was a woman saying "I don't want to have kids!" or "I want to own my own business!" or objecting to her husband having control of her money. These victims of "moral insanity" were frequently institutionalized. Going to a Spooky Seance could also get you diagnosed, because Spiritualists were notorious for promoting feminism. The trope became discredited after women finally got fed up with being told that their problems were all either "in their heads" or made up for attention, and faded from fiction at about the same time.
There's a modern myth that doctors in the 19th century all used vibrators to give female patients orgasms. The ancient Greeks believed that orgasms cured "hysteria", but most 19th-century medical schools taught that a woman could not have an orgasm, and that her sexual pleasure derived from submitting to her husband. One historian estimates that five or ten doctors in the English-speaking world used vibrators on patients. Most were bought by lay people, but ads for vibrators were directed at the medical community because advertising them to the general public was illegal.
Hysteria, and more broadly the consistent mis-diagnosis and mis-treatment of women during the 19th and early 20th centuries, is the theme of the classic early feminist short horror story The Yellow Wallpaper.
As mentioned under Clark Kenting, facial muscle control was used by pulp magazines to handwave Master of Disguise abilities, because it was thought that if a male character wore make-up for a disguise, that would make him a "sissy". Perhaps because of common awareness of the use of make-up in films/the lack of believability of the facial muscle explanation, this trope hasn't been used for a while.
Although this was used in the movie Minority Report, with the aid of an electronic device to relax the muscles.
While the Oxford Clerk from The Canterbury Tales lacks the requisite glasses from the Smart People Wear Glasses trope (they were barely starting to come into use at the time), he is specifically noted as having poor eyesight from staying up and reading books by candlelight, hinting that that trope might have been descended from an older "Smart People Have Bad Eyesight" trope.
Christmas ghost stories were very common in the Victorian era. Today the only one widely remembered is a A Christmas Carol and thus most people don't realize there were many others of its ilk, but telling ghost stories around Christmas was a common tradition. A reference to it remains in the song "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" that seems fairly weird to modern listeners.
In British literature up through the mid-1800s, a frequent plot device involved a secret marriage happening in Gretna Green or other Scottish border towns. This was because an English law dating to 1754 allowed the parents of people under 21 to stop them from marrying; Scottish law had no similar provision, and, further, allowed almost anyone to perform a marriage as long as two witnesses were present. Moreover, the wedding announcement could be held back from English newspapers. Gretna Green is still a popular venue for destination weddings, and turns up in that capacity in modern works, but its use in novels like The Woman in White to reveal a secret wedding in a character's past is now mostly forgotten even in period pieces.
Live Action TV
In the 1990s adaptation of the Jeeves and Wooster stories, the whole "breach of promise" thing is omitted, and now the reason Bertie can't get out of these engagements is it just wouldn't do to jilt a woman so. And yet they keep the Hitler parody and the blackface - with which they're very careful.
It's probably no coincidence that one of the last "classic" examples of the Standard '50s Father, Mike Brady of The Brady Bunch, has been mercilessly parodied because of all those traits.
As early as 1972, the Standard '50s Father had become so eclipsed in the popular imagination by the Bumbling Dad that Bob Newhart refused to play a father in The Bob Newhart Show - famously threatening to quit when the writers approached him with an "Emily is pregnant" script.
This will sound strange to European tropers, but in the '60s and '70s a common trope on American TV (and especially stand-up comedy) was the purported extreme ugliness of Russian women. For decades the standard-issue US pop culture Russian woman was either a muscled, mannish athlete or a troll-like creature with a mustache wearing a "babushka" (a "grandma kerchief" tied below the chin). Watch some old (uncensored) The Tonight Show monologues — at least once a week Carson would make a joke about how mind-numbingly ugly Slavic women were. And, since he was the most respected comedian in America, everyone copied him.
Speaking of Smirnoff, this trope became a running gag for his character on Night Court: In his first appearance on the show, Smirnoff's character (also named Yakov) is an immigrant from Soviet Russia who speaks almost no English, and Harry is forced by circumstance to befriend him despite the language barrier. It Makes Sense in Context. At one point, Harry gets to see the inside of Yakov's wallet and see photos of his loved ones. Harry is initially confused as to why Yakov has a photo of Soviet Premier Breshnev in his wallet, until Yakov explains that's his wife, Sonia. Since then, each time Yakov made an appearance, reference is made to how painfully ugly Sonia is, until the episode where finally we get to meet Sonia... and she's absolutely gorgeous. Naturally, Yakov thinks she's a KGB impostor, even as she claims her new appearance is due to Magic Plastic Surgery, required due to an accident.
This is probably all due to the main way the West gets exposure to Russian women — from sports, particularly the Olympics. Russian women are either svelte gymnasts and tennis players or brick shithouse shot putters (rumors that the Soviet Union secretly juiced their female athletes with steroids might have also had an effect.)
The distinction was often not so much national as political. Czarist women seem always to have been portrayed as mysterious and exotic temptresses, whereas Soviet women are far more often portrayed as mannish and unalluring, if not downright Rosa Klebbs. The likely reason for this is Soviet policy discouraging differentiation of occupations by sex. To paraphrase an old Soviet joke, "where once were ladies and gentlemen, there are comrades and comrades." The Soviet woman was seen as a kind of comrade-in-arms for the working man, impervious to such allures of the "rotting bourgeoisie" as makeup or fancy clothes. This attitude more or less died off by the 1930s,note Though most information about Russia came to West from emigrants, who left during the civil war or in the 1920s. but it has set an industrial imbalance heavily focusing on means of production at the expense of consumer goods. Fashion industry was fairly limited, resulting in domination of purely functional, often fugly, clothes designs. With the lack of an upper class to reinforce the Sensual Slavs stereotype, this caused the looks of an average Soviet woman to be perceived outside as a "Soviet man (female edition)." Add to this the Iron Curtain denying foreigners the time needed to discover that she was Beautiful All Along and an unhealthy dose of dehumanizing Red Scare and there you go.
One joke involved a man going to sleep next to his lovely wife of the first type and being horrified to discover, the next morning, that she has passed her "expiration date" and transformed overnight into the second.
This trope was used as recently as 2004 in Dodgeball with the ugly woman with a unibrow from "Romanovia".
While made in the 1970s, Mash was of course set during the Korean War. The "Go to Reno, Nevada for a quick divorce" trope (see Film, above) turned up on occasion.
This is referenced in Mad Men: Betty Draper and Henry Francis go to Reno together to get her a divorce.
A minor trope in old newscasts was using introduction music that emulated the sound of a teleprinter or typewriters. With the predominance of new technology, those devices eventually were considered obsolete, so using such a style of musicalizatin wasn't making sense anymore (and younger audiences probably wouldn't be able to recognize them anyway). Nowadays, newscast themes are usually "rockish" and/or electronic sounding.
The "rock bimbo" was a trope that often appeared in comedy through the '80s and early '90s, based on perceptions of female fans of rock bands like Guns n' Roses and Aerosmith as attractive, shallow, dumb, promiscuous partiers and more often than not overlapping with stereotypes of the Valley Girl and images of the singer Madonna from the time. Most notably it shaped the portrayal of Kelly Bundy and her friends on Married... with Children after the first couple of seasons and was a big part of Julie Brown's comedy persona especially on the old skit comedy show The Edge. It went away completely with the rise of grunge rock in the '90s, although similar stereotypes about teenaged and college-aged women still surface, but at least the rock bimbo's look - long feathered hair, dark but skimpy clothing, and wearing lots of long necklaces topped by maybe a large crucifix - has long been a relic.
Tom Lehrer's song "The Old Dope Peddler" parodies a folk song trope that isn't used much anymore. When he originally wrote it, there were plenty of songs about eccentric but beloved village characters such as the old lamp-lighter or the old umbrella salesman. Those songs are forgotten except by those very familiar with old songs.
Maddy Prior's "All Our Trades" stands out as a late example of this trope done straight.
Many of Tom Lehrer's songs parody styles and tropes which were old even when he was writing them (although a few had seen revivals at the time); and have now been all but forgotten by any but afficianados of old music.
"Yankee Doodle" has 18th century slang from at least three languages. It mocks the vain, slovenly, and cowardly behavior of Colonial troops in the French and Indian war. Today, everyone knows it, but not the context of its references (or most of its post-chorus lyrics).
Well at least the title is rather clear, since Doodle is still understood to mean "fool, simpleton" and has several derivative terms. Such as "doodles" (mindless sketches) and possibly "dude" (dandy, city slicker).
It also references the Macaroni Club, a contemporary London establishment catering to effeminate fops obsessed with fashion; the reference does double-duty by both impugning the Yankee's idea of what is fashionable and comparing them with the 18th Century's equivalent of the Stereotype Gay.
The smoking song, about smoking either banishing worldly worries or inspiring sentimental visions. Songs about smoking certain other things are still alive and well, however.
The "love nest" song, describing the type and/or location of the cozy little home a couple would plan to settle down in.
For decades, the depiction of Superman and heroes inspired by him changing costume in phone booths was common in homage and parody despite rarely being used straight. It remained common in superhero parody in the early 1980s but by then phone booths were being replaced with boothless pay phones — the 1978 Christopher Reeve movie acknowledged this with a knowing wink. Now, with phone booths and even pay phones vanishing or gone from most public areas thanks to the omnipresence of cell phones, this supposed cliche isn't even parodied anymore.
On a related matter, any trope involving a Phone Booth is pretty much dead and is only likely to appear in works set between 1930 and 1990s, when phone booths were commonplace.
Food Pills (a complete meal — usually offered in a variety of perfectly convincing flavors — in a tiny capsule) were all the rage for the well-stocked future of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, but today's future food is more food-like. If there is concentrated food — such as the "protein pastes" that may be Food Pills' spiritual descendants — it tends to taste nasty. The change is no doubt due to the growth of the health-and-exercise industry and the subsequent general awareness that the human body needs considerably more than just a few milligrams of vitamins per day — plus the fact that the nearest real-world equivalent to food pills, protein bars and shakes, are now widely distributed and often regarded as bulky and unconvincingly flavored.
Because of advances in refrigeration, milkmen are pretty much obsolete in America, with the result that Cheating with the Milkman has pretty much died as a trope and is only likely to pop up in a work set in the 1950s (the era in which it was a present trope). Interestingly enough, it has a replacement trope in Pizza Boy Special Delivery, which reflects a more recent norm for food delivery.
The main reason milkmen were the subjects of these jokes were their regular presence within a house, if only briefly. They would visit their customers daily or nearly so, giving them the opportunity to get familiar with the female residents. The subject of such jokes can just as well be any other male regularly visiting a certain residence. This is subverted in a P. G. Wodehouse short story, where the narrator claims that because of their schedules, milkmen only see women before they've put their makeup on, rending any such philandering impossible.
Commonly, the gardener has been used as a replacement.
Also the pool boy (among those well-off enough to have one).
In Sweden and France, it's usually the mailman.
In Spain one used to say "es hijo del butanero" ("he is the son of the Butane man") when a child had very little resemblance to his father, implying the mother had been unfaithful with the bottled gas deliveryman. With the growth in installations of direct gas and electric stoves, and the subsequent descent on gas deliverymen, this specific subset of the trope is dying there too.
The image of a Starving Artist living in a garret apartment dates from a time when the top floor of a building was the most inconvenient to access and thus rented out for the lowest price. Thanks to elevators, landlords can now rent out lofts for a hefty markup relative to the rest of the building, and Starving Artists had best starve somewhere lower down.
If you smear some Big Apple Sauce on this trope, it comes back to life with some Truth in Television on its side. Buildings of five floors or fewer in NYC do not have to have elevators. Guess who lives in fifth floor walk-ups in certain neighborhoods.
Cracked discusses many things from the '80s to the early 2000s that are becoming like this in its article 6 Things our Kids Just Plain Won't Get. While a lot of it is more like the Weird Al Effect, some of it isn't, such as plots about someone hogging the phone line when you're waiting for a job to call (most people would just use their cell phone now, if they even have a land line in the first place) and pen pals (the internet means you could probably meet someone from another country on a daily basis).
In the past, homosexuality or male effeminacy was frequently described as a mental disorder (if in fact it was discussed at all). Today, attitudes have changed - and yet, as late as the 1970s, Mike Brady (played by gay actor Robert Reed) was heard to say in an episode of The Brady Bunch that if he found out that one of his sons was interested in playing with dollhouses, he'd take him to a psychiatrist.
The student wearing a Dunce Cap is never played straight anymore, having fallen out of favor by the mid-20th century, and in complete disrepute by The Seventies, with the advent of the self-esteem movement in academia and Edutainment. In real life, any teacher attempting to use this would receive a lot of negative attention from parents and administrators.
A VCR with a flashing 12:00AM on its face was a common gag before the advent of DVDs, due to the notorious difficulty in resetting a VCR's time. It used to show up in a lot of Cartoon Network shows like Johnny Bravo and Dexter's Laboratory, with the joke being that someone is a genius but is still unable to reset the VCR, or this being used as an example of newfound brain power. The joke doesn't work in the era of DVD players, because the vast majority of them can't record, and thus have no need for clocks in the first place - and those who do have a clock either have an internal clock battery, or can fetch the local time from the broadcast metadata.
Broadcast metadata and the rise of the smartphone have also killed off the trope of multiple characters synchronizing their wristwatches in Spy Fiction and The Caper stories.
The Rags to Riches trope has been pretty much rescued from the heap thanks to the advent of the lottery (the good kind, not the Lottery Of Doom). There are countless Real Life examples such as Oprah Winfrey and "Dot Com" success stories that offer a Real LifeDeconstruction and object lesson of sorts. Often though, there is a sour grapes Aesop at the end of modern versions of these tales. The newly wealthy person realizes that money has corrupted them and they give it all up to return to a simple life.
The Gay Nineties — at least, the sentimental depiction thereof, for purely generational reasons. For a while, The Fifties had taken their place, and now they're being edged out by, appropriately enough, The Nineties. Portraying The Gay Nineties as "wacky" or "nerdy" is still very much with us, however; just watch Family Guy for examples - but most of this is based on the estrangement people feel from these old tropes.
"Columbia" was a poetic 19th century name for the United States of America (it is the "C" in "Washington D.C."). Columbia herself was represented as a young woman (or goddess) and was a popular national personification into the early 20th century. Since then she has been displaced by another American personification — "Uncle Sam". (The patriotic song "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean" had a similar period of popularity.) About the only place you will see poor old Columbia these days is at the opening of a "Columbia Pictures" flick: she is the woman holding the torch. note Apparently she was always meant as a composite figure, but her incarnations may include, among others, Claudia Dell, Amelia Batchler, Jane Bartholomew, and today's version, Jenny Joseph.
"Columbia" was also used as a synonym for the continent(s) of America, hence the names of the South American nation of Colombia and the Canadian Province of British Columbia (and the latter is even on the opposite coast from the one where Christopher Columbus operated). And Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean is still performed.
Many older American memorials and monuments still depict Columbia, the most notable and newest of which is the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, dedicated in 1949 in Hawaii.
The statue atop the US Capitol dome, while not officially of Columbia, shares many of her characteristics.
CBS used to stand for the Columbia Broadcasting System. Even they've abandoned this trope.
In Alex Ross's graphic novel Uncle Sam, there's a sequence where Sam meets up with Columbia to discuss the good old days.
There was a subtle distinction made at one time: Columbia represented the United States, while Uncle Sam represented the Government of the United States, thus◊. (Similarly, Britannia represented the United Kingdom, while John Bull represented the Government of the United Kingdom, thus◊.) Uncle Sam has now shifted into Columbia's place, while his former function is carried on by such Anthropomorphic Personifications as "John Q. Public◊" or (more recently) "Joe Sixpack."
Uncle Sam himself replaced the almost entirely forgotten Brother Jonathan as national personification of the USA. (Jonathan was the brother of Britain's national personification John Bull, the satirical joke was that they did not get on although they looked almost identical).
Brother Jonathan is referred to in the Flashman novel Flashman and the Mountain of Light.
National personification was popular in many countries in the nineteenth century (Britannia etc). It's equally forgotten outside the United States.
Marianne as the personification of France seems to be very much healthy, though.
Sweden's Moder Svea isn't used much outside editorial cartoons but is certainly not forgotten.
Germania is not often seen anymore, as she tends to be associated with the militarism of Imperial Germany, but der deutsche Michel in his night-cap is still fairly common in German political cartoons.
Similarly, all of the traditional personifications of Ireland (Róisín Dubh, Kathleen Ni Houlihan, the Shan Van Voght, the Maid of Erin) are forgotten, mainly because they're seen as incredibly dated.
Columbia, Marianne, John Bull, Britannia, and Uncle Sam are all gods in the World War II setting in Scion.
Everything's Greener With Chlorophyll: a minor trope in The Fifties, afterwards forgotten. The brief fad for chlorophyll as an additive centered on its supposed deodorizing and "healing" properties, not to mention giving products like toothpaste a natural green color. TIME Magazine reported a chlorophyll boom in April 1952 which had become a bust by October of the next year.
Polack jokes petered out by the end of The Eighties, partly because no one remembered why Polacks were supposed to be stupid in the first place, and partly because that was when the Poles started seriously kicking political ass, leading to the 1989 fall of Communism in their country. It's hard to make "stupid" jokes about a people who have successfully told the Soviet Union to take a hike.
"Big boy pants." It used to be a rite of passage for a child to start wearing long pants and skirts. Younger children — both boys and girls — wore short pants with a dress or skirt over them, so that the material would not be worn out during playtime. Once you were old enough, you were trusted to wear long pants.
The variant about young girls wearing short skirts makes a significant appearance in Fingersmith.
This trope is far from being forgotten in manga and is used mostly for school uniforms like in Shinkuu Yuusetsu.
+++FLASH FLASH FLASH+++ RELATED TROPE CONCERNING MILITARY COMMUNICATIONS ALSO OBSOLETE AS OF JULY 2013 RPT. JULY 2013. +++MESSAGE ENDS+++
The term "motherfucker" as a term used by African-Americans. It's noted by a lot of older folklore/analysis of humor books that it was an African-American-only term. For better or worse, it's become a mainstream curseword with no racial associations, beyond a strong association with black actor Samuel L. Jackson, who says it a lot.
There's a joke to the effect that this would be the title of an African-American adaptation of Oedipus the King.
One episode of set-in-the-1920s Boardwalk Empireshows its work when black gangster Chalky uses the word and white protagonist Nucky has never heard it before.
Kept alive (and subverted) by comic Bill Burr, who notes that nobody has a problem with a black guy speaking of an "Asian motherfucker", but Burr is regarded as a bigot when he talks about a "motherfucking Asian".
Educator James Herndon describes teaching in a segregated school where the white men who ran things had a policy of zero tolerance on saying "motherfucker". They believed it was such a terrible insult that it would automatically start a fight. What they didn't realize was that the worst thing you could call someone was not motherfucker, but black.
One gag used in cartoons was when someone ingested the multi-use substance alum, their lips would tighten to a pucker, their head would shrink, or their voice would increase in pitch (the latter two occurring in the Looney Tunes short "Long Haired Hare"). (For the record, the reason behind the whole puckered mouth/shrunken head thing is that it is an astringent, and because it is a preservative used in pickling. Among many other uses.)
In Victorian schools, rote memorization was thought to be good for the mind as well as instilling discipline. Aficionados of Victorian novels and autobiographies will be familiar with children having to "get" a number of "lines", usually of Bible verses, poetry or a Shakespeare play. Along with adult works, poems were written especially for this purpose, exemplifying virtues for children to emulate. This practice trickled down into family life, and children were expected to appear at adult parties to "say their piece", sing, play an instrument or dance. The mania surrounding Shirley Temple kept this going through the 1930s and 40s, and merged with Beautiful Baby contests (which have a variety of origins) to become the Child Beauty Contest.
Lewis Carroll parodies this by having Alice actually base part of her identity on her ability to recite, only to have it turn into Word Salad. Children who'd been forced to recite that damn "How doth the little busy bee" poem would have loved Carroll's hysterical mangling.
Computer Hackers as computer cowboys, cyber-robin hoods, or some form of Chaotic Good. They used to only hack into corporations or government mainframes as a way of "Sticking It To The Man". The 1992 movie Sneakers had a nostalgic flashback of how the main characters via hacking had the Republican party donate thousands of dollars to the United Negro College Fund. Today's hackers either work for The Man or work out of pure greed (malware, scams, scareware, adware, ransomware, trojan viruses, invasion of privacy, ect) and target honest innocent consumers. Even when they target big companies, they get their hands on a lot of customers personal information. The nostalgic day of hackers is, of course, before computers and the internet became an everyday part of everyone's life.
Several Medieval motifs and themes are forgotten by most but scholars and devoted enthusiasts:
The Red Jews: a legendary nation in the German folklore that would invade the Christian world. It probably saw its major splendor with the Turk attacks that would led to the fall of Constantinople, when it was popular to identify the Ottomans with the Red Jews stories. While unfortunely antisemitism still exist today, the idea of a Great Jewish nation invading the West is all but forgotten. Probably the modern equivalent would be other prejudiced tropes like "Jews Control the Media/Economy", but even in those cases, the way they use their power is passive, not with violence.
Interestingly there was in the northern Caucasus region a Turkish people called the Khazars who dominated the region from roughly the seventh to eleventh centuries. The Khazar leaders were converts to Judaism (although the people they ruled over were a mix of different religions). Some scholars have suggested that the myth of the Red Jews might have at least in part been inspired by mangled historical accounts of the Khazars, although it cannot be conclusively proven.
The Nine Worthies: Nine characters who personified the ideal values of a brave knight. They were three pagans (Alexander The Great, Hector and Julius Ceasar), three Jewish (Joshua, Salomon and Juda Maccabee) and three Christians (King Arthur, Charlomagne and Godfrey of Bouillion). It was a very popular motif that there was a sort of spin-off (to call it in modern terms) with nine lady worthies. All of those figures are still very well-know, but most people are not familiar with the idea of all of them united in a single rethoric concept.
A lot of medieval creatures are still famous, but the way they're represented and the motifs and traits they have surely have evolved with time: most of modern representations of the unicorn are related to its class, elegance and/or "Royalness" and they're seen as delicate animals, but in the first representations they were if anything, just the opposite: wild, untamable and fiery. Other derivated tropes (like the idea that they could only be captured by virgins) are even more forgotten. Vampires and werewolves are seen nowadays as two different species but in the original stories they were seen as two variation of a same kind.
Prester John: A Christian King from a far-away eastern land who somehow could kept the faith of his country and that would appear to save the West from Islamic/Heathen invaders. It was very common to reference him in stories, folktales and maps. There were different theories about the localization of the Prester John Kingdom, including China, India or Ethiopia, but with the advenment of the age of the exploration, the more of the world was discovered, the idea of this hyphotetical nation was fading away from most people's minds. It is still remembered by scholars and it still comes out in some modern works of fiction here and therenote Look for Reginald Bretnor's 1974 Papa Schimmelhorn tale "Count Von Schimmelhorn and the Time-Pony"., but even those works are relatively obscure. Stories about mythical countries or lands still exist today (some of them, like Atlantis, are even older), but Prester John as well as the notion of a hidden or forgotten country similar to the West or the Christendom in the middle of "Barbarian" or "Uncivilized" peoples are not only vanished from most mainstream fiction, but would be a clashing point of controversies due to Values Dissonance.
Termagant: The name of an imaginary god worshipped by Muslims, according to different tales by the Christian West. Of course, as time passed by, while clashes between the West and the Muslim worlds are still source of controversy, Termagant, as a figure of speech to describe an evil and trickster deity was forgotten. The term is still used nowadays to describe a violent woman, but even in that context it's dark and obscure, even more the original meaning of the word.
The Land of Cockaigne: A legendary land of plenty and abundance that it was very popular at the time, being a figure of speech used in poems, paintings and other forms of art, being as used as a trope about mythical lands almost as much as in modern fictions we use Atlantis. Sexual liberty, wine, food with no peasent job. The catch? The only way to reach it is going through a river of feaces so long, it would take five years to cross it.
Thanks to changes in politics, society and other factors, a lot of National Stereotypes morph from age to age, among them:
All Greasers Are Italians: A minor trope back in the 50's about the stereotype that all or most greasers were etnically Italian. Nowadays, this subculture is still remembered, but the racial connotation seem to be lost for modern audiences.
Since Medieval Europe and all the way through the Renasaince, the stereotypical Jewish person that would pop out in your average peasent's mind was one of Sephardic origin, making sense since for a while, Spain was the place with most Jewish population in the world. People like Maimonides and Baruch Spinoza were well-known among religious or academic circles and thanks to the expulsion of Jews from Spain, the Sephardic stereotype spread to places like England and The Netherlands. It wasn't until the XIX when declining numbers of Sephardic populations, dispersion and the rise of Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe (that changed the balance of power among them) when the All Jews Are Sephardic trope was replaced by All Jews Are Ashkenazi one.
"Ethnic White" characters and stories, if they're not outright forgotten, they're usually touched only in historical contexts: This trope was popular among American audiences through the XIX and part of the XX century, and it consists in the idea that some Caucasian ethnicities aren't truly "white", ergo, not truly American, and it aimed to almost every European ethnic group: Irish (the famous "Irish Need Not Aply" signs in stores and other business), the Dutch (President Van Buren was seen with suspicious by large groups of voters, who even questioned if he was actually American-born), Germans (Especially in WWI), Italians, Polish and many more. Nowadays, the idea that some ethnic groups couldn't be classified as white seems almost alien to most modern audiences. Heck, even most White Supremacist groups ditched the old Nordicism idea (a concept that held that the superior race/truly white people were only those of Nordic or Germanic roots) and try to integrate all ethnic white groups to their movement. Xenophobia still exist today, but mostly is aimed to non-white groups like Latinos or Asians etcetera, but it would be funny (and ironic) if someday Hispanics could be considered "whites" and were among the ones discriminating against a new wave of immigrants sometime in the future.
As with the Muses noted above, the idea that "liberal arts" refers to a fixed set of seven subjects has long been forgotten amid more modern notions of the liberal arts as a "well-rounded" education, though a small group of pseudo-classicists still advocates for a return to the medieval model. In medieval universities, the term "liberal arts" was drawn from classical writers like Plato and Pythagoras, who divided the liberal arts into a trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric and a quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.
Movie bullets used to make a long pinging sound whenever they hit a rock or metal surface; this sounds ridiculous to most modern ears, although it was used in the Marathon computer games as late as 1996 (source). The similar Bullet Sparks trope remains alive.
However, due to its heavy use in old Western films (enough that the sounds are often associated with the genre), pieces paying homage to the classic era of Westerns will use this effect as a shout-out, similar to using the Wilhelm Scream. Red Dead Redemption is a good example of this at work.
Whenever someone would eat corn on the cob, it would always be across the cob, with typewriter sounds playing. A "ding!" would sound when they got to the end of the row. Since kids today probably have never even seen a typewriter in real life, no one uses the trope anymore. The last time it appeared prominently was in an episode of Goof Troop in the early Nineties, and only because Disney was benefiting from a Grandfather Clause.
Few people today recall that the modern Olympic games originally included arts competitions, such as poetry and painting competitions which awarded medals'. The last medals in the arts were given at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London.
The official reason for removing the arts competition was that the competition permitted professional artists and writers, which contradicted the Olympics ethos of promoting amateur competition. With the lifting of the ban on professional athletes in basketball in 1989 and the blurring of the lines between "amateur" and "professional" in many other Olympic categories, the idea of the Olympics as a celebration of amateur sport has likewise been largely forgotten.
The entirety of The Importance of Being Earnest is devoted to playing with the tropes of the time, most of which fall into this category. For instance, a typical device was for misdirected papers to lead to a revelation to resolve the plot; here it comes in the eleventh-to-last line, and the papers were literally switched with a baby.
Opera often follows conventions that are completely forgotten except to people that, you know, actually study opera. Many exist for no reason other than to let the performers show off their singing chops.
Several older operas were abandoned before many of the most famous operas were even written. The deeply, deeply annoying exit convention, which required the performer to exit the scene after finishing an aria, caused all sorts of logistical problems, and after the Baroque period was seldom used. Another that survived slightly longer was the Aristotelian convention of the unities (see below) that required a play or opera to be set over the course of a single day. (Mozart's Don Giovanni is an especially late example, as English-language playwrights had discarded the idea of the unities a century earlier.)
One convention found in many grand operas of the mid-19th century was the massive formal setpiece chorus in the middle of the middle act (i.e. the second act, or the third if more acts were to come), e.g. the Triumphal March ("Gloria all'Egitto, ad Iside") from Aďda. The mandatory ballet in French grand opera would almost certainly be placed here.
Composer Jules Massenet, presumably after one too many times being forced to shoehorn a ballet in, not only lampshades it in Manon by having the ballet girls of the Paris Opera brought to a party, but justifies it, as he manages to tie it into several different plots — it's an expensive attempt by Manon's rich Stalker with a Crush to win her from the man she's playing courtesan to, but just beforehand, Manon learns that des Grieux, her true love who she threw over in favour of riches, is about to become an abbot, and this leads to her ignoring the performance, as the first sign of her redemption. Unfortunately, said Stalker with a Crush begins conspiring against her after that.
When one of Wagner's operas was being premiered in Paris, he was told that they'd have to insert a ballet; he could either write one, or they'd pay someone's brother-in-law to arrange some of the thematic material from the opera into it. He said he'd write one, and that the place where it would make the most sense plot-wise would be in the first act. The management told him it would have to be in 'the middle of the middle' because that was when they seated latecomers.
In the third Dream Sequence in Lady in the Dark, Liza Elliott is put on trial for refusing to marry Kendall Nesbitt as she promised. The phrase "breach of promise" is not used, however, partly because, as Liza suggests, women were traditionally immune to such claims.
A major trope in old operettas was having a big romantic song in slow waltz time with enormous vocal range and mushy lyrics, rendered with lots of rubato. This was once as popular as the Award Bait Song is now; it was already obsolete by the mid-20th century when Anna Russell parodied it as "Ah, Lover!"
The extravaganza, the American equivalent of English pantomime, was a family-friendly type of musical using many of the typical pantomime characters and settings (though the "dame" played by a man in drag seems not to have fully caught on). In the first decade of the twentieth century, stage adaptations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (which had L. Frank Baum's involvement) and Little Nemo followed the extravaganza format. Its best-known proponent was Flo Ziegfeld and his Follies; the genre survived until the Great Depression. The only survivor of the genre is Babes in Toyland. Busby Berkeley incorporated some theatrical extravaganza elements in his films.
"All new jokes!" — In Ancient Greece, while having just invented theater, it didn't take long to get to where the average audience member recognized Comedy Tropes as Tropes. How comedic writers dealt with this became a trope in and of itself. As the Fourth Wall wasn't strong, a character would address the audience, say that Tropes Are Not Good, and say how this play was special because of all the Undead Horse Tropes it wasn't using, which was always a lie. The lie was either indirect (listing various tropes it wasn't using, but using other equally hackneyed old tropes) or absolutely bald-faced. Of course, since writing plays was much more competitive, this must have seemed like sports players boasting. But it also implies a truly odd appreciation for tropes and how they get used. Wow! Just think of it: Post Modernism is actually Older Than Feudalism!
Aristotle's traditional breakdown of theater styles has been split into a million different genres.
Aristotle was also responsible for the laws of unities, which held that a play should be set in one location, concern one action, and take place in one 24-hour period. These laws were taken seriously for much longer than playwrights honoured them; Samuel Johnson was forced to defend Shakespeare 150 years after the Bard's death over his disregard of the unities.
Another nail in the coffin of this trope was writers realizing that these laws were not so much laws as an attempt at description of the plays Aristoteles knew about. It was only made law by neoclassisists who made Aristoteles' work Serious Business. The decline of reliance on ancient classics meant the end of this trope.
The nine Greek Muses represented art forms that are almost all discarded now (though the Muses live on, they've been reincarnated as patrons of different arts).
A lot of these were subverted in Othello, much to the distaste of certain critics like Thomas Rymer. As two examples, soldiers were Always Lawful Good (except Iago), and dropped handkerchiefs led to comical misunderstandings (or, in this case, multiple murders.)
The "10-20-30" melodrama, a long-extinct genre of theatrical productions which used many tropes now more typically associated with early silent films like The Perils of Pauline. The "10-20-30" name was derived from the cheap ticket prices charged for these productions - 10 cents, 20 cents, 30 cents. Interestingly, the name itself became obsolescent during the very heyday of these melodramas ("15-25-75" would have been more accurate.)
Jokes about cigarette lighters refusing to light were obnoxiously common in the days of vaudeville.
Apparently a bit of Truth in Television. The founder of Zippo noted that one of his friends carried a IMCO lighter (which was apparently ugly and unfashionable) "Because it works". He copied and improved the mechanism when he founded his own company.
The grand operas of the ancien régime period had pompous prologues in which the ruler sponsoring the production was compared to the hero of the story.
The idea of Cuba as a hotbed of sin, as seen in Guys and Dolls. During the Batista years, the Mafia opened numerous casinos, nightclubs, and places of ill repute in the country to avoid American law enforcement, making it an extremely popular tourist destination. All of this died out with Castro's revolution - in fact, part of Castro's reason for taking over was because he was disgusted over American criminals controlling Cuba's economy.
It was justified in Below The Root, which was based on a novel where people trapped underground are just barely managing not to die of starvation, while people in the tree cities have plenty to eat but anorexia is a problem for some.
Related to this was the mechanic in a number of early Shoot Em Ups (Scramble, River Raid, Zaxxon, Parsec) that had the player's ship constantly draining fuel.
Hunger and thirst are factors in the "hardcore" mode of Fallout: New Vegas (2010). In addition to having to eat and drink regularly, the player cannot fast travel to a location if the journey would take long enough in in-universe time to require a meal or drink.
Indeed, a certain subset of gamers seems to have adopted New Vegas-esque hardcore modes (The Elder Scrolls has several mods that bring something like that gameplay mode to Oblivion and Skyrim, for example) as a reaction against what they perceive as games becoming too easy.
The comeback only seems to apply to games that can justify the mechanic now, though, like survival or postapocalyptic games. The same mechanic in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas was much less succesful and seen as a gimmick.
Full Motion Video games had their very brief moment of popularity in the early '90s, when CD-ROM drives were new and game developers were struggling to find the best way to use all that new space it afforded them, yet not having the technology to make an actual game big enough to fill hundreds of megabytes. The result was, in most instances, barely interactive sequences of low-resolution, badly-acted movies. Thankfully, it only took a few years for developers to think of using video in games in ways that didn't get in the way of gameplay (mostly as CG cutscenes), and the CD format became justified.
The Command & Conquer games still run with this, though probably because they're iconic to the series.
Full Motion Video in electronic games may also be related to an equally forgotten Board Games trope of the 1980s and 1990s, the notion of board games that included a VHS tape or DVD that would provide an analogy variety of "cut scenes" or could be cued up to certain events, is even deader due to Technology Marches On (and the fact that they weren't any good to begin with).
There was a similiar gag in a Christmas episode, where Doofenschmirtz is held captive by the only Christmas carolers who know the later verses to "We Wish You A Merry Christmas", and refuse to leave unless he can find them a figgy pudding, which, as he observes, is very hard to find these days.