I'm Mr. Future Pop Culture Reference

George: Who are you?
Marty: [wearing radiation suit] Silence, Earthling! My name is Darth Vader. I am an extraterrestrial from the planet Vulcan. [makes Vulcan salute]

After traveling back in time, it's accepted protocol that, instead of giving out your real name, you should use an alias that refers to a future aspect of popular culture. It's just how these things are done. If you really went back in time, this probably wouldn't be the brightest thing. After all, what happens if someone remembers that name or writes it down somewhere? In Movie Land, however, this is justified by the Rule of Funny.

When there's no Time Travel involved, and using such a name would be a lot more risky, it's Character Name Alias.


Examples:

Comics
  • This becomes an important plot point in the Vertigo comic Brave Old World. After the characters realize they're not the only people transported back to the year 1900, they round up the dozens of other refugees by announcing a talk to be given by Mr. John Lennon and Mr. Mick Jagger.

Film
  • The Back to the Future trilogy:
  • Inverted and subverted by Time After Time, where H.G. Wells comes to the present [1979] and assumes the name "Sherlock Holmes", mistakenly thinking that the fictional character would be forgotten in the future. Plus, due to not many people knowing what "H.G." stands for, he's nicely able to fit in just by using his real name, Herbert Wells.
  • Austin Powers:
  • From Shanghai Noon, when Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson introduce themselves:
    Chon Wang: My name is Chon Wang.
    Roy O'Bannon: John Wayne?
    Chon Wang: Chon Wang.
    Roy O'Bannon: That's a terrible cowboy name!
    Chon Wang: Why?
    Roy O'Bannon: No, come on. That's not gonna work. That's horrible; that's so bad!
    • Inverted at the end, when Roy reveals that he doesn't use his actual name because he thinks it's embarrassing: Wyatt Earp. Wang reacts pretty much the same way.
    • Also used in the sequel Shanghai Knights when Roy uses the alias Sherlock Holmes, inspiring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • In Black Knight, Jamal Walker introduces himself to the medieval people as Jamal Skywalker.

Literature
  • More like I'm Mr Literary Reference: In Simon Hawke's The Timekeeper Conspiracy Lucas gives his names to The Three Musketeers as "Alexander Dumas". After the action is over, the Temporal Corps erase him from their memories, as it wouldn't be good to have the author of their story finding his name in their accounts of it.
  • Merges with Beethoven Was an Alien Spy in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel trilogy "Millennium". Near the end of the second book, Vash and alternate future versions of Nog and Picard go back in time to ancient Bajor to become the seers "Eilin", "Shabren", and "Naradim", who are famous in the future because of their predictions of recent events.
  • Terry Pratchett uses this in Johnny and the Bomb. Kids from The Nineties introduce one of their group to a World War II-era shopkeeper as "Prince Sega. All the way from Nintendo."
    • Granted, Nintendo existed at the time... As a card company. And Standard Games (later SErvice GAmes) existed too. Not that they were well known, or did business in the UK at all.
  • In the Tim Powers novel The Anubis Gates, a character adopts the alias "Humphrey Bogart" in early-19th-century London. A variation in that the character is not himself a time traveller, but picked up the name from another character who is.
    • The time travelers also whistle Beatles tunes as a way to recognize each other.
  • Backfires horribly in the 1632 series, when a character tries using this kind of name for misinformation. Turns out the person he was trying to fool had managed to buy a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica from the late 20th century, as opposed to the 1911 edition that most others have acquired, and did not appreciate being told that his prisoner, Mr. James Bond, was engaged to a Marilyn Monroe, and they could expect a visit from a great gunmaker from the future, Elvis Presley. Whoops.
    • Played straight in 1635: The Papal Stakes, where Harry Lefferts uses the code name "Vulcan" when meeting with "Romulus". This actually makes sense, as any down-timer who caught the word "Romulus" would, by force of his ignorance of 1970s sci-fi and knowledge of Roman myth, assume that Romulus would be meeting with Remus.
  • Played with in Dream Park, when Griffin is pressed to explain in-character why his LARP character is "the greatest thief in the world". His first two examples are generic fantasy-thief tropes, but his third boast is that he owns the only surviving black-market copy of Star Wars. Other Gamers point out the in-story anachronism, as the South Seas Treasure game they're playing is set in the 1950s.
  • In Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series, 20th century Dungeons & Dragons players transported to the world of their game use obscure pop culture references as passwords amongst themselves:
    Two all-beef patties, lettuce, cheese...
  • In a variation that involves an alien world instead of time travel, the Superman novel Last Son of Krypton by Elliott S! Maggin, has Lex Luthor use the alias "Abraham Lincoln", which Superman recognizes but which the aliens don't.
  • Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series has a scene where one time traveler uses the line "Does the name 'Ringo Starr?' mean anything to you?" as a shibboleth to recognize another.

Live-Action TV
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "1969", Jack O'Neill said he was "Captain James T. Kirk" before switching to "Luke Skywalker". This ignores the fact that Star Trek actually did exist in 1969, although the interrogating officer in the scene had apparently never heard of it. Which isn't too far-fetched.
    • This may have been intended as a subversion, with Jack switching once he realized it would exist back now.
    • SG-1 also does a variant where the characters give pop culture aliases to aliens. Once, Dr. Jackson told a pair of mercenaries his name was "Olo, Hans Olo" (with fun similarities to another thing); another time, he tried to pass himself off as the The Great and Powerful Oz to an enemy ship.
      • The latter probably didn't work because a "Great and Powerful" Goa'uld wouldn't be flying around in a transport ship.
    • SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis would often do a variation where a reference or Phlebotinum Analogy would hinge on some pop culture reference to inevitably be lost on alien team members Teal'c, Vala, Ronon and Teyla. But subverted toward the end of the series as the aliens — especially Teal'c — became more familiar with Earth culture.
      • Teal'c in particular became an avid Star Wars fan. Which later created a joke when Vala (another alien) mentions how she got pregnant without having sex, asking if anyone had ever heard of such a thing. Mitchell and Carter both seem to think of Jesus (actually Mitchell's thinking of King Arthur) but instead it's Teal'c who exclaims "Darth Vader", prompting a worried Vala to ask "How did that turn out?"
      • None of those examples turned out well, of course, including Vala's own child.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Empty Child", set in 1941, Rose jokingly refers to the Doctor as "Mr. Spock" when pressed for his name. Captain Jack, who's from the distant future, doesn't recognize the reference, and Hilarity Ensues.
    • In "The Fires of Pompeii," when pressed for a name, the Doctor sputters "I am... Spartacus." His companion Donna leaps in with "And so am I." In the same episode, he also explains her bizarre personality with "She's from Barcelona".
    • In an episode of Spin-Off series The Sarah Jane Adventures, Sarah Jane and Luke go back to 1951, and adopt the names of Victoria and David Beckham.
    • In another Doctor Who episode, the Doctor shows up in the 19th century claiming to be Sherlock Holmes (and dressed the part). Unfortunately, the Big Bad's human assistant has heard of Arthur Conan Doyle and his novel. In fact, he has mentioned it in all but name earlier in the episode to a female Silurian detective, upon whom the character is actually based.
    • One episode features River Song doin under cover investigations in the 1930's. She goes by "Melody Malone", in reference to "Matches Malone", a peudonym commonly used by Batman.
  • In Life On Mars, Sam goes undercover as "Tony Blair" at one point, with Annie as "Cherie." Later, when Gene tags along, he's given "Gordon Brown" as his alias.
    Sam: This is my friend Gordon Brown, and his wife... uh...
    Gene: Suki.
    • It's funny because no one can ever remember Gordon Brown's wife's name. (It's Sarah.)
    • Also, when his mother asks his name he says "Detective Inspector Bolan", a mere few scenes after he's met T-Rex's lead singer.
    • And in the US remake, Sam introduces himself to his mother in 1973 as Luke Skywalker. He says it's Navajo when she comments on how odd it sounds. In this case, he panicked when she asked for his name and that was the only thing he could think of.
    Gene: What do you think I'm doing here, Tyler?
    Sam: Building a Death Star?
    Gene: What?
    Sam: Nothing.
    • Also in the US version, Sam uses the alias "Tom Cruise" while impersonating a pilot, and "Bono" while undercover in the Irish mob. On an undercover mission where Gene and a woman have to accompany him, he assigns them the aliases George and Laura Bush.
  • In the Life On Mars spinoff Ashes to Ashes, Alex gets a request to meet from someone calling himself "Boris Johnson". Of course, it's to give her a clue that he's also a coma-time-traveller.
    • Later on she also applies to a dating agency under the name Kate Winslet.
  • Supernatural, "In the Beginning": Dean can't give his actual last name because he's just met his father in the past, so he introduces himself as "Dean van Halen".
    • Of course, the Winchesters use musical references as aliases in the present too. Only one person ever noticed, and he just thought it was a funny coincidence.
    • In "Frontierland", Dean introduces himself to the residents of 1861 Wyoming as Clint Eastwood, and then gives Sam's name as Walker and says he's a Texas Ranger.
  • Inverted in The Middleman: Guy Goddard has been in cryogenic suspension since 1969.
    Guy: Well, maybe Scotty can beam us down. ... It's an obscure reference to a cancelled television show. I'm sure you've never heard of it.
  • Boy Meets World: Corey gets sent back to the '50s. When the Mr. Feeny Expy asks his name, he says "Brad Pitt, sir." Mr Feeny says "On your way then, Mr. Pittser."
  • In the unbroadcast The Time Tunnel remake, time travelers at the 1944 Battle of the Bulge use the aliases Colonel Klink and Sergeant Schultz.
  • In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "Time To Time", a time traveler uses "Luke Skywalker" as an alias when in the year 1969. He even finished a phone call with "May the Force be with you."
  • With as often as he uses pop culture reference aliases in the present, surprisingly averted by John Crichton of Farscape during time travel plots.
  • On Once Upon a Time, Emma and Hook are sent back to the pre-Dark Curse Enchanted Forest, and attend a ball thrown by King Midas. When asked for their names, Emma comes up with Prince Charles and Princess Leia.
  • Lampshaded in Horrible Histories' World War I Origins song:
    Franz Josef: You're tiresome, you're irksome,
    Like a Slavic Jeremy Clarkson!
    (Beat)
    Gavrilo Princip: Who the hell is that?
    King George V: Nothing to do with us.

Video Games
  • Back to the Future: The Game continues the tradition established by the movies:
    • The player can choose Marty's alias in 1931, all of which are names of famous fictional characters from around the 80's: Sonny Crockett, Michael Corleone and Harry Callahan. This one kind of acts as a double-take trope, seeing as how Marty himself is a fictional character from the 80s, yet the players themselves are from the 21st century.
      • Likewise, Doc Brown's alias in 1931 is Carl Sagan. Lampshaded by First Citizen Brown who recognizes the reference and remarks "The 'billions and billions' guy?"
    • When he needs to get soup delivered to a young Doc Brown's house, Marty claims it's for a charity called "The Mario Brothers".
    • In the fifth episode, First Citizen Brown tries to frame Marty as a Communist subversive named Yakov Smirnoff, and Edna Strickland takes the name Mary Pickford when she unintentionally travels back to the 1880s.
Web Comics
  • Pibgorn: When Pib goes back in time, she gives her name as Lucy Ricardo, and says she lives with her aunt and uncle, the Mertzes.

Web Original
  • This Critical Miss article describes a group of role-players playing as time travelers gone to WWI Germany using the aliases Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels and Rudolf Hess. Which would have worked if not for other time travelers.
    • Those people did exist during that time, but they weren't famous yet. Which made them both sufficiently German-sounding (duh) and easy to remember.

Western Animation
  • Static Shock inverts this: Virgil travels to the future (specifically the Batman Beyond future) and sarcastically tells Terry he's Beyoncé when he doesn't believe him to be Batman. Terry apparently doesn't get it, since he introduces him to Bruce that way seconds later.
  • Jake Long once time traveled and told his Past!Mom and Past!Grandpa that his name was Beyoncé Timberlake.
  • Subverted in the South Park episode "Trapper Keeper", which features a cyborg Expy of Star Trek and Terminator characters from a post-apocalyptic Bad Future who refers to himself as "Bill Cosby", a reference that was already over a decade old. Not only does he get away with it (especially given how white he is), but he also manages to pass for a 4th grade student despite looking and sounding like a homeless (the only aspect anyone does pick up on) and mentally imbalanced middle-aged man.
    Stan: Ms. Crabtree, there's another creepy homeless person on the bus!
    Ms. Crabtree: Sit down and shut up!
    Stan: But they smell like pee!
    VSM471/"Bill Cosby": I am not a homeless person! I am a fourth grade student! My name is... Bill Cosby.
    • After he reveals himself:
    Officer Barbrady: I knew you weren't Bill Cosby.