The process or phenomenon of an apolitical show, comic, acting career, blog, etc. being slowly derailed by a controversial politician or political issue.
Existing characters are shoe-horned into taking weird, vaguely or not-so-vaguely political stances; fantasy plotlines slowly or not-so-slowly mutate into analogues to or outright allegories about contemporary events. Since when was this about Vietnam or Iraq?
you ask yourself. Since the pivotal first concession to Issue Drift, that's when.
The trope name is designed for versatility. Drift can be used for just about anything that's magnetically pulling pop culture off-topic. Key streams of Issue Drift in the recent past include but are not limited to: Commie Drift in the 1950s, Dick Drift in the Nixon/Watergate era, up to the Bush Drift of the early 2000s.
Think of it as a political Flanderization
. See also Cerebus Syndrome
. See Filibuster Freefall
for when it happens to a writer's overall body of work instead of just a single series.
If we're lucky, the distraction is brief. In a worst-case scenario, our beloved entertainment has been sent spinning off into the dark recesses of punditry, never to return. But hey, maybe you're into that sort of thing.
- Civil War was centered on government invasions of privacy and extreme rendition policies, had Mr. Fantastic construct Super Gitmo, and turned Iron Man into a Strawman Political (one who hired Nazi scientists to assassinate and clone his former teammates). This culminated with an Anvilicious bullet through Captain America's skull. However, this is a special case of almost issue tug-of-war as it had about a dozen writers on board who were all trying to express different, conflicting views and making different characters evil/incompetent accordingly.
- Inverted to some degree in American Dad!. At first nearly every episode was political, with Stan serving only as a Strawman Political. However, after the first season or so, political episodes have become rarer to the point that they're only a handful of episodes a season. Meanwhile Stan more often was shown in a sympathetic light (achieving, dare we say it, some degree of Character Development), with his faults falling more under general Comedic Sociopathy. All of this is generally considered for the better.
- All of which does make it frustrating when people lump the show in as being virtually the same as Family Guy, when not only was the general style of episode always different, it is in fact much more balanced as well despite the premise seeming to be overtly political at first glance.
- Speaking of Family Guy... This makes sense when you learn that Seth MacFarlane created American Dad to essentially be his way to vent his political frustrations (it was created after President Bush was reelected) without letting them muddy up Family Guy too much. However, ever since, he's become more comfortable doing political things on Family Guy (some fans would say a little too comfortable,) which has left American Dad to be the more character-based and less controversial.
- Addressed on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, where Matt wonders when comedians and audiences became so political, and gets the response "when the plane made a sharp left at the second tower".
- When it began, Penn & Teller: Bullshit! was a show devoted to debunking supernatural claims with a few libertarian messages thrown in. In later seasons the libertarian aspect has become the main focus of the show with the paranormal only coming up every few episodes.
- The Boondocks went from focusing on character and situational humor between its wide case of supporting or recurring characters, being only partly political, to more politically centered commentary with much more focus on Huey's conversations with his friend Caesar, as well as reactions to recent news. McGruder freely admits that his raging anger against the Bush Administration hijacked the comic, though it ultimately ended because of the TV series, where most of the character and plot-driven humor that was supposed to be on the comic ended up, with most of McGruder's attention in general.
- Oddly enough, this trope was inverted on the show itself. While the first season had most of its episodes dedicated to social issues, like the episode where a bank robbery is an allegory for the Iraq War or the episode where Martin Luther King Jr. comes out of a coma and chews out all the black people, the second season had more general stories, like Riley joining the basketball team or Robert going on a date with a crazy lady he met online. That isn't to say they didn't go after social issues, but they didn't do it as frequently or as overtly. Perhaps, if the Bush Administration hijacked the comic, the end of same sort of un-hijacked the show.
- M*A*S*H became increasingly openly political as Alan Alda became more and more directly involved in writing and producing the show. By the end of it the show was hailed as an "anti-war drama", which greatly irked fans of the original novel and film, which the earlier seasons hewed more closely to. The original was written by Richard Hooker, a real Army doctor who based the story on his own experiences in Korea, and who leaned politically right and overall was positive about American foreign intervention. His original concept was simply one of people in hellish circumstances making the best of things, whereas the later seasons of M*A*S*H focused less and less on the "making the best of things" and more and more on the "hellish circumstances", with increasingly pointed barbs directed at the politicians the show blamed for creating those circumstances.
- It really didn't help matters any, when it came to Hooker's opinion of the show, that Hooker had originally based Hawkeye on himself, and Hawkeye was originally a very masculine, athletic football player type. Alan Alda was very much not this type, and over time Hawkeye's character came to resemble Alda in Real Life more and more, especially as Alda — and, by extension, Hawkeye — became the iconic '70s Sensitive New Man. One can imagine Hooker being displeased.
- Hawkeye's deep, visceral anger at the idea of being ordered to carry a weapon or directly involve himself in combat in a later M*A*S*H episode, for instance — the implication, in fact, being that Hawkeye was assigned to the M*A*S*H unit because he was a conscientious objector — runs 100% counter to the original portrayal of Hawkeye and his opinions (such as they were) in the original M*A*S*H.
- Infamously, Li'l Abner in the late 1960s stooped to Take Thats against student protesters, with the introduction of the SDS-like organization SWINE (Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything) and "Joanie Phoanie" (who was like Joan Baez, only ugly-looking).
- Used, possibly subverted, in an episode of Scrubs where a wounded soldier serving in Iraq is brought into the hospital. Almost everybody gets involved in the political debate (except for JD who spends the entire episode reading "The Iraq War for Dummies" and the spineless Ted who takes a neutral stance). It ends with Dr. Kelso cutting off the employee discount at the hospital coffee shop to stop everybody's constant arguing about politics and get angry at him instead. The episode is very deliberate to not take any side and to treat the subject with some humour.
- The King Steve interludes in 8-Bit Theater could be considered a form of this, although they make up about .3% of the comic and he's more Caligula Drift than anything else.
- Sinfest went fully political for a while in the run-up to the 2008 US election, much to its detriment. It has largely gotten back to normal since the election.
- And now it's concerning itself largely with gender politics, societal misogyny and radical feminism.
- The fourth book of Maximum Ride was essentially a 272 page Author Filibuster about global warming, and the fifth is just as bad.
- Comic-Strip Club was a website of several simultaneous webcomics, all of which were written by the same person. The main feature was Electronic Tigers, a full-page comedy series about college-age video-game fans; the secondary feature was Right-Left-Center, a 4-panel political strip about a talking Donkey & Elephant, representing the Democratic and Republican parties. When the 2008 American Presidential election began, RLC started taking on a bigger role, and as the election drew nearer and nearer, it's role grew to a point where it became the main focus of the site. Many fans of the site (most of whom came for Electronic Tigers, the other title) were disappointed by their title being put on hiatus, and many others were also turned off by the extremely biased right-wing politics of RLC, which frequently compared Obama to a Nazi, and briefly, pointed out that the theory of evolution is "absurd". This derailment was so thoroughly unsatisfactory to readers that the web-traffic and readership tanked and the entire website went down for MONTHS. After the website was brought back up, ET was put on indefinite hiatus, while more anti-Obama RLC strips were posted, as well as several pages of a new comic project- a comic biography of Christ, as written by the website's usual writer, a born-again Christian. It should be noted that the artist was an ex-DC staffer who got fired because he tried to insert right-wing politics into everything he drew, and wasted company time arguing about the "homosexual agenda" against other people on their forums.
- Not to mention Electronic Tigers last batch of comics was mostly arguments between a calm-minded Republican and a crazy, shouting Democrat. Those strips are so infamously biased that the "dumb and so goddamn crazy" comic on the Strawman Political trope page is supposedly a parody of Electronic Tigers.
- King of the Hill became far less even handed toward the end of its run; what started as a nuanced comedy of manners about an unassuming small Texas town with multiple character arcs slowly wound down into repetitive Author Tracts on Household mold problems, Shoddy McMansion construction, Frivolous Lawsuits and Trans-Facism. Flanderization set in, Character Development slowed considerably, and Hank, who had been more of a dogged Honor Before Reason type gradually turned into the Only Sane Man bordering on a conservative small town version of the Soap Box Sadie.
- Subverted somewhat unintentionally by focusing on issues almost no one actually cares about.
- The 1970s TV show Quincy started off as a straightforward forensic-pathology whodunit. By the end of its run, every single episode was a soapbox rant about some political or social issue, always from a liberal POV.
- Martina McBride had a big hit in 1994 with "Independence Day" (a song about domestic abuse), then scored a big hit three years later with "A Broken Wing", another song about domestic abuse. After that, she changed her style to the point that nearly half of her songs were anthemic "issue songs" like "Love's the Only House" (a catchall for various domestic troubles), "It's My Time", "Concrete Angel" (yet another song about abuse!), "God's Will" and so forth, while the other half was Glurge-laden songs about love and/or family.
- One show which was helped by this trope was The Daily Show. Under Craig Kilborn the show mostly made fun of apolitical topics like celebrities and small-town weirdos, but under Jon Stewart the show became more about serious news satire with a liberal slant, in fact becoming a major source of news for many (much to Jon's chagrin).
- The webcomic Twisted Kaiju Theater started out as a simple, goofy webcomic strip about lots of silly toliet humor. As the series progessed it not only got up a consistant cast and arcing plotlines, it also shifted into having more serious storylines and also providing social and political commentary. The comic began with jokes about poop and developed into a series that deals with mature themes like death, sacrifice, political ethics, family loss, and morality (although it's still pretty comedic).
- Before Prime Minister Yitskhak Rabin was assassinated, avoiding political issues was a common stand people in Israel took. After the murder, politics became an issue once again; this was very, very apparent in The Chamber Quintet, one of Israelís best and most popular skit shows ever, which avoided politics explicitly before the murder (criticising Israelís militarist attitude at most) and started very openly criticising contemporary politics afterwards.
- While Quantum Vibe, a product of a libertarian author, has hints of political satire from the start, the Luna arc in particular is dripping with criticism of Corrupt Cops, Obstructive Bureaucrats, and lots of other forms of corrupt society.
- Averted in Axis Powers Hetalia, which portrays politics simply as background to the Nations themselves. Though the closest moments reaching this trope happens to be a strip that laments Japan's loss of his more traditional culture as well as scenes set around the 2008 financial crisis.
- Shortpacked! got sidetracked by this during the 2008 election, and occasionally still drifts into an oddly political area.