Dr. Brown: Then tell me, "Future Boy", who's President in the United States in 1985?
Ronald Reagan? The actor? Then who's Vice-President, Jerry Lewis
When an idea is originally presented in a work of fiction, the creators probably thought it was the most insane, off the wall suggestion possible. But due to the influence of Values Dissonance
and Technology Marches On
over time, the ideas presented, whether they be from a mental patient, a Strawman Political
, or just a cultural trend of the future that shows how low we've sunk, seem outright reasonable. In any case, the original author certainly didn't think so.
See also: "Funny Aneurysm" Moment
, Hilarious in Hindsight
, Harsher in Hindsight
, Science Marches On
, Strawman Has a Point
and The Cuckoolander Was Right
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- Gasaraki managed to do this three times, first with the US invading a Middle Eastern country similar to Iraq on the basis of them having weapons of mass destruction (which turned out never to have existed), the use of unmanned flying drones becoming popular for use in the army, and the idea that the US could be nearly crippled by a global economic collapse. The only thing that hasn't happened yet is the Mini Mecha for use in urban combat — and we're not that far from them either: many developed nations have the active research programs about them.
- The Batman story, "The Laughing Fish", where Joker tries to patent a fish, sounded utterly ridiculous when first released and still did even in the 1990s, when it was adapted by the animated series. But today, Joker's demand for a patent doesn't seem that unreasonable at all, considering that many corporations routinely use genetic mapping to patent animal species as a matter of course.
- Except that he wanted to patent all the fish, regardless of species, because he had put Joker-grins on them. If he had tried to patent a species he created through genetic engineering, he might have had a case - at least if he wasn't a wanted criminal. This way, it's just crazy.
- It's actually less crazy because then it's just a product of a process instead of a new species. The fact that we might consider it more crazy is actually this trope in progress.
- Ironically, while patent law has marched on, the Joker was trying to copyright the fish and get royalties from every food product derived from them, which you can't do even today. Fish are a natural product, as the poor clerk he tries to extort points out, and not a creative work. Different set of laws involved there.
- Dick Tracy had a seemingly far-fetched wristwatch video cellphone called the 'Two-Way Wrist TV' that looked fantastical at the time, but now...
- In the Tintin graphic novel ''Tintin Destination Moon", Captain Haddock spends a lot of time ranting about how CRAZY Professor Calculus is for seriously attempting to send people to the moon. To anyone reading the book after 1969, it just looks weird.
- Shock Treatment is a strange 1981 film and sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show (just barely, you could watch Shock Treatment without ever seeing Rocky Horror, but why would you do that?) dealing with an everyday man being put through televised therapy and his girlfriend going fame-mad after appearing on it. While there's something of a game show feel to the whole thing, it is otherwise a freakishly close to home prediction of reality TV.
- The ubiquitous cell phones in Clueless were meant to show how spoiled and wealthy the teenage characters were. Nowadays, people are more likely to be weirded out by the phones' size and outdated design rather than their presence.
- Heathers got made in the first place only because the idea of outcast high schoolers killing each other was considered patently absurd. Post-Columbine, the movie turns into Dude, Not Funny!.
- The film Network, which revolves around the exploitation of a mentally unstable newscaster by a TV network for ratings, reveled in over-the-top satire with events that would have been viewed as far-fetched back in the 1970s. Fast forward to the 21st century, where Reality TV shows ridicule and shame their contestants for sensational TV, and 24-hour news networks have commentators ranting about the state of the world and what's wrong with it, and Network comes off as far less outrageous. Even the darkly comedic ending, which has the network executives deciding to kill off the madman because the ratings for his TV show are dropping, and making his killers the stars of one of the network's reality shows in order to boost that show's ratings, seems scarily plausible. Just look up what happened to R. Budd Dwyer.
- In an early 2000s interview, Sidney Lumet steadfastly maintained that Network had never been intended as a satire, claiming that it was "sheer reportage", drawn from his and Paddy Chayefsky's shared experiences working in television. Apparently such shenanigans had been going on for decades, with the general public only now starting to get a good look at them. Lumet concluded the segment saying "the only thing that hasn't happened is we've never seen anyone killed for ratings."
- A scene from the first Austin Powers movie plays on this deliberately: Dr. Evil holds the world for ransom for one million dollars — then, seeing everyone's reaction, changes it to one hundred billion dollars. His threats are to blow a hole in the ozone layer, increasing the level of skin cancer; and making it look like members of the British Royal Family are involved in sex scandals.
- This is made Hilarious in Hindsight when one considers Greece's 120 billion dollar bail-out package.
- Or Zimbabwe's hyperinflation, which had added twenty-five zeroes to the currency by the time they gave up.
- Demolition Man presents the absolutely absurd idea that Arnold Schwarzenegger became President of the USA... and when the main character asks how it happened, they say that he became Governor of California first. It's still unconstitutional for an immigrant to be president, though. (The Economist magazine from proposed a change in that law, for that very reason, although they may have only been half serious.) In the movie there was a Constitutional Amendment made specifically to let him in.
- The Truman Show came out in 1998. The first Big Brother premiered a year later, and Survivor came two years later. Clearly, some network executive watched that movie and thought, "What a great idea!"
- Of course The Real World had been on for six years at that point. The Truman Show was a commentary on the rise of reality TV, not the source. (But it should be pointed out, the people on today's reality TV actually volunteer.)
- EDtv did the same around the same time, but played more realistically as Ed volunteers to go on TV, and regrets doing so.
- Considering An American Family had aired almost 30 years before The Truman Show, and Albert Brooks' Real Life was released in 1979...
- As late as the early Turn of the Millennium (see the Chris Rock film Head of State), works of fiction that featured black presidents in a contemporary setting were often ridiculed for being unrealistic or overly optimistic about attitudes towards race.
- Head of State came out in 2003. The idea of a black President at that time was ridiculous. What people did not know was that the next President would be a black man.
- Eddie Murphy on the subject in 1982.
- In the Coneheads film, overzealous INS agent Gorman Seedling suggests building an electrical fence along the border of Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants. His superiors gently rebuke him while putting on their best "Is this guy INSANE?" look. 10 years later...
- Though it should be noted that Seedling's version involved putting electric shock collars on deportees and just burying a wire that would set them off, so it's not quite as close to the modern proposal (which is just a fence) as the example may be trying to make it sound.
- George Orwell's 1984 seemed rather absurd when it was published in 1949 and for many decades after. Now, not so much. (There are video screens everywhere! Even in shopping malls!)
- Fahrenheit 451 falls into Forgotten Trope territory. The TV sets in the movie were, in context of the fifties, ridiculously gigantic, and viewers would just look at them in awe of how unnecessarily large and room-centering they are. Today, TVs of such size are commonplace, and this is not something a modern viewer is likely to catch on to without knowledge of the original context.
- In the book, some rooms had gigantic TV screens covering every wall so you could feel like you were "in" the program. Fortunately, that hasn't caught on— yet.
- The small, white, hand-sized music players that everyone owned. That they used to close out the world outside. Ray Bradbury himself commented on this around the century-shift.
- The Mote in God's Eye featured a parody of wine snobs, a "coffee connoisseur". When it was published, in the 1970s, the idea of someone taking coffee that seriously was inherently comical.
- This is largely an example of Culture Clash — the character was from a Muslim background in which alcohol was proscribed and coffee filled a similar social niche.
- The novel A Tale of Time City features a 42nd-century treat called a "butter-pie." It is essentially a chilled cake on a stick, with a warm, buttery center. Not long after the book's writing, the "lava cake" became popular—a cake with a solid exterior and molten interior. The only true difference between the two is the stick.
- Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: Jules Verne wrote in 1869 about Captain Nemo, a man from an oppressed eastern country who had training in the west, and has money enough to pay a country’s national debt, who decides to create an organization strong enough to fight an entire Western country through terrible acts of violence, and therefore is chased as a menace by all established countries in the West. Since the beginning of his career as a writer, Verne was being accused by critics of being only a HardScifi writer that paid little heed to the social ramifications of technology. After Osama bin Laden, September 11th and The War on Terror, we must admit that Verne's ideas really reflected much more than anyone ever suspected about how the world will turn in the next 130 years!
- Though it should be noted that the closeness of the comparison requires some misconceptions about both Bin Laden and Nemo. (For one, the idea that Bin Laden was trained by the CIA is essentially an urban legend, so that part is inaccurate to start with.)
- Another Verne example being the posthumously-published Paris in the Twentieth Century. Part of the reason the publisher rejected it whilst Verne was alive was that it was too unbelievable. Many modern commentators love to point out, however, just how accurate and resonant it is. (At the same time, others point out the things he missed, as well as the unbelievably pessimistic outlook, part of the reason the book got rejected in the first place!)
- Similar to the Dick Tracy example above, the first scene of Get Smart (the 1965 series) involves the absolutely crazy idea of a phone going off in a movie theater.
- How about a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch about furries?
- Which was a parody of documentaries at the time about homosexuality using a 'ridiculous' invented alternative subculture.
- Not the Nine O'Clock News later did the same thing but with fat (or stout) people as an oppressed group, and much the same defictionalisation has since happened with the obesity debate.
- Back in the day, The Two Ronnies did a sketch about the absolutely ludicrous idea of people paying money for bottled water, and paying large amounts for 'expensive' bottles of water. Who Would Be Stupid Enough?
- In the Dick Van Dyke Show episode The Plots Thicken, Rob is flabbergasted while talking to a funeral home on the phone. After he gets off, he tells Laura, "How do you like that?! They have a layaway plan. You pay now, and go later." Nowadays, many people prepay for their "final expenses" without a second thought.
- When Frank Zappa released We're Only in It for the Money on May 4, 1968, a lot of people thought he had Jumped the Shark due to the number of songs describing police killing hippies. Just over two years later on May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen shot and killed four students at Kent State University.
- Tom Lehrer wrote a song called "George Murphy" in 1965, a satiric mockery of an ex-showtunes star turned (Republican) senator and his statements about importing cheap Mexican labor to displace American farmers. Fifteen years later Ronald Reagan was president and illegal immigration "taking jobs from Americans" had become a hot topic in American politics.
- An even more extreme example is a 1920 British newspaper cartoon which considers the impact of mobile phones (which had just been announced as a possibility in the future) and has them going off during weddings, in theatres, etc... Older Than They Think, indeed!
- The Shadow regularly included story lines intended to be as shocking and outlandish to the listening audience as possible; story lines such as... a town being afflicted with drug addicts (opium, from which the street drug known as heroin would later be derived), a politician being snagged in a bribery scandal (decades before Abscam), and counterfeit money plaguing a city. There was also a story about a shell-shocked veteran taking to shooting people with a silenced sniper rifle from high buildings, anticipating several all-too-real incidents of crime and terrorism by decades.
- In a 1998 installment of the web humor column The Book of Ratings, the "Mystical Creatures" rating contains a sarcastic quip about vampires going the way of the unicorn: "If it hasn't happened already, in a few months look for airbrushed posters of sad vampires in Wal-Marts everywhere, and in a decade look for female college students saying to each other "Were you into vampires when you were nine? Me too! We were such dorks!" Yeah, um, about that...
- In an even earlier Rating for "Constellations," he complains about the names of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor: "The Big Bear and the Little Bear sounds like a heartwarming Disney feature." About that too...
- There's another one (the man has a lot of these) where he notes that he's bugged by beer commercials that show off fields of wheat. One of the most integral parts of beer is hops, but he says that beer commercials would never show off hops vines/buds, because the fact that beer is made from flowers would be too unmanly. Of course, now Samuel Adams beer makes a very big deal out of the fact that they use lots of hops in their beer (and, yes, even show off the vines in bloom).
- In the 1980s, there was a public service announcement-style movie shown in Australian schools about understanding the coercive influence of advertising. In order to illustrate the point, it included an attractive phony advertisement for the craziest product imaginable: bottled water.
- Hilarious when you realize that in the early 1990s something (a virus, bacteria or other) got into the Australian public drinking water and made everyone who didn't boil or buy their water extremely sick.
- Paleo-artist Luis Rey (whose work is, among many others, featured in Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages) had been blacklisted by the British paleontologist community in the '90s because he gave his dinosaurs feathers and flamboyant colors. But Science Marches On, some dinosaurs are now known to have been very crazy-looking, and today this highly popular and sought-after dino artist actually considers his work to be rather conservative.