Pop-Cultural Osmosis

"Welcome to the American Museum of Pop Culture, with artifacts dating as far, far, back...as six months ago."
Joel McHale, The Soup

Classics, almost by definition, are works that are considered to be of high quality, are influential on later works, and are widely known. However, one will often find that only scholars and enthusiasts have first-hand knowledge of the material in question, and that the masses know it either only by title or by homages, parodies, direct references and allusions found in more populist works. Essentially, various bits and pieces of high culture are most widely known through their use in pop culture. Ill-informed people might even think these bits and pieces are original to the popular work, And That's Terrible (nine times out of ten).

Pietà Plagiarism exists because of this phenomenon. Most artists would be copying some other usage than the sculpture.

Frequently results in Beam Me Up, Scotty!, It Was His Sled, and Covered Up.

Compare Memetic Mutation, Older Than They Think, "Weird Al" Effect, Seinfeld Is Unfunny, Small Reference Pools, The Theme Park Version, Repurposed Pop Song, Praising Shows You Don't Watch, Mainstream Obscurity, It Was His Sled.

Contrast Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure (when someone doesn't get the reference) or Wrongfully Attributed.

Compare/Contrast Pop-Culture Isolation (in which the reference is well-known in one or a few major areas, but virtually unknown elsewhere).

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime/Manga 
  • Fans of Neon Genesis Evangelion can generally sing along with "Fly Me to the Moon" without knowing the original artist, or even one of the dozens of famous American artists who covered it in the four decades before NGE came out.
  • The "Kyubey's Face" shots - where all you see are his eyes, with the background being the color of his skin - where actually first used for Kero in Cardcaptor Sakura.

    Art 

    Comedy 
  • A Night at the Opera has ruined Il Trovatore for many people. Just try to hear the Anvil Chorus without thinking of Chico and Harpo after you've seen it...
    "A battleship in Il trovatore?!!
  • The "Mah Nà Mah Nà" song does not originate from The Muppet Show, or even Sesame Street, but rather an Italian mondo documentary film set in Sweden.
  • Modest Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain has unfortunately become known as either a general theme music for a comic nemesis, or the near final segment in Fantasia that scarred generations of children.
    • Hey, they stole that for Earthworm Jim!
    • The opening was used in the Maxell "Break The Sound Barrier" ad.
  • "Countin' the Beat" by the Swingers is known to a generation of Australians as the Kmart theme song.
  • Many talk shows cause this, from Rush Limbaugh with "My City Was Gone" by Pretenders, to Rachel Maddow with "Stealing the Stock" from the Ocean's Twelve soundtrack.
  • The song called "The Merry Go Round Broke Down" created by Cliff Friend and Dave Franklin is better remembered as the music for the Looney Tunes theme song, Daffy Duck sings a more complete version of the song with different lyrics in "Daffy and Egghead".
  • Eddie Cantor's "Merrily We Roll Along" is better remembered as the Merrie Melodies theme.

    Comic Books 
  • This might be happening to Batman, if YouTube comments are to be believed.
    Random viewer on the Joker from Batman: The Animated Series: That's not the Joker, he doesn't even have the scars!
  • A lot of comic book characters are much better known world wide from full length cartoon or movie adaptations than they from their original source material. In fact: this is literally the case with everyone of them: either in Europe (The Smurfs, Astérix, Tintin), the US (every superhero character) to Japan (lots of manga comics are much better known as anime cartoons).
  • Tintin: If people outside China and Japan have heard about the Japanese-Chinese war of the 1930s it will be mostly through the album The Blue Lotus, where it is a large part of the plot.
  • Suske en Wiske: Many children in the Benelux have learned to know countless historical characters and time periods through the characters' frequent time travels.
    • Nowadays more people will think of Barabas as the professor in Suske en Wiske, rather than the Biblical character.
  • Nero: Long time Nero readers will recognize several Belgian and international politicians between 1947 and 2002 from their cameo appearances in this series.
    • In Flanders more people will think of Nero as the titular character of this comic strip than the Roman Emperor Nero.
  • Astérix: Most people's impression of Gaul and the Roman Empire were shaped by this comic strip.
  • De Kiekeboes: When hearing the word Constantinopel many young readers will rather think of Kiekeboe's son than the former name of Istanbul.
  • Lucky Luke: Several Wild West icons are familiar to people outside Europe because they had a cameo appearance in this comic strip.
  • Donald Duck (& Co.). The Disneyverse is simply filled with retold classics, movie and music references and the like, providing lots of kids their first contact with Greek myths, Shakespeare's plays, classical history, etc.
  • Charlie Hebdo was already half a century old and mostly known in France and/or to readers of adult comics. It's only in January 2015 when they suddenly became notorious world wide. Unfortunately it had more to do with the deadly terrorist attacks on the head quarters of the magazine, which resulted in several deaths. As a result, Charlie Hebdo bring up more associations with Muslim terrorism, religious fanaticism and the right for freedom of speech than the actual ideology and content of the magazine. Most people have never read an issue and have only a vague notion what this magazine is about.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: In the 10th Anniversary Collection, Bill Watterson admits that he's "not at all familiar with Film Noir or detective novels", so the stories featuring Calvin's Hard Boiled Detective alter ego Tracer Bullet are "just spoofs on the clichés of the genre."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 1925 Russian film Bronenosets Potyomkin, usually called Battleship Potemkin in English-language sources, is generally considered hugely influential on later cinema. There is a particular scene set on some stairs leading down to the harbour in Odessa which has been imitated several times, including in The Untouchables and one of the Naked Gun films. It is reasonable to assume that, in modern times at least, more people who are not cineasts will have seen these homages/parodies than have seen the original film.
  • By now, a notable percentage of the people who reference Citizen Kane as a cinema classic and could recognize the opening scene from any one second of footage have actually never seen the film and wouldn't be able to identify any other line, shot or sequence from the whole movie (okay, maybe one).
  • People these days seem to think that "Klaatu Barada Nikto" is that funny nonsense line from Sam Raimi's horror comedy Army of Darkness (1992) (aka The Evil Dead 3) or the names of three 1983 Star Wars toys. Actually, the phrase comes from the black-and white sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), where the sentence is used to stop Gort, the powerful invincible robot of the alien Klaatu, from destroying the Earth as punishment for the humans killing his peaceful master.
  • As famous as the 1932 classic Freaks is, many more people are familiar with the parodies and allusions to its "One of us! One of us!" scene out of context. What's more, in these parodies, the phrase often comes off as threatening, the direct opposite of how it's played in the film (although the recipient sees it as such).
  • Due to his habit of pastiching rather obscure movies, Quentin Tarantino is perhaps responsible for more Popcultural Osmosis than any other mainstream filmmaker.
  • "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!" Despite being quoted (albeit, incorrectly) and parodied in pop culture for decades, most people have no idea this line is a reference to the Humphrey Bogart film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, often attributing its origins to Blazing Saddles instead. However, without the understanding that the line in the latter film is intended to be a parody of the former, the joke itself does not make sense. (The actual, original quote from the film goes, "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!")
  • The new Star Trek movie has instantly recognizable characters, themes and objects — even for those who have never seen a Star Trek episode in their life.
  • Many people associate the line "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I'm all out of bubblegum." with Duke Nukem rather than with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper's character in They Live!.
  • The Valkyries rode helicopters (Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries"). Also, the famous scene in Apocalypse Now where Colonel Kilgore says, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning.", is actually a lot longer than people care to remember making it a cause of Beam Me Up, Scotty!.
  • There probably aren't that many people who, thanks to Fantasia, wouldn't think of dinosaurs when listening to ''The Rite of Spring".
  • That melody that everybody associates with clown cars and elephants? The one that goes doot-doot-doodle-doo-dah-doot-doot-doo-dah? Enter the Gladiators by Julius Fucik.
    Hypothetical Roman announcer at the Coliseum: And now, in this corner, Brutus the Destroyer! (calliope music)
  • Any time-lapse footage of city life is likely to be a reference to Koyaanisqatsi, either directly or indirectly.
  • You know how the canonical sound of lasers firing is a sort of "pew pew pew" effect? You can thank Ben Burtt, the audio designer for Star Wars, for that. The original sound effect was created by holding a microphone up to a taut wire while hitting the other end.
  • Friday the 13th: Lots of Jason Voorhees expies and parodies have a hockey mask and a chainsaw, despite the "real" Jason not putting the mask on until the third film of the series, and never once using a chainsaw, which probably comes from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
  • Mike Myers' line "You put the wrong emPHAsis on the wrong sylLAble" is the one and only reason View From The Top has any kind of lasting pop cultural significance.
  • Casablanca: Humphrey Bogart never says "Play it again, Sam." The confusion has risen from all the parodies of that scene, including the film Play It Again Sam.
  • Quentin Tarantino put a Shout-Out to the French movie Band Of Outsiders when John Travolta and Uma Thurman's characters dance in Pulp Fiction - however, this has spawned other parodies and IMDb says "someone dances like Travolta" under movie connections.
  • Peter Lorre's voice is recognizable, even to those who have never seen any of his movies. This is due (aside from his unique appearance) to his caricature being used in a number of Looney Tunes shorts.
  • This article, referencing an utterly hilarious Muppet Show sketch, is all about how parodies of Ingmar Bergman films are immediately recognizable, such as Chess with Death, even by people who have never watched any of his films.
  • If you showed most people today stills from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, they'd think it was some sort of Tim Burton thing. See Looks Like Cesare.
  • The word "inception" means the beginning or creation of something. Ever since the film, it's more often used to describe something that's inside something else of the same nature.
  • Psycho - "Psycho" Shower Murder Parody.
  • Most people may recognize Pete Postlethwaite's speech at the end of Brassed Off from the start of the album version of Chumbawamba's Black Sheep Hit "Tubthumping".
  • The infamous "YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!" line from The Room was actually done as an homage to Rebel Without a Cause. Most people don't know this, and think that it originated in The Room. Additionally, the comments sections of most YouTube uploads of the Rebel Without A Cause scene are flooded with references to The Room.
  • Many people associate scarecrows in media with The Wizard of Oz. A good example is this website.
  • Many people who've watched Ted have no idea that Teddy Ruxpin is a real toy. Many comments on commercials (and some videos of the cartoon) for the toy have people stating something about Ted in them.
  • The same thing happens with Stretch Armstrong whenever he's mentioned in films, a major example being The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.
  • Anchors Aweigh: The scene where Gene Kelly dances with Jerry from Tom and Jerry is better known than the rest of the plot, due to it being featured in some many compilations of old musicals and being referenced by Family Guy too.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus has a sketch where a film crew is making a movie called Scott Of The Antarctic, about the failed expedition of polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott. Most viewers nowadays would be amazed that there actually is a movie with that title. "Scott Of The Antarctic" (1947), which is a faithful adaptation of the actual real life tragedy, but mostly forgotten nowadays.
  • The word avatar has become more well known among the general public thanks to Avatar, but most people will rather think of blue aliens than what the concept actually means.
  • Many porn actors like Ron Jeremy, John Holmes, Traci Lords, Linda Lovelace, La Cicciolina, Lolo Ferrari,... are better known as punch lines in film and TV comedies, stand-up monologues and/or comedic blogs than the amount of people who actually saw one of their movies.
  • The Jazz Singer is famous for being the first succesful sound film and a milestone in cinematic history. Ask any cinephile what they know about the movie and they'll tell you it stars Al Jolson singing in Blackface. Apart from that most people, even movie fans have never seen this picture in its entirety and it's not difficult to see why. Apart from the novelty of being the first sound picture it's hardly a cinematic masterpiece and very dated. Jolson himself, by the way, was once one of the biggest singers in the world, but today he is only remembered for appearing in this movie.

    Literature 
  • The Bible is the grand-daddy of this trope, with sayings like "there's nothing new under the sun" and references to Pillars of Salt and the like existing in almost every medium, though very few people have actually read the Book in question (people who go to Church will have heard excerpts). Saying religious things in Jacobean English, with lots of "thees" and "thous," comes from the King James Bible.
  • "April is the cruellest month" comes from T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land
  • Behind Shakespeare and the Bible, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is probably the biggest sufferer of this trope. The novel draws heavily on contemporary Gothic horror, feminist theories, and Paradise Lost. And yet when most people think of Frankenstein...
    • Frankenstein's monster's skin color is referred to as yellow (jaundiced) in the novel.
  • The extent to which Moby-Dick is well-understood is emphasized in Star Trek: First Contact when Lily Sloan, despite knowing the basic plot of the book, is stymied when Captain Picard (mis)quotes a central line from the text.
  • It's impossible to list all the comic books, novels, fantasy horror movies, roleplaying games, video games, fantasy/Sci-Fi art and music videos that feature blatant rip-offs, allusions, homages, parodies or additions to HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos tales.
    • Most people nowadays likely associate Arkham Asylum with Batman.
    • Problem Sleuth and Homestuck both feature monsters that clearly resemble Lovecraft's elder gods. The author, Andrew Hussie, has outright stated that he's never read a word of Lovecraft, and based his monsters entirely on secondhand references to the Cthulhu mythos.
  • You've probably encountered the tropes the Horatio Hornblower series popularized long before you ever heard of the series itself.
    • And that obscure little work of fiction got a Shout-Out in the episode "Smile Time" of Angel, with a purple stuffed thing that communicates via a horn on its face named Ratio. It's likely you didn't get the joke.
  • "Ask not for whom the bell tolls." You've heard that pithy phrase, usually said when someone else is in trouble, but who said it? How about "No man is an island" ? Well, they both came from the same paragraph of the the same essay, but missing the context.
    "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
    —Excerpted from Meditation XVII by John Donne (1623 - he was contemplating his own death at the time)
  • The Jekyll & Hyde trope is significantly more popular than The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the novel that spawned it. When many people think of Jekyll and Hyde, their notions are colored by the adaptations — including "adaptations" like The Incredible Hulk.
  • The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy - 42 is the Answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.
  • Casabianca: "The boy stood on the burning deck/Whence all but he had fled..."
    • This reference has become somewhat coloured by various transformations into a dirty schoolyard-esque song, such as those known by Nanny Ogg in the Discworld novels. All that need be known (and is indeed given) is that the opening lines are 'The boy stood on the burning deck/His name was Henry Rollocks' and that it starts out 'harmless enough'.
  • Many associate "The game's afoot" with Sherlock Holmes, but it's actually from Henry V
  • Most of Lewis Carroll's songs and rhymes in the Alice in Wonderland books were parodies of once-common Victorian standards which, with the exception of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and the possible exception of "The Spider and the Fly", are considered obscure trivia by most modern readers.
  • Most people know the phrase "water water everywhere but not a drop to drink", but hardly anybody knows that it came from Samuel Coleridge's Rime Of The Ancient Mariner or that the original wording was "nor any drop to drink".
  • Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates: Everyone knows the tale of the little boy who prevented a flood by sticking his finger inside a dyke, except that—you know what?—it's a Story Within a Story.
  • Used for a joke in the Confederation of Valor series. The Taykan species are Space Elves. Thanks to popcultural osmosis from humans, they're well aware of their physical similarity to classical elves and apparently find the comparison amusing: Torin Kerr once met a di'Taykan named Celeborn.
  • Of Mice and Men is clearly about a big guy named Lenny and a little guy named George, and absolutely nothing else, if all the references to those characters in various sources is any indication.
  • The Satanic Verses: Most people know more about the blasphemy controversy around this novel than that they've actually read it. Including many Muslim fundamentalists who want Salman Rushdie dead.
  • Mention the words Holy Grail nowadays and everyone thinks you're referring to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. That there are actual medieval legends about King Arthur and his quest for the Holy Grail is far less known under today's general public.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus has done a similar takeover of John Philip Sousa's march The Liberty Bell.
    • The show has also made certain historical and cultural characters more notable among geeks who watch the show, but mostly as part of a surreal sketch that has little to do with whom they actually were.
    • Alan Whicker is nowadays better known from the Python sketch "Whicker's World" than as an actual TV presenter who had a travel show under that very name.
    • To a lot of people Monty Python "is that guy who made that funny Holy Grail film". That Python is not an actual person, but the collective pseudonym of a team; or; that they also made other films AND originated from a long running TV series is far less known among the general public. Many of Monty Pythons' most popular sketches are also far better known outside the context of the original series and often show up in heavily edited form on compilations. As a result even scenes from films and TV series that only feature two or three of the Python actors have been branded as Python films, despite not having anything to do with them.
  • Iron Chef fans may not realize the original theme music, and indeed much of the incidental music, was from the movie soundtrack for Back Draft.
  • Pop culture even has a habit of obscuring itself. Adam Savage of MythBusters is frequently credited for the quote, "I reject your reality and substitute my own!" Actually, the line originated from the 1985 So Bad, It's Good film The Dungeonmaster (Ragewar outside of the US).
  • More people know "The Ballad of Brisco County, Jr." from NBC's coverage of the Olympics than from the original show.
  • Most people not familiar with Power Rangers will simply refer to characters as "The Red Ranger" and "The Pink Ranger" etc. What they don't realise is that, as of February 2015, there have been no less than 27 different Red Rangers, with many more off-screen, and a few more debatable ones.
  • The Twilight Zone is better known through parodies these days to the point where many people know the endings to famous episodes without ever having seen them. Outside the USA people know it most from being spoofed in The Simpsons.
  • The name Heisenberg is today much more associated with Walter White than with German physicist Werner Heisenberg.
  • Mention the name Big Brother today and most people will think you're referring to the reality show Big Brother rather than a central character in George Orwell's novel 1984. This is actually rather sad seeing that the novel warns against a society where government surveillance on people is total, while this TV show exploited this concept.
  • When people see a collie nowadays many will refer to it as a "Lassie".

    Music 
  • Start your search here. Continue here. And see what you really associate those snippets with.
  • Everything by John Philip Sousa has become used in commercials and TV shows without much understanding behind them. Most notably the The Washington Post March and The Stars & Stripes Forever.
  • A large proportion of British people hearing In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg would be surprised to find out that it wasn't, in fact, written as the Alton Towers theme song.
    • Or the in-game music to Manic Miner.
    • Or the leitmotif to the syndicated Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon (Robotnik's Lair's theme in the series proper).
    • Or scene music from a certain Astro Boy episode.
    • Or the song that Peter Lorre whistles when he goes hunting little kids in M.
    • Worse yet, one dance remix of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" has been miscredited on file-sharing services as a remix of the Inspector Gadget theme, despite there being only a very vague similarity between the two songs.
    • The song was, in reality, written by Norwegian componist Edvard Grieg, to a scene in Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt.
  • Similarly, the first movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata is better known to many 8-bit-era gamers as "the title music to Jet Set Willy".
  • Play the Russian folk song "Korobeiniki" to anyone in the world, except Russians, and they are almost certain to identify it as video game music. Specifically, the Tetris theme.
  • The song "Anything Goes" actually does not come from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It's an authentic show tune of the period (from a Cole Porter musical of the same name) and, by the way, normally sung in English.
  • Likewise, "Puttin' on the Ritz" did not originate from Young Frankenstein. Similarly, its close musical cousin, concerning the naming history of Istanbul, was not originally by They Might Be Giants.
    • For that matter, "Puttin' on the Ritz" was not originally performed by Fred Astaire, he just sang it in Blue Skies.
      • In case you were wondering it was originally performed by Harry Richman in the film of "Puttin' on the Ritz" (you would think the name was a dead give away).
    • You mean, it wasn't an '80's hit by Taco?
  • Many people know the "Love Theme" from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture only from its use in innumerable TV shows (South Park, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and movies (Wayne's World, Clueless) to show that someone has fallen in Love at First Sight.
    • Oh! You mean the romantic kiss song from the first The Sims game?
  • Just try listening to "Hoedown" from Aaron Copland's Rodeo without thinking "Beef: It's What's For Dinner."
  • The BBC's use of Booker T. & The MGs', "Soul Limbo". Also known as the Cricket music.
    • Fleetwood Mac's outro to "The Chain", otherwise known as the Formula One Racing music.
  • Singin' in the Rain did this to most of the songs in the movie, most notably the title tune which was a standard song to be sung by aspiring actors in film in the '20s, '30s and '40s.
    • Considering the film's producer, Arthur Freed, wrote or co-wrote MOST if not all of those songs for MGM in the post-sound era of film and commissioned the screenwriters to base a musical around that catalogue, it doesn't necessarily remove those songs from their original context.
  • Kesha's "Take it Off" is a pop version of "The Streets of Cairo" (usually associated with snake-charming in pop-culture).
    • Istanbul Not Constantinople made good use of its signature five-and-seven.
  • Like the aforementioned Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple, there are some other classic rock songs with their sound familiar to a lot of "uninitiated" people by exposure through radio, commercials etc. Tracks like Break On Through to the Other Side by The Doors, Jammin by Bob Marley, Born to Be Wild (from the soundtrack of the film Easy Rider) by Steppenwolf.
  • Know what the song "Spybreak!" sounds like? What if I told you it's the song that plays during the lobby shootout scene in The Matrix? If you already did, did you even know who the Propellerheads were before you did the research? Said movie came out two years after the song.
  • The song "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen has been greatly popularized through its use in other shows:
    • It was played in the Family Guy episode "I Dream of Jesus". Just take a look at this graph.
    • That small peak in 2004 coincides with the release of Battlefield Vietnam, which for a fair few gamers might be the thing they associate with the song.
    • Pee-wee Herman performed it in Back To The Beach.
    • Spanish speaking viewers however may have found out about the song earlier back when it was sometimes played during the credits of Ah, qué Kiko (a spinoff of El Chavo del ocho).
    • And the two people who watched CBS's saturday morning lineup in the 1998–99 season would know it from Birdz.
    • Exploitation Film fans would associate with an infamous scene of Pink Flamingos.
  • How many people under 25 or so can hear "The Final Countdown" without thinking of Arrested Development?
    • People from the Detroit Area have a different reaction to The Final Countdown, mostly identifying it as "The Pistons Intro Song."
    • Saints Row 2 fans will identify it as that awesome 80s song that will never, ever, ever, ever leave their head.
    • Also used in How to Kill a Mockingbird.
  • Utter the line "Right here, right now", and nearly anyone with associate it with Fat Boy Slim's song of that name, not the movie (Strange Days) it's sampled from.
  • For a certain generation in Britain, the lyrics to O Sole Mio will forever be "Just one Cornetto! Give it to meeeeee!"
  • Many Americans are undoubtedly familiar with "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here." Considerably fewer might be aware of the fact that the tune is from a Pirates of Penzance ditty called "Come, Friends Who Plow the Sea."
  • The "Polovetsian Dances" from Alexander Borodin's opera Prince Igor tend to be more commonly associated with Kismet and a certain Pine-Sol commercial these days.
  • Zillions of certain musical lines, hooks, beats and intros have been sampled and covered so much that you would be surprised to know how old these songs are.
  • The nursery tune "Pop! Goes The Weasel" was originally a piece of dance music that was popular in London dance-halls and American stage acts in the 1850s, and as a playground singing-game for kids dancing in circles. Nowadays, it's irrevocably associated with Jack-in-the-Boxes, to the point where such a toy playing any other tune feels like a Subverted Trope.
  • Also Sprach Zarathustra. Ever since 2001: A Space Odyssey it's a Standard Snippet for Mundane Made Awesome.
  • "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" has become such a popular standard that some first time viewers of Monty Python's Life of Brian will laugh when the characters sing this song, because they assume the Pythons are simply covering a well known song. In reality it was completely written by Python member Eric Idle.
  • In Brazil, "Il Guarany" is forever associated with a statal news radio program that plays on week nights. Even if the show now uses somewhat laughable "updated versions".
  • The phrase "the revolution will not be televised" is infamous everywhere, but how many people know it originated from Gil Scott-Heron's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised?
  • The album cover of Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins has become infamous thanks to the image of John Lennon and Yoko Ono posing in the nude. It is also frequently shown in documentaries about Lennon, Yoko Ono and The Beatles, pops up in lists of controversial album covers and has been spoofed and parodied countless times. But the younger generations who may recognize the image may not even be aware it's not just a photograph, but an actual album. Needless to say that even those who know this have hardly ever listened to it, left alone more than once.
  • The Plasmatics: The band is more notorious for their anarchic and semi-pornographic stage shows which resulted in them regularly being arrested than their actual music.

    Mythology 
  • Greek Mythology: Most Greek mythological characters will be referred to under their Roman names rather than their Greek ones, like Hercules instead of Heracles.
  • Happens to Norse Mythology. No, Loki is not Thor's brother nor he is he the ultimate evil (his wickedness depends on where and by whom the myth was recorded) nor is he Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. Loki is not a "god of fire"; this is a confusion with Logi, a giant who is fire personified (and whose name means 'fire'). Thor is also not stated to be blonde; the closest thing to any sort of indicator of apperance is the kenning (nickname) "Red-Thor" which supposedly points to Thor being a ginger.

    Pro Wrestling 

    Radio 
  • An example so classic, jokes about it pre-date the concept of this trope: a wit from the 1960s noted this definition of a "longhair" (a person of culture): "he can hear the William Tell Overture and not think of the Lone Ranger." The piece of music referred to is from the Rossini Opera William Tell. The dramatic fanfare and thundering string section from the overture was used as the theme music for The Lone Ranger radio drama and then in movies and on television.
  • "The Shadow knows". Yeah, great, what does that mean, exactly? The full line goes "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!". The Shadow is a psychic and fights crime by implanting the suggestion in a person's head that he's invisible, so he can eavesdrop a lot.

    Theater 
  • Various bits from the works of William Shakespeare have been quoted, parodied, imitated and plagiarized too many times to count. Particularly notable are cases in which Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy is confused with the "Alas, poor Yorick" one, leading to an actor reciting the former while holding the prop skull that belongs in the latter. There's a fair amount of Beam Me Up, Scotty! at work, too: "Alas poor Yorick, I knew him" often has a "well" added to the end in pop culture.
    • Orsino's opening line of "If music be the food of love, play on," from Twelfth Night is often assumed to be quite romantic and/or demonstrative of a love of art. Very few include the rest of the quote: "Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,/The appetite may sicken, and so die."
    • A particularly egregious example is the way in which Juliet's speech "Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" usually has a spurious comma added after the "thou", completely changing the meaning. "Wherefore" actually stands in the same relationship to "therefore" as "where" does to "there"; it doesn't mean "where", it means "why". Juliet is not wondering where Romeo is as commonly supposed, but is speaking to him and asking the reason for his name. (Sounds weird the first time you hear it, but it becomes clear what she means: "Why did the man I fell in love with have to be Romeo Montague, probably my father's last choice on earth of son-in-law?")
      • Also, the name of the play being used to mean an ideal romance other than the ludicrously over-emotional and too-fast mess that the play portrays it as.
    • Romeo And Juliet itself is not a Shakespeare original, but based on an even older Italian novella. Few of Shakespeare's plays (possibly none) had original plots.
      • This makes it even funnier to watch the bits in Shakespeare in Love where Will is trying to work out how the story will end.
    • 'Now is the winter of our discontent' is often said as a negative rather than the happy occasion it is 'made glorious summer by this sun of York"
      • As Richard is the one who says the line, it is rather bitter/sarcastic
  • Gilbert And Sullivan's "I am the very model of a modern major general" has been spoofed in so many cartoons, movies, and what have you, that everyone recognizes it, several people don't realize this until it's referenced in Mass Effect 2.
  • How many people quote lines from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's play Faust and especially the following Faust II (Faust, der Tragödie Zweiter Teil) without knowing where it's originally from?
  • Similarly, many people have heard this line from Christopher Marlowe's The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus: "Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships." However, many people today only know it from the Star Trek episode "The Squire of Gothos", some snarky comments about metaphors in Discworld novels, and/or Shakespeare in Love.
  • Actor Gustaf Gründgens' famous performances as Mephisto, with sinister stark white make-up, black eye shadow and sharply upturned eyebrows, have definitely influenced later despictions of the devil in visual media.
  • Spring Awakening is only thought by many people to be a musical set in 1890s Germany, unless they actually look into it at all and find the original Frank Wedekind play on which it is based.
  • Look up any YouTube video for "Seasons of Love", and you will see an overwhelming number of comments about how people sang it for choir/graduation/etc. and didn't know it was from RENT.
  • Some people believe that the Harry Nilsson song "One" originally came from Sesame Street, when the song actually came out three years before said show. However, it was refrenced on an episode of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon when The Muppets were guest stars.

    Video Games 
  • You've heard the Tetris theme song, right? Well, turns out it's actually a Russian folk song called "Korobeiniki", and is only really associated with Tetris outside of Russia. The association is so strong, the otherwise public domain song has become a trademark of Tetris within the video game industry.
  • World of Warcraft is absolutely the king of this, being both Troperrific and jam-packed with shout outs to damn near everything under the sun. From music/bands, novels, films and TV shows, and other video games, from the popular to the extremely obscure, if you name a piece of media, chances are pretty good that WoW has referenced it. This naturally leads to a great deal of Older Than They Think, particularly for the younger and more...culturally unaware in the fandom. This even applies to the Warcraft franchise itself, since the MMO contains many mythology gags which are shout outs to the older RTS games, and other Blizzard games. Just look at this list for examples. Beyond the references, gameplay elements themselves are victims to this, since WoW is the 800 lb gorilla of the MMO genre. Fandumb often accuses other games of "ripping off" WoW features, when those other games had them first.
    • Similarly with Starcraft when Dawn of War came out there were plenty of Starcraft fans accusing it of ripping off Starcraft.
      • Interesting example in that Dawn of War's source material is older than Starcraft, but its gameplay mechanic is not, making this Fan Dumb half of the time.
      • ...except that the mechanics they share are basic elements of the genre that were invented in Dune II by Westwood, and the two are as far apart in gameplay as two RTSs can be.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Many people didn't know what an ocarina was before this game was released. They were fairly popular in Japan before the game was released, but in 1998, ocarina makers were suddenly inundated with orders for sweet potato (aka transverse) ocarinas. No, the little four-hole wooden ones wouldn't do. They had to be the 10-hole ceramic kind. And they had to be blue. Many music stores were sold out and couldn't figure out why.
  • Many Western gamers assume that Guitar Freaks (or any long-running Japanese rhythm game) ripped off Guitar Hero. Guitar Freaks has been around since 1999; Guitar Hero wasn't released until 2005.
  • People unfamiliar with the Touhou series will automatically assume that "U.N. Owen was her?" is called "McRolled" all thanks to a viral video much to the annoyance of fans who hate that name.
    • Even worse, someone posted a remix of "U.N. Owen Was Her?" as John Stump's "Death Waltz", causing much confusion between both songsnote .
  • The main character in Pokémon Red and Blue is named Red. But he's often called Ash by people more familiar with the anime. Similarily, his rival Blue is referred to as "Gary".
  • This is pretty common in Super Mario World ROM hacks and Mario fan games in general since some of the more well known ones use resources from obscure Japanese RPGs people likely haven't heard of (Romancing SaGa, Live A Live and Seiken Densetsu 3 being some examples) and as a result some people tend to associate said resources with the fan game/hack rather than the original SNES one. Such as how many people don't know that things like the Mirage Palace and Dark Castle are from Seiken Densetsu 3 and not Brutal Mario, or that the 7 Koopalings boss is a parody of the final boss in Romancing SaGa 2. This can lead to awkwardness if people assume any resources from these games are plagarised.
  • Not everyone realises that virtually every significant character, all the enemy designs and much of the character backstories of Ōkami are taken straight from Japanese mythology.
    • And a lot of the characters and events from Samurai Warriors and its crossover spinoff Pokémon Conquest are if not actually accurate then very representative of events in real-life Sengoku-period Japan.
  • Thanks to the popularity of Five Nights at Freddy's, many people now equate the Toreador March from Carmen as Freddy's theme (and by extension, being close death). Some remixers don't even know the source of the song outside of the game and attributes their remix to the game instead.
  • Likewise, many people think the opening theme of Frogger is original and attribute it to the game. Like this remix by OCRemix site founder DJ Pretzel. It's actually taken from an old Japanese childrens' song called Inu no Omawarisan. The acknowledgement on OC Remix was only added in much later.
  • Many people consider the Cheetahmen theme to have come from Syobon Action due to the fact that Action 52 was a rather obscure NES game and Syobon Action featured that song prominently (and thanks to the Internet, it's far more well-known).

    Web Original 
  • "End Times", Constantly. Trace, Harry, and Charlie are all seeped in pop-culture knowledge and talk in references, sometimes for humor and other times very much not so.
    • "I like the Doc as much as anyone, but the second movie still hasn't come out." "And it won't."
    • "We're going to have to be The Avengers."

    Western Animation 
  • Many fairy tales and literary classics are nowadays much better known in animated adaptations by Walt Disney than the original tales. Expect many people to be surprised that certain characters and scenes are not in the original tales or that the stories in general have far Darker and Edgier content. It has gotten to the point that many assume that all these Disney adaptations are in fact fairy tales, while many, like Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland and Lady and the Tramp, for instance, are not.
    • The Three Little Pigs cemented the idea in many people's mind that The Three Little Pigs are all individual characters and that none of them get eaten by the Big Bad Wolf. In the original story they have no individual personalities and the first two are eaten by the wolf. Many people will also automatically start singing "Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?" whenever the story is mentioned.
    • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Since this film came out many adaptations of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs have turned the dwarfs into individual characters and have the prince kiss Snow White back to life. In the original fairy tale the dwarfs were not individualized and Snow White was saved when the prince accidentally dropped the coffin, causing the apple she ate to fall out of her throat. Another change in story is that the Evil Stepmother actually attempted to poison Snow White three times, with her third attempt being the poisoned apple.
    • Pinocchio made the role of Jiminy Cricket as Pinocchio's conscience much more central to the story. In the original novel Jiminy is only a minor character, who gets squashed accidentally by Pinocchio even before he leaves the house. The majority of the book didn't even make the film.
    • Bambi: Thanks to this film many people refer to a baby deer as a "Bambi". The original story is also far more adult.
    • Cinderella: Quite faithful to the story, except for the singing birds and mice and the horrible ending in which the evil stepsisters cut off parts of their feet just to fit into the slipper and later when they appear at the wedding where their eyes are picked out by birds.
    • Alice in Wonderland: To the general public this is their main impression of the original novel, even though Tweedlee-Dee and Tweedle-Dum appear in Alice Through The Looking-Glass.
    • Sleeping Beauty: Many people expect the Prince fighting a dragon at the end, which is a scene added by the Disney version, not present in the original.
    • The Jungle Book: The general public instantly thinks of this movie whenever The Jungle Book is brought up in conversation. Never mind the fact that this film has barely anything to do with the original story, except for the fact that Mowgli is indeed raised by wolves and that the characters' names are the same. For instance, Rudyard Kipling's novel Baloo is a serious character and Kaa is a friend of Mowgli.
    • Robin Hood: Many children's impression of Robin Hood is shaped by this movie, especially the expectation that there is an archery contest halfway the story, which doesn't happen in the original tale.
    • The Little Mermaid: The original fairy tale has a far darker ending, in which the mermaid doesn't get her voice back and becomes sea foam.
    • Aladdin: In the original Arabian Nights the story takes place in China and the amount of wishes isn't restricted to just three.
    • Hercules: Many children nowadays have a completely wrong impression of the story and Greek Mythology in general thanks to this tale. Not only has the Disney adaptation more in common with Superman and Rocky: we never even see Hercules perform any of his actual 12 tasks, except for fighting off the Hydra. To top it all off many people assume Hades is a villain, while in the original Greek Mythology he is not regarded as such.
    • What people used to think of when they heard the phrase: "The Snow Queen": "Oh, that fairy-tale by Hans Christian Andersen." What many (especially the younger generation who never heard of the original) are starting to think of now: [[Frozen "You mean Elsa?"]
    • Tangled for the most part averts this, given that the original story of Rapunzel was better known than that of The Snow Queen (and is still known, despite the film's popularity.
      • Time will tell whether or not this changes in the next twenty years.
  • Many famous pieces of classical music have been hijacked by Walt Disney, Looney Tunes and other (usually older) animated sequences, and are many people's only exposure to such works. Many people still have the urge to sing "Kill the Wa-bbit" along to Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries", thanks to Elmer Fudd's memorable version in the classic Bugs Bunny short What's Opera, Doc?? And the use of a romanticized version of the Pilgrims' Chorus when Bugs enters on horseback, dressed as Brunnhilde, and fools Elmer/Thor (he used the same entrance, music and disguise with equal success against Hermann Goerring in a wartime cartoon).
    • 30 Rock had an episode where it's revealed Liz's cell phone ringtone is "Ride of the Valkyries", resulting in this exchange:
      Phoebe: Oh, you like Wagner.
      Liz: No, I like Elmer Fudd.
    • Looney Tunes also stole heavily from "The William Tell Overture" by Rossini, to the point where almost every major theme in the piece has been used in some cartoon. For a lot of those, it's via another reference—see below.
      • And Rossini suffers again in Rabbit of Seville, this time with the overture for the Barber of Seville.
    • How many people can listen to Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody no.2 and not be thinking of a cartoon at the same time?
      • Dance of the Reed Flutes: Are you thinking of Cadbury's Fruit and Nut or Lemmings?
      • Similar to the above with Dance of The Sugar-Plum Fairy for Tetris - although "Korobeiniki" (see further down this page) is even more strongly associated with it.
      • Before Fantasia 2000, most people would (and still do) associate "Rhapsody in Blue" as the theme song of United Airlines or the opening scene in Manhattan.
      • The Theme from Peter Gunn was composed for the TV series Peter Gunn, in 1958.
      • Felix Mendelssohn's "Spring Song" has probably been heard and remembered more from old cartoons than from the concert hall or recordings.
    • Likewise, if you've heard of the turn-of-the-century song "Hello, Ma Baby", it was probably from One Froggy Evening, or the parody of that scene in Spaceballs.
    • Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse" is inextricably linked to assembly-line montages thanks to Looney Tunes.
    • Can anyone today even hear the English title of Verdi's Coro di zingari — a.k.a. the "Anvil Chorus" — and not think of Looney Tunes characters dropping anvils on one another? The actual song is about gypsies arising at dawn for their day's work, and looking forward to wine and women later on.
    • You know the theme song to the old Road Runner cartoons? That's actually the Dance of the Comedians from Bedrich Smetana's "Bartered Bride". See for yourself.
    • Wile E Coyote comes from Native American Mythology.
    • How about The Merry Go Round Broke Down for the Looney Tunes theme song?
    • The character Foghorn Leghorn was based on the character Beauregard Claghorn, from Fred Allen's Allen's Alley radio program. Today all of his catchphrases will rather make people think of Foghorn rather than this forgotten radio show.
    • "Poet and Peasant Overture'' is another piece of background music used a lot in Looney Tunes. It was also used in the Animaniacs cartoon "Potty Emergency".
  • "Sing, Sing, Sing", originally by Louis Prima, played most famously by Benny Goodman, is known to a whole generation of eighteen-to-twenty-somethings as "the Chips Ahoy song".
  • Woody Woodpecker's laugh is so universally recognized, that some people even forget where the Annoying Laugh to rule them all came from in the first place.
  • Some young adults are reminded of Hey Arnold! when they hear music from Carmen, Pagliacci, or "Ride of the Valkyries" thanks to the episode "What's Opera Arnold"?
    • The name of episode itself is a shout out to the well known Bugs Bunny episode What's Opera, Doc?, and it also contains a parody of Elmer's infamous "spear and magic helmet" line.
  • Most people across the world will rather recognize John Philip Sousa's "Stars And Stripes Forever" as Popeye The Sailor 's victory music than a classical piece.
  • The animated Saturday morning show The Smurfs used nothing but clips of classical music for mood and theme setting.
  • Futurama has an example in the boy from the pair of Victorian dressed Street Urchin children who are recurring characters. They are clearly meant to evoke Charles Dickens, as his crutch is identical to that famously used by A Christmas Carol's Tiny Tim, although what the writers seem to have missed was that Tiny Tim was not one of Dickens' urchin characters. Then again, it's Futurama; it was probably on purpose.
    • Lampshaded again in Futurama, as the Fungineers who designed the Moon Landing 'historical' recreation with singing whale hunters as astronauts have certainly gotten their historical facts through popcultural osmosis.
      • Fungineering as a whole seems to be based on a massive foundation of Memetic Mutation.
    • Not many fans outside America (or at least some outside Nixon's generation) remember that Spiro Agnew was an actual person, let alone one of Nixon's Vice Presidents.
    • Another one from Futurama is simply the theme song. Most people associate it with the series, but it's actually just a slightly tweaked version of part of the Maurice Béjart ballet Mass for our time. The original was written back in 1967 by experimental composer Pierre Henry and is entitled "Psyché Rock".
  • Speaking of Fantasia, there's likely not a soul on Earth who doesn't associate "L'apprenti sorcier" by Paul Dukas with Mickey Mouse.
    • Or take "Dance of the Hours" from Ponchielli's ballet La Gioconda. When you hear it, you'll either think of the dancing hippos from Fantasia, or you'll start singing, "Hello Muddah, hello Fadduh, here I am at Camp Granada..." (Allan Sherman's well-known funny song). Or both.
  • The "Me Love You Long Time" from the hooker in Full Metal Jacket have been incorrectly credited to both Family Guy and South Park.
    • People of a certain age will probably first think of the 2 Live Crew song "Me So Horny".
      • Or Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back", which similarly references the line.
  • Ren and Stimpy's music for that show was made up almost entirely of classical and jazz music.
    • Ren & Stimpy closely associate Raymond Scott's "The Toy Trumpet" with the army. The tune has been heard just everywhere, but no one can even place it: [1]
  • Many kids today will hear old Hawaiian standards only to think they first came from Spongebob Squarepants or Lilo & Stitch.
  • In the Henry and June segments on KaBlam!, kids might think that the ska background music originated from the show, but they're really just instrumental versions of songs by The Toasters.
  • As the page image shows, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will make sure every teacher talking about the Renaissance will have a joke regarding Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi, and Raphael Sanzio.;
    Narrator (after four masked turtles hop out of a sewer pipe): I'm afraid popular culture as successfully eradicated the actual identities of the true poets of art. In my opinion, it stinks!...And now for a brief reality check. Michelangelo Buonarroti was a brilliant artist. Not a turtle.
  • The slow motion walk in Monsters, Inc. is often misattributed to Armageddon, instead of The Right Stuff.
  • Due to the penchant most voice actors had for impersonations, many young viewers were able to recognize the voices of famous actors and celebrities long before they had any idea of who they were.
  • In one episode of South Park, Mr. Garrison is brought before a disciplinary committee for his actions from a previous episode. When they review just what he's done for the 3rd grade education, one of them notes he hasn't even taught the kids about Samuel Adams, leading a confused Garrison to ask "Well who cares about a guy who makes beer?!", referencing the fact that most people are probably more familiar with the alcohol brand over the one of the founding fathers of the country.
  • Pitt the Elder and Lord Palmerston? Americans will probably only recognize these two names from a one-off gag in The Simpsons episode Homer at the Bat than as British prime ministers.

    Real Life: Historical people 
  • Many historical or literary characters life on many people's minds because of their association with the name of a fictional character, which usually has nothing to do with the real life counterpart. For examples, see Named After Somebody Famous.
  • Certain historical characters have received a Historical Hero Upgrade and/or Historical Villain Downgrade, merely based upon the fact who we, centuries later, look back at their legacy.
  • Many founders of religion have been raised to the status of being some kind of inhumanly wise, kind and perfect demigods.
  • Cleopatra VII: Many people imagine her as Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra (1963), while the actual Egyptian queen looked far different and not according to 20th century beauty standards.
  • Cardinal Richelieu: Thanks to The Three Musketeers we nowadays see him as a scheming villain in the French royal court, which is a very demonized version of the actual man.
  • Giacomo Casanova: All the book, TV series and novel adaptations have depicted Casanova as some kind of handsome, charming, attractive young Memetic Sex God. In reality he wasn't actually that good looking and it's never been said that he was a great lover, just a good seducer. It also goes beyond many of his other endeavours, as Casanova did indeed more than just skirt chasing during his lifetime.
  • Billy The Kid: Many stories will depict him as a vicious Big Bad who has murdered countless people in cold blood. In reality the actual Billy the Kid only has four confirmed murders attached to his name.
  • Walt Disney: Rumors about Disney's supposed antisemitism and bigotry have been around for decades, but really became more notorious after Family Guy made some jokes about Disney in this vain and many Old Shame Disney cartoons and films that have been out of syndication in the United States for decades became more available on the Internet. As a result a lot of people have started to portray Disney as some sort of Nazi, which is far beyond whom he really was. Historians have reached the conclusion that Disney wasn't that much more bigoted than the average American in the 1930s and 1940s and that a lot of the supposedly racist content in old Disney cartoons was actually prevalent in a lot of other Hollywood cartoons and films from that era too. It also goes beyond the fact that James Baskett (Uncle Remus in Song of the South) was personally chosen for Disney for the role, which won Baskett an Oscar, making him the first Afro-American man to win this prestigious prize. Disney has also worked together with the Sherman Brothers, who wrote many of Disney's most famous songs, and who were in fact Jewish. And the Disney Studios also brought out a lot of anti-Nazi propaganda films and cartoons during World War Two. The anti-Semitism spoken of occasionally is generally attributed to Disney's problems with some particularly thuggish labor agitators of Jewish descent who infiltrated his animation department at a time in American history when unions were still viewed by many as disreputable, and the general consensus was that Walt had no trouble working with Jews as long as they were among "the good ones."
  • Guy Fawkes, the man who wanted to blow up the English Parliament in 1605, has changed into a popular bonfire puppet on Bonfire Night in the UK and into a world wide symbol of anarchism and rebellion since his depiction in V for Vendetta, despite the fact that this comic strip and the film adaptation have nothing whatsoever to do with the real-life Fawkes' ambitions.
  • Gerald Ford: President Ford occasionally fell over during televised broadcasts, yet not as much as popular culture would like you to believe. The image of Ford as a clumsy oaf who just bumps into stuff, trips over objects and makes almost his entire environment collapse is more a result of Chevy Chase 's depiction of him in Saturday Night Live at the time.
  • Michael Jackson: Nine out of the ten popular culture will depict Jackson as some kind of helium voiced Man Child with a chimpansee on his arm, shouting "Shamone!" or "You're ignoràààànt". First of all, his voice was certainly soft, but not as squeaky as many imitators have turned it into. His depiction as an infantile and naïve person is also based more on the image depicted by himself on camera, but is certainly not Truth in Television. After all Jackson was an adult and described by many as a clever businessman. The idea that Michael says "shamone" a lot is derived from the Bad era, where he shouted "come on" during "Bad" and "Man in the Mirror" in such a way that many people misheard it as "shamone" and comedians ever since have pronounced it that way. The idea that Jackson says "You're ignorant" is lifted from South Park parodies of the man.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte: Thanks to being depicted as a pathetic dwarf in many early 19th century British newspaper cartoons Napoleon is often depicted as such in popular culture, despite the fact that he was actually of average height in real life.
  • Elvis Presley: His greasy quiff has been exaggarated as being enormously huge and long in popular culture, mostly thanks to depictions in cartoons, by Elvis imitators and groups like Leningrad Cowboys. When you look at actual photos or archive footage you'll notice that it's actually not that grotesque.
  • Rasputin The Mad Monk: Popular culture tends to depict him as an insane villain who plots to overthrow the Czar and/or is some kind of immortal demon. In reality Rasputin was nothing but a debaucherous man who had gained the trust of the Czarina, thanks to being able to heal her son, while other doctors couldn't. He never did anything to overthrow the Czar and why would he? He had tremendous power as her advisor. The idea that he could not be murdered has been based on the anecdote that his assassins had repeatedly tried to kill him, but failed. It's more safe to assume that their failed methods of trying to assassinate him were just the result of incompetence, rather than Rasputin being invincible or something.
  • Antonio Salieri was a 18th and 19th century composer who was very famous during his lifetime, but faded away in obscurity in the decades beyond. In 1984 he suddenly became more famous again, thanks to Amadeus (1984), in which he is incorrectly portrayed as the Arch-Nemesis of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Nevertheless, the film did help renew interest in his work, which - in many cases- was even recorded on albums for the first time!
  • Ringo Starr: Many cartoons , like The Beatles, have incorrectly portrayed him as a Too Dumb to Live buffoon. The portrayal still lives on to this day.
  • T.E. Lawrence thanks his universal fame mostly to the film Lawrence of Arabia.
  • William Wallace and Robert The Bruce have become more internationally famous since Braveheart (1996), but more as the way they are depicted in this film, which is a very far cry from actual historical events. Many people nowadays imagine Wallace as Mel Gibson's depiction in that film. There was actual outcry of Americanization when a statue of Wallace resembling Mel Gibson was placed in his native town. It was eventually removed again. Similarly the Scottish government wanted to sue the film makers for depicting their national hero Robert The Bruce as an unconfident doublecrosser of Wallace.
  • George Washington and Abraham Lincoln have both romanticized by American historians in the centuries beyond as some sort of demigods who were always honest and never told a lie. More serious historical resarch since the late 20th century has finally put a stop to this idea, but the image still lives on in popular culture.
  • Francesco Zappa is an obscure and nowadays almost completely forgotten 18th century composer from Italy. Yet, fans of Frank Zappa will have heard from him as Frank Zappa recorded an album in 1984 called Francesco Zappa. Unfortunately many people, even Zappa fans, incorrectly think that 'Francesco Zappa' is just a pseudonym for Zappa pretending to be a baroque composer, while in reality the music on that album are all real scores written by this 18th century composer, who wasn't related to Frank Zappa at all. All Frank Zappa did was score the music on his Synclavier computer, making Francesco Zappa effectively a Cover Album.

    Real Life: Locations 
  • Certain regions, cities and towns are only famous to the general public because of their association with a certain novel, film, song or other work of art. Some people, usually not the inhabitants of the place themselves, may even be amazed that these places actually exist!

    • Abbey Road, London: Made famous by The Beatles album Abbey Road.
    • Alabama, Alabama, USA: The Stephen Foster song "I've Come From Alabama With A Banjo On My Knee".
    • Albuquerque, New Mexico: The city where Bugs Bunny after a long period of digging tunnels "should have made a left turn."
    • Alcatraz, San Francisco, USA: Escape from Alcatraz, Alcatraz, Alcatraz Series, Planet Alcatraz,...
    • Alexanderplatz, Berlin: The novel and film Berlin Alexanderplatz.
    • Amityville, New York, USA: The horror film The Amityville Horror (1979).
    • Antwerp, Belgium: The Japanese know it for A Dog of Flanders, in which Nello and his dog Patrasche visit the Antwerp cathedral.
    • Avignon, France: The song "Sur le pont d' Avignon".
    • Baker Street, London, Great Britain: Supposedly the address of Sherlock Holmes or the eponymous song by Gerry Rafferty.
    • Barcelona, Spain: The song "Barcelona" by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé. Also, the 1992 Olympics.
    • Beersel, Belgium: Has become famous in Flanders and the Netherlands for the Suske en Wiske album De schat van Beersel (The treasure of Beersel).
    • Beverly Hills, California: The TV series The Beverly Hillbillies and Beverly Hills 90210.
    • Bremen, Germany: The fairytale The Bremen Town Musicians
    • Bretagne, France: This region has a strong association with the comic strips Astérix and Bécassine.
    • Bruges/Brugge, Belgium: The film In Bruges and the Jacques Brel song Marieke where the girl Marieke is loved between the towers of Bruges (Brugge) and Gand (Gent).
    • Cape Fear, North Carolina: Cape Fear.
    • Casablanca, Morocco: Casablanca
    • Chelsea Hotel, New York City, USA: "Chelsea Hotel" by Leonard Cohen from New Skin For The Old Ceremony, "Chelsea Girl" by Nico, "Chelsea Girls" by Andy Warhol.
    • Coconute Grove, Miami, Florida, USA: The song "Coconut Grove" by John Sebastian, later recorded by The Lovin Spoonful.
    • Cocoa Beach, Florida, USA: The town where Jeannie in I Dream of Jeannie lives.
    • Copacabana, Brazil: The song Copacabana by Barry Manilow.
    • Corleone, Sicily, Italy: The main family name in The Godfather
    • Cucamonga, California: Made famous by Mel Blanc's train conductor in Jack Benny's radio shows. Also, Inherently Funny Word.
    • Dallas, Texas, USA: Dallas
    • Damme, Belgium: The birth place of Till Eulenspiegel according to Charles De Coster's novel Till Eulenspiegel, or as part of Jean-Claude Van Damme's name.
    • Deadwood, South Dakota, USA: Deadwood.
    • Den Haag, Nederland: Haagse Harry.
    • Dust Bowl, Oklahoma: Woody Guthrie's album Dust Bowl Ballads.
    • El Paso, USA: The song El Paso by Marty Robbins.
    • Elm Street, Dallas: The street was made famous by the fact that John F. Kennedy was murdered here, which inspired Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street.
    • Eugene, Oregon: Where most of Animal House was filmed.
    • Exmoor, Great Britain: The legendary Beast Of Exmoor supposedly lives there.
    • Fargo: The film Fargo, which, by the way, doesn't even take place in Fargo!
    • Frankenstein Castle (Burg Frankenstein), Darmstadt, Germany: Frankenstein
    • Folsom, California, USA: The Johnny Cash album At Folsom Prison.
    • Forks, Washington: Twilight
    • Fucking, Austria: It has become somewhat of an Internet meme, though it actually exists.
    • Gand/Gent, Belgium: The Jacques Brel song Marieke where the girl Marieke is loved between the towers of Bruges (Brugge) and Gand (Gent).
    • Gangnam District, Seoul: The song "Gangnam Style" by PSY.
    • Gotham, Nottinghamshire, England: Gotham City.
    • Grand Coulee Dam, Washington, USA: "Grand Coulee Dam" by Woody Guthrie.
    • Green Gables, Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, Canada: Anne of Green Gables.
    • Grosse Pointe, Michigan, USA: Grosse Pointe Blank.
    • Hameln, Germany: The Pied Piper of Hamelin
    • Houston, Texas, USA: Since Apollo Thirteen, in itself based on a real life incident it's associated with the phrase: "Houston, we have a problem."
    • Ipanema, Brazil: The song The Girl From Ipanema.
    • Jersey Shore, New York, USA: Jersey Shore.
    • Key Largo, Florida: The film noir classic Key Largo.
    • Klondike, Canada: The town where Scrooge McDuck amassed his first fortune, according to Carl Barks and Don Rosa's Donald Duck comics.
    • Kobbegem, Belgium: Where Adhemar in Nero 's laboratory is located.
    • Köpenick, Germany: "The Captain von Köpenick".
    • Kwai River, Cambodia: Made famous by Pierre Boulle's book and the Oscar winning film adaptation The Bridge on the River Kwai.
    • Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales: Yes, it is frequently used as a Overly Long Name in comedies, but this location is 100 percent real.
    • Loch Ness: According to legend the Monster of Loch Ness has been sighted there for a long time.
    • Nottingham, England: Robin Hood
    • Nürnberg, Germany: Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg
    • Oklahoma, USA: The play and musical Oklahoma!.
    • Olympus, Greece: Mount Olympus where, according to Greek Mythology, the gods live.
    • Penny Lane, Liverpool, Great Britain: The Beatles song Penny Lane (though one could say the same of Liverpool in general).
    • Pismo Beach, California, USA: The location Bugs Bunny always looks when digging tunnels.
    • Point Pleasant, New Jersey, USA: Point Pleasant.
    • Prague, Czech Republic: The Golem
    • Reet, Belgium: Dutch comedian Dolf Brouwers had a Funny Foreigner Belgian character note  called Sjef Van Oekel, who was supposedly from Reet.
    • Route 66, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA: The song "Route 66".
    • San José, California, USA: The song Do You Know The Way To San José?
    • San Tropez, France: Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez.
    • Seaside Heights, New Jersey: Jersey Shore (although the show is a reality series and it's a popular resort town for New Jerseyans.
    • Seville, Spain: The Barber of Seville.
    • Shaolin Temple, China: Known from countless martial arts movies.
    • Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire, Great Britain: The hiding place of Robin Hood.
    • Sing Sing prison, Ossining, New York, USA: Is referenced a lot in comedies and cartoons, usually with a Punny Name variation.
    • Sleepy Hollow, New York, USA: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
    • South Park, Colorado USA: South Park (aversion, as the town in the show is completely fictional)
    • St. Louis, USA: The jazz standard St. Louis Blues.
    • Tipperary, Ireland: The song It's a long way to Tipperary.
    • Tollembeek,Belgium: Known in Flanders and the Netherlands from the comic strip Urbanus.
    • Tombstone, Arizona, USA: Tombstone.
    • Torquay, England: Known as the location of Fawlty Towers.
    • Trannsylvania, Romania: The home province of Dracula.
    • Trenchtown, Jamaica: Immortalized in Bob Marley's song Trenchtown Rock from Live!.
    • Tunisia: Hot, dry North African country where four of the Star Wars movies were filmed.
    • Twin Peaks, San Francisco, California: Two hills in San Francisco, made famous by the series Twin Peaks.
    • Van Cortlandt Park, North Bronx, NYC: This was where the infamous "CAAAAN YOU DIG IT?!" scene in The Warriors was shot.
    • Vermont, USA: The jazz standard Moonlight in Vermont and Captain Beefheart's "Moonlight on Vermont" from Trout Mask Replica.
    • Verona, Italy: The hometown of Romeo and Juliet
    • Vésoul, France: From the Jacques Brel song "Vésoul".
    • Vienna (Wien), Austria: Geschichte aus der Wienerwald ("Tales from the Vienna Woods") by Johann Strauss.
    • Winslow, Arizona, USA: The song "Take It Easy" by The Eagles.
    • Woodbury, Georgia: TheWalkingDead.
    • Yuma, Arizona, USA: Three Ten To Yuma.

Alternative Title(s):

Pop Culture, Popculture Osmosis