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Purely Aesthetic Era
Age of Sail-era vending machine, owned by a used boat salesman. Just wait until you get to the amusement park!
Diabetes: Are we in ancient times?
Woman: Can't you tell by what you're wearing?
God by Woody Allen

When writers attempt to set a story in a vaguely historical time period, but don't do their homework, an Anachronism Stew can arise—cities, people, inventions, and terms get thrown around in places they're entirely inappropriate. While an ordinary person won't notice them, someone interested in history will have their Willing Suspension of Disbelief shattered to pieces.

However, sometimes, telling a story (or being funny) is more important than being historically accurate. So while a story may theoretically be set in, say, ancient Peru, you'll find truck stops, people slipping on over-waxed floors, Lawyer Friendly Boy Scouts, and who knows what else. A bit like Present Day Past, only applied to the whole of history— liberally and without remorse for all those poor history majors. While an Anachronism Stew can be pretty subtle if you don't pay attention in history class— "Hey! They didn't call it the Caribbean during the 1600s!"— a Purely Aesthetic Era is blatant and intentional. It may be Hand Waved with an Alternate History, but most folks don't even try to explain it.

It's funny and cool. Don't question it and just relax.

Contrast Decade Dissonance, where it's ostensibly done on purpose by the inhabitants. Compare Retro Universe, where the setting technically is the present day or close, but with the aesthetic stylings (and sometimes some of the technology) of the past.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 
  • Samurai Champloo has hip-hop and goodness only knows what else in feudal Japan, just for the cool of it.
  • Gin Tama sometimes uses its Alternate Universe Meiji setting as an excuse for this.
    • Which lead to the best Q&A ever
    "That Shinsengumi member was born in this prefecture, not the one you said."
    "Thank you for pointing that out. I'll get to fixing it as soon as I figure out why there's aliens in the Meiji era."
    • Before you knew it, the story took place not in Meiji but in 2012.
  • Black Butler and Count Cain both take place in Visual Kei Victorian England. The Black Butler anime removed many but not all of the more obvious anachronisms, but the manga has video games and mobile phones.
  • The Naruto universe's society is based on feudal Japan and its most industrial village is essentially Steam Punk, yet Konoha has things like fluorescent signs, live-streaming video chat (though stylized to look somewhat primitive), and all the conveniences of modern day when it's convenient. Word of God is that they have access all aspects of modern technology outside of weapons and transportation.

    Comic Books 
  • Astérix. The series is less Anachronism Stew than an Anachronism *Steak*. The comics largely use Roman-era cultures with modern day cultural stereotypes, characters have names like Fulliautomatix (a blacksmith) and Timandahaf (a viking chieftain) and there are 1st-century equivalents of modern day things, including sports chariots and text-messenger pigeons. Oddly enough combined with Shown Their Work, as the artists are usually making up a modern connection half the time and accurately depicting something modern that actually existed at the time for the other half.

    Film - Animated 
  • The Emperor's New Groove goes crazy with this one. It's allegedly set in a fictional, Inca-like Peruvian empire, but it makes no attempt to stay true to this. At one point, the producers themselves even admitted, "What the heck—we've broken every other historical rule; let's throw in a truck stop."
  • Disney movies do this a lot. Disney's Hercules had Hercules action figuresnote  and soft drinks for sale, promoting the eponymous hero. Not to mention a credit card...
  • Mulan had the anachronisms more as one-off jokes, but they were still there: One character laments in a song, "Boy, was I a fool in school for cutting gym!" The Absurdity is not that education would include gymnastics, but that a simple peasant turned soldier would've gone to school.note 
  • The Shrek movies are set in a Medieval European Fantasy setting, yet there is photography (the Duloc information booth), television broadcasts (seen through magic mirror, but still...), and modern day-style high schools complete with cheerleaders and pep rallies. Donkey sings '90s era pop tunes, and Shrek himself occasionally says anachronistic phrases like "Hold the phone," and "Oh, no you didn't!" It's all part of the whole Deconstructive Parody thing the series is known for.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • A Knight's Tale... set in the 14th century, but with 1970s rock music. Word of God claims that the music is a kind of audible Translation Convention. Authentic 13th century music would just sound old to modern audiences, so updating the music to modern-day stuff allows the audience to understand what the music means to the characters. Or something.
    • More accurately, the modern music (often associated with modern day sports) is meant to get the audience as pumped up for the sport of jousting as the characters are. It's also worth noting that the music, which outside of maybe one scene is purely non-diagetic, is the only aspect of the film that really applies for this trope.
  • The infamous The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: While tanks, automatic rifles and a Cool Car might be justified as Alternate History with minor Steam Punk and/or Diesel Punk elements (the film is ostensibly set in 1899, and all of the above would be invented by the 1920s), when you have the aforementioned car having the performance of a Ferrari despite it supposedly being the first automobile ever made and a Nautilus the size and shape of the bottom half of an aircraft carrier equipped with cruise missiles and radar tracking, it's a clear sign that this trope is in effect.
  • Any Mel Brooks film that isn't set in the present,or once upon a time warp...
  • Giddily played with in Tom Stoppard's Shakespeare in Love. Though the film is otherwise quite compliant about historical accuracy, there are little digs put in, such as a mug reading "Souvenir of Stratford-Upon-Avon" and an Apothecary to whom Will relates all his... inspiration troubles.
    • Another example of Stoppard playing with this one: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, with Rosencrantz constantly inventing aspects of modern life, such as the hamburger, the theory of gravity, or those swinging beads that businessmen put on their desks.

    Literature 
  • "The Knight's Tale" from Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. It's allegedly set in Ancient Greece, but the culture displayed is clearly that of medieval western Europe. (E.g., Theseus appears in the role of a feudal lord.)
  • This is basically a feature of every medieval romance or chanson de geste. At least one features the Roman Emperor Augustus and his wife, who have had no luck conceiving a child so far, praying to Jesus for help. Emperor Augustus died in 14 A.D, long before Jesus was supposed to have started his work.

    Live Action TV 

    Music 
  • If any principle governs the time-travellers of Thin White Rope's song "Around", it's the Rule of Cool:
    Dave I saw your tiny face around a leper's tit
    Jesus walked right by you and you didn't give a shit
    Andy killed an animal; he killed it with his hands
    And gave it all to me because I was a woman then

    I remember Clay was suffering from some disease
    That he picked up in London in the 1470s
    Got to laugh at Lloyd; he will deny it to his death
    That he's the one who never could extract that pound of flesh
  • Tinie Tempah's Wonderman music video is ostensibly set in the 70s, parodying The Six Million Dollar Man. Despite this, a Blackberry Playbook, Paget wristwatch, and modern exercise machines are prominently displayed.
  • SHINee's "Sherlock" music video is ostensibly Victorian, but they use a MacBook (Bland Name Producted to "iWatson") and 1910 is in the past.

    Theatre 
  • The Skin Of Our Teeth, at least the first act, is set in Suburbia sometime around One Million BC (complete with talking baby dinosaur). The audience is told not to take this seriously.
  • Woody Allen's play God is nominally set in ancient Greece, but the characters on stage are aware that outside the Fourth Wall is modern day New York. It doesn't get more serious in the Show Within a Show, which also has No Fourth Wall.
  • Played with in George Herman's two-act play A Company Of Wayward Saints. Ostensibly set during the commedia dell'arte era (16th-17th century Italy), the characters will occasionally mention something vaguely anachronistic just to keep audiences on their toes - and at one point, a character refers to whatever town they're in at the moment (Green Bay, Wisconsin, for example) just to get a laugh and some Cheap Heat. The gimmick is lampshaded in the scene in which two of the actors have to improvise a depiction of human adolescence for a (fictional) duke. Scapino, the Loveable Rogue of the troupe, puts on a straw hat and begins to act like Tom Sawyer, complete with a 19th-century Missouri dialect - at a time when most people should be barely aware that America exists at all! Scapino's fellow troupe members are puzzled by this; even their leader, Harlequin, can only guess that Scapino just made up the accent on the spot!
  • Pippin, supposedly set in the time of Charlemagne, but has about as little respect for historical accuracy as it has for the fourth wall. The high point of anachronism is reached when Pippin steps up to a microphone to deliver a campaign speech.
  • Although lots of Shakespeare plays have Anachronism Stew, The Merry Wives of Windsor falls into this. It is nominally set in the Middle Ages, as it is a sort of sequel to Henry IV Part I (and is possibly out of continuity given the events of Henry IV Part 2 and Henry V), as Falstaff and his cronies feature in the play and the young lover Fenton is described as a friend of Prince Hal. However, the play is Shakespeare's single outing into the genre of contemporary-set City Comedy (although [[dissimile Merry Wives takes place in the Country, not the City), and many scholars think that it reflects some of Shakespeare's own experiences growing up in the English countryside. In terms of anachronism, Falstaff mentions potatoes, which were unknown in Henry IV's England, but had been introduced to England a little over a decade before the play was written.

     Video Games 
  • The Monkey Island series. Coke-style grog machines, Stan the used car ship salesman, a pirate barbershop quartet, Starbuccaneers...
    • "Must be this shoddy, 17th century electrical wiring..."
    • It's played with, as the second game suggests that this may be due to the entire game being the fantasy of a child lost in a theme park. Many of the supposed anachronisms were possibly subtle hints towards this. As the original creator and team left before the mystery could be answered, however, this became an Aborted Arc and the remaining games have played the trope straight.
  • This is arguably the point of the Shadow Hearts series. While its very subdued in its prequel Koudelka, it gets worse and worse as the games come out, and by the time we reach From the New World, we have South American Ninja, aliens, a giant talking cat who is a gangster, and the main character dressed like a teenager from the 90s... in what is supposed to be the 1920s.
  • Yo-Jin-Bo seems to be made of this. Ronin who like to watch Back to the Future and make Star Wars references? Yup.
  • The setting of the Iron Grip series is best described as this. Fully justified, since it's a textbook example of a Punk Punk Constructed World.
  • The arcade brawler 64th Street takes place in the year 1939, but features punks ripped straight out of the 1980s and steampunk robots.

    Web Comics 
  • Bruno the Bandit is chock full of this. Roughly medieval setting, with phones (cellular and otherwise), computers, TV, modern-style advertising agencies (or parodies thereof, anyway)...
  • The Order of the Stick likes this. The values and knowledge pool of the characters tend to match up with modern day including having the local Wizarding School set up like a high school, all of this despite the comic being set in the "standard medieval fantasy setting" time-period.
    • At one point Elan is trying to board an Airship (in the rather Steampunk cross-over town of Cliffport) but can't gain passage because he's a D&D style character and only Final Fantasy characters are allowed on board. So, while some higher level technologies EXIST in that world, there seem to be some strict segregation laws in place to try and maintain consistency based on the individual's own appropriate time period.
  • Problem Sleuth is set during The Roaring Twenties, but you'd never know that if it didn't mention bootlegging and Prohibition. They don't even bother with the aesthetics.

    Web Original 
  • Noka lives in a universe best described as a car crash consisting of several settings, with medieval fantasy and modern day in the middle of it all. While magic does exist, most people that do possess the ability to use it spend more time powering dead remote controls rather than shooting bolts of lightning.
  • Mr Deity justifies this by having the main characters be able to move through time at will, though the exact mechanics are unclear.

    Western Animation 
  • The Flintstones may not have done it first, but they definitely did it most visibly. It had cavemen celebrating Christmas. They have to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christrock, of course.
  • Batman: The Animated Series seems to take place in a strange mish-mash of eras. The cars and art-deco landscape of Gotham is out of the 20s/30s, TV is still in black and white but personal computers are common (and the Bat-computer itself has a large color screen).
  • Dave the Barbarian is theoretically set in Europe in the Middle Ages. That doesn't stop the heroes from dropping by the local mall Great Indoor Marketplace, though, or making musicals about donuts.
    • It was lampshaded once when Dave asked Candy where the (clothes) dryer is, and she responded that dryers haven't been invented yet. Then she says to just use her hair-dryer.
    • There was also the time when Dave invented a megaphone out of a squirrel, rope, and... a megaphone.
  • Another Flintstones-inspired cartoon was the short-lived The Roman Holidays. The Roman Empire meets The Sixties.
  • Archer appears to be set in the present day, yet they have the 60s-70s spy thing going on and the KGB (disbanded in 1991) still exists. Even Word of God says that the show's era is "ill-defined". Lampshaded in that whenever a character asks something along the lines of "What year is this?", Archer usually reacts with some degree of disbelief.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated ostensibly takes place during modern times, with the internet and smart phones, but all the fashions are stuck in the 60s and the technology all looks like it's from the 90s.
    • This excludes some of the futuristic tech coming from Destroido and Quest Tech. Granted, given the unusual state of things due to the Nibiru entity influencing time for many centuries, this is understandable.
  • Any time The Backyardigans are put in a particular time period, it tends to be this. A particularly notable example is in "Match on Mt. Olympus", in which Pablo and Tyrone become Ancient Greek newscasters. Justified as they're really just kids imagining themselves in the time period.


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