An Alternate Universe
where retro, vintage or antiquated technology, styles and aesthetics are still used, but which otherwise is or at least resembles The Present Day
. Often cultural styles from different time periods are mixed and matched, usually with those that date no later than The Sixties
Note that this is different from an Anachronism Stew
in that it is not intended as a representation of any actual historical period, but rather as a complete Alternate Universe
which may or may not have any ties to the "real world". This trope seems to exist to achieve a "classic" feel while avoiding romanticizing the past or having to deal with any of the messy problems that would have existed back then. Alternatively, it can be used to excuse what would otherwise be Politically Correct History
Retro Universes are popular settings for Steam Punk
and Urban Fantasy
. They may contain Zeppelins from Another World
, an Alternative Calendar
, Schizo Tech
, or a combination of the three. Can be confused with Purely Aesthetic Era
, watch your step.
When it's implied or even shown that the rest of the world is Like Reality Unless Noted
outside of a zone of weirdness, this trope can be a sign that you're in Lovecraft Country
, the Gothic South
, a Quirky Town
, or an Uncanny Village
. Just pray its not Stepford Suburbia
When it's unintentional, you may get Zeerust
or Two Decades Behind
. Such is especially common
in Long Runners
and/or settings that operate on Comic-Book Time
open/close all folders
- While not falling strictly into Steam Punk territory, Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis definitely evokes the feel of a Retro Universe, with much of its style reminiscent of the Thirties and Forties.
- Last Exile takes place in a steampunkish world where many of the airships have a streamlined 1930s-era appearance. Most of the fashions worn by the common people seem to date from the 1920s and '30s as well. Most of the military uniforms, however, seem distinctly 18th and 19th century, and the gowns worn by noble women look as though they date from the late Renaissance. In contrast to this, the costumes worn by members of the scientifically advanced Guild have more of an alien, Crystal Spires and Togas look to them.
- The Big O, inspired by Batman: The Animated Series. The setting is far enough in the future to have Giant Mecha, domed cities, genetically engineered monstrosities and other sci-fi tech; the aesthetic is pure prohibition-era.
- Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem was apparently set in 2005 (judging by the date written on a card at one point in the story), but everyone wears 1970s fashions.
- Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei is apparently an Alternate Universe from ours; televisions and the setting in general are very retro, but is technically happening in modern times. The years are given Showa era numbering, even when referring dates after 1989— for example, 2004 (Heisei 15) is still referred as Showa 89.
- One really odd example with Itoshki goes with Harumi (and his stalker) to a manga convention. Everyone else there is in Western casual clothing- jeans and t-shirts, and think that Itoshki and the stalker are cosplaying based upon their outdated outfits.
- It's actually an Invoked Trope: it's a plot to get the spirit of Kafuka, who was Dead All Along, to finally move on to the afterlife. She was an organ donor, you see, and the other girls in her class have parts of her in them — as well as her personality, which takes one of them over to play her role every time she appears in the series. All the retro touches to an otherwise modern universe are just an attempt to try and appease Kafuka.
- Zoids: Chaotic Century: Set on a distant planet in the far future. A world with animal like Mecha used to fight wars. One of the main powers, the Republic, has a capital city with skyscrapers and cars, and telephones that are rotary dial. The other main power, the Empire, has a capital city that looks like some cross between Berlin and ancient Byzantium. The rural areas are equally strange, featuring ancient ruins that look an awful lot like a shopping mall, and a town that looks a middle eastern Bazaar.
- Cowboy Bebop is set in 2070s, but the clothing, hair-styles, music and general mood come straight from the 1970s.
- The post-apocalyptic Arc de Grand City from Genocyber looks like a combination of Steam Punk with Twenty Minutes into the Future.
- Some of the UC and AU Gundam series seem to evoke this trope, most notably Gundam F91, Gundam Wing and Turn A Gundam. Can overlap with Zeerust.
- Sora No Woto is very evocative of the 19th and early 20th Century. If not for the whole After the End bit.
- Word of God is that Naruto is set in one of these. They have most of the technology and culture we have in the 21st century, but there are no guns or cars, electronic communication is extremely difficult/expensive over long distances, and video games are still in the 8-bit era.
- The Distant Finale shows technology has changed within the last dozen or so years. They had computers when Naruto was a kid but they weren't seen much. Naruto is shown using a laptop when he does hokage duties.
- Hunter × Hunter seems to take place in a fantasy world blended with modern day. There are mythical creatures, powers known as Nen, peaceful villages, and people travel on wooden ships and zeppelins, but there are also cell phones, cars, guns, big cities, computers, and video game systems that transport the user to a virtual reality.
- The cars and architecture of Gotham City in the Batman franchise seem to be perpetually stuck in the 1940s. One of the city's mottos is actually "The Dark Deco City". This is very notable in the 1989 movie and in Batman: The Animated Series.
- In 1999, much of Gotham City was damaged in an earthquake during the Cataclysm/No Man's Land event. This was used to justify an extensive architectural revamp that turned the city into a mix of 40s, modern and retro-futuristic architecture.
- In 2000, Metropolis was changed into a futuristic version of itself. It didn't stick.
- In the 1990s Fawcett City (home of Captain Marvel) was said to be permanently in the fifties due to a spell cast by the wizard Shazam. In its appearance in the recent Black Adam miniseries, it still has a Malt Shop.
- Which is actually not that surprising, as many small towns in the US have kept theirs out of nostalgia.
- Arcadia, the setting for Ghost, seems to be this with modern technology like computers, but also airships sailing the skies.
- The Incredibles. Note that the movie actually does take place in the early '70s — Edna Mode mentions several of Mr. Incredible's contemporaries dying in the late '50s — but you couldn't tell from the characters' modern slang and sensibilities. The movie takes place in the streamlined future envisioned by the 50s and 60s, not our world's 70s.
- Sin City is a perfect example of this, being set in the present day but with fashions, cars and the occasional lingo from the 1950s. Here, it makes sense because it is a pastiche of classic film noir.
- Director Wes Anderson likes to use this. In particular, The Royal Tenenbaums has such a distinctly 1970s style that the "2001" date on Royal's tombstone was quite jarring.
- Same with Rushmore, which has 1997 inscribed on the Swiss Army knife Dirk gives Max, but includes manual typewriters, tape machines, and a general aesthetic (clothes, buildings) skewed towards a late 60s/70s feel.
- Terry Gilliam's Brazil fits this neatly. Technology and culture are an odd mix of contemporary and early 20th century (computer monitors resemble 1950s television sets, for example), and clothing and architecture are mostly pre-1960s. The opening title even describes the film as "Somewhere in the 20th Century".
- Dark City: Looks like a mixture of everything between 1920 and the present day (1998). Justified in that the human inhabitants were abducted throughout the 20th century, and that the city was constructed from the recombining of their memories of different eras...
- Napoleon Dynamite took place in the present day, but the fashion trends were somewhere in the 1970s or '80s, the technology was '80s or '90s, and the music was an eclectic mixture of the '80s and '90s as well. Though this may be unintentional, as that's kind of how Preston, Idaho actually is.
- Streets of Fire is a self-described "Rock & Roll Fable" in a setting of retro-1950s and modern day, or at least what passed for modern in 1984.
- In the movie version of The Cat in the Hat, people still use rotary dial phones, but Dakota Fanning owns a Palm Pilot.
- Edward Scissorhands seems to be set in some kind of eerie cross between the 1950s and the 1980s.
- Somewhat justified when you remember it's a story a old woman was telling about her life as a teenager in the 50s to her grandchild in the 80s. How she aged so fast however is anyone's guess.
- I don't actually remember them actually giving a specific date for that framing story. Yes, it's her grandchild's interpretation of it (so: time frame of movie + 60 some years), but that's all we really know. Based on the little we see and are told about when they are, Edward Scissorhands framing device could be set anywhere from roughly now, if it's the 50s, to the 2040s, if it's actually the 80s.
- Hot Rod turns this Up to Eleven. Though taking place in the present, the whole movie is done in the style of a 1980s comedy, right down to the costumes and set designs.
- Pulp Fiction contains quite a few callbacks to previous time periods. Jules wears a Jheri curl hairstyle, popular in the 70s. The soundtrack is filled with a lot of surf rock from the 60s. Clutch Cargo plays on television in Butch's childhood flashback. A 50s theme diner plays a big part in the plot. The film takes its name from "pulp fiction," a style of fiction popular in the first half of the 20th century. The film poster apes the style of a pulp fiction magazine cover from around the 40s and 50s.
- The movie Brick is a film noir, complete with hard-boiled dialogue and '30s/'40s slang, set in a modern high school.
- In the film version of The Spirit takes place in a world where technology marched on, but the fashion and sensibility remained '40s noir. Dames dressed to the nines snap pictures of the Spirit's adventures with digital cameras.
- At first glance the Nathan Lane movie MouseHunt seems to be set in the in the 30s or 40s, but then you notice a coin that says 1973, more or less modern cars, video cameras and to top that, there's a Victorian sweatshop that is kinda justified since it was founded by the protagonists' father.
- Gattaca. Oppressive society with future tech and retro design.
- In Time, showing that culture has stagnated due to the wealthy ruling class living forever.
- Blade Runner has synthetic humans, skyscraper-spanning ads, intergalactic colonies, etc., in the year 2019, yet some of the characters still wear 30s-era clothing, while others have fixated on 70s punk.
- Daybreakers technically takes place Twenty Years In The Future. Yet if not for the near-future tech, people generally have reverted to a 1930s-40s atmosphere.
- Mars Attacks! (made in 1996) combined '50s/'60s military technology, a Rat Pack-era portrayal of Las Vegas, cars and clothes from the '70s and '80s, giant "brick" cell phones, and contemporary video games. And that was just the humans. The Martians were given deliberately anachronistic Raygun Gothic technology. Justified, given that the movie is a parody of classic Alien Invasion movies from The Fifties through The Eighties.
- Of course, cell phones were just going mainstream when the movie was made, so the brick phones seen could have just been an example of Two Decades Behind.
- Penelope has modern technology and (mostly) modern costumes, but the architecture and interior design look like early 20th century with a fairy-tale twist.
- Alan Rudolph's Trouble In Mind (from 1985) is set in some indeterminate near-future/alternate age where Seattle is under martial law, people act and dress like a 1940s noir drama, and the newest car is ca. 1972.
- "Blue Velvet" (1986) is meant to be a satire of Reagan era 1950s nostalgia, so everything from the clothes to the buildings to the cars make the film look as though it was filmed thirty years earlier or more. Only villain Frank Booth is ever shown using modern technology (a Roy Orbison cassette).
- Repo! The Genetic Opera takes place in a world that's halfway between 19th Century Steam Punk and 21st Century Cyber Punk. Black and white holograms, for example.
- Frankenweenie seems to take place in the '50s, but has references like Pluto not being a planet anymore. Word of God is it's not as retro as it seems but not exactly current day either.
- Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
- The wizarding world in the Harry Potter series never seems to advance beyond the 1930s in style. The third film adaptation goes so far as to feature a good deal of big band music, although the fourth movie portrays the Weird Sisters as a decently contemporary rock band. This is probably in keeping with the Death Eaters and such - the whole series' story is very similar to the muggle world's 1930s (and what happened from 1939 to 1945, except with magic.)
- Note, though, that it actually does take place in the 1990s, starting in 1991. Proof.
- Considering the total lack of interest for the muggle technology and culture the wizards display (except Mr Weasley, maybe); this could also be seen as a form of Medieval Stasis.
- Clothing is a complicated issue in the Potter Verse. In the books, magical characters are usually described wearing "robes" or "cloaks" with not much more description. In Goblet of Fire, it's mentioned that the Weasley kids wear "Muggle clothes" during the summer, implying robes are worn most if not all the time at Hogwarts. However, Mrs. Weasley makes the kids "jumpers" ("sweaters" to American readers) for Christmas and these are apparently not considered Muggle clothes and they are presumably being worn with some kind of trousers. In the movies, the kids seem to wear Muggle clothes whenever they are not in their school uniforms (Alfonso Cuaron is often blamed for starting this, but Chris Columbus did it too) while the adults' clothing is a mix between stereotypical wizardry outfits (Dumbledore, McGonagall, etc.) and outdated fashions (Rita Skeeter, for example, seems to think it's still the 1950s).
- Robert Rankin's version of Brentford. Frequent references are made suggesting a contemporary setting (most notably The Brentford Chainsaw Massacre, which involves getting a Lottery grant for Millennium celebrations), but it's decidedly 1950s-1960s in other ways, and they still use pre-decimal currency.
- Diana Wynne Jones's Chrestomanci series, in which the main world has reached a stage roughly equivalent to the early 1900s. Women wear long dresses, men dress formally and there are servants, but there is electric lighting, telephones and cars, though the cars aren't very widespread. But it is set in our present; in Charmed Life (published 1977) a girl from our own world remarks how old-fashioned everything is, and remarks that she always wears trousers at home and feels like "an Edwardian child" in a frilly dress and stockings. As the latest book, The Pinhoe Egg is set only a year or so after Charmed Life, presumably the year is still somewhere in the late seventies. The prequel The Lives of Christopher Chant is set about twenty-five years earlier; the feel is Victorian, with governesses, gas light, women in crinolines and men with side-whiskers and top hats.
- The visitor in Charmed Life suggests a justification for this in that the prevalence of magic has held back mechanical science. It might also be suggested that magic traditionally looks to ancient sources (though there are magical researchers in DWJ's world), thus encouraging social conservatism.
- In a similar vein, The Bartimaeus Trilogy is set in an Alternate History version of London. The year is never stated, but historical clues place it in the early 21st century. It has cars, planes, electric lights and computers, but sailing ships still seem to be the dominant form of sea travel, with "ironclads" being the most advanced naval technology.
- Space Captain Smith
- In Stephen Fry's novel Making History, 1990s America in the Hitler-never-born universe is socially very similar to the 1950s. Everybody Smokes, there's racial segregation and serious McCarthyite paranoia, and homosexuality is both illegal and highly taboo.
- Fitzpatrick's War and The Martian General's Daughter by sci-fi writer Theodore Judson combine this with Schizo Tech and some mild Punk Punk, taking place on Earth a few centuries into the future, when previous high technology and modern political systems have all but collapsed. Each is a Roman à Clef from Ancient Grome; one is the life of Commodus, the Roman emperor who was featured in Gladiator, and the other is the life of Alexander the Great.
- It's also revealed in Fitzpatrick's War that the whole affair was the result of a shadow government enforcing Medieval Stasis through the last bit of high technology on the planet.
- Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age has a neo-Victorian society in the near future. They combine nanotechnology with Victorian clothing, Victorian and Georgian architecture, and a pub that deliberately looks like a London pub during the Blitz of World War Two (tape on the windows, "Keep Calm and Carry On" posters). All this reflects and expresses their value system.
Live Action TV
- The BBC production of Gormenghast juxtaposes elements of different time periods to emphasise that it takes place in its own, timeless, ahistorical reality.
- Justified in LOST. The Dharma Initiative built research stations all over the island in the 1970s. The modern day islanders find and use these stations which leads to this.
- The ABC Dramedy Pushing Daisies seems to take place in a lavish 1950s universe where people have modern-day sensibilities and things like the Internet exist. The female characters wear fashions that have a '50s look and the show regularly includes street scenes with both '50s and present-day cars, although the '50s cars always seem to have dominance. In one episode, it is stated that the year is 2007 (the same year it aired).
- Some of the Alternate Universes shown in Sliders fit this trope.
- Caprica is set set sixty years before Battlestar Galactica and the level of technology is much higher (with total-immersion virtual reality and robot butlers), but the producers remind viewers that this is "the past" by adding certain cultural touches which are reminiscent of The Fifties: smoking is prevalent and allowed everywhere, professional men wear fedoras to work, then-futuristically-styled British and European vehicles from the fifties and sixties are on the roads, and there are shades of Fantastic McCarthyism.
- Kamen Rider Double is technically set in the present day, but the world is styled after hardboiled Film Noir.
- An episode of Fringe is entirely about a story told by Walter to children. This story is set in a noir-like world with Internet and cell phones but old-fashioned clothing. Of course, given that Walter was high when he told this story, this can be expected.
- Present in a more mild way in Midsomer Murders, a series which generally combines this trope with a Genre Throwback to the golden age of English detective literature during the inter-war period.
- The X-Files: The episode "Post-Modern Prometheus" takes place in such a universe, a retro-nineties filled with fifties cars and diners and other hints of a retro aesthetic, and eighties/nineties technology; it was filmed in Deliberate Monochrome, and delved into the wealth of "Frankenstein" tropes. Justified somewhat because it's a backwater town (whose inhabitants are obsessed with Jerry Springer), but the fifties cars took it into this territory.
- Father Ted is full of this, presumably due to the island's inhabitants being so isolated from the rest of the world. The layout of the parochial house is extremely 1970s, and they often play board games for entertainment. They are shown listening to records (e.g. the Eurovision track they almost used for the tune of My Lovely Horse), and are actually able to buy new ones (The BBC Sound Effects records) in John And Mary's shop in 1996, well after most other places would stop selling one. Also, when their Brazilian priest visits them, he brings them a VHS player, which they are astonished by as they think it must have been really expensive. The joke here is that he is obviously regifting them his old one.
- Camden in My Name Is Earl falls into this category. Although the series is set at the Turn of the Millennium, the clothing and technology is that of the late '80s or early '90s.
- 2007's Get Up! By Global Deejays and Technotronic is an example of a song froms the 2000s that draws heavily from 1980s and 1990s electronica, both in it's sound, and in the fashion and imagery in it's video.
- Peanuts takes place whenever the strip is released - a late strip even mentioned Harry Potter - however the fashion and general feeling never strays from The Sixties at latest.
- Space 1889. The complete slogan for the game goes: “Role-Playing In A More Civilized Time. Everything Jules Verne should have written. Everything H. G. Wells could have written. Everything A. Conan Doyle thought of, but never published because it was too fantastic.” Thus the game is obviously retro science fiction: a game about science fiction the way science fiction was a hundred years ago. The Space 1889 universe, however, is not retro from the perspective of people in that world since it takes place in an alternative year 1889 with 1889-current technology (plus some extra), fashion, politics, ideology, etc.
- The Fallout series is a classic example. Despite being set two centuries after a nuclear war that is still 60 years into our future, everything has old school art deco stylings, every computer has a monochromatic greenscreen, and the music consists of golden oldies from the early-mid 20th century. Note that all of this exists alongside Energy Weapons, Powered Armor, and androids indistinguishable from humans. Fallout America is an amalgam of all the decades of the Cold War, as well as the Sci-Fi Produced during those decades. The Forties give the setting its wartime propaganda, urging you to buy Victory Bonds. The Fifties give it their Pre-War fashions, car designs, and hysterical anti-communist propaganda; Fifties Sci-Fi gives it nuclear cars and the styling of its robots. The Sixties give it the use of the word "hippies" (in Fallout 3) and anti-war graffiti (all over Hidden Valley in New Vegas). The Seventies give it the punk fashion of the raiders and the pre-war oil crisis. The Eighties give it computers that look like Commodore 64s. The post-war civilizations also show elements of The Great Depression and The Wild West, showing how society reverted to a less technologically advanced time after the war disrupted human society.
- Mass Effect is another example, although it takes its inspiration from the 1970s/80s science fiction renaissance rather than the Golden Age science fiction often popular with this trope. The art style and trappings are, according to Word of God, deliberately evocative of films like Blade Runner, Alien, or The Wrath of Khan.
- Grim Fandango is ostensibly set sometime around The Nineties (the game was released in 1998), as there are office computers in the Land of the Dead. However, the style of architecture and clothing is firmly based in the '30s, '40s, and '50s. Justified, considering much of the population was probably alive during those decades, and would likely want to replicate them.
- Stubbs the Zombie takes place in the 50s, but the technology is much more advanced, similar to the Fallout series
- The Thief series takes place in a fantasy world very reminiscent of The Late Middle Ages. Yet, it also shows many Victorian influences in things like architecture, furniture, art, technology and attitudes. What's most intriguing is how both of these very different eras are combined nearly seamlessly (it helps that they're united by the whole City Noir atmosphere and Steam Punk aesthetic of the series).
- The Harvest Moon universe. Although ostensibly set in something resembling the present day (in one game you can buy a DVD player for your house, and in another, there's a modern periodic table hanging on the wall in the school, and the hospital in every game is generally very modern), everyone gets around on horse-drawn carriages, the designs are old-fashioned in their ruralness, and other technology is deliberately retro.
- Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life could pass for taking place in the 1900s - 1920s at first glance, but at times it looks decidedly modern, especially in clothing. It could pass for the 1970s at earliest, but it's set at the same time as Friends Of Mineral Town, which is noticeably more modern looking (it just looks like it's set in a small, rural town).
- Super Mario Bros. has many modern conveniences, but the world itself appears to be somewhere around medieval, or perhaps renaissance times.
- An odd example in Dead Space 3. While the other two games are pretty much straight examples of a Sci-Fi setting, the third takes place on, or in orbit of, a planet filled with ruins left behind by the Sovereign Colonies Armed Forces (a political entity that apparently no longer exists as of the time of Dead Space 3) 200 years earlier. The Sovereign Colonies technology and designs seem rather more primitive then the more "modern" examples seen in the earlier games. Their computer technology seems to be rather dated, many of their doors need to be opened manually, they use a lot more paper then is common in later time periods, they have black and white photographs on the walls (possibly due to aging, or the low light levels), the advertisements for the fictional drink called "Peng" which appear in Dead Space and Dead Space 2 are done in a cyber punk style, showing an attractive woman dressed in futuristic clothes, where as the advertisements for Peng from the Sovereign Colonies era however show women in a more 1950s pin-up style, similar to old school Coke ads.
- The universe that Skullgirls takes place in is reminscient of the 1930-40s, though both weapons and telecommunication technology seems to be at least a decade or two ahead; and it's implied that things like cellphones and video games (albeit in primitive forms) exist, too.
- The fashion, technology, and general styling of Psychonauts makes it seem like it's set in The Sixties or The Seventies however there's an official site similar to Friendster, setting it in the early to mid 2000s (the website dates it as 2003 but the game wasn't released until 2006).
- X-COM Apocalypse reeks of this - it's a mid-high scifi setting with handheld energy weapons, personal anti-gravity jetpacks, hovercars on every driveway, you name it. What's the catch? The city council has ordered that everything from handguns to heat-seeking missiles, no exceptions (well, okay, maybe a few), must maintain a very 50s-style aesthetic. Cars look straight out of the 50s and 60s, televisions (and television-analogues) have the classic slightly-rounded, slightly-bulging screen, and so on.
- According to Word of God, Bully was intended as an homage to teen movies past and present, which led them to throw in a lot of Schizo Tech and anachronistic fashion, especially from The Eighties, to create the game world. It's firmly set in the mid '00s time period in which it was developed — mention is made of MP3 players being banned at Bullworth Academy, for instance, while the old-looking computers could be handwaved as the school being too cheap to buy new ones (especially since the Nerds seem to have a more modern computer with a flat-panel screen at their hideout). On the other hand, the vehicle designs are pulled from the '50s through the early '90s, the Preppies look, dress, and speak like the villains of an '80s teen comedy, the Nerds' geeky fixation is an expy of Dungeons & Dragons rather than something more modern, and the Greasers seem like they stepped out of the '50s.
- Annyseed Many character wear Victorian clothing, yet some are a little more 1980s in style. Victorian machinery is often used alongside modern day mobile/cell phones. Ninjas go around with katana blades, and our heroine is dropped off at school by the latest Rolls Royce. - It's all good fun.
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: although apparently set in the present day, Generictown has a lot of elements of this, probably to make it seem more "quaint." Old-style TV aerials are visible on many houses, the town has a malt shop, some of the neighbors wear fedoras. This is lampshaded with a few characters to show how out-of-touch they are: the Dean having a TRS-80, Biff the art teacher being an aging hippy, about half of everything Mr. Bystander ever says — and most noticeably with Bob himself, who wears bellbottoms, drives a sedan that's got to be at least 30 years old, owns a rotary phone, a working Atari 2600, and a basement full of videotapes. The videotape collection is important because much of Molly's speech patterns derive from it, so she peppers her speech with references that date back to well before she was born.
- Justified in 1983: Doomsday. By that timeline's present, the most developed and powerful countries have only just recovered to 1980s or early '90s standards of living and technology; even those places that escaped World War III largely unscathed still had to weather a second Great Depression due to the collapse in trade. Meanwhile, the less fortunate parts of the world run the gamut from Mad Max-style wastelands to Schizo Tech survivor-nations ranging in tech level from early 20th century to pre-industrial, where swords coexist with helicopters and old-school radios.
- Jokingly invoked by The Onion: "Nation Gathers Around Radio Set To Listen To Big Ball Game"
- Used in the roleplaying forum Pacific Lockup, it technically takes place in modern times but everything has an 80s feel to it and there's still a Reagan in the white house.
- Late 80s/early 90s Disney cartoons like DuckTales, Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, Goof Troop, and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers invoke this to varying extents, usually with episode-specific themes (e.g. 50s style mobs, swashbuckling pirates, and historical-period towns all appearing in early 90s Earth).
- With DuckTales, at least, it was justified, since the Carl Barks comics on which the show was largely based had been produced in the mid-20th century. (And remember, Scrooge McDuck had been a gold prospector in the Klondike in the 1890s!)
- TaleSpin is explicitly set in The Thirties, the era where the Pulp Magazines that inspired it took place. One episode featured a prototype jet engine, with the characters reacting to it as if it were straight out of a science fiction story.
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius take place in the city of Retroville, which follows the trope.
- Several ''Rankin/Bass Productions" Christmas specials invoke this. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is shown to take place in the 1960s, Rudolphs Shiny New Year is shown to take place after 1965, but Rudolph And Frostys Christmas In July seems to take place at the turn of the century judging by clothing and the dialogue.
- Batman: The Animated Series. Architecture, clothes and cars in Gotham mostly resembles the 40s and 50s, but on the rare occasion that real dates are given the show is ostensibly set in The Present Day.
- The most jarring, yet awesome, part is the rare glimpses of Dick and Babs as civilians at Gotham University. They couldn't be dressed more for The Fifties if they tried. Case in point, Dick's red sweater vest ensemble.
- One episode featured the Joker robbing an electronics convention. A giant "DVD" logo can be seen in the background.
- The episode with the Grey Ghost showed a young Bruce Wayne watching the series as a child on a black and white tv in what seemed to be the 60s. At the end of the episode, the episode is shown to have taken place in late 1992.
- "Joker's Favor" shows someone's driver's license, where it shows he was born in the late forties or early fifties. Given the character's middle-age appearance, it shows that the show nominally takes place in the early nineties (the "present day").
- This changed back and forth throughout the series. Sub Zero has computers in hospitals and color tv, while Mask Of The Phantasm has little trace of the present day. The best explanation is that BTAS Gotham is a city that lives in the past. By the time the series was revamped into The New Batman Adventures it was completely in the nineties, however.
- When Batman: The Animated Series segued into Batman Beyond Gotham had become a Zeerust version of Cyberpunk.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold continues this trend by making it a bit of an Anachronism Stew. Modern innovations like cellphones, video games and the internet are around, but a lot of the buildings, cars, and characters have decidedly retro vibes. There's very little consistency in this regard, as one episode will have modern clothing and tech, while the next will have fedora-clad gangsters shooting at Batman with Tommy-guns.
- Though despite this retro vibe, the show definitely has modern social values. Nobody ever comments on the races of minority heroes like Firestorm, Blue Beetle and The Atom, nor the genders of characters like Vixen and Black Canary.
- Justice League: In the episode "Legends", half the team gets blown into an alternate 50s-style universe that invokes The Silver Age of Comic Books, and team up (after the obligatory Let's You and Him Fight, of course) with the Justice Guild of America, a team full of Captains Ersatz for the Justice Society of America. And oddly enough, all those characters are characters from comic books from Green Lantern's youth. Hawkgirl gets pissed at the gender standards, Green Lantern is happy to meet his idols (casually letting a You Are a Credit to Your Race comment slide), Flash is already so corny that he fits right in, and Martian Manhunter receives intense mental images of nuclear holocaust. Wait, what? Turns out in this universe the Cold War led to mutually assured destruction, but the Justice Guild sacrificed themselves to save as many as they could. A kid gained mental powers from the fallout, and basically became a purple, warty Reality Warper, recreating the Justice Guild and placing himself as their kid sidekick, and forcing the townspeople to live out their roles as extras (one man was trapped in an ice cream truck for forty years). Basically it was a weird episode, and the phrase "Nuns and Dynamite" was important in The Reveal.
- The style of Camp Lazlo was made to evoke the 1950s and 1960s summer camps, using brochures of that time as a main source to the art department.
- The Simpsons, at least in the 1990s episodes:
- Springfield is often shown as still selling contemporary music on LP and 45s, and (for the Simpsons family at least) televisions with dial tuners.
- Parodied in the newer seasons where the HDTV has rabbit ears, if not a comment on the popularity of cutting cable nowadays.
- They had a Betamax VCR well into the '90s at least.
- Krusty is a major celebrity due to hosting a live afternoon kids' show on TV, a notion that was already decades out of date when the show started.
- Much of this is because Matt Groening based the characters on members of his own family when he was growing up in the 1960s. He even explained that Marge has a three-feet-tall blue beehive hairdo because that is what his own mother's hair looked like (from his point of view) when he was much shorter than her.
- Hey Arnold! obviously takes place in the 1990s, but the boarding house gives off a retro feel, as does the rest of the neighborhood. Justified in the fact it's a historical area, the boarding house is over 100 years old, and he lives with his grandparents. Most of the vehicles, such as police cars and city buses seem to be from the 1950s though. The show also uses a jazz soundtrack, kind of like Peanuts and a recurring character is a Frank Sinatra Expy.
- Archer has fashions from the 60s, cars from the 70s, computers from the 80s, and cell phones from the 21st century. Lampshaded in the episode 'Lo Scandalo'.
Archer: The what?! Wait, doesn't Italy use a king?
Lana: No, they don't "use a king!"
Malory: What year do you think this is?!
Archer: I... yeah, exactly. Good question.
- Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot takes place in a world with complex robot AI and holographic recording devices, but there's retro-futuristic styling to the computers and microphones (pic◊; and another◊). The cars tend towards "classic," and the military seems to be structured as it was before the Air Force split off from the Army.
- Regular Show explicitly takes place in the modern day (in one episode time travel TO the 80s is involved), but things generally have an 80s-to-early-90s atmosphere. All video games are Atari 2600-level, VHS is the only video format, casette tapes are still in use alongside CDs, and computers are boxy with CRT monitors and multiple peripherals. Even the most modern cellphones are circa 2004. Going by the episode "The Real Thomas", the USSR may not have collapse (dialogue only mentions "Russia", but "CCCP" appears in a number of background text).
- Thomas the Tank Engine is ambiguous in its setting - the fashions suggest 1940s/50s, but locomotives from the 1820s through to the 1970s appear. Modern architecture exists, but at the same time there seem to be steam locomotives working the railways of wherever-the-Mainland-is. A flashback to Duck's younger days depicts people in Victorian costume standing in front of a building from the 1940s and one to Hiro's past puts him in Tokugawa-era Japan, even though his class of locomotive was built during the Second World War.
- Fat Albert is supposed to be based on Bill Cosby's childhood and thus should be set around the early to mid 1950s. This is reinforced by one of the Junkyard gang actually being the young Bill himself. However, the show has aspects of The Seventies and The Eighties (color television, video games) and also occasionally handles issues that weren't around, or prominent during Cosby's youth.
- Invoked heavily in Ed, Edd n Eddy. It was designed to seem like it could take place in a multitude of eras in order to appeal to a broader audience. It mostly looks 70s but is heavily implied to take place in the 2000s.
- The Amish (and other similar groups such as the Mennonites) are a perfect example as different groups have different standards to what technology they'll accept (typically, they'll accept technologies that help them do their work or are absolutely required by their limited interactions with the outside world, while avoiding things that would undermine their culture). It's possible to see a Mennonite farm with a modern tractor using GPS tracking for computerized crop planning, and no phone or TV in the house.
- Large part of what you might call the Third World still uses technology from decades or even centuries ago as part of their infrastructure, because it is that hard to change, but that doesn't stop locals who can afford it to get imported tech, usually of the portable kind. There's nothing strange, really, about a shepherd boy that looks like he stepped out of Biblical times playing his Gameboy while keeping an eye on the family's sheep.
- Sometimes the tech that is used comes in because it makes more sense to skip a tech-generation or two. Cell phones are a good example as in many countries they've gone directly from no long-distance communication straight to cells/smartphones because it's easier to set up some towers to provide coverage around a village and link it by satellite to other systems than it is to string copper for landlines.
- One somewhat amusing example is Cuba, where due to trade embargoes, the streets are full of lovingly maintained classic 1950s American automobiles. Many cars have had nearly every part replaced by exact, locally made duplicates a number of times. Cuba's auto mechanics are renowned as some of the best in the world, simply by sheer necessity.
- Brazil's Tectoy company is known for continuing to produce the Sega Genesis well into the 2000s, about 10 years after it disappeared from other markets. The system remains popular amongst poorer communities because of its cheap cost, and easily pirated games. In recent years, it's not uncommon to find stores full of new Genesis games, even if they were pirated.
- PJ O'Rourke noticed while visiting Somalia in the early 90s that everyone was wearing bell-bottoms - a natural consequence of first-world residents donating their out-of-style clothes to aid groups.
- This can also apply to cases of foreigners speaking English. In some countries that have been cut off from most of the rest of the modern world for decades - specifically, former totalitarian states or countries just making the transition to democracy - people learn American English by practicing from American grammar books; problem is, often these textbooks are enormously outdated, containing idioms and slang from, say, the '50s. Americans in foreign lands in recent years have sometimes reported natives striking up conversations with them and mentioning that something is "peachy keen" and the like. In Rangoon, Burma, if you eavesdrop on enough people out on the streets in the early evening, you'll hear them talking in just this fashion. One reporter also noted that the Burmese have recently been exposed to American classic rock, and enjoy discussing lyrics that are pretty obtuse even for native English speakers: "What does it mean when they say, 'We are all just prisoners of our own device'?"
- 20th Century Castles - a real estate company specialising in decomissioned Cold War-era bunkers and missile silos.