Ripped from the Headlines
: Hey, when do we get the check for this? Marge
: Well, they said they changed it just enough so they don't have to pay us.
— The Simpsons
, "Bart the Murderer" (watching "Blood on the Blackboard: The Bart Simpson Story" Docu-drama)
It's that mostly familiar, spiffed up and neatly tied off version of the sensationally violent yet true story
you didn't want to read in the papers anyway. Double points if the real crime sounds like something fictional. Sometimes a murder is added to the real story to make it work as an episode.
Often seen on Law & Order
and its various spinoffs (in fact, their commercials provide the Trope Namer
), though it is used in many Crime And Punishment
shows. However, the original inspiration behind the title was the stock Warner Brothers film studio's tagline "Torn from today's headlines!"; Warners used this catchphrase often beginning in the 1930s to promote the gritty realism of their "social problem" films.
Most often seen in political cartoons, where the entire purpose is to comment on current events.
The Evil Twin
of this trope is Could This Happen to You?
. Done poorly, this can come across as We're Still Relevant, Dammit
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Anime and Manga
- The Astro Boy story Capetown Lullaby, written in the mid-sixties, was inspired by the issue of racial segregation in the US and South Africa, substituting robots for black people. Astro even gets told to move to the back of a bus. A few other stories have nods to current events, despite ostensibly taking place in the future. Yellow Horse, published in 1956, which was declared "International Geophysical Year", features both drug smugglers and police using different scientific survey missions as covers. The Midoro Swamp, where Astro fights an army of living dinosaurs was inspired by sightings of the Loch Ness Monster making headlines... and it also features several characters eating soft-serve ice cream because the manga was written shortly after it first went on sale in Japan.
- Osamu Tezuka also often did this with Black Jack. For instance, there really were a number of infanticides in which unwanted babies were left to die in train station coin lockers, although whether or not any of them were rescued by female street gang leaders is another matter.
- Mainstream comic books don't do this too often (save for major events like World War II or 9/11) lest they date themselves, but in X-Men, one of the reasons Nightcrawler quit his divinity studies was the rash of child abuse cases surrounding the Catholic Church in the early 2000's. He wondered how God could allow such a thing.
- Showing this trope is Older Than They Think, a Golden Age Human Torch story contained a reference to an actor named "Lawson Bell", who had staged a radio hoax involving a Martian invasion of Earth.
- A Batman comic once took on the conspiracy theory that The Beatles secretly replaced Paul McCartney with a lookalike after the original died in an accident: in the comic, Robin is a fan of a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of the Beatles followed around by a similar rumor, and asks Batman to investigate. (Batman ultimately uncovers the shocking truth that the Paul-analogue is the only member of the band who hasn't been secretly replaced after dying in an accident.)
- John Byrne inverts this oddly, as he said a few times in interviews that sometimes what he writes about actually happens in real life. A big example is where Wonder Woman died (and was at this time referred to as Princess Diana in universe) in an issue released the same month the actual Princess Diana (of Wales) died.
- Earlier on, during his reboot of Superman, Superman was to make his public debut by rescuing a space shuttle that Lois Lane, the only civilian there, was on. When the Challenger disaster occurred, claiming the lives of all crew (and the sole civilian, a woman) the shuttle was changed to a completely unrealistic "space plane".
- Even earlier on, John Byrne wrote an issue of The Avengers where their usual duties were complicated by a city-wide blackout in New York. No sooner had the issue come out, New York City suffered a massive blackout.
- Superhero comics got a nasty shock when 9/11 happened, as 9/11 actually sounds a lot like a comic book plot. DC and Marvel had a rather hard time figuring out how to address 9/11 properly in universes in which gods, aliens, giant robots, and supervillains with otherworldly powers and weapons of mass destruction terrorize American citizens, especially New Yorkers, with death and mayhem on a rather regular basis.
- Marvel put out several specials, the proceeds of which went to 9/11-related charities, and this was lampshaded multiple times, ESPECIALLY with Spider-Man, and handled in a rather realistic (for the setting) fashion. When addressed directly, it was either a case of "so busy with giant gaudy supervillains, 13 separated plain-clothed men slipped by unnoticed", or they basically said "We'll figure out who to blame later and deal with the tragedy now!" or, in at least Spider-Man's case, he spent a long while with no answer to the question, no excuse, no reason at all.
- Slightly more cynical readers might point out that the Twin Towers were destroyed multiple times in Marvel Comics, often by the same villains shown crying in the aforementioned Spider-Man issue.
- Tintin did this constantly in the first periodic strips published in the 1930s, to the point that modern readers might fail to get what were at the time obvious references to world events. The situation changed after Those Wacky Nazis invaded Belgium and direct commentary on those world events became... unwise. Hergé spent the war writing more light-hearted stories with no political commentary, and after the war many of the 1930s strips were re-released in book form with the more swallow references (like to popular 1930s films and actors) deleted.
- The early Tintin in America (1931-1932) has Tintin go to Chicago to bring down Al Capone, the only time he has a real person as an antagonist.
- Cigars of the Pharaoh (1932-1934) is inspired by the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb and the post-World War One wars in the Middle East that shaped Saudi Arabia's borders as they are today. While adrift at the Red Sea, Tintin is saved by a then famous French mercenary/smuggler that operated in the area.
- The Blue Lotus (1934-1935) has Tintin stumble on a Japanese plot to stage a False Flag Operation blowing up the Shanghai-Nanking railway as a pretext to invade China. This is an obvious jab at the Mukden Incident.
- The Broken Ear (1935-1937) is based on the Chaco War, and features an international Arms Dealer modeled on Basil Zaharoff.
- King Ottokar's Sceptre (1938-1939) is inspired both by the German annexation of Austria and the Italian invasion of Albania.
- Land of Black Gold (1939-1940) was originally set in the British Mandate of Palestine and dealt with Irgun insurgency. Publication was cancelled before the ending because of World War II and when it was due to be resumed in 1948 it was deemed obsolete. The story was edited heavily and released as set in a fictional Arab country torn by civil war.
- Mark Waid's Daredevil run had an issue inspired by the Trayvon Martin killing, with the only real difference being that the racist shooter was a woman instead of a man.
- In the wake of the controversy surrounding the United States' use of drones in The War on Terror, Secret Avengers did a storyline about Iron Patriot drones running amok and killing innocent civilians in a Middle Eastern nation. Unlike the real world situation, War Machine and the Hulk stepped in to save the day.
- Mortadelo y Filemón: Ever since the end of the Spanish Democratic Transition in 1977 (and thus, the end of Franco's dictatorship censorship system), Ibáñez very often bases (very loosely) his stories in Real Life current events.
- Ibáñez rarely did this during the Silver Age (early 80s). It wasn't until the 90s (let's be generous and say late 80s) that Real Life was referenced in the comics (either as celebrity cameos or as stories based on Real Life events, and until the XXI century that it played a big role in them.
- The Judge Dredd storyline "Mega-City Confidential" is a clear commentary on the NSA/GCHQ surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden. Crucially, even Dredd feels that Justice Deparment's spying is going too far.
- The EC Comics story "The Bribe!" (Shock SuspenStories #7) is loosely based on the story of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire. The Cocoanut Grove passed a fire safety inspection eight days before it burned down, causing hundreds of deaths; that the Cocoanut Grove's owners had bribed the inspectors was alleged but never proven.
- Fritz Lang did this a lot:
- The child serial killer in M, lynch mob justice in Fury.
- And You Only Live Once (1937) was based on Bonnie and Clyde, who had been gunned down just three years before that film hit the theatres.
- "Dirty" Harry Callahan fought obvious stand-ins for the Zodiac Killer (in Dirty Harry) and the Symbionese Liberation Army (in The Enforcer).
- Lampshaded in Zodiac (2007) with the obvious Aesop that Real Life crimes aren't always solved by shooting someone.
- The Japanese Tear Jerker Nobody Knows is about a much-publicized incident in which a single mother abandons her four children, forcing them to fend for themselves, and one of the child is killed by a sibling's friends. The film can be seen as a subversion of this trope, as the real-life incidence is more brutal than what is depicted on film.
- The Zodiac Killer, an odd film that is half accurate and half sleazy, exploitative fiction, was released around the height of the real Zodiac's rampage, as was the sexploitation flick The Zodiac Rapist, starring John Holmes.
- The Jerk Jock villains in The Rage: Carrie 2 were, sadly enough, Truth in Television — they were based on the Spur Posse, a group of athletes at a California high school who used a point system to keep track of their sexual conquests, and wound up being let off on charges of statutory rape.
- Bobby Thompson in the Boris Karloff horror movie Targets is essentially the real-life mass-murderer Charles Whitman with the serial numbers filed off.
- In Trading Places, the Duke brothers' attempt to corner the frozen concentrate orange juice market was inspired by the "Silver Thursday" crash of March 27, 1980, when the Hunt brothers of Texas attempted to corner the silver market, and ultimately failed to meet a $100 million margin call.
- Bloody Wednesday, loosely based on the "McDonald's massacre" perpetrated by James Huberty, was made very shortly after the actual event.
- All the school shooting films (like Zero Day) released in the wake of Columbine.
- Psycho Cop Returns, released in 1993, ends with Officer Vickers being on the receiving end of a Rodney King-inspired beatdown, complete with videotaping bystander.
- Before all the car chases and explosions happen, the cult in Never Say Die instigates a mass suicide similar to the one instigated by the People's Temple in Jonestown, Guyana.
- Invoked in The Player, which has movie executive Larry Levy suggest that studios "eliminate writers from the artistic process" and instead take movie stories from newspaper stories.
- Cyberbully is ABC Family's attempt to make a "realistic" drama about a real issue teens face. (in this case, cyberbullying).
- The plot of The Godfather Part III was based on the Banco Ambrosiano of the 1980s.
- The plot of In & Out, where an award-winning actor thanks his old gay high school teacher, while being unaware he was still in the closet, thereby giving him tons of unwanted attention, was inspired by Tom Hanks' Oscar acceptance speech at the 1994 Academy Awards where he unwittingly did the same thing to his own old high school teacher.
- The Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was based on the end of the Cold War, with the United Federation of Planets taking the role of NATO and the Klingon Empire, the Soviet Union. The explosion of the Klingon moon Praxis was a reference to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant incident. The film was written, filmed, and edited before the USSR began to collapse.
- Alfred Hitchcock also did this a lot, though some of his films were adapted from novels that were ripped from the headlines.
- In the 60-s, Yakov Kostyukovsky read in a newspaper that a few Swiss people tried to smuggle jewels in an orthopedic cast. He took that idea, and the result was The Diamond Arm, one of the best known Soviet comedies ever.
- The plot of Ace in the Hole was inspired by two real-life events. Cave explorer W. Floyd Collins was trapped in a cave in 1925, and a three-year-old girl, Kathy Fiscus fell into an abandoned well in 1949. Just like in the film, the victims became media sensations and died before they were rescued.
- Elysium: It doesn't need to be said that in 2013, wealth disparity and societal division in spite of constantly emerging technologies that have the potential to improve everyone's lives is a hotly debated issue.
- Network took inspiration from two news events of the mid-1970s: the on-air suicide of newscaster Christine Chubbuck, and the terrorist activities of the Symbionese Liberation Army.
- Subverted by Fargo. It claims to be based on actual events, but in reality it's not even loosely based on anything that actually happened.
- Though the scene with the wood chipper being used to dispose of the body was inspired by what happened to murder victim Helle Crafts, except it was her husband who forced her body through the wood chipper. That case was the first one in Connecticut where a murder conviction was secured without a body (because only several ounces of body was ever recovered).
- Agatha Christie example: part of Murder on the Orient Express, the Daisy Armstrong kidnapping, is clearly based on the Charles Lindbergh case.
- Christie's The Mirror Crackd borrows its pivotal backstory from the real life of actress Gene Tierney, to the extent that if you happen to be familiar with it, the crime is not terribly difficult to solve before Miss Marple solves it.
- It's worth noting, however, that Christie always denied that she knew anything about the real-life incident when she wrote The Mirror Crack'd and that the similarities were completely coincidental (though if true, it was quite a coincidence).
- Jodi Picoult's books often take two issues that are in the news Up to Eleven. My Sister's Keeper (in-vitro fertilization, ethics), Handle with Care (aborting a disabled child), Change of Heart (religion, death penalty, organ donation), and most recently Sing You Home (lesbians having families, in-vitro fertilization). The Pact is about a Suicide Pact and Teen Pregnancy, Salem Falls is about being falsely accused of rape, and Mercy is about assisted suicide.
- Older Than Radio: Edgar Allan Poe did it with the short story "The Mystery of Marie Roget," which is based on the real-life disappearance and apparent murder of an American woman named Mary Rogers.
- Walter Gibson noted in an article in The Great Detectives (edited by Otto Penzler) that he based the Shadow's foe Double Z on the then contemporary terrorist Three X.
- Joyce Carol Oates is very fond of fictionalizing real cases of murder and violent death, sometimes sticking very close to actual events but going inside the minds of the people involved, sometimes departing much farther. Some examples are My Sister My Love (Jon Benet Ramsey), Zombie (Jeffrey Dahmer), "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" (Charles Schmid), "Dear Husband" (Andrea Yates), "Landfill" (John Fiocco), and Black Water (Mary Jo Kopechne).
- All We Know of Heaven by Jacquelyn Mitchard is based on a real story about two girls who are in a car accident. One girl dies. Unfortunately, the hospital identified the wrong one as dead. In real life, the families were very nice about it and handled themselves well. The book adds more drama and a love story.
- Two of the most memorable Sherlock Holmes villains, Charles Augustus Milverton and Professor James Moriarty, were based on real life criminals Charles Augustus Howell and Adam Worth respectively.
- Many of the newspaper clippings mentioned in H.P. Lovecraft's masterpiece "The Call of Cthulhu" were literally ripped from the headlines of the days in question; for example, the earthquake, the architect's suicide, and the theosophist society's apocalyptic expectations were really reported in the New York Times on the stated dates.
- Laura Lippman's What the Dead Know is partially based on the disappearance of the Lyon Sisters in 1975.
- The Passage by Justin Cronin has this as the Gulf Oil Spill is mentioned to be still causing problems 100 years later.
- Saving Zoë is about a girl named Zoë who was killed by a "photographer" she met on MySpace. Ripped from stories such as the "Facebook killer" or the "Craigslist Killer" and many others.
- "Delial", the girl Navidson frequently mentions in House of Leaves, turns out to be the name he mentally gave to the subject of his award-winning photograph of a starving orphan girl in Africa in the view of a vulture. The book actually mentions the Real Life version and the photographer by name.
- The Pearl by John Steinbeck exaggerates this trope.
- Johnny and the Dead by Terry Pratchett is about Blackbury Council selling the cemetery to United Holdings (Holdings) Ltd. for 2p. This was based on Westminster Council selling three cemeteries to corporate buyers for 5p each.
- Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: The final book Home Free focuses on a character who is explicitly stated to be a clone of Bernie Madoff.
- After by Amy Efaw is about a teenage girl named Devon who gets pregnant in high school. She then dumps the baby in a dumpster, but the baby is found and she is charged with attempted murder. The author states on her website that it is inspired by various news stories about babies left in dumpsters or trash cans, such as the story of Melissa Drexler or Amy Grossberg and Brian Peterson.
- The climax of The Fear Index features an extreme flux in the DOW Jones, which actually happened and is called a Flash Crash. One gets the impression that Harris found this interesting and worked backwards from that.
- Scarface was loosely based on Al Capone and the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
- Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent is based on an actual news story about an unsolved terrorist plot.
- Every Dale Brown story is prefaced by extracts from news articles that came out shortly before publication, establishing the relevance of the events and equipment featured.
- In the Rainbow Magic series, several UK-specific books are about current events in the monarchy.
- The Last Guru by Daniel Pinkwater is loosely based on the story of Maharaj Ji of the Divine Light Mission, who became famous as an avatar of God in his early teens.
- The stories featured in The Railway Series are all based on stories of real incidents on railways.
- The plot of No Way to Treat a First Lady by Christopher Buckley is a mishmash of the Monica Lewinsky/President Clinton sex scandal and the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
- Hobgoblin was published to cash in on the then-recent death of James Dallas Egbert III by having an RPG-obsessed teen fall under the spell of his game and try to play out his fantasies. Contrary to the Egbert case, Scott employs his fantasy to save others by becoming the hero his character had been.
- In 1989, Swedish writer Jan Guillou wrote Enemy's Enemy, where the main character's mission involves killing the spy Stig Sandström who had escaped from prison and fled to Moscow, which is what the real life spy Stig Bergling had done two years earlier. The big difference being that the character also had killed his wife, while Bergling's wife had fled the country with him. After Bergling turned himself in to the authorities in 1994, he called Guillou from prison and said that he probably deserved a signed copy of the book, which Guillou agreed to, and sent him a book where he wrote that "this is the strangest dedication I've ever written."
- The Beatles had two in the same album: Paul wrote "She's Leaving Home" after reading about a girl who hit the road, and John wrote "A Day in the Life" based on two news articles (the car accident and the holes found in a road; The Film of the Book in another stanza is probably How I Won The War, in which he worked).
- This was common during the Protest Song movement of the early 1960's. Singers like Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs would write songs, often using old folk melodies, about current events. Three of the best examples of this are Dylan's "Lonesome Death of Hattie Caroll," about the real life killing of a poor black maid by a bored aristocrat. "Hurricane", about Hurricane Carter, a black boxer jailed instead of the two whites who started a shooting at a bar. And "Who Killed Davy Moore" about the boxer who died in the ring. Phil Ochs' "Outside A Small Circle of Friends" commemorates the Kitty Genovese murder, where 38 witnesses supposedly did nothing (not entirely true) because they "didn't want to get involved." Ochs (who studied journalism) called himself a "singing journalist" and titled his first album "All the News That's Fit to Sing".
- Dylan and Ochs both followed the footsteps of Woody Guthrie, who wrote songs like this; "Pretty Boy Floyd" and "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)" are probably the most famous.
- His son Arlo Guthrie belongs here as well, the littering incident from "Alices Restaurant" made the local newspaper before he wrote the song.
- The idea for Stone Temple Pilots' song "Plush" is, according to singer Scott Weiland, partially taken from an article he read in the paper one day about a woman's murder.
- Nirvana's "Polly" was based on the kidnapping of a girl who eventually escaped from her abductor.
- "18 and life" by Skid Row was written when guitarist Dave Sabo read a newspaper article about the event.
- Superchic[k]'s "Hero" seems in response to claims of bullying in schools and/or teen suicides.
- The album "The Crusade" by heavy metal band Trivium had four examples of this; "Entrance of the Conflagration" (about the murder of four children by their mother Andrea Yates), "Unrepentant" (about Nazir Ahmad's murder of his four daughters), "Contempt Breeds Contamination" (about the racially-influenced killing of a Guinean immigrant by four cops in New York), and "And Sadness Will Sear" (about the hate-driven torture and murder of Matthew Shepard).
- The murder of Matthew Shepard also inspired Melissa Etheridge's song "Scarecrow."
- Depeche Mode did a song in 1986 called "New Dress", where nearly every line was taken from an actual headline.
- "Blasphemous Rumours" is a song that's actually about the lead singer's sister.
- The song "Maria Navarro" by Was/Not Was. Maria Navarro called 911 because her estranged husband had threatened to kill her. Dispatchers ignored the call and Maria died.
- To an extent, the song about Tom Dooley.
- The "Weird Al" Yankovic song "Headline News", a parody of Crash Test Dummies' "Mmm mmm mmm mmm", contained verses relating to an American being caned in Singapore, the Nancy Kerrigan incident, and John Wayne Bobbitt.
- The 1993 Duran Duran album track "Sin of the City" (from The Wedding Album) was basically a recount of the 1990 fire at the Happy Land, a nightclub in The Bronx, that killed 87 people (though the lyrics state, "89 dead").
- Another song inspired by the Happy Land fire was "Happy Land" by seminal New Wave/punk rock musician Joe Jackson.
- Gordon Lightfoot wrote and recorded two noteworthy songs about true events; his hit single "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" was in fact about the 1975 sinking of the American Great Lakes freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald, and "Black Day in July", a 1968 song about the 1967 Detroit race riots.
- Savatage based a Rock Opera, The Wake of Magellan, on such events. One being the murder of reporter Veronica Guerin by drug lords. The second being the Maersk Dubai incident, were the captain of a freighter ordered discovered stowaways to be thrown overboard.
- Brenda Ann Spencer's 1979 shooting rampage that killed two people and injured nine others was the inspiration for The Boomtown Rats' song ''I Don't Like Mondays." The title of the song was what she stated was her reason for doing it.
- Bruce Springsteen's "American Skin (41 Shots)", from the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo by four New York City police officers.
- Living Color also do live covers of this song.
- Springsteen's "Nebraska" is about the Charlie Starkweather murder spree.
- The verse in Rush's song "Nobody's Hero" from their "Counterparts" album starts "I didn't know the girl, but I knew her family, all their lives were shattered in a nightmare of brutality" refers to the family of one of the girls murdered by Karla Hmolka and Paul Bernardo. The line "Hero - Lands a crippled airplane..." refers to the pilot who landed the United Flight 232 in Sioux City, Iowa using only the engines to control it after the flight controls failed, saving 185 of the 296 people on board.
- Also, the song "Heresy" from the album "Roll the Bones" was written about Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
- The song "The Way" by Fastball is based on a news story about an elderly couple who disappeared on their way to a local event and were later found dead, hundreds of miles from their destination. The lyrics take some liberties with their stories, speculating upon how and why they left their path.
- "The Modest Revolution" by Enter The Haggis is based entirely on articles from a single issue of the Toronto Globe and Mail. The second track ""Can't Trust The News"" is based on a woman who, after some horrible couple years climbed the highest peak on each continent. In her 60's.
- A significant number of their other songs are based on true stories.
- The Gazette's song "Taion" is allegedly based on the murder of Junko Furuta, a seventeen-year-old girl who was kidnapped and tortured for an entire month before her abusers killed her.
- "Bind Torture Kill" by Suffocation, off their Self-Titled Album, is loosely inspired by the serial killer Dennis Rader, who was arrested about a year before the album's release. The lyrics themselves are more about the mindset of a serial killer than any of Rader's specific murders, though.
- "Hey Man Nice Shot" by Filter is about the politician Budd Dwyer, a Pennsylvania state treasurer who was accused of corruption. Vehemently claiming his innocence until the end, in early 1987 Dwyer called a press conference during which he read half of a prepared statement and then shot himself. The song was released in 1995 and its timing and subject matter lead many to speculate it was written about the similar suicide of Kurt Cobain, but it was written in 1991.
- Pearl Jam's single "Jeremy" is about the suicide of Jeremy Wade Delle, a 15-year-old boy from Richardson, Texas. On January 8th 1991 Delle shot himself in the mouth with a revolver in front of his teacher and his classmates, and so Eddie Vedder was moved to write the song both as an anti-bullying anthem and as an anti-suicide anthem, and is now one of their most well-known songs.
- Mary Worth of all things had a story arc where Wilbur and Dawn go on a cruise in Italy that ends up mimicking the Costa Concordia disaster, six months after the events in question.
- Peanuts had a few story arcs inspired by real-world events, like the passing of Comet Kohoutek (where Snoopy expresses worry about it harboring The End of the World as We Know It), or Hank Aaron's attempts to beat Babe Ruth's record for career home runs (with Snoopy in the running as well).
- The radio show Dragnet claimed: "The story you are about to hear is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent" at the start of every show. Jack Webb took great pains to be realistic, down to counting the number of footsteps to go from one place to another in the LAPD police station. The shows WERE based on actual events.
- John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer — which, with his Nixon In China, are nicknamed "CNN Operas".
- The opera Der Lindberghflug (The Lindbergh Flight) by Bertolt Brecht with music by Kurt Weill
and Paul Hindemith.
- Before Maurine Watkins wrote a little play called Chicago, she worked for a while reporting for the Chicago Tribune, which assigned her to cover a few murder trials. Roxie Hart was an only barely fictionalized version of Beulah Annan, described in Watkins' reporting as "the prettiest murderess in Cook County." Velma Kelly had a real-life counterpart as well. So, for that matter, did the Hungarian immigrant who speaks little English; her counterpart was an Italian immigrant named Sabella Nitti, who spoke no English, worked for Velma's counterpart, Belva Gaertner, was convicted of beating her farmer husband to death with a hammer and chopping him into pieces, and was hanged.
- Twilight: Los Angeles is a series of interviews with people that were in Los Angeles during the riots in 1992.
- From MacBeth: The Tiger, wracked at sea "Sennights nine times nine", was based off the then-recent story of a ship called the Tiger's Whelp. This ship had disappeared at sea and been presumed lost in 1604, but returned to port five hundred sixty-seven days later.
- The Cocoanuts was originally produced on Broadway in 1925, the year of the famous Florida real estate boom.
- Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story is based on the real Leopold and Loeb, who appear to have murdered a young boy simply because they thought they could get away with it. It takes a few artistic liberties to make Nathan Leopold more sympathetic, and they also made Nathan and Richard older and their victim younger. (Though a lot of the dates given in the show are weird, so this may have been unintentional.)
- Margin for Error is an extrapolated fictionalization of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia's assignment of an all-Jewish police detail to guard the German consulate in New York City in the wake of Kristallnacht. (The non-appearing mayor of the play is left unnamed, as is the city.)
- Civilization V: Gods and Kings, released in 2012, added the Maya civilisation into the game, and included several references to the various "2012 Mayan apocalypse" conspiracies.
- The Emergency! series has a few of these. In the first game, the aerobatic plane crashing into a diner was allegedly based on the Ramstein Air Show disaster. Emergency 2 includes a collision involving a nuclear submarine.
- Emergency 4 features pseudo-Palestinian activists abducting a plane and forcing it to land on the airport of a pseudo-Arabian country, only for the player to storm it with German special forces. Then there are also deluxe missions involving an earthquake in pseudo-Afghanistan, a level 7 nuclear accident in pseudo-Ukraine, and a humanitarian escort operation in pseudo-Sierra Leone.
- One write-up in AH World Cup is about the controversy of the tournament ball and how some players have difficulty playing with it. A similar controversy to the Jabulani ball controversy in the 2010 World Cup.
- In Cracked's A Trailer For Every Academy Award Winning Movie Ever, the disease that Inspirationally Disadvantaged Guy suffers from is said to be "the most topical disability of the present year".
- In TGWTG's To Boldly Flee takes a lot of jabs at SOPA and other anti-web freedom acts that have been circulating as of recent. One of the minor villains wrote the fake act and the head of the MPAA is one of the major villains of the story.
- Though due to various delays, some fans accused these references of being outdated, as SOPA was long dead by the time the series was released. Doug and Rob countered that while that particular act might have been defeated, the fight to keep the Internet free will still go on, with more effort on the part of people like them than most people probably realize.
- South Park: They use this once every two episodes. They can put an episode together in a mere couple of hours so they can be very topical. Notable is the episode just after 9/11 where the boys travel to Afghanistan, the episode about Kenny being kept on life support when God wanted him to die because the devil would attack heaven and Kenny was the only one able to stop him, and the episode featuring an Ocean's Eleven-style heist by 2008 the presidential candidates & their running mates that aired the day after Obama was elected.
- Wordof God says that they had planned to have Obama win anyways. They thought it would have been funny if McCain had won. They referred to it as a potential "Dewey Defeats Truman" situation.
- And they did the same thing with the aptly named title "Obama Wins" which had the episode title announced the day before the election and aired the day after. Thankfully they managed to evade the Dewey/Truman situation twice now.
- Homer Simpson's mother in The Simpsons was based on a member of the far left group The Weather Underground.
- "Much Apu About Nothing" was inspired by news reports about Proposition 187 and of bears being sighted prowling the streets of Southern California.
- Futurama's instances of this are noteworthy (particularly post-revival) because the writers mine present-day controversies for material, despite the show taking place a thousand years from now.
- This blog post by one of the writers of Leverage discusses this trope.
- The first round of 8 Out of 10 Cats is a poll of the news stories that the public have been talking about over the last week- as this tends to be more populist than the more politics-orientated Have I Got News for You, if the week sees something that might be in bad taste to joke about (such as the earthquake in Haiti in 2010), then the episode is replaced with a themed special (in that particular case, movies).
- An odd subversion / inversion of the trope: While it is believed by some that Joe was based on the Honor-Related Abuse killing by Arville Garland of his 17-year-old daughter Sandy, her boyfriend and two of their friends, it was actually an instance of a horrible Real Life Coincidence Magnet. The Garland murders occurred while the film was in post-production. The film became a low-budget box office smash because of the Garland murders.