"Come mothers and fathers, throughout the land,
And don't criticize what you can't understand,
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command,
Your old road is rapidly agin',
Please get out of the new one, if you can't lend your hand,
For the times they are a-changin'."
This is the social equivalent to Zeerust
Many works set in the future presume that people in the future will have the same social mores and values as they do in the present, excepting a few superficial changes in order to facilitate the plot, demonstrate the foreignness/"futureness" of the setting, or satisfy Author Appeal
. The assumption is that our future will be essentially the same as our present — bigger, smaller, sleeker, faster, or more automated, but still recognizable as our world.
For writers, it's often a Necessary Weasel
: it's a lot easier to observe the society you have
than to predict which way it's going to go. Consequently the work is likely to be better written and better received than a work which assumes the future will be foreign and puts in the appropriate amount of alien world-building. After all, who in 2420 will be reading this anyway? (Presumably, the same sort of people who read books from 1620 now...)
Unfortunately, when authors do get the future wrong, it shows
Even if the technology is predicted perfectly, modern readers may lose Willing Suspension of Disbelief
when reading a work written in The Fifties
, set in the present day, and assuming the attitudes of the present day will be exactly like those of the Fifties. They may even be severely bothered if a work from the Fifties assumes that attitudes in the far future will be just like those in the Fifties. (Even if the author had no way of knowing about The Beatles
, even if it is the far future, it just seems wrong to read that a lover of popular music in the future goes primarily for jazz quartets or big bands, with not an electric guitar or synthesizer to be seen even though the entire house runs on electricity right down to the windows and Muzak.) Sometimes the author will correctly predict some of the effects of a new technology, but completely miss others; many authors correctly foresaw the effect of automobiles on working habits and city design, but not one person foresaw the effect that access to automobiles would have on teen sexual activity
The most disturbing instances from our future point of view are those that miss more important social changes. To continue the '50s example, there are plenty of examples that failed to expect the civil rights movement. The schools may be futuristic and electronic, but they're still segregated. The other two big changes that older works miss are greater gender equality (even on the space colonies, women Stay in the Kitchen
) and the end of the Cold War
(still wrangling with the Commies in the 22nd Century).
This effect increases with the distance between when the work is written and the present day. The necessary distance to invoke this decreases as time passes, so far anyhow — technology speeds communication up, and communication speeds change. For instance, if a film has been in production for long enough, it may fall under this trope the day it's released.
This will no doubt apply to modern works set Twenty Minutes into the Future
as well. Unfortunately, we won't know how until the social changes have at least started.
The inverse of this, when the social mores of the present are presumed to apply in the past, is Politically Correct History
Related to Values Dissonance
, Science Marches On
and The Great Politics Mess-Up
. Eternal Prohibition
and Everybody Smokes
are specific cases.
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- Camelot 3000, written in the 1980s, had a still-segregated South Africa in the eponymous year, far outdoing 2001.
- It also has Sir Tristan's angsting about being reincarnated as a woman, even though her reborn lover Isolde seems quite content to contemplate a lesbian relationship, and gender-reassignment surgery is bound to be as routine as a tummy-tuck by that era if Tristan is really not happy.
- The character history for the Post-Crisis Katherine "Kate" Kane, who would become Batwoman, is that of a dedicated student at West Point who was expelled from the academy and forbidden to enter the army because of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. The policy itself, which forbade any confirmed homosexuals from serving in the US Military, was repealed by an act of congress in 2011, barely a year after her origin was given in Detective Comics. The story was completely accurate at the time it was written, and will have leeway for several more years because it is a flashback that occurred several years in the past, but it can no longer be brought forward to the "present" when time "progresses". Kate is actually a good example of how DCU has already reached this in regards to gay people, since her girlfriend Maggie Sawyer was DCU's first confirmed gay character back in 1987, and her entire backstory consisted off "Why it sucks to be gay". In comparison, when we get a 4 issue flashback detailing key-aspects off Kate's background we don't even get to see the "Fuck, I am gay!"-moment, at the end of one issue she is a child whose mother and sister just got killed, at the start of the next she is enrolled in West Point sucking lips with her serious girlfriend and are about to be subjected to "don't ask, don't tell", since those two aspects of her past has had much bigger impact than the whole "Liking girls"-thing.
- This video from 1966, which imagines what life would be like in 1999, manages to predict home computers, email, and what is effectively internet shopping, but still assumes that the average woman will be paying for goods with her husband's money.
- In RoboCop (1987), Richard "Dick" Jones makes a speech where he claims OCP has "gambled in markets usually regarded as nonprofit. Hospitals. Prisons. Space exploration". This is meant to establish OCP's nature as a Mega Corp. but given the heavy amount of privatization that has happened on all three of those sectors since the movie was released, it can come across as somewhat quaint.
- The 2005 version of The War of the Worlds has this in the very first spoken line of dialogue. H.G. Welles's original novel, which was published in 1898, began with the words, "No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own." In 1898, it was likely most people would agree with that statement. In the 2005 film, wanting to tie in the film with the book, the writers had the narrator say the same line, only updated: "No one would have believed in the early years of the 21st century, that our world was being watched by intelligences greater than our own." Even a rudimentary Google search will show just how many people actually DO believe just that.
- In-universe example: The professors in A Song Is Born have been so cloistered in their conservatory making their history of music that they've completely missed the modern music that has been evolving outside.
- In Predator 2, it was predicted that by 1997 Los Angeles would decay into a dystopian Crapsack World with drug gangs in open war with the police and themselves, using military-grade hardware and body counts seemingly in the thousands. The police themselves show elements of being an occupying force in their own city and Harrigan himself refers to his beat as "the war." Based on the high crime rates of L.A. in the late 1980s and early 1990s, this didn't seem too farfatched circa 1990, but fast forward to the second decade of the 21st Century and we see that Los Angeles, while still not a utopia, has far lower crime rates than it did at the time the film was made.
- See also the opening of Demolition Man, which shows about 10% of the city on fire (including the Hollywood sign), gangs with anti aircraft weapons and police riding military grade Humvees...in 1996.
- The number of action films of the era that fall victim to this general feeling of society collapsing into violent anarchy within the next 5-10 years is really too many to count. Many writers looking for an easy way to create Apocalypse How for their films simply suggested that the late 80's and early 90's trends of increasing violent crime and drug crime would continue unabated, if not accelerate, with cities in flames from coast to coast the natural result. Which, if anything, was the exact opposite of how the late 90's turned out as crime rates dropped, to record lows in some places. It's up to the audience to decide in hindsight if the authors sincerely believed in their own visions, or were just tapping into the moral panic of that generation.
- There's a weird example of this in the movie adaptation of Atlas Shrugged, where Hank Rearden is blackmailed into signing away the rights to Rearden Metal because government officials have incriminating evidence of his extra-marital affair with Dagny Taggart, a subplot that comes straight from the novel. Thing is, in 1957 when the book was published, such an affair would've been considered a pretty big deal and might've irreparably damaged both his and Taggart's reputation. But since the movie places the story in 2016, the idea that such a thing would cause anything but a minor scandal - let alone convince Rearden to sign away his life's work, which he swore he would never do - just comes across as bizarre.
- Even more bizarre whether you consider author of the book Ayn Rand's long extramarital affair with Nathaniel Branden, which actually started around the same year the book came out.
- The film of The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas probably seemed a bit progressive for including a black player on the victorious football team that visits the Chicken Ranch. Nowadays it looks really weird to see a team with only one such player.
- In 1987, when The Running Man came out, the idea of society decaying to a point that people would be entertained by watching real life people risk injury and death in a game show like format probably seemed like merely 1980s consumerism and attitude progressed to a ludicrous caricature. 25 years later, between Jackass, and Mixed Martial Arts, the idea of people tuning into watch prisoners being chased by chainsaw wielding stalkers seems less implausible.
- Though let's not get too silly about it, we are still a long long way away from wanting to see people being killed for sport on TV.
- Forbidden Planet opens with a monologue describing how by the twenty-first century men and women are reaching out into space, implying a certain degree of equality... and the first thing we cut to is a massive space expedition crew made up entirely of white American men.
- Many of said men also display a very clear 1950's attitude when interacting with the one female character in the movie. One notable scene involves her being told to "cover herself" (since up until that point she was wearing skimpy outfits and getting the crew sexually aroused), and has Robby the Robot make her a new dress... since after all just wearing a pair of pants is unthinkable.
- George Pal's 1955 film Conquest of Space made some interesting technological predictions, including a concept for a spaceship with principles vaguely reminiscent of the space shuttle. There is even a bit of Fair for Its Day in that there is some racial equality so far as the one Japanese crew member being treated with respect by the otherwise entirely white cast. What the film got wrong was assuming the space program would still be run by the military note . Also women Stay in the Kitchen back on Earth while the men are the ones who get to go into space. In other words, according to this film, female astronauts don't exist, which may be especially jarring to a modern viewer in light of a certain more recent critically-acclaimed film centered entirely around a female astronaut.
- The Warriors (1979), based on a book from the mid-1960s, is supposed to take place "sometime in the future" (as the opening of Walter Hill's "director's cut" makes clear), but even leaving aside the film's Totally Radical fashions, hairstyles, and slang, there are a number of other elements that now strike us as Zeerusty. Most prominent is Cyrus's claim that a citywide gang could control everything and even thwart the NYPD...when, just a few years after this film's release, the LAPD began to employ military technology in their fight against street gangs. There's also the failure of any character to suspect that a woman sitting alone on a park bench very late at night might be a plainclothes police officer.
- The infamous b-movie Doomsday Machine, where the female crew members are only added in as a last resort once it becomes clear the Earth is doomed and the remaining male crew members are absolutely baffled by the idea of women being capable astronauts.
- Common in a lot of pre-1970's stories dealing with space exploration, in which the expedition crews were often all male and predominantly if not entirely white and American.
- Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey was pretty hilarious in this regard; along with the Soviet Union lasting well into the 2000s, Apartheid in South Africa continued into the 2030s, when it ended in a revolution that kicked the white ruling class out.
- Apartheid-related predictions were often a bit off in this way, due mostly to outsiders imagining some sort of centuries-long, deep-seated race war. Whereas it was a recent and quickly dated policy which was mostly prolonged because it somehow wound up as part of Cold War politics. As soon as the policy was put up to a vote, it was rejected by overwhelming numbers.
- Minor but interesting aversion in Philip Jose Farmer's Dayworld, in which several male characters have traditionally female names (Dorothy, for instance), some female characters have traditionally male names (e.g., Anthony), and circumcision is next to unknown in the United States.
- The absence of circumcision could be a straight example, if Farmer failed to anticipate how multiculturalism and rising immigration from Africa and the Middle East would make this practice more of a statement of ethnic identity than ever.
- Plus, not even the most insane person would predict that a cereal tycoon would promote circumcision in all boys because, according to him, it would prevent masturbation. If you think that sentence was made using Mad Libs, you are sane, but wrong. John Kellogg, inventor of Corn Flakes, not only supported circumcision to prevent male masturbation, but the application of phenol (carbolic acid) onto young womens' clitorises to prevent female masturbation. You will never look at Corn Flakes the same way again.
- Modern readers of Walter Miller's post-apocalyptic classic, A Canticle for Leibowitz may find some of the future Catholic dogmas to be a bit...antiquated. This is due to the novel being written just a few years previous to Vatican II, and thus including none of its changes.
- The Robert A. Heinlein novel Podkayne Of Mars, set in the distant space-faring future, features a main character who would like to become the first ever female spaceship captain. The first instance of a woman (Eileen Collins ) captaining a spaceship occurred in July 1999.
- And yet in Starship Troopers (written just prior to Podkayne of Mars) commanding starships is exclusively a female job (it's claimed in-universe that women are better-suited for the job in terms of reflexes, stamina, and psychological makeup). Heinlein tended to be all over the map on gender equality.
- It is never stated in the book Podkayne of Mars that there are no female spaceship captains, only that it was difficult to become a female pilot in a "man's field". Female captains are never discussed except in the context of her becoming one, and it is never said or implied that they did or did not exist already.
- Pretty much all of Heinlein's work is prone to this. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, for instance, despite showcasing many cultural differences in the lunar society (not the least of which is ubiquitous polyamory) portrays gender issues much as a 1950s writer would be expected to think of a post-feminist world: touching women without their permission is a major societal taboo... but it is up to the woman's male friends or relatives to protect her, and women are still generally considered unintelligent (or at least irrational or illogical) and unfit for many positions. The main reason the culture's attitudes toward women have changed at all is that women are a substantial minority on Luna. The rival Earth society, where the sexes are still 50/50 in numbers, shows female nurses giggling at having their rears pinched, rather than filing sexual harassment lawsuits.
- While much of this is true, it should be noted that the point of view was from inside of a male character's head, and that both his male and female characters tend to think of the opposite sex as impractical and needing to be coddled a bit because of their gender-based psychological weaknesses (i.e. a female character will think of men as being impractical, needing to have their pride coddled, willing to believe anything a woman says if it compliments him, etc). Similar things can be seen in his juveniles, when young people think of thirty as old, etc.
- The Puppet Masters was published in 1951 and set in 2007. Although the heroine is just as tough and capable as the male lead (sometimes more so), the moment gender roles or romantic relationships come up she turns, hilariously, into June Cleaver.
- Heinlein's short story —All You Zombies— again features a sex-segregated future in which astronauts and space pilots are always male, and the spaceship stewardess/prostitutes in skimpy outfits are all female.
- Heinlein often averted this trope as well. He frequently cast non-whites and people of mixed-race as protagonists in his works despite writing before the American Civil Rights era. Races were equal in his world, while the sexes tended to be different but enjoyed de facto legal equality. Readers of his era were not used to seeing a mixed-race or non-white protagonist. In his most famous work, Starship Troopers, we also find a sympathetic portrayal of a minor Japanese character called Shujumi, who is praised for his mastery of Judo. World War II had ended only fourteen years prior, and Americans were hardly Japanophiles at the time. In addition, in the same book the protagonist was Filipino and spoke Tagalog at home.
- Zigzagged in his teen novel Tunnel in the Sky. On the one hand, women make up their own (separate) military units and make up half the survival-course students in the story; on the other, sexual mores are such that a bunch of teenagers, isolated from their parents and all forms of authority, take time to stage their own marriage ceremonies in the middle of a hostile wilderness before daring to fool around. When the protagonist gets home, his parents' attitude is that of people who fully expect him to let them pick his friends for him. Oh, and when his military sister opts to get married, she has to leave the corps.
- Except that it is neither said nor implied that she had to leave the military to get married. She got married with the intent of setting up a farm on an off-world colony. The second obviously requires you to leave the military, but there is no indication that she couldn't be married and in the military.
- Pretty much all of Heinlein's juveniles, despite being set in some indeterminate future, read like The Fifties with better technology. One obvious example is the main character in Have Spacesuit Will Travel. On the one hand, his life ambition is to become an aerospace engineer. On the other, he's a recent High School graduate who has a summer job as a soda jerk at the local pharmacy.
- In the Isaac Asimov short story "The Ugly Little Boy," they have a time machine that works to Neanderthal times, collecting a small child and doing lots of experiments on him. The nurse/mother figure gets quite upset. The lack of any ethics, or any requirement for ethical approval is shocking—especially given that ethical treatment of research subjects was a very hot topic (due to the disclosures of Nazi experimentation on concentration camp victims) just 13 years before the story was written.
- Averted in that the researchers did not realize at first that Neanderthals were intelligent enough to require or give informed consent (the research reveals that Neanderthals are at least as intelligent as modern humans) and that Edith, the nurse placed in charge of Timmy (the Neanderthal boy) does ultimately take steps to safeguard his well-being after recognizing the ethical breach for what it is when the researchers continue their experimentation anyway. However, the proposed follow-up experiment involving a medieval peasant completely fulfills the trope, as this biologically modern human is obviously known ahead of time to be intelligent enough to require and give consent. Robert Silverberg's Child of Time (a 1992 follow-up novel written in collaboration with Asimov) explores these issues in detail and explicitly states that Edith's decision to accompany Timmy back to the past was prompted by her employer's lack of ethics and her concern that Timmy—now acculturated to the future—would not survive if returned to his original tribe alone.
- The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov both mention corporal punishment to children as a routine occurrence thousands of years in the future. The second book even has a lengthy discussion on how difficult but necessary it is programming a Three Laws Compliant robot to understand spanking a child is for its own good. Doesn't seem that likely now.
- Isaac Asimov's Foundation series has gender roles that are completely identical to the 1950s United States, at least in the early books. Later books attempted to justify it by stating that women are equal and that there are times when there are many of them in the government - but mostly, they prefer to stay at home.
- A great example: In the short story "Feminine Intuition," the designers of a subtly feminine-looking robot believe that everyone will assume it is mentally inferior to other robots. One character explicitly states that if there's anything the average person believes, it's that women are less intelligent than men. Upon saying this, he nervously glances around (Susan Calvin having recently retired). At the end, after Calvin comes back to save the day, the lesson is that men dismiss women's equal (if not superior) intelligence as mere "intuition."
- And, of course, Everybody Smokes. Though in the universe of The End of Eternity (published in 1955), we see that the vast majority of the centuries in the future have non-tobacco-smoking cultures, and Twissel complains about how hard it is to find a good cigarette and a place where smoking is allowed.
- A notable aversion is to be found, however, whenever Asimov describes music, in that he predicted synthesizers and electric instruments in the Foundation and Empire stories at a time when sticking a microphone on an acoustic guitar was still cutting-edge.
- In his collection of short stories I, Robot, in the story "Little Lost Robot," published in 1947 and set in 2029, a scientist at US Robots, Dr. Bogert, calls robots repeatedly "Boy". And the story "Runaround," written at 1942, and set at 2015, we see that the robots stationed at Mercury must call all humans "Master":
The monster's head bent slowly and the eyes fixed themselves on Powell. Then, in a harsh, squawking voice, like that of a medieval phonograph, he grated, "Yes, Master!"
- Cocoon, a short story by Keith Laumer, has everyone living in virtual reality tanks a couple hundred years in the future. The husband "goes" to a virtual office and does virtual paperwork, while the wife sits at "home", does virtual housework and watches virtual soap operas all day. When the husband comes "home", he complains because the wife hasn't gotten around to punching the selector buttons for the evening nutripaste meal yet.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has several parts where social mores have not dated so well. One example is the alien from Betelgeuse who tries to pretend he's human, and English, by adopting what he thought was a very common name - Ford Prefect. While probably funny back when the first radio serial was released, the fact that he's named after a car that hasn't been around for nearly half a century completely ruins the joke, and to date no adaptation has changed the name to something like "Ford Focus" or "Ford Fiesta". Another possible example is the claim that humans are "ape-descended life forms" that "are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea". This was back when digital watches were fairly new but not totally ubiquitous, but reading it now, can you think of anybody in a developed world that is still that impressed with digital watches?
- The Quandary Phase of the radio series (based on So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish) alters it to "novelty cellphone ringtones ". This sets up a similar alteration later, where Ford hands cellphones with novelty ringtones out to a crowd. In the book, it was Sony Walkmen.
- Also, in the movie, Ford was referred to only by first name, preserving the joke.
- Of course, given the context one way you could look at the joke makes it even more hilarious. Considering Ford came up with the name by doing extremely minimal research on Earth society, there may be some additional humor in his miniscule sample of information being that dated and him not noticing.
- The intensely hoopy Zaphod Beeblebrox acts and talks a heck of a lot more like a cool guy from the disco era than like a cool guy would act nowadays, leading to a Disco Dan effect. (He even goes to a 'discotheque' at one point.) It does work on a different level to the one intended, because he's supposed to be a parody of gratingly cool Attention Whore types, but unfortunately he is also supposed to come off as unironically cool and Crazy Awesome (on account of him being intelligent and straightforward rather than stupid and hypocritical like most of the rest of the inhabitants of the Guide universe), which is hard when disco coolness has been used for years as pop-culture shorthand for a dead trend.
- The people in the Golgafrincham B-Ark - the joke being that all the jobs they do are useless, 'pointless' jobs - have at least partially dated. While middle-management types and meddling marketers remain problems, people don't really look down on hairdressers as being 'pointless' any more (in the 1970s it was just beginning to become socially acceptable for a man to go to a hairdresser's instead of a barber's, but it was still seen as very weird - nowadays men go to a hairdresser's as default, and viewing a service mostly of interest to women as pointless is seen as a bit misogynistic). Then there's the 'telephone sanitisers', who have ceased to exist along with the public telephones they service.
- H.P. Lovecraft (a teetotaler) wrote one non-supernatural short story about a young man who yields to temptation and goes to a speakeasy, but is saved from the evils of alcohol by a drunkard who won't stand for the youth making his own mistakes. Written during prohibition, it's set in the 1950s ... and booze is still mentioned to be illegal on the national level.
- Although remembered as a dark time today, for teetotalers at the time imagining prohibition ending would be like imagining slavery being re-legalized.
- A less vintage example: In one of the Shadowrun short stories from Wolf & Raven, a black baseball player accompanies Wolf to a virtual golf course, and all the white yuppie golfers give him dirty looks because of his skin color. The writer failed to anticipate how Tiger Woods' rise to fame would apply this trope to his story within just a few years.
- Even sillier when taking into account that in the world of Shadowrun, the Awakening added Metahuman types such as Elves and Orks, who have become the new segregated minorities of the world, making the whole issue of skin color less than completely relevant.
- Of course, there are undoubtedly a number of golf clubs where Tiger Woods himself would receive a frosty or condescending reception.
- A fair number of private golf clubs in the United States have either implicit or explicit discriminatory membership policies: they tend to only get found out when a politician or other celebrity is associated with it and the nature of the club's membership becomes public. One of the candidates for chair of the Republican Party in 2008 was forced to resign from his golf club when it was revealed that it had a whites-only membership policy. And it's not just race: the Augusta Club, home of the Masters, didn't allow women until August of 2012.
- Discrimination based on sex or ethnicity is absolutely still a part of the Shadowrun world and comes up on a regular basis (especially when dealing with the Japanacorps or Yakuza), but tends to be overshadowed in comparison to discrimination based on metatype.
- The 1952 Ray Bradbury short story "The Wilderness" (later incorporated into The Martian Chronicles) revolves around women sitting around being terrified about relocating (in this case, moving to Mars) just to get married (yet speaking as if they have to go), talking about being "old maids" if they don't go, and complaining about how "the men" make all their decisions for them...in 2003.
- Also from the version of 2003 found in The Martian Chronicles is the story "Way in the Middle of the Air." It focuses on a Southern town's... um, black people (although not in those words) having pooled their resources and bought rockets in secret to escape the racist American south. In describing the region, a (white) character notes that the poll tax is gone and "More and more states passin' anti-lynchin' bills." Once again, this is 2003.
- Another Mars-based story, "The Other Foot" claims that not only is segregation in America going to continue well into the future, but will eventually become so extreme that Black people will eventually colonize Mars entirely on their own. It's actually quite Fair for Its Day considering it was probably written in the 1940's and the all-Black colony ends up in a very good position to retaliate against their former oppressors (and they almost go through with it, too) yet ultimately both sides are able to reconcile their differences and live together in peace. However, it is a bit ironic when you consider that a lot of the major Civil Rights movements started happening in the 1950's and 1960's, not too long after it was written.
- Also a lot of Bradbury's old "rocket exploration"-type stories (aside from the dated science), tended to have the crew of explorers be entirely men. At the time the idea of female astronauts might have seemed a bit of a stretch.
- In Hamilton's Sargasso Of Space, it is evidently assumed that crewing space ships would be a job primarily reserved for Men, much like sailing was when the story was written.
- The book Steampunk Prime has a number of late 19th and early 20th century science fiction stories that contain examples of this. "In the Deep of Time" involves a man who is cryonically revived in an advanced future... where woman STILL are expected to be subordinated to men.
- In Omnivore, most of the melodrama pivots on Aquilon being torn between her feelings for Cal and Veg, her colleagues on a far-future space mission. It's blatantly obvious that Polyamory would be an acceptable solution for all three of them, yet she's too afraid of looking like a slut to become sexually involved with either man, let alone both. Maybe that's how scifi readers felt about things in 1968, but now it just seems like prudish Wangst.
- Averted in Atlas Shrugged. While the time frame the book takes place in is deliberately vague (it seems to be The Fifties with some sci-fi inventions, like Rearden Metal), the main character is a powerful career woman who courts and has sex out of wedlock with three different men—and holds this up as a sign of her empowerment, rather than something to be stigmatized by. On the flip side, the two housewives of the story have a decidedly anti-Fifties portrayal. Lillian Rearden is portrayed as a nagging parasite who tries (and initially succeeds) to control her husband with sex and is ultimately much worse off for relying on her husband's wealth than if she had forged her own way. Cherryl Taggart is shown to only be a valuable commodity to one of the antagonists when she stays docile and uninformed—her steady gain of savvy shows her become an empowered figure who her husband agonizes over being unable to control any longer. All three are quite the far cry from the docile housewife common in The Fifties fiction. That arguably comes from Ayn Rand's background. While an ardent anti-Communist, she still spent her college days during the chaotic and egalitarian period of The Soviet Twenties, where the early feminist ideas were embraced and encouraged. Only the reaction of the Thirties brought a return to the traditional mores, but not nearly to the US levels. By this time anyway Rand had immigrated to the US.
- The fourth book of The Helmsman Saga has Wilf Brim amazed at a woman from another culture having a completely shaved pubic area, something he states he never encountered earlier. When the book was written in 1991, that might have been unusual. When it was rewritten 20 years later... well, the scene was cut down considerably.
- An early (1930's) science fiction short story portrayed all doctors aboard spaceships as black because "for reasons not understood, no Negro had ever suffered space sickness." Although this portrayal is Fair for Its Day in that a black person in a position of authority in a white-dominated society was remarkable in itself, it does make the reader wonder why aren't spaceship crews entirely black, if that's the case?
- One of Philip K. Dick's lesser known short stories is a piece called Some Kinds of Life, which is basically about humanity's constant tendency to find reasons to go to war. The whole thing being told from the point of view of a housewife in a future society as members of her family are drafted into military service for various wars in different parts of the Solar System and end up being killed in action. The story ends with the wife receiving a draft notice of her own and being genuinely shocked by the notion that the army would become desperate enough to start recruiting women (I might add they do this after resorting to recruiting boys under the regulation age). This would probably have made sense when it was written, as it was likely at a point when the army was still very male-exclusive and women were only permitted in very specific fields. However, it may seem a bit jarring to a modern reader living in a world where it is not so unusual for women to serve in the military with just as much combat training as their male comrades.
- Not even the Bible is immune to this trope. Some end-of-the-world prophecies in it run along the lines of: "Two women will be grinding corn together. And one will be taken up to heaven, the other one not."
- This could be explained in part as being the use of imagery which would have been familiar to audiences in that setting, common in prophecy as well as in things like the parables of Jesus. A lot of Biblical allusions and metaphors are like this, which is why they often need explanation to modern audiences. (It is also true that some societies are still of he primitive agrarian type for whom such sayings are current reality. So your mileage may vary on how "current" or likely they are.)
- Published in 1959, Alas, Babylon portrays breastfeeding and home canning as relics which have all but disappeared prior to the nuclear strike depicted in the book, but which must be reluctantly revived in the conditions prevailing afterward. Both practices have made a strong comeback since the 1950s.
Helen: What happens to babies?
Doctor: Evaporated or condensed canned milk... while it lasts. After that, it's mother's milk.
Helen: That will be old-fashioned, won't it?
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: The Original Series tried to avert this. On one hand, they had minorities and women in Starfleet, which was progressive for the '60s, and no one smoking. But the women, although never explicitly told to Stay in the Kitchen, were often portrayed as Distressed Damsels. In short they did their best to avert the trope but couldn't due to Executive Meddling, especially in the pilot (see below).
- In the episode "The Enemy Within", evil!Kirk tries to rape Yeoman Rand. She later recounts the incident for good!Kirk, Spock and McCoy, displaying a very '60s attitude about it ("I don't want to get you into trouble. I wouldn't even have mentioned it.") while being in tears. And this is while she is unaware that there are two Kirks running around!
- Probably the worst example was in "Turnabout Intruder", the last episode of the original series, which reveals that women aren't allowed to be captains in Starfleet, in the 23rd century. A female character who tries to get around this rule by using alien technology to switch bodies with Kirk is portrayed as being a horribly misguided fanatic.
- The franchise, naturally, retconned this in Star Trek: Enterprise, introducing Erika Hernandez, a no-nonsense woman who had previously served with Archer, as the captain of the second Warp 5 starship (Columbia NX-02). Of course, in the 2000s, people were ready for that sort of thing.
- There is the possibility (lampshaded by McCoy) that the woman in question was mentally ill to begin with, and thus may not have interpreted regulations with the right frame of mind.
- Notably, the original 1965 pilot of the series included a female first officer. She capably commanded the Enterprise for most of the episode while the (male) captain was held captive by aliens. In fact, she was the one who dispassionately decided that letting the aliens breed humans for slavery would be unacceptable, when Captain Pike seemed willing to let it happen as part of a bargain to save the Enterprise. Number One coldly threatened to blow everyone up — including herself — instead, and this was what finally convinced the aliens to abandon their plot and let everyone go. If only they let Roddenberry keep that character in the show, it would have been an amazing aversion of this trope... but the pilot's test audiences failed to react well, and Roddenberry pissed off the network by casting his girlfriend in the role.
- Somewhat averted as well: TOS is credited as having the very first (obvious, anyway) interracial kiss on US television. According to some accounts, it very, very nearly fell prey to those meddlesome executives, and was finally only allowed through when it was demonstrated that neither party involved really wanted to do it, but were being forced by alien mind control. The studio was horribly afraid they were going to be inundated with hate mail, that the entire country would be in an uproar over such an act and simply couldn't accept it; they got a ton of letters alright, with a distinct majority praising the scene. Nichelle Nichols even recounts reading a letter from a Southern man, who was "totally against the mixing of the races. However, any time a red-blooded American boy like Captain Kirk gets a beautiful dame in his arms that looks like Uhura, he ain't gonna fight it." Now THAT'S progress.
- Plus, Shatner and Nichols were adamant about keeping the kiss (which if you've read either of their autobiographies seems to be the only thing they ever agreed on), and deliberately screwed up every take of Kirk and Uhura not kissing, so the editors were forced to use a shot where they did.
- The animated series (made only a few years after TOS) had an episode featuring Uhura in command after the male crew members of the Enterprise are incapacitated. A Crowning Moment Of Awesome for early Star Trek in general and Uhura in particular!
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Offspring, Data creates an android offspring named Lal. Data makes Lal gender-neutral, to let Lal select whatever appearance Lal is comfortable with, and this horrifyingly transphobic and gender-normative dialogue ensues:
LAL (re passing female humanoid): Gender female.
TROI: That's right, Lal. Just like me.
LAL (re passing male humanoid): Gender male.
LAL: I am gender neuter. Inadequate.
DATA: That is why you must choose a gender, Lal, to complete your appearance.
- This trope is oddly averted in-universe, for the most part. A good example of this is in "Angel One", where despite not having had contact with the Federation for 60-odd years, the society of the planet in question doesn't appear to have changed at all from their records.
- There was a Twilight Zone episode about a two soldiers, one male and one female, from opposite sides being the last survivors of their war. The female soldier's combat uniform included a pleated skirt. And her only line is the Russian for "Pretty", referring to a dress in a store window.
- Seinfeld wasn't really meant to predict the future, but there are still a few episodes that seem rather obviously dated by the approach to technology:
- One episode has George attempting to get a laugh at a movie theater by making a joke during the film, but being upstaged by a guy with a laser pointer. Modern audiences are more likely to wonder why both George and the laser-pointer guy didn't get yelled at by other theater-goers. For that matter, the rest of the episode treats the laser pointer shenanigans as being cool and clever, when the modern-day ubiquity of such things would turn it into little more than a novelty.
- The series finale has a subplot/running gag about Elaine trying to phone a friend to ask about the latter's medical procedure... only for Jerry to chastise her for calling on a cellphone rather than a landline. Needless to say, the idea of someone being offended because you called on a cell phone rather than a home phone is absolutely ludicrous to modern viewers, many of which might not even have landlines at all, preferring to use their cell phones for everything.
- Friends: The prevalence of the Internet has rendered this exchange from "The One With Barry and Mindy's Wedding" very dated.
Phoebe: Oh! Someone's wearing the same clothes they had on last night. Someone get a little action?
Chandler: I may have.
Monica: Woo-hoo! Stud!
Ross: What's she look like?
Chandler: Well, we haven't exactly met, we just stayed up all night talking on the Internet.
Monica: Woo-hoo! Geek
- Unavoidable with a Long Runner like Doctor Who:
- The serial "The Time Meddler" contains a part where companion from the future, Steven, refers to the TARDIS as looking like a 'modern police box'. Whoops.
- The leader of La Résistance in "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" has some very 1960s attitudes towards women, such as Stay in the Kitchen and so on, despite being from 2150.
- The Doctor telling Susan "remember the Red Indian!" in "An Unearthly Child" - not only is this racist nowadays, it doesn't make any sense for the Doctor to hold these views. While the show had not yet decided for certain that he was an alien, he was at the very least from the distant future.
- "Since I Met You" by DC Talk contains the line "My 200 friends couldn't fill the void in my soul". Listening to this in the 90s, this seemed like a ludicrously huge number; but since the advent of Facebook, "200 friends" is, if anything, lower than average.
- Though considering the large number was probably meant to reference the obvious impossibility of being close to that many people, perhaps it's a rather good (if unknowing) reference to the empty vanity of adding people merely to increase the number appearing on your profile. But in that case 200 friends still seems a bit low.
- "New Math" by Tom Lehrer is an amusing song from the 1960s illustrating the strange new methods used in mathematics. Lehrer takes the audience through how subtraction is done using New Math, satirising how anti-intuitive it appears... except "new" math is now commonplace to a large portion of society, to the extent that Lehrer, snarks aside, seems to be illustrating the normal way of doing subtraction.
- In base 8.
- The problem with the New Math was that it focused more on teaching children abstractions and using alternate base tables, than practical experience in solving 'normal' math equations (as Lehrer put it, "know what you are doing, rather than to get the right answer"). The system was eventually abandoned after it was shown that teaching abstractions to children seldom worked well: To quote maths professor George F. Simmons, it produced children who knew commutative law, but not the basic multiplication tables. Lehrer's song still ends up as an example, as New Math and its teaching methods were discarded shortly afterwards and has been out of the grade school curriculum for 40 years.
- Though still catchy enough that it's seldom noticed, Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" becomes this trope if you listen to the lyrics: nowadays, the accused in a paternity suit is more likely to whine about DNA test results than about how much the baby's photo resembles him.
- The song "Year 3000" by Busted gives us the line "It's pretty much the same, but they live underwater."
- Of course, The Jetsons, where Jane was a typical 1950s housewife who didn't even know how to drive.. but they had flying cars! When she gets driving lessons, her instructor panics at the idea of a female student, then changes his "Student Driver" sign to read "Woman Student Driver: BEWARE".
- There was one episode George spent complaining about women drivers, with an unflatteringly-portrayed female bus driver getting Played for Laughs.
- On the other hand, lots of jokes based on George complaining about his "button finger" (with the implication that what we are lazy about will just get more crazy in a world where you just push buttons all day) are more of a Funny Aneurysm due to increasing awareness of Repetitive Strain Injury.
- Not to mention several jokes about the standard work week being 9 hours, based on the popular conception of the time that technology would allow people to work far less. Not only has the exact opposite happened for many people but cell phones and email has allowed bosses to contact employees 24/7 meaning that the separation between work and leisure has become blurred.
- This trope was pretty much the whole point of the show, it was meant to be the future version of The Flintstones. There being no real cultural differences against all logic was a big part of the joke.
- Many future-themed classic cartoons, from Looney Tunes to MGM, fit this trope. In many instances, they even assume the dress styles of the era in which they were made will still be relevant in the future.
- When The Simpsons first came out, the idea of Bart calling Homer by his first name was utterly shocking. While it's still not exactly a popular idea nowadays —just ask any dad what he thinks about it— it's far less shocking than it once was.
- In the Season 4 (1993) "Mediocre Presidents" song it is remarked that they "won't find their pictures on dollars or on cents" with the supposition being that only above average Presidents would ever be given such an honor. Fast forward 20 years the Presidential Dollar Coin series put every US President on a dollar coin. note
- The Animaniacs episode "Rest in Pieces" had an important plot point being that no one ever dies in a cartoon. On the other hand, death has been a recurring and frequent topic in anime even at that time, but this was also before anime really took off in the west with Gundam Wing being most Americans' first exposure to an animated program where death is a major issue. In any case, by the turn of the millenium, Slappy Squirrel's statement about the nonexistence of death in cartoons feels more like a quaint throwback to the Golden Age Of Animation than any accurate statement about cartoons.
- Through it aired in the early 90s, some episodes of Doug could bring several questions to youths who saw the show today.
- "Doug Didn't Do It" would be one example of these.
- First, since schools would often have closed-circuit television, Bone could’ve just looked into the system to find the suspects he needs to know who took his trophy. Better yet, as many youths of today criticized this (on-campus CCTV) as a form of oppression, Doug could’ve used this against Bone to clear his name.
- Second, since his trophy was grounds for “probable cause”, note , Bone could’ve just searched through lockers, either everyone's or just the ‘suspects'’.
- Third, both Doug and Roger would’ve faced the probable expulsion for what happened, even if Principal Buttsavitch overturned the decision on the former.