Society Marches On

"We're more educated and more jaded, and having pulled up 2 Girls 1 Cup for our elderly relatives to watch during the quiet bits of a family wedding, we can no longer be shocked, nor are things like lesbian kisses or teen pregnancy the scandalous events they once were. The Very Special Episode in the 21st century would have to go to some lengths to rouse any parent into looking up from their phone, let alone cause an outbreak of sombre reflection in the living rooms of America."
Stuart Millard, So Excited, So Scared

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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    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • Mark Millar's run on The Authority ended with Apollo and Midnighter getting married. While this was considered a highly subversive act when the comic was published, gay marriage is now legal in several major countries, including the United States.

    Fan Works 
  • Mai-Hime: Future is set in 2028, so the teen protagonists would have been born in the early 2010s, still in the future when the story was started. It predicts that around this time, there would be a widespread trend for Japanese parents to give their children Western names (extending to roughly half the teen characters in the story). We're now past the deadline and this hasn't happened.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Back to the Future Part II assumed that Japan Takes Over the World, that there would be a Japanese fax machine in every room of every house, and that every corporation would be run from Japan. All of this was from a common belief during the 1980s that Japan's superior electronics were going to allow it to become a global superpower. While Japan is a major economic driving force in The New Tens, nothing like what Part II predicted came to pass.
  • 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. Wells'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 80s and early 90s 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 '90s 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.
    • Most of the fundamental economic philosophy espoused in the movie has gone from a potentially viable alternative to partially socialized economies to completely discredited empirically in the years since the book was written, too, and it shows. Most jarringly for viewers even slightly familiar with corporate practices is the idea that existing, successful companies would fail due to what amounts to one of the venture capitalists that funded the start-up bowing out. Not only does that not happen, but buying into companies early and cashing out once they've succeeded is how venture capitalists make their money; what happened to Rearden is the standard procedure for people in his position and largely thought to benefit the capitalist more than anyone else.
  • 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. Further, Madame Stangley never hires girls with tattoos... which was apparently a sign of, what, moral decay? For whores in the 70s?
  • Forbidden Planet:
    • The film 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 1950s 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.
    • Also a stranger example in which the film suggests greater progression than real life. The opening narration talks about men and women travelling to the moon in the' 90s. While there are definitely a lot more female astronauts now than in 1957, we have never actually managed to put a woman on the moon. Granted, the film may have had something else in mind when it talked of women going to the moon but it is still a peculiar disparity.
  • 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. Though the bemused misogyny doesn't kick in until later: The initial shock was over half their team getting removed at the last moment and the mission suddenly becoming co-ed.

  • The Lord of Opium: In the future, nations between Mexico and the US export drugs to other countries in exchange for patrolling the border between the two nations. One of the nations of the Dope Confederacy exports marijuana in the 22nd century. Seeing that the book came out in 2013, it's odd that a nation would need to make marijuana to export illegally, seeing that many nations at the time of the time of publication and at the time this entry is being written (April 2015) are relaxing marijuana laws or even outright legalizing it. Could be justified that it sells to a few holdout nations, or progress was reversed.
  • Common in a lot of pre-1970s 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.
  • 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 [1]) 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.
    • 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.
    • 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—:
      • It 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.
      • Written not long after WWII, the story fails to anticipate that the horrifying events of that war would lead to very strict legislation about medical procedures and informed consent. His central character is placed under general anesthesia — and wakes to be informed, after the fact, that s/he has been subjected without consent to sex reassignment surgery. In our world such a character would not be relegated to a hand-to-mouth living writing confession stories, because he would sue the hospital and doctor into bankruptcy.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • It's not likely that a Neanderthal would be considered any more of a person than a chimpanzee is, which was probably Asimov's point.
    • 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.
      • The role of women on Earth is also extremely vague. Because resource-starved Earth cannot afford amenities, most people live in tiny apartments which do not have kitchens, eat in communal cafeterias and have small families due to Population Control. Thus the Housewife role is largely redundant. Yet Elijah Baley interacts with virtually no women on Earth besides his wife, so law enforcement and government at least seem to be male-dominated much as they were in the real-world 1950's. The Robots of Dawn does introduce a female official and mentions policewomen, stating that the novels merely occur at a time women seldom choose these career paths. Ironically, Spacer women are the opposite, but only because of their post-scarcity societies and the fact that robot servants handle all domestic tasks, including raising children. Thus, Spacer women would have nothing to do with themselves if they didn't have careers. That said, Spacer men and women do not seem to have an integrated social culture. In Robots, Dr. Fastolfe actually has a wife, but no one sees a problem with him asking her to leave him alone during the events of the novel. His daughter is also a roboticist like him, but as with most Spacer scientists she is a borderline misanthrope.
    • 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. In the later Foundation novels he would introduce an Iron Lady ruler in the form of Mayor Harla Branno, who wants to conquer the galaxy centuries earlier than the Seldon Plan allows for.
    • 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!"
    Powell grinned humorlessly at Donovan. "Did you get that? Those were the days of the first talking robots when it looked as if the use of robots on Earth would be banned. The makers were fighting that and they built good, healthy slave complexes into the damned machines."
  • 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?
    • Though the introduction of smartwatches may make the gag topical again for a while.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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. Oprah "I'm not here for whites" Winfrey inverted this when she declared the school she opened in Africa to be for black girls only.
    • 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 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.
      • And, of course, the woman from "The Rocket Man" has to wait months on end for her husband's return, years after she's come to think of herself as a widow, rather than contemplate (horrors!) simply divorcing the man who abandons her over and over.
  • 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 seems strange to modern readers that she's too afraid of looking like a slut to become sexually involved with either man. Maybe that's how scifi readers felt about things in 1968, but now it just seems like prudish Wangst.
  • 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?
  • A. E. van Vogt's short story The Weapon Shop, published in 1942, is seemingly set on a future where humanity has begun colonizing other planets and one government has almost absolute authority over everything. Said political body is of course made up entirely of men outside of the ruling Empress. Meanwhile, the "Weapon Shop" itself is a front for a resistance movement protecting people's rights, but when the protagonist is brought to a special meeting place where workers are being helped the story describes him seeing "thousands of men". Though it refers to female secretaries, the writer evidently never considered the possibility of women getting involved with the workforce.
  • In the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Joshua Harris recommends that men and women be "friends first" before beginning to date. Back when he wrote that book in the late 90s, most couples met in real life and through platonic situations where it was highly likely that they would be friends first anyway. However, with internet dating sites being so popular nowadays and so many couples meeting through them, being friends first is not always an option.
  • The Venus Prime series, published in the early aughts but written in the 80s (and based on older Arthur C. Clarke short stories) have several examples:
    • In the first book, one of the suspects in the Star Queen sabotage, Sondra Sylvester, has a big secret that she doesn't want anyone to find out... she's living with another woman. While this might have been scandalous in the 80s, it's not so controversial nowadays.
    • The plot of the third book relies heavily on the assumption that the Soviet Union is still around in the 22nd century, and has enough clout that the Council of Worlds (a successor to the UN) granted it and China their own colony on Mars to spread communism. The Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1991. The last book, written after the Soviet Union's demise, retroactively places a lampshade on this, claiming that in recent years, there have been Russians pining for a return to communism, and the Mars colony was an attempt to siphon those agitators away from Mother Russia.
  • In Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series, the titular planet is a Feudal Future Lost Colony, while the rest of humanity has spread out into what is referred to as "The Terran Empire". While this is thousands of years in the future, the Terran Empire's social values are pretty blatantly those of 1960's - 1980's America. This includes women taking their husband's full names, and being expected to abandon certain careers if they marry. Homosexuals are still mostly closeted. The Darkovans are meant to provide a social contrast, being more regressive with their essentially Medieval treatment of women, while having somewhat greater tolerance for, but not full acceptance of, homosexuality than the Terrans. Neither society looks especially progressive in any respect to readers after the 1990's though.
  • The Handmaid's Tale, about a fundamentalist Christian dystopia, was published in The '80s. At this time, when conservative president Ronald Reagan seemed like the new eternal master of American politics, backed by a wide array of Moral Guardians and (seemingly) a huge tyrannical Silent Majority, the novel seemed frighteningly plausible. A few decades down the road, not so much.
    • YMMV on that, however. Gloria Steinem's article says, in an era where government agencies are still trying to control women's reproductive rights, and many politicians seem woefully ignorant of biology, The Handmaid's Tale is still plausible.
  • Go Set A Watchman features the moral that just because someone has racist beliefs doesn't mean you should have any personal animosity towards them. A decent moral for when the book was written in 1957, where many people were racist simply because they'd never been taught anything else as they were growing up, but not so much when it was finally published in 2015.

    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 damsels in distress or as only joining the space service to find a husband. 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. Written by Gene Roddenberry Himself, it 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.
      • Leonard Nimoy hated this episode, and confirmed that Roddenberry really meant for Starfleet to have such a rule: females could not captain a starship.
        His goal was to prove, quote, 'That women, although they claim equality, cannot really do things as well, under certain circumstances, as a man' — like the command function, for example... What he set out to prove was that this lady, given command of the ship, would blow it. That's really what the script was about. Just that simple."
    • 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.
    • 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 Moment of Awesome for early Star Trek in general and Uhura in particular!
    • In "Who Mourns for Adonais?" it appears that Scotty will soon be marrying a female crew member, causing Kirk and McCoy to lament the loss of such a skilled crewman, because of course she'll be giving up her job once she ties the knot. Oddly enough, this comes a season after "Balance of Terror" featured a marriage between two crew members where this attitude was completely absent.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation has some of this as well. One episode in the second season involves Riker making omlettes for the crew and Worf asking if it isn't typical among humans for women to do the cooking. That assumes that centuries in the future, after achieving a post-scarcity world and being able to have any meal they want instantly materialize, humanity would still have the same norms around who does the housework that American society had in the 1980s. More broadly, after the show's first season the only main-cast female crew members are the doctor and the therapist (who are, from the third season on, also the love interests of the two male lead characters).
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Both "The Tenth Planet" and "The Moonbase" show big multinational teams of scientists from all over the world, meant to show that in the future we don't discriminate. This message probably would have worked better if any of the scientists had been women. In addition, "The Tenth Planet" in particular shows the male scientists being chauvinistic towards Polly and telling her to make the coffee.
  • In Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, someone tests to see if Buck is who he says he is by making a pop culture reference to the 20th Century. Today, O.J's image as "The Juice" have fallen out of public consciousness. And when one thinks of O.J, it's about something completely different. In Buck's defense, he was frozen in 1987, years before O.J's Fall From Grace.
    Duke: If you're Buck Rogers, then who's "The Juice"?
    Buck: The Juice? Hah. O.J. Simpson. I told you all about him.
  • Canadian sketch show SCTV had a sketch in its very first episode, aired in 1976, where the titular station's two news anchors get into an argument on-air culminating in one accusing the other of living with a girl he isn't even married to. It's clearly meant to be scandalous. Arguably, the fact that unmarried couples living together isn't a big deal these days makes the joke even funnier.
  • Central Park West:
    • In the pilot episode (filmed in 1995), a character expresses surprise and elation that he was able to dump his girlfriend... by emailing her and telling her it's over. His friend (a lawyer in the District Attorney's office) chastises him for his decision, and later, the woman he dumped ridicules him in front of his co-workers for daring to be so impersonal and insensitive. The producers would have been shocked if they knew that people not only dump their partners over email in modern culture, but do it via text message as well.
    • Alex Bartoli decides to fake a pregnancy, via blackmailing a doctor to provide a sonogram to lead her husband, Peter Fairchild, on and get married. The episode was produced at a time long before pregnancy tests became incredibly cheap and could be administered at home, as well as DNA tests. If such items were available, Alex's deception would have been uncovered in 20 minutes or less.

  • "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.
  • 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."
  • The Statler Brothers' 1960s hit song, "Flowers on the Wall," had the character sarcastically talk about "Smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo" as proof that he does not nothing to do. When The Muppets had a Viral Video of their own cover of the song, obviously with that franchise's popularity with kids that line would not do with obviously unhealthy implications of the former, and the fact that Bob Keeshan's TV show has been gone for decades. So, now Beaker occupies himself with equally pointless tasks.

    Tabletop Game 
  • Space 1889 An alternate history version: Mankind achieves space travel in 1870 and meets other intelligent species and gets access to material that makes flying ship possible — all other things being the same, including society. The discovery of other intelligent species, for instance have almost no effect on human society and European colonists treat the new planets as new places to explore, trade with and colonize and martians and lizard men as just new form of natives. Player characters are supposed to generally embody Victorian society and values, the players, of course, disagree with much of these. The in-game society is justifiably old-fashioned since it is actually set in an alternative past.

    Western Animation 
  • 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" Moment 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.
  • The Simpsons:
    • When the show 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 
    • In-universe example, when discussing the brief Australia craze in the US, a movie theater shows the marquee "Yahoo Serious Festival".
      Lisa: I know those words, but that sign doesn't make sense.
  • 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. In any case, by the turn of the millennium, 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.
  • Mission Hill features an episode where the main character, Andy, needs to find a job. He spends a day looking for work, literally stumbling into five jobs, then quitting all of them for no reason other than he didn't like them, and still ended up making $60. To anyone in the job market today, the idea of finding five jobs just walking down the street is a total fantasy.

    Web Comics 
  • Questionable Content, when Marten was still dating Dora, featured two rather transphobic jokes in 2006 and 2008 about her having "been a man" and having a penis. Fast forward to 2012, and he has a virtual non-reaction to learning Claire is transgender, and winds up dating her in 2014. Both of these made sense for someone of Marten's age and background when they were written, but they seem strange coming from the same character only one or two in-universe years apart.

Alternative Title(s):

Society Marched On