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- This GEICO ad parodying the Running of the Bulls as the "Running of the Bulldogs" shows the crowd waving a zillion flags of Spain (which is not nearly as common in reality) and of Catalonia, which has no excuse because it is nowhere near Pamplona. At least it's not the flag of Barbados like in Caroline in the City...
Anime and Manga
- Situations where crosses are meant to denote "gaijin" (not Church Militant, just normal European war forces) in some anime/manga.
- Similarly, a character wearing a cross is as likely to reflect, say, the popularity of a certain Madonna album at the time the show was made as the character's religious beliefs.
- Japanese media also likes to depict Europeans in 18th and early 19th century clothes like leggings, breeches, dress coats and bicornes or tricornes, regardless of actual setting.
- Played straight in The Boondock Saints. Smecker interprets the McManus brothers' habit of placing pennies in the eyes of the dead to be a payment to Charon (Greek ferrymen of the dead across the river Styx), so they can cross over and atone for what they did in life. The payment to Charon was a coin under the tongue. Placing coins on the eyes simply served as a weight to keep the eyelids from opening on their own post-mortem. Not to mention that two very Christian Irishmen would probably not participate in a pagan Greek funeral rite. Worth noting, the quote associated with that scene:
Dolly: So what's the symbology there?Smecker: Symbology? Now that Duffy has relinquished his "King Bonehead" crown, I see we have an heir to the throne! I'm sure the word you were looking for was "symbolism." What is the ssss-himbolism there?
- The Da Vinci Code opens with Robert Langdon conferencing about symbology in France. He shows the audience an image similar to this and asks them the first idea it conjures in their mind. They say "hatred," "racism," and "Ku Klux Klan." Langdon replies: "Yes, yes, interesting. But they would disagree with you in Spain. There, they are robes worn by priests." This is wrong. They are Nazareno suits, worn by lay congregationists during Holy Week processions. They are only worn by priests when the priests don't want others to know that they are priests - the point of the suit, at least in its origin, was to hide the identity of the so-called penitents.
- Mission: Impossible II mixes the processions of the Holy Week in Seville with the "Fallas" of Valencia (and throws in some people dressed for Pamplona's running of the bulls looking at them for good measure), even having a character uttering the line "how crazy Spaniards are, burning their saints to honor them?". The origin of the Fallas is only incidentally religious: they take place in the four days prior to March 19, Saint Joseph's day in the Catholic calendar, who is the patron saint of carpenters. In this day, carpenters would take out and burn the wooden splinters left by their work that could not be reused, and over time it evolved into the confection of elaborate structures over the year for the express purpose of being burned that day. These structures often make parodic references to events of the year and feature caricatures of politicians, actors and other famous people, but never effigies of saints or other figures of worship. And they are not held in Seville.
- In the 1959 movie Thunder in the Sun, about a group of 19th century Basque immigrants in California, the characters use jai alai baskets as weapons and the irrintzi (a traditional high-pitched yelling used by Basque shepherds to denote happiness) as a coded language. The latter may or may not have been inspired by Silbo Gomero, a pre-Hispanic whistling language in the Canary Islands (which naturally has nothing to do with Basque culture, but neither does the Flamenco danced by the characters in another scene).
- Kingdom of Heaven has a Muslim character who wears versicles of the Quran sewn into his clothes. It is expressly forbidden in Islam to sew words from the Quran into clothing. Only a few exceptions are allowed and only in the case of flags and banners.
- Digital Fortress uses the real fact that Christopher Columbus is interred in the Cathedral of Seville to claim that he is a saint worshipped in the "Spanish" Church, rather than him being there just as a notable person since churches were common burial places until recently. Not content with it, Dan Brown then blows it completely out of the water by inventing that his body was butchered and turned into relics that were disseminated in churches through the whole country, with Seville being left as the proud guardian of his scrotum.
- David Hewson's Semana Santa (aka Death in Seville) mixes Seville's Holy Week, which is religious, and the Fair, which is not and is held a couple of weeks after the Holy Week. The result couldn't be more blasphemous. Religious processions are described as "parades" attended by people out of amusement rather than devotion, there is a lot of drinking, women wear mourning Mantillas and polka-dotted Flamenco dresses at the same time, and there is a "great bullfight" to mark the end of the "festival". Even the killer himself wears a Nazareno suit during his crimes and inflicts bullfighting-mimicking wounds on his victims.
- Invoked in the first season of Boardwalk Empire when Margaret reads a poem about ghosts to her children during Halloween and Nan Britton asks her if they will read it again when they go to the Church later that night. Margaret is weirded out by the comment and clarifies that they are going to a religious service for All Saints' Day, not a Halloween party.
- A 1983 Spanish birth certificate seen in the episode "El Toro Bravo" of Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders has entries for "religion" and "church" (in English), which obviously aren't present in a real Spanish birth certificate and rather belong in a church's baptism registry.note Not content with that, the document also has two references to Don Quixote thrown in for no reason (one of them in said church's name, which is "The Cathedral of the Cervantes Family" written in the worst possible Spanish grammar, but cathedrals are not named after random, non-holy families), a diminutive used as a full name, and a pre-1931 King of Spain's personal coat of arms where the country's coat of arms should be.
- In the same episode, the stock footage of Pamplona's Renaissance cathedral is actually Valencia's Central Market, which is a metal-based Art Deco building from just before World War I, has no religious function, and is 600 miles away to boot. Footage of the actual cathedral is used to establish the aforementioned fictional church (which despite being called "cathedral" in the certificate is not, and the church they shot in is clearly smaller than the one in stock footage anyway).
- The episode also runs with the idea that the bulls in the Running are worshipped (or used to be in the past), and that you shouldn't bother them during the Running because you are ruining a "sacred" moment where people join the herd in its final moment of freedom. In reality, you are not supposed to bother the bulls because you will get gored by their horns - or worse, make some other, completely innocent person get gored instead. The weird thing is that the dialogue actually does mention that touching the bull will make it more dangerous and liable to attack in that very same scene, but instead of following its logical conclusion, the writer decides to throw in some pseudo-religious mumbo-jumbo that isn't needed. In another scene, the so-called cultural experts wonder if the killer's intention is to replace Saint Firmin as patron saint of Pamplona,note which again shows the author's poor understanding of Catholicism.
- An obscure instance of the trope is the fact that the killer, who fancies himself a bullfighter, always uses a small knife called puntilla to kill his victims by cutting their spinal cord. In bullfighting, the killing blow is actually delivered to the heart with a estoque, a sword with no edge that can pierce, but not cut. The puntilla is only used when the matador fails to kill the bull with the estoque, and it being needed at all would get the matador booed because its use is considered poor performance.
- Vikings was criticized for using anachronistic Scandinavian stave church architecture to depict the great pagan temple at Old Uppsala.
- Criminal Minds had an in-universe one when a cult staged a series of murders to look like they were being carried out by Native American extremists in hopes of starting a race war. To anybody with actual knowledge of the topic - such as a resident of an Apache reservation who was called upon to aid in examining the murders - it was obvious that they'd mixed together the most brutal practices from several cultures without rhyme or reason.
- The Soviet War Factory from Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, with an "onion dome" — a traditional element of Russian Orthodox church architecture — lodged on its roof. Several other Soviet structures in this game were given similar "attachments". On the other hand, Red Alert (from that game on, at least) is built entirely on Camp and Rule of Cool/Rule of Funny, so this can be excused by the MST3K Mantra.
- May be justified as the Bolsheviks (especially at the beginning) found new uses for the buildings of the "opium of the people". The churches that weren't shuttered or demolished were converted into theaters, town halls, stables, warehouses, or museums. Thanks to the Church's large manpower contributions to the anti-revolutionary White Army, and enormous wealth, they were a top opponent of the Bolsheviks. The succeeding Soviet government was openly anti-religious and any Christian symbolism was prohibited until The '80s, with an exception of a period during the War.
- Also partly justified in Red Alert 2 as the Soviet leader is a descendant of the Romanov family, and he may have restored some of the pre-revolutionary antics as long as it doesn't contradict the Soviet socialism. it also may have something to do with the fact that, if you showed people a photo of buildings in Moscow and asked them to point to the Kremlin (a fortified former palace strongly associated with the government of the USSR/Russia in much the same way as "White House" is used metaphorically to refer to the Executive Branch of government in the US) they'd be much more likely to point to St. Basil's Cathedral (the building with all the onion domes in Easter egg colors, which is just across Red Square from the Kremlin) than to the Grand Kremlin Palace itself (which looks more like a rather nice hotel).
- Proving that at least they're even-handed, Red Alert 3 puts Shinto torii on Imperial buildings. This might be slightly more justified, since they have been occasionally used in secular architecture, and the Empire is explicitly endorsing State Shinto, reverence of the Emperor as a deity.
- The Kremlin wonder in White Day: A Labyrinth Named School world time puzzle... is actually St. Basil's Cathedral.
- Same for Rise of Nations.
- And Civilization IV as well. Proving that Firaxis has a sense of humor about it, the following Civ V actually does have the Kremlin show up as itself in that game, but in a nod to prior mistakes the small icon for it is still St. Basil's Cathedral. Likewise, the Masjid al-Haram wonder in IV is actually the Dome of the Rock. For those not in the know, the former is the Kaaba — the Black Cube — in a big mosque in Mecca. The latter is the blue and gold octagon in Jerusalem, which while cool and significant isn't half as cool or significant as the actual Masjid, which is the holiest site in Islam.
- Age of Empires series examples:
- Mayincatec castles in the Age of Empires II expansion The Conquerors are very impractical sacrifice pyramids. Probably done on purpose as realistic Mesoamerican fortresses wouldn't be as iconic.
- Similarly, in the The War Chiefs expansion of Age of Empires III, where the Native American civilizations don't build temples - they get a fire pit where the villagers dance in exchange of new units and techs instead - the inevitable lack of pyramids in the Aztecs is solved by having pyramid-shaped barracks.
- In the second expansion to AoE III, The Asian Dynasties, the Chinese get a "Confucian Academy" as one of their wonders which is used to... build siege engines.
- The faction flags and leaders in III rarely match up, since the leaders of the original game were mostly chosen for being the ones to first establish overseas colonies, while the flags were chosen as the most commonly used design during the colonial period. This results in Henry the Navigator flying the Portuguese CoA on a white background (introduced 30 years after his death), Isabella flying the Habsburg Cross of Burgundy, Elizabeth flying the hybrid English-Scottish jack, Napoleon flying the Bourbon three Fleures-de-Lis, and Ivan the Terrible flying Peter the Great's imperial standard (why they didn't just use Peter the Great as Russian leader remains a Riddle for the Ages). Suleiman actually gets the modern Republic of Turkey flag. The only leader that can be content is Maurice of Nassau, who gets to fly a Dutch navy flag.
- The German flag, however, merits its own entry. It has a bizarre crowned, black, two-headed eagle over a white background, seemingly a combination of the Prussian (crowned, black, one-headed eagle on a white background) and Holy Roman Empire flags (non-crowned, black, two-headed eagle on a yellow background).
- The Asian factions mostly follow their European colleagues. Kangxi flies the Qing dragon flag adopted in the late 19th century (although the colors and dragon had been popular before) and Tokugawa flies the Tokugawa seal on a black background (the actual Tokugawa flag was much less badass). The Chinese still fly the Qing flag in their campaign, set during the (Han) Ming dynasty over two centuries before it was dethroned by the (Manchu) Qing.
- Similarly to the German case, the Indians have a fictional flag (golden sun and lion over yellow field) that appears to be a combination of Mughal (sun and lion over green field, among others; a Muslim dynasty) and Maratha designs (plain pale orange field; a Hindu dynasty). Akbar's AI personality names "the gods" several times, and his Indian civilization is very clearly Hindu, but the real Akbar was Muslim.
- Stave church architecture is used frequently for housing, castles and great halls in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
- Parodied in Problem Sleuth where several stats are shown using very out-of-place Christian imagery, such as monstrances, communion wafers, the Gifts of the Magi, etc.
- Seth MacFarlane is obviously a pretty big fan of Rule of Funny, but his use of Jewish symbols is, unsurprisingly, way off the mark. In at least a couple episodes in Family Guy he shows Jews wearing prayer shawls at the wrong times (either outside of prayer, or at nighttime services when they are not worn), and The Cleveland Show at one point, in a fantasy cutaway, shows Cleveland reciting Kol Nidre, the Aramaic annulment of vows that begins Yom Kippur, by reading it out of a Torah scroll. It is a legal declaration, not a Biblical passage, and is certainly not found in the Torah (it's not even in the same language).
- In a Schoolhouse Rock-style music video in American Dad!, the Kremlin used as a counterpart to the White House... is actually St. Basil's Cathedral.
- The Simpsons has also made this mistake more than once, though it's easy to miss behind the glamour of Zombie Lenin. One episode had a figure of the Virgin Mary presiding a football stadium in Brazil. The statue then became alive and took part in a fight between hooligans.
- The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series had the Running of the Bulls taking place in Lisbon (it looked nothing like Lisbon, of course), and also made the error of mixing the Running with the Holy Week processions (not by having processions around the same time as the Running, but by having "processions" of bull and matador figures).
- Use of San(to)/Santa ("Saint") followed by any random word to name fictional Spanish-speaking locations. Marvel is particularly prone:
- San Elanya, home village of minor Marvel Comics superhero El Aguila.note
- Santo Rica ("Saint Rich"), also from Marvel Comics. This one is not even grammatically correct: Santo is a masculine word and Rica, feminine. Some writers have caught on this and use "Santo Rico".
- San Gusto ("Saint Taste"). San Justo and San Gustavo would have been perfect names, but... nope.
- The worst example has to be places in several different stories called San Diablo...Saint Devil. This one also pops up in the first Spy Kids film.
- Out of Marvel there is the fake travel guide to San Sombrèro ("Saint Hàt").note
- Another non-Marvel example: San Angeles, home base of the Power Rangers Operation Overdrive. Done as a San Diego/Los Angeles mashup of course, but seriously - "Saint Angels"? San Angeles is also used as the setting in Demolition Man, but this time it is justified: San Angeles is a megalopolis formed by the future growth and unification of San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.note
- From Dead Rising, the town Carlito is avenging is Santa Cabeza. In English, it means Saint Head.
- This could also have been easily saved, had the writers bothered.
- Early in 2017, a slip of the tongue by Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski gave us the memetic Banana Republic of San Escobar.
- The Kremlin in a great deal of American source material is actually St. Basil's Cathedral. This is probably due to Western journalism superimposing an image of the Cathedral while announcing news relating to Russia during much of the 20th century. Perhaps ironically, Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 does feature both, having models for what is an incorrectly-designed Grand Kremlin Palace and the cathedral. It doesn't help that when you do a Google image search for "Kremlin," what shows up most prominently ... is actually St. Basil's Cathedral. It's a shame because there are some rather nice-looking churches on the Kremlin grounds. That said, the Kremlin is a fortress. With red walls and green roofs. Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed stands just outside the Kremlin. It is a colorful temple.
- Letters in non-Roman alphabets are particularly prone to being used as substitutes for the Roman letters they resemble rather than the Roman letters they actually represent.
- The Greek capital letter Lambda (L) looks like a Latin A without the horizontal dash. It has the advantage of being recognizable as a letter (the wrong one) while making anything look instantly Greek. Many authors therefore use it as a substitute for A, leading to nonsensical things like the poster for Agora which actually says "LGORL" in a mix of Greek and Latin letters. Then there's Sigma, which looks vaguely like E, to similar effect.
- The Backwards Я is this trope applied to the Cyrillic alphabet. Amusingly enough, the Lambda joke exists here as well, since the letter for L is directly borrowed from the Greek alphabet.
- Ancient Greek hoplites in fiction almost invariably carry the capital L on their shields. It was indeed used as such in Ancient times, but only by the Spartans - the L stood for Lakedaimonia, the homeland of the Spartans. This trope ensues when even the Realism mod of Rome: Total War has Athenians carrying this mark, when Athenians, and for that matter Thebans, Argives, Megarians and citizens of nearly a thousand other states would never be caught dead carrying their mortal enemy's emblem on their shields. For their part, most other Greek states did not have consistent shield designs, the design being generally personal to the bearer (although often inherited father-to-son) because hoplites paid for their own arms and armor, including the shield, in most states; Sparta's consistent design is because they were armed at the expense of the state.
- Those Wacky Nazis appropriating swastikas. The swastika, previous to encounters with India and Buddhism, was already a very popular symbol in the West. It was commonly associated with, among other things, Thor, the god of thunder. In fact, the swastika is so ubiquitous in world cultures that some, including Carl Sagan, theorized that it was, in fact, based off the image of a comet seen straight on. Others have hypothesized that it represents the sun. The Nazis made the mistake of assuming it to be an Aryan symbol above all else, and proved a connection between the mythic white Aryans (real Aryans, AKA proto-Indo-Europeans, almost certainly weren't blonde-haired, blue eyed Nordics, and resembled North Indians or Iraniansnote ) and the Scandinavian cultures they admired.
- FIFA thought it would be a great idea to release a football bearing the flags of the countries that had qualified for the 2002 World Cup. And it would have, if one of those countries wasn't Saudi Arabia, which has the 'Shahada'—the fundamental Islamic declaration of faith ("There is no god but God and Muhammad is His prophet")—sewn into it, taken straight from the Quran. Add to that that hitting something with your shoes or feet is a supreme insult in Middle Eastern culture and you can figure where this is going.
- Even setting aside the specifics of Arab culture, one must admit that kicking around a copy of anyone's most holy images would offend them.Important note
- The South Korean organizers also ran into trouble when they painted the flags on a hall's ground, ensuring that visitors would step on them.
- And ISAF then went and made the same football mistake in Afghanistan.
- Some coins made in Britain during the Dark Ages like those of Offa of Mercia have (crude) Arab inscriptions reading "there is no God but Allah" or claiming to have been struck in Damascus a number of years after the Hegira. It is believed that the engravers just copied contemporary Abassid gold dinars and mistook the writing for decoration.
- Often seen in tattoos or posters of a Yin-Yang symbol with a tiger and Chinese dragon battling it out. Chances are, the dragon will be in the black part of the symbol, while the tiger will be in the white part, likely to match their colors (the tiger will always be a white tiger, in this case). This would be a mistake in Taoist philosophies, as this is quite backwards; while the tiger and dragon do indeed represent Yin and Yang, they do so respectively. The tiger represents Yin (the black area), while the dragon represents Yang (the white area). Likely, the mix-up comes from Western views of dragons as evil creatures, automatically placing it in the "dark" side of the symbol, while the strong and noble white tiger is placed in the "good" side. Just remember this handy rule of thumb to keep them straight: the tiger waits in the darkness to strike at its prey, while the dragon charges forth brashly into the light of the sky. Additionally, Dark Is Not Evil and Light Is Not Good. Yin-Yang is not about Good vs. Evil, but about achieving balance between two opposing and complimentary forces. Birth (dark) must be balanced by death (light), or else populations would either explode or wither away. Masculinity (light) is balanced by femininity (dark).
- As part of a 2000 report on the Basque Country, an Italian newspaper published a photo of a traditional aurresku dancer during the inauguration act of the Basque regional government and identified it as "martial arts practice in the Guardia Civil barracks".
- The real Fallas run into trouble in 2013 when one participant made one that included depictions of two Hindu gods, Shiva and Ganesh. Following protests from the Hindu community, the ruling council made the author take out the figure of Shiva (which was donated to an Hindu temple) and the crown and extra arms of Ganesh, thus turning it into a common elephant, before the structure was burned down.
- The Urban Legend of a smiling crucified Santa Claus in Japan.
- Cults are these by default, given their rejection or additions of their own doctrines to their base religion. If the leader claims to be Jesus reincarnated or something similar (Hong Xiuquan, Father Divine, Shoko Asahara, Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite just to name a few), the resulting cosmology is guaranteed to be bizarre.
This page... is actually St. Basil's Cathedral.