The Artifact

aka: Artifact
"Every time the TARDIS materializes in a new location, within the first nanosecond of landing it analyzes its surroundings, calculates a twelve-dimensional data map of everything within a thousand mile radius and determines which outer shell would blend in better with the environment... and then it disguises itself as a police telephone box from 1963."
The Doctor, Doctor Who

Sometimes, a character or gimmick seems to no longer fit with the mood or design of a story according to a writer, but is kept because there seems to be no way for the writer to get rid of them without causing some serious disruption (unrelated to Retcons).

Sometimes it's due to being tied in closely to the mythos or that The Artifact has just been around so long that removing it seems like overstepping bounds. And if it's due to pure fan popularity, the producers probably aren't going to push it out in any case for no reason.

The general way to solve this problem is to avoid it, or rather, them. You can bet anyone considered The Artifact is going to be politely skipped over by the writer whenever they can, although this can get shaky if the audience is seasoned to expect them around.

Very common in webcomics and print comics with a rotating circle of writers. Less common on television given the emphasis on demographics and ratings, although Filler occasionally trots out old premises.

Occasionally this is caught early enough, though in Long Runners this results in a odd Bleached Underpants situation within a series, usually from Author Appeal tastes.

Compare Grandfather Clause, where something cliché or inappropriate is retained because of tradition. Contrast Canon Immigrant, Pinball Protagonist, Breakout Character and Creator's Pet. See also Artifact Title. See Network Decay when this happens to an entire channel. On occasion The Artifact (or something the writers think is only an artifact) will be done away with but then missed and brought back in a different form as a Replacement Artifact; if The Artifact is restructured to fit in with current sensibilities, it's Reimagining the Artifact.

This trope has nothing to do with magical items or similar ancient objects of power; for that, see Ancient Artifact or Artifact of Doom.


Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • The good-kind-of-bad jingle singer (Dave Bickler of Survivor) in Bud Light's Real Men of Genius campaign made for a better gag when the ads started out and he was singing about Real American Heroes. The latter concept was phased out after 9/11, when making light of "American heroes" started to seem a bit more questionable in taste. It's still a good gag, just minus a little... significance.
  • Erin Esurance, of the Esurance ads.
    • During her run, the ad campaign ditched the whole espionage/Action Girl angle in favor of more traditional type spots. She stuck around for awhile.
    • The next campaign switched the setting to a fictional Esurance office. She was reduced to a poster in the halls.
    • After that, Esurance partnered with Allstate, and all references to past advertisements, Erin included, disappeared.
  • Magic the Dog in Old Navy's first commercials was a fashion designer, with fashion columnist Carrie Donovan (old lady with glasses) talking about his great work in the field of fashion. After the first few commercials, the idea was dropped, and for several years just featured generic commercials, but still featured Magic (just as a dog) and Carrie Donovan (just as old lady with glasses).
  • Early commercials for Capital One represented credit card debt as rampaging hordes of barbarians, which only a Capital One card could drive away. Now their commercials are about barbarians getting along in the modern world using Capital One cards.
    • It helps that the barbarians have been remade into fun-loving guys after a good time. Usually.
    • Capital One's original selling point was that they charged a lower APR than the competition. When they raised their rates during the late-Oughties credit crunch, they had no choice but to re-tool the characters.
    • Parodied in this Onion article, where it turns out that "no one at Capital One can remember why it put Vikings in its ads".
  • A few years ago, Charmin toilet paper ran an animated spot about bears taking the product with them into the woods. The bears have since become the center of their own campaign, but because they also live in houses, there is no connection to the original joke.
  • Duke the talking dog from the Bush's Baked Beans commercials. Originally, the joke was that company spokesman Jay Bush had told the secret family bean recipe to his dog Duke, naturally expecting the animal to keep quiet—but it turned out the dog could actually talk, and wanted to sell the recipe! Nowadays, the commercials for the most part inexplicably feature Jay Bush hanging out with this dog that just happens to talk. They seem to be going back with the original gimmick in a more recent commercial, though. [1]
  • Carfax.com used to have commercials where customers would ask a shady car salesman to "show [them] the Carfax", to which the salesman would instead show them something like the "car mats" or a puppet of a "Car Fox". The latter is now Carfax's mascot.
  • The GEICO Gecko started out as a joke in which a customer calls him, to which he responds "You want Geico, not Gecko." Now he's one of the company's mascots.
    • He's also vaguely Australian (or perhaps lower-class British) now, despite being voiced by Kelsey Grammer (a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands) in the original.
    • They introduced a talking pig character with a commercial that asked, "Can switching to Geico save you fifteen or more on car insurance? Did the little piggy go wee wee wee all the home?", then showed a pig hanging out a car window shouting "Wee!". Now they've got the pig in normal situations, using the Geico phone app.
    • The same happened with the Geico cavemen. The original few ads were about fully culturally assimilated modern cavemen being rightly offended by the Geico slogan "so easy a caveman can do it" and making a public stink over it, but they pretty quickly morphed into random skits with the caveman characters.
  • Clearnet, a former Canadian telecom, had an innovative marketing campaign which featured music, animals, images of equipment, some printed words, and nothing else. Telus kept that approach, and has done quite well with it since. Most people have forgotten Clearnet.

    Fan Fic 
  • In-Universe in The Calvin, Hobbes, and Paine Show — after Miss Wormwood leaves the show, all school-related stories were phased out, but Principal Spittle was still around. Calvin mentions that he ended up being rather awkwardly shoehorned into some of the stories.

    Film 
  • Kevin was the second lead of the film American Pie after Jim, but thanks to the breakout characters of Finch and, particularly, Stifler, by the time the third film (American Wedding) rolled around there was really nothing for him to do, especially since his love interest Tara Reid wasn't even in the movie. But because he was Jim's best friend it would've been strange for him not to be in the wedding party so he was basically just around to stand there and hardly say anything.
  • The writers of Back to the Future II were stuck with the fact they had put Marty's girlfriend in the car with Doc at the end of the first movie, thus forcing them to write her into the sequel. They said that, if they had actually planned on a sequel, they never would have put her in there. They did, however, find a way to write her back out again until the very end of BTTF III.
  • There is no real need for Andromeda to appear in the 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans given she has lost her role as love interest to Perseus and her city has already done more than enough to anger the gods even without her mother's hubris in proclaiming her beauty. She only seems to have been retained at all because Perseus rescuing Andromeda is such a big part of the original myth.
    • Andromeda is shown handing out food to the poor people in the city. So at least she is useful in-universe. It's also worth noting that she was Perseus's love interest in the original cut of the film (with Io and Perseus simply being Like Brother and Sister) and had much more screentime that ended up being cut as a result of Executive Meddling. See this alternate ending.
  • The Lord of the Rings is an interesting example. Arwen wasn't super-prominent in the books, barely more than a One-Scene Wonder (two-scenes to be exact), but Liv Tyler was high-profile enough that filmmakers felt it would be pragmatic to expand her role. She got third billing too. However, as the films went on, they (rightly) felt they would do well to stick to Tolkien and focus on the main plot, and the films were pretty much successful enough to not bother with pleasing focus research. As a result, Arwen's appearances in Return of the King are essentially cameos.
    • The same principle happened to Cate Blanchett's Galadriel, but to a lesser degree because she is already way more prominent than Arwen. Apart from the Lothlórien chapters (which take up a sizable chunk of Fellowship of the Ring), Galadriel gets mentioned again from time to time, and she shows up at the very end. The appendices give more information about her, including an Offscreen Moment of Awesome where she (and her husband) led an elven army to destroy one of Sauron's main fortresses in the North while the main characters were fighting their own battles to the East. For the films, Blanchett was given more lines and scenes throughout the trilogy.
    • In the books, Arwen was a late addition who took Éowyn's place as Aragorn's love interest when Tolkien decided to ship Éowyn with Faramir instead. In the books, she appears in two scenes: a banquet in Rivendell, and then her wedding. She is mentioned on the sly a few times later, but her story is almost exclusively part of Aragorn's backstory, found in the appendices.
  • Although the film of Runaway Jury involves gun politics, the original novel was about a tobacco company on trial. Nevertheless, the movie still contains a number of references to the pros and cons of smoking (e.g. The Protagonist telling a neighbor that he should quit), which are a leftover from the source material.
  • Jar Jar Binks in episodes 2 and 3 of the Star Wars trilogy (left over from episode 1).
    • However, George Lucas foresaw and deliberately averted this with Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope. He was originally going to survive his encounter with Darth Vader on the Death Star, but with crippling injuries, and spend the rest of the film as an invalid, giving advice from the sidelines. Lucas realised that this would just slow the action down and get in the way, and rewrote the script, not that long before the fight sequence was due to be shot.
    • This may be where the "force ghost" concept came from - as an alternative method of dispensing said advice.
    • In the Expanded Universe, C-3PO does this a lot. So does Lando to a lesser extent.
    • Oddly enough, it also applies to C-3PO and R2-D2's appearances in the prequels. Their presence creates a bit of a plot hole, but at the same time it was pretty much impossible to not have them in the movies.
  • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, which are PG, they can't exactly show the Ninja Turtles slicing and dicing their opponents. However, Leonardo's katanas are so iconic to him that he can't have any other weapon. For that reason, he uses his swords only for Flynning and actually hits his opponents with his hands and feet.
  • Vesper Lynd's name in Casino Royale. Her name is a play on "West Berlin", as her loyalties were split down the middle like how Berlin was split by the Soviet-built wall in much of the Cold War.
  • Star Trek (2009) has an interesting meta-example with Chekhov's portrayal. In the original series, Walter Koenig's hilariously bad Russian accent ("Keptin! Enemy wessel approaching!") was one of the most memorable things about his performance, and it rapidly became the character's trademark. In the 2009 version, Chekhov is played by the Russian-born Anton Yelchin, who actually speaks fluent Russian, and is fully capable of speaking in a convincing Russian accent. He doesn't, of course, since everybody knows that Chekhov just wouldn't be Chekhov without that cheesy accent.note 
  • In Louis Sachar's Holes, the protagonist Stanley Yelnats is explicitly written as overweight, and he receives the nickname "Caveman" from the other kids at Camp Green Lake because of his size. For the film adaptation, the producers cast a young (and not remotely pudgy) Shia LaBeouf as Stanley, but he kept the nickname.
    • Justified as Stanley loses weight and gets fit from all the holes, something that trying to portray would be very difficult and impractical. As for the "Caveman" nickname, it was given to him as a result of discovering a fossil as his first find.
  • Joyce in the film adaptation of Arrowsmith. In the book she's his second wife, and her high-society lifestyle distracts Martin Arrowsmith from his research. The film did not include that storyline, so in the movie, Joyce is just kind of there in the last third of the film, not doing anything to affect the plot.

    Law 
  • The criminal law of Finland still starts with the words (roughly translated) "We, Alexander the Third, with the grace of God, Emperor and Autocrat of Russia, Tzar of Poland, Grand Duke of Finland, etc. etc. etc. decree that..." and so on and so forth, even though Finland has not been under Russian rule since 1917, and a quite significant portion of the law has changed since.
    • There are still some statutes in Finnish law from as back as 1734 and that have been completely obsolete for hundreds of years, but have still not been removed. These laws mandate, among other things, what types of plants each household must cultivate every year, and set fines in Thalers (a monetary unit that hasn't been in use in Finland since about 1860.)
  • Since the Constitution of the United States cannot be changed, only amended, the 18th amendment still establishes the prohibition of alcohol (repealed by the 21st amendment).
    • There are several other such artifacts, such as original system of selecting the Presidential runner-up as Vice President (replaced by the 12th Amendment). One of the compromises between the free and slave states had a built-in deadline that turned it into an artifact (importation of slaves was protected until 1808; it was banned by law as soon as this clause expired). Many printings of the Constitution will cross out, gray out, or otherwise indicate sections that have been superseded by later amendments.
    • There's nothing in the Constitution requiring this to be so, but when the first few amendments were adopted it was consciously decided that they would stand on their own rather than changing the original text piecemeal.
  • Pretty much anything associated with judicial dress in the English-speaking world. Black robes were originally worn as a gesture of mourning for Queen Anne, wigs as a sign of 17th century aristocratic fashion (or, in the colonies, English political domination).
  • The British aristocratic titles of Duke, Earl, Viscount, Marchioness, etc all originate from a feudal system where they were clearly distinct political offices with clear responsibilities and powers. As the centuries went on, this diminished to all the ranks of peerage having the same effective function - granting their holder a seat in the House of Lords. As of 1997, they don't even do that any more, but the titles still legally exist.
    • Similarly, members of the House of Lords cannot vote in elections for the House of Commons. As most Lords are affiliated to a particular party, this rule obviously isn't because of neutrality, so why's it there? Because the Lords and Commons originally represented different strata of society. All aristocrats were automatically in the House of Lords anyway, so why did they need to be represented in the Commons?
    • There's a lot of such laws.
  • British monarchs continued to style themselves King/Queen of France, among their other titles, centuries after the French recaptured Calais in 1559. George III finally discontinued the title in 1801.
  • Until recently the French President was allowed to declare the state of emergency on the Algerian territory, even though Algeria has been independent since 1962.
    • Some laws dealt with redacting the death certificate of an executed convict or placed capital decrees among the rulings prioritary for Supreme Court's review, even though the death penalty was abolished in 1981.
    • Some outdated dispositions about hard labor (abolished in 1960) have also recently been repealed.
    • Some condominiums' bylaws, adopted under the Vichy Regime, still prohibit selling to Jews; this could be considered a double exemple of this trope since the statutes which these bylaws cite for defining a Jew have been abrogated and the bylaws themselves are nullified by later anti-discrimination statutes.
  • Some unconstitutional statutes in state Codes of the USA have still not been repealed.
  • The possibility of appealing a ruling of the High Court of Australia to the Privy Council has been effectively nullified by the refusal of the High Court to give the leave needed.
  • The constitution of the German state of Hesse still includes the death penalty as a possible means of punishment. However, since the death penalty in Germany was abolished on federal level, and federal law trumps state law, this has effectively no meaning.

    Literature 
  • In the first Harry Potter book, the House Cup championship was such Serious Business that Harry, Hermione and Neville became the most unpopular kids in school after losing Gryffindor a hundred and fifty points and the awarding of the Cup was important enough to almost be a second climax. Later in the series, no one seems to care much about the House Cup anymore when the emphasis on School Tropes is dropped in favour of the high-stakes war against Voldemort, and yet Snape stubbornly continues to punish our heroes by taking points from Gryffindor.
    • Quidditch also stopped being important after the third book. The next three books kept creating reasons for Harry to no longer play quidditch since it could not be outright ignored.
      • This is even more apparent in the movies where quidditch loses nearly all its relevancy after the second film, ignoring the side plot of Ron's turn as Keeper in book 5, and Harry's role as team captain in book 6.
  • Over the years, the H.I.V.E. Series has gotten much darker, but Block and Tackle continue to appear. When there is a genuine need for some generic mooks, it's always those two, but otherwise they tend to have simple cameos in every volume.
  • Applies to Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series (at least in the book version), after he fulfills his self imposed mission. He makes a fairly small appearance in Life The Universe And Everything and was then completely absent, with only one or two mentions, until And Another Thing. The radio version of Mostly Harmless (made after Douglas Adams' death) felt compelled to bring him back anyway.
    • Similarly, any visual version of Hitchhiker's Guide suffers from the complication of giving Zaphod a second head and a third arm. Both elements were completely unimportant in the actual books and radio play and just inserted to be weird. Yet if you were to design a one headed, two armed Zaphod, you'd have a riot of galactic proportions.
      • The movie compromised this by only giving him a retractable head (which actually becomes a plot point in this version). He does have three arms, but the extra one only shows up a few times, and seems to come out of his chest.
    • The radio version's differing plot for the second season kept Zaphod in a fairly important role, and he was a popular character; so they gave him an expanded role in the adapted series.
    • Ford Prefect's name. The joke is not only lost entirely on American audiences, but modern British audiences as well, as the Ford Prefect car that was once so popular in Britain has quietly disappeared. (The joke was that Ford, when coming to Earth, had mistaken cars for Earth's dominant life form due to insufficient research.) The German version fixes this by calling the character "Ford Escort", while all other versions keep his name the same. The US film got around the problem by showing Ford and Arthur's first meeting (Ford steps into the street to greet an oncoming car — which is indeed a Ford Prefect, Arthur tackles him just in time) and having Ford tell Arthur what he was doing and why, specifically pointing out his unusual name.
  • Adaptations of Agatha Christie novels often change things about a bit, most notably in the Hercule Poirot film Appointment with Death. The famous opening sentence of the novel is “You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?” It is kept in the film, but because the rest of the plot is so drastically different from the book, it becomes largely irrelevant.
    • In After the Funeral there is an emphasis on nuns, something that turns out to be a false lead designed by the culprit to redirect suspicion. In the Poirot adaptation, the running thread of the nuns are shifted from the murderer to other suspects, making it more of an obscure Red Herring than an actual clue.

    Magazines 
  • Though the only unhealthy thing about fat per se is that it has nine calories per gram as opposed to four with protein and carbohydrate (though fat is actually essential for vital functions, and is more filling than carbohydrate), women's magazines and health magazines regularly list both calories and fat.
  • Nintendo Power: For a long time, the mail section listed what state a reader sent his letter from, or read "via the Internet" if they sent it through email. Eventually the letters all redundantly read "via the Internet", but this tidbit was never taken out until the Future US takeover.
  • Back in the 1950's, Mad Magazine had actual "departments" for comics and other stuff. Nowadays, "such-and-such department" might as well just be "such-and-such", given that each article just has its own, snarky intro line.

    Music 
  • Many bands who have an early hit but then change their sound usually still have to play their early hit because that's what the casual crowd wants. Thus, it often becomes an artifact.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give It Away" was a hit, and so has been played live every gig since its introduction, regardless of whether it fits with the setlist or not (it's dirty funk and their recent music has been more in an alternative rock/ballad vein)
    • "Under The Bridge" and "Otherside" were written during different bad times in Anthony Kiedis' life, but were hit singles, so they have to play them live even if they aren't representative of those time periods. The album One Hot Minute was written during bad times in the band member's lives, but oddly, the one track they still occasionally play from it is the most negative song of the whole album, Flea's solo song Pea.
    • "Right On Time" and "Throw Away Your Television" were present in almost every setlist from when they were introduced until being only occasionally played this tour. They were artifacts because they were album tracks from the albums that were being promoted at the time (Californication and By The Way).
      • The funk orientated bassist Flea and the hard rock drummer Chad Smith seem out of place in the band's alternative rock period which has mostly been written by Anthony Kiedis and John Frusciante (since replaced by Josh Klinghoffer). The band have reintroduced a lot of older tracks in their setlist since, so that might be changing.
  • In contrast, especially until Genesis had enough hits to throw away a lot of their earlier epics, progressive pieces such as Supper's Ready, "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight", "Squonk", "Dance On A Volcano" and "The Cinema Show", which were still played even as late as 1986, often clashed considerably with the new sound, style and line-up changes of the band in The Eighties, to the point where they could be seen as artifacts in the setlist.
    • A similar effect happened with the Trevor Rabin-era lineup of Yes, who had to share catchy, post-modern, commercial, MTV-approved '80s pop hits like "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" in their setlists with early progressive epics like "Heart Of The Sunrise" and "Your Move/All Good People" from The Seventies.
  • Despite several centuries of independence from Spain, the Dutch national anthem still contains a statement of loyalty to the Spanish king.
  • Russia's current national anthem has the same tune as the Soviet Union's but with different lyrics.
  • Oddly enough, the horn section that the band Chicago was originally built around became a bit of an artifact in The Eighties as the band's style shifted from progressive rock/jazz outfit to a smoother, poppier, more keyboard-centered AOR/MOR band. The horns seemed to be used very sparingly, and in the background of their hits, when used at all.
    • A similar situation would be narrowly averted with Electric Light Orchestra. A side project of Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne of The Move, originally, until The Move's split, the band was made with the intention of crossbreeding the sound of an electric rock group with the sound of a string section (orchestra) used as an integral part of the groupnote ; the band's name was a pun on the electric light bulb and BBC Light Orchestra. Even after the departure of Roy Wood from the band after their debut album, and the group's eventual Genre Shift into pop (and at one point, disco!), they continued to use string arrangements and Beatlesque elements prominently in the group sound; the official string-playing members of the band had less and less to do in the studio after 1974's Eldorado due to Lynne wanting more elaborate string parts. By the group's 1981 album, the New Wave-inspired, synth-heavy Time, the group had jettisoned strings almost entirely in favor of a synth-pop sound, using only a few string players or studio string parts through The Eighties; Time, however, acknowledged this by shortening the group name to its Fan Nickname, ELO, officially. 2001's Zoom had little or no strings on it, either, yet the (canceled) 2001 tour note  was to have used new string players alongside the rock players.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dick Tracy had a Dork Age in the 1960s involving space travel, wherein Junior married Moon Maid and they had a daughter, Honey Moon. Moon Maid later got Killed Off for Real, but Honey is still around. It's simply never mentioned anymore that her cute little pigtails are there to hide the antennae she inherited from Mom.
    • Dick Tracy's signature two-way wrist radio, which would have been a technological marvel in its day, would now get nothing more than a shrug in the modern day era of cell phones. It still exists due to being such an integral iconic item to the character.
  • Lampshaded repeatedly in Dilbert: If Bob The Dinosaur ever shows up, it's pretty much just to point out that he no longer had a purpose, once the comic shifted to office humor. But then, this applies to just about all its non-work characters, including Phil (who only makes an appearance once in a blue moon anyway), Ratbert, and even Dogbert.
    • Dogbert still appears frequently, having made the transition to office humor quite well because he is the personification of how Scott Adams would like to act if he could get away with it. However, the fact that he is a dog and Dilbert's pet is almost entirely inconsequential.
    • In a broader sense, as the focus of the strip moved from puns, outlandish stories and character-based humor and more toward office observational comedy, removing characters was probably necessary to simplify things to the "incompetent boss/long-suffering, snarky employees" formula. Adams has been filling the void partially with one-off gag characters for some time now, however. Also, some new regular characters were created after the switch to office humor, including Asok, Carol, and Tina.
    • Bob had a place in the office during the runup to Y2K: he was a COBOL programmer brought back from retirement to upgrade older computer systems in the company from two- to four-digit year fields so that all hell wouldn't break loose when they went from "99" to "00".
  • Shermy, Patty and Violet in the comic-strip Peanuts. Schulz intended for them all to have been foils for Charlie Brown in different ways, but as other characters developed and Lucy became his primary foil they became increasingly unnecessary.
    • Shermy, who spoke the first line in the strip, was the first to suffer. His original role was to be better than Charlie Brown at everything Charlie Brown loved to do; as early as the late 1950s his appearances become rare and he has only one line in A Charlie Brown Christmas (which was kind of Lampshade Hanging; he laments that in every Christmas play, he's always cast as a boring shepherd). He last appeared in 1969 and was last mentioned in 1977. Schulz didn't mind getting rid of him as he said he was basically down to using Shermy when he needed a character with almost no personality. And he didn't like Shermy's haircut, either.
    • Patty (not to be confused with Peppermint Patty), originally the mother hen and Alpha Bitch, diminished as Lucy took over most of her role. She last appeared in a speaking part in 1976, with occasional cameos thereafter. When You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown was revived on Broadway in late 1990s, her role was rewritten to be Sally instead, as most modern audiences would not have been familiar with the character.
    • Violet held out the longest, until 1984. By that time not only had Lucy become the strip's dominant female character, Peppermint Patty and Marcie had also arrived and established themselves.
  • As a genre, newspaper comics themselves are almost an Artifact. In previous decades, popular strips like Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, Cathy, For Better or for Worse, The Far Side and The Family Circus appeared in thousands of newspapers and reached millions of readers, with newspapers publishing full-color pullouts for Sunday comics. Now, however, almost all of the popular strips have ended, newspapers are increasingly cash-strapped and looking for ways to cut costs, and Webcomics have become a popular alternative. Newspapers have drastically cut back on the number of comic strips they run, and many have dropped the Sunday comics altogether, to the point where they seem to run comics more out of tradition than anything else. This was Lampshaded by Bill Watterson as early as 1995, when he wrote about how the lack of newspaper competition meant that the surviving newspapers would only purchase the most popular strips. As a result, the big strips would get huge, while the smaller newspapers, in Watterson's words, "play musical chairs and vanish."
  • The famous morse code message in Spy vs. Spy's title panel, which spells out "BY PROHIAS", was iconic enough that it was kept after the strip's original creator, Antonio Prohias, retired in 1987 and passed it on to Duck Edwing. As of this writing, the current strip (drawn by Peter Kuper) still has it.
  • Foxtrot usually is very good at keeping it's pop culture references current; althought one that stands out is the family's iFruit computer, based on the original 1998 iteration of the iMac. The family kept this version long after that style had become archaic by home computing standards.
  • Blondie has been good fairly good in modern times about updating the characters, home appliances and situations; however, Dagwood's iconic bathtub remains a 1930/40s style standalone non-drain basin (sans shower head), which would look odd in any modern house.
    • The family's hairstyles are all ridiculously out of fashion, staying the same since they were created.
  • Beetle Bailey has often updated with the times, starting in the 70s by slowly adding diversity to the cast that was previously all white and male, adding a tech character in recent years, and even called out General Halftrack's lecherous ways following the Tailhook Scandal and Clarence Thomas hearings. However, the uniforms are woefully out of date (still sporting solid olive drab that went away in the early 70s in favor of camo patterns) as well as old-style open Jeeps, 50s era rifles, and tanks more resembling those from the 50s than modern ones.
  • The dad in Curtis still hates rap and hip-hop music and pines for old R&B and soul; in the modern times he would have grown up with N.W.A. and Snoop Dogg.
  • Similarly, the parents in Zits are still portrayed as Baby Boomers. It's becoming increasingly unlikely people of their age would have biological teenage sons, if not impossible.
    • Jeremy still rocks grunge-era clothes from his introduction in the 90s.
  • An attempted aversion exists in Family Circus. Jeff Keane took over after his father's death, and seems to recycle a lot of the older strips from the 80s, removing outdated stuff via (apparently) photoshop. However, it leads to some oddness, such as the kids watching a modern flat screen TV sitting on the floor or Ma Keane having odd blank spots around her head (where her 50s era hair curls are whited out).

    Pinball 
  • Although Lights... Camera... Action! revolves around completing an action movie, the game also constains numerous references to playing cards, and players must assemble poker hands for extra bonuses. Word of God is that the game was originally designed with a card game theme, which was changed to movie-making midway through production.

    Sports 
  • The Los Angeles Lakers, an American basketball team, originally played in Minnesota, which actually has, you know, lakes. The name makes absolutely no sense in Los Angeles, but has been around so long that it's not changing.
  • The Utah Jazz, also an NBA team. This team originated in New Orleans, the home of jazz music. Utah? Not so much.
    • Ironically, after the Jazz left the Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans, keeping the Hornets name (earned from Charlotte's nickname, "Hornet's Nest"). The name isn't completely out of place like some of the others, but it's still humorous that New Orleans is on the giving and receiving end of this trope.
      • To turn it around straight again, their team colors are still UNC baby blue and white.
      • The New Orleans franchise is now changing its name to the Pelicans (after the Louisiana state flag), starting with the 2013-14 season. Charlotte's following team, the Bobcats, then announced they will rename themselves Hornets the following season.
  • In the English football (soccer) league, London-based Wimbledon FC, nicknamed 'The Dons' were in financial crisis, which their owners decided to 'solve' by moving them to Milton Keynes, a town over 70 miles away, 2004. Unlike in the US where teams moving is common, this is completely unheard of in English football and it was denounced by virtually everyone. The fans of the original team set up their own club, AFC Wimbledon, while the now-Milton-Keynes-based team was told they couldn't call themselves 'Wimbledon' any more, so they changed to 'Milton Keynes Dons', with the last word representing the original nickname. After years of negotiation, it's now been accepted by both sides that AFC Wimbledon are the legitimate successor team to Wimbledon FC, whereas MK Dons are just a team that started in 2004. However, the suffix 'Dons' still remains.
  • In an example of one of these ultimately being changed, in the NFL, when the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee they kept the Oilers name for a bit, but finally changed to Titans, a name that doesn't scream Tennessee, but at least isn't a nonsensical reference to another region like the Oilers. Also, they had to keep the Oilers name while in Tennessee for a year or two to keep ownership of the name.
  • American football has a scoring play known as the drop kick, in which a player can, during play, bounce the ball off the ground and then kick it between the goalposts for a field goal or an extra point. Drop kicks have been obsolete for decades due to changes in play style and the football being made more pointed in shape to accommodate the passing game, but were never actually removed from the rule book. Cue a Miami Dolphins/New England Patriots game and consternation when Patriots backup quarterback Doug Flutie scored the first drop kick in over 60 years (it was a thank-you to coach Bill Belichick). Most NFL fans were unaware that the drop kick even existed.
    • Likewise, the free kick. A ridiculously rare and obscure play that's only been used a handful of times in the past several decades. It takes place when a team receives a punt or kickoff and signals for a fair catch or otherwise does not return it. From the spot of the ball, rather than run a regular offensive series, the possessing team can attempt a free kick, so called because the opposing team cannot attempt to block it. The kicker and the ball spotter are the only two players involved in the play, with the kicker being allowed to take his sweet time in lining up his kick. In effect, the free kick plays like a normal kickoff, only with a spotter holding the ball rather then it being kicked from a tee. The kicker is aiming the ball for the uprights and if successful, his team receives three points like a field goal. Naturally, because even horrible punts and kickoffs are likely to push the ball well into the receiving team's territory, the circumstances where a free kick would be viable are rare in the extreme. A vast majority of recorded attempts took place in the final seconds of the half; since the opposing team can field the kick if it misses (and they almost always do), this leaves them no opportunity to run their own plays before time expires. Thus, the free kick serves mostly as a fun and arcane way to run out the clock with a somewhat safer result than throwing up a Hail Mary and risking an interception return they aren't prepared to guard against.
  • Ice Hockey, being somewhat of a lesser-tier professional sport in most places, tends to maintain a lot of Artifacts that people either hold up as proof that hockey is the best game ever, or people hold up as proof that the sport is backward compared to other, more popular sports:
    • The NHL instituted one point for an overtime loss starting in the 1999-2000 season, with the intention being that teams would play for a win in overtime for the extra point, instead of previous seasons where teams played defensively to keep the point they'd get in the event of a tie. After the 2004-2005 lockout, regular season games ended in a shootout if overtime kept the game tied, abolishing tie games, making the overtime loss point useless and recreating the same problem that the overtime loss point tried to fix: now teams that are tied at the end of the third period will play defensively in order to force a shootout, which they perceive to be easier to win.
  • The Ultimate Fighting Championship name is an artifact relating to its origin as a tournament (the winner of each PPV would become the ultimate fighting champion) and before the term Mixed Martial Arts was coined. Now with no tournaments, multiple titles and many cards with no championships at stake, the term is mostly meaningless. When Zuffa bought out UFC from Semaphore Entertainment Group, they essentially only wanted the initials because they had brand value.
    • Ironically, being the largest MMA group in the world has led many people not as up on the sport to simply refer to it as ultimate fighting.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the switch from third edition to fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, ability scores ceased to matter much beyond the ability bonus. Yet we still have the old ability scores from 3-18 where the limits can be broken and the players never have one below 8. In some ways, this is an artifact because if it were ever removed, it would only increase the litany of cries that "4E is World of Warcraft" from 3rd edition players.
    • It's been The Artifact since the switch to Third. In Second, an ability check was made by rolling a D20 and trying to roll less than your ability score. In addition, there were mechanical differences which made all ability scores different rather than having breaks at every even number. In Third, the ability scores could have been replaced almost entirely with ability modifiers, transforming a stat line into something like: Str +2, Dx +1, etc. (True20 and Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition, based on d20 Open Content, did just that.) Almost no mechanics would be changed, and most of those would be simplified, and modifying creatures or changing sizes would be a cinch. This sort of statline is quite common in other games.
    • Alignment flirts with this. Many players have felt it was irrelevant for years before, especially during the days of Advanced D&D. At the time, other games were coming out which ignored alignment altogether or grossly redesigned it, and they weren't suffering for a lack of moral categories to put characters into. Alignment also was easily abused by some players, with some game masters putting paladins or other "must be good" characters into situations where one aspect of their vows must be broken and then punishing them. ("You helped the slaves escape; that's not lawful, so it's a chaotic violation of your paladinhood and...why are you leaving?") Players, too, would abuse the heck out of it, often by being blatant jerkasses to everyone at the table and saying it was just playing their alignment. Then Third went and added in a lot of mechanics which depended on alignment, many of them doing little more than giving min-maxers an excuse to write "true neutral" down and then do whatever they were going to do anyway.
      • The Smite Alignment mechanics got really bad about this with many of the people you could or could not Smite not making any sense at all. For example, a Holy Liberator should rarely, if ever, fight a Paladin, but a Holy Liberator can smite them. However, if a malevolent despot, the type of person a Holy Liberator is made to fight, happens to be Neutral Evil or Chaotic Evil (both of which are entirely possible), their Smite no longer works. The simplification of the system led to characters not equipped to fight things they were supposed to be specialized against if they worked based on alignment. Good/Evil targeting abilities tended to be more consistent than Lawful/Chaotic/Neutral targeting ones though.
    • A lot of player races that were converted from old editions suffer from this. Thri-Kreen make a good example. Originally from the much-loved Dark Sun campaign setting of second edition, third edition's Psionics Handbook tried to convert them to the then-current ruleset. The end result had a level adjustment of +2 (meaning Thri-Kreen characters are 2 levels lower than other characters, at all times) and 2 racial hit dice (their first 2 levels have no class features), Psionic power points (with a penalty to the stats Psionic casting uses, and a Thri-Kreen's 4 dead levels make them useless as a Psionic caster), and five natural attacks (which, due to the aforementioned 4 dead levels and the penalty required to attack with all of them, means it will just flail ineffectually with all four limbs and bite). The end result was a race that pulled in too many different directions to be good at any one thing (in comparison to other races that occasionally stray in to Crippling Overspecialization territory), and was largely ignored.
    • Pathfinder, an updated version of the 3.5 rules, attempts to subvert this with their "Misfit Monsters Redeemed" companion book. It tries to take the silliest monsters of past editions like Flumphs (friendly floating jellyfish folk), Flail Snails (giant snails with flails at the end of their antenna), or Adherers (sticky mummies) and revamp them to be taken more seriously. For example, the Wolf In Sheep's Clothing (a carnivorous tree stump with a ludicrous rabbit shaped lure) can now take any dead body and puppeteer it to draw victims closer. YMMV on whether or not this succeeds.
  • Exalted was originally written as a pre-history for the Old World of Darkness; strong hints of this remained all throughout 1st edition, until that train of thought was pretty much abandoned for 2nd edition. This is why the 1st edition Lunars took more than a few elements from the Garou (much to the displeasure of fans), Sidereals occasionally had to deal with Paradox, and the Underworld was ruled by Deathlords and the Neverborn, who were paradoxically called "Malfeans" as well when Malfeas was a Yozi instead.
    • Then again, 2nd Ed keeps throwing in artifacts, or quite possibly the odd Shout-Out - the new Infernal Exalted take their Caste names from the Houses of the Fallen.
  • In the Forgotten Realms setting, the drow city of Menzoberranzan uses a giant rock called Narbondel to measure time by heating it and letting it cool; this was added to the story when the drow saw via infravision, allowing them to see heat signatures. However, infravision was removed from the game years ago, and replaced with darkvision, that allowed people to see in perfect darkness, only in greyscale. Narbondel remains and continues to function as a clock tower, even though it's not exactly clear how the drow see it heat and cool.
  • The back of Magic: The Gathering cards. The "Deckmaster" on the back of the cards was originally used to denote that Magic was the first of a series of games with that title (two others carried the "Deckmaster" theme: Vampire The Eternal Struggle and Netrunner); it no longer has any real relevance, but is kept to prevent people from being able to easily tell information about the card from just the back. Likewise, the word "Magic" remains blue on the card back despite it having been changed to yellow everywhere else.
    • Also, the blue slash over the TER in DECKMASTER is a simple pen mark that no one noticed on the master until it was too late. Technically, the millions of MtG cards printed over nearly 20 years are all misprints.
    • Protection and regeneration. The rules for both mechanics are far messier than anything than would be approved today and there are small nuances that can trip up even experienced players (such as a creature leaving combat when it regenerates). However, both have a very strong flavor behind them as well as two decades of history keeping them in the game.
    • The upkeep step. There are still plenty of cards that use it, as it's useful to have a time for things to trigger at the beginning of the turn, but it's long since lost its original purpose note , leaving it with a name that doesn't make any sense.
  • Spell cards in the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game made a lot more sense back when it was focused mostly on fantasy elements with a pinch of science fiction instead of the other way around.
    • Likewise the term "Tribute" would seem extremely out of place nowadays. This is averted in the OCG, where it is called advance summon instead.
    • The term "monster" can still describe a lot of cards, but even before the game was properly a game, there were plenty of cards that looked basically human or humanoid, along with cards that were downright cute (and not in an Ugly Cute way; straight-up puppies). In the very early days, the cards had a very grotesque bent to them, which made the term fitting, but now, even inhuman cards tend towards a far sleeker appearance that hardly calls to mind a monster.
  • Indirect fire weaponry such as mortars in Warhammer 40K still have their ranges noted as "G" for "guess", as the game mechanic originally called for the player to make a guess without measuring beforehand and place the effect marker at that distance, even if the rules have done away with the guessing two editions ago now, and you just place it where you want to hit and roll the dice...
  • The "classic" tabletop game Clue/Cluedo (depending on where you live) is a game about logic and deduction, with very little reason for having a die-roll to move around the board - in fact, different editions of the game change the numbers of squares between various rooms for no apparent reason. The game plays more smoothly and less frustratingly when you allow players to automatically move to a neighbouring room, but it has a die-roll to move because it was a standard element of board games at the time.

    Theme Parks 
  • A lot of things in Disney Theme Parks exist because they were based on tropes that were popular in 1955, when Disneyland was built. Over time, they have become "the way Disneyland is", and therefore new international parks get the same lands and attractions.
    • Main Street, USA was built on the Lost and Greatest Generations' (and, especially, Walt Disney's personal) nostalgia for the 1890s/1900s.
    • Adventureland and exotica/Tiki culture, as well as nature documentaries (including Disney's own True-Life Adventures series).
    • Frontierland and westerns.
    • Fantasyland and Disney's animated films.
    • Tomorrowland and the atomic/space age.
  • The Disney World version of Fantasmic! has an elaborate sequence based on Pocahontas, which seems rather dated, seeing as the film was not a big hit. The Disneyland version, which uses Peter Pan, has aged much better.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios has opened guard gates littered (seemingly) randomly around the park. These are a holdover from when the park doubled as a working studio, and were meant to signify to the guests that they were leaving the "onstage" area (which featured the rides) and were entering the "backstage" area (where the studio tours were performed). In October of 2014 the last of these tours closed permanently (the Backlot Tram Tour), and so all the guard gates do now is signify that guests are entering a somewhat more sparse area than the area they were just in.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park was originally intended to include a section called Beastly Kingdom (where Camp Minnie Mickey is today), which would have been themed around fantasy creatures. The idea was scrapped early on due to multiple factors, but a dragon still appears in the park's logo.
  • EPCOT was originally a planned futuristic city designed by Walt Disney himself. It stood for "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow." The city was never built but the EPCOT park was built in tribute to Walt's dream and had a heavily futuristic theme. As time passed, EPCOT's futurism turned into Zeerust and park was heavily re themed. EPCOT today is themed after current science and technology, the environment, and world culture. The EPCOT name and its staple attractions like Spaceship Earth still remain.
  • Six Flags is the name of a string of theme parks from California to Massachusetts. The six flags are the "six flags of Texas," which have flown over it at various times in its history; the original park is near Dallas. The flags are the Spanish, French, Mexican, Texan (from its time as an independent nation), American, and Confederate. Now that the franchise is in other states, the six flags are simply shown in silhouette, as a brand logo.
  • Originally, each of the tracks at Dueling Dragons, a dual roller coaster at Islands of Adventure, was designed to mirror the other so that there would be several near-miss encounters between the two coasters; the ride was even programmed to make certain calculations to ensure optimal timing. However, after a few recent accidents (possibly involving objects flying from people's pockets and hitting others), Universal made the decision to permanently end the practice of launching the coasters simultaneously, thus getting rid of the near-miss encounters that used to be the ride's main selling point, and thus rendering the design aspect of it completely without purpose (Also, the ride changed its name to Dragon Challenge after it was co-opted into Harry Potter, thus averting an Artifact Title).

    Toys 
  • Transformers, since the days of Beast Wars, has utilized the "size class" system by which toys are designed to fit into certain price points depending on size. One of the oddities of the size class, however, is the term "Deluxe" - it refers to the six-inch scale, and it's by far the most common one, with the majority of figures in nearly any modern line being Deluxes. This might seem a little odd, since "deluxe" usually means something particularly good, rather than the baseline, as Deluxe figures seem to be. This is because in the Beast Wars days, the Deluxe size was the second smallest size, beat out by the 4-inch Basic size, which was intended as the baseline. However, the Deluxe class turned out to be the more popular size, and the Basic class, by 2006, was phased out in favor of the pocket-size Legends or gimmick designs like Real Gear Robots or Activators, leaving Deluxe to be the "standard" size. When the four-inch scale returned in 2009, it was in the form of the fairly uncommon Scouts, even in name reinforcing the Deluxe's dominance.
    • The phenomena of "fake kibble" is a pretty consistent one in modern days. Whenever a character gets a redesign, it'll usually have the same vehicle kibble (the parts of the alt-mode that don't wind up tucked away into the robot) as their original design. This even happens when the character's vehicle mode doesn't have the parts necessary to recreate the original kibble. For instance, Optimus Prime's original design had the front of a flat-nosed truck becoming his chest, so he wound up with a truck grille for the abs and the windshield going on his pecs. Modern-day Optimuses usually have longnose modes that can't really do this, but instead pull a random truck grille and windshield from inside them to duplicate the original design.

    Webcomics 
  • Occasionally mentioned by the Penny Arcade creators who, while enjoying the character DIV, admit that the DIVX format's failure condemns the character's basis to increasing obscurity.
  • In El Goonish Shive, the author has been quoted to no longer enjoy several of the earlier gags, especially the hammers. Hammers were sacrificed for good, in exchange for a handful of Character Development, setting development and plot points.
    • The level of fanservice has also dropped off significantly since the author started expressing guilt over objectifying women in the earlier strips. Tedd and Ellen still have their transformation rays, but they almost never see use.
  • Once the central premise of the comic, the constant parodies of the Dungeons & Dragons rules have essentially vanished from The Order of the Stick, only being occasionally dragged back in to keep longtime fans happy. The author has stated in his commentaries to one of his books that he basically has nothing else to say about the rules and is concentrating on telling a good story now.
  • Even though Fred finds ways to keep him important to the plot, pretty much anything involving Largo from MegaTokyo has felt like this ever since Rodney Caston was forced out of the creative partnership.
  • Choo-Choo Bear has faded into the shadows of Something*Positive; right now almost all of his appearances are as the snooty Q&A cat. (Randy Milholland was always determined to limit his appearances for fear overusing him, though.) He did become more active for a time as a result of an extended crossover with Girls with Slingshots, which seems to have run its course.
  • Spark from Dominic Deegan dates back to the strip's early Gag Per Day days. He has adapted better than most artifacts do, but he still feels out of place in the post-Cerebus Syndrome Deeganverse. And he can completely vanish from stories entirely without warning for nearly years at a time, only to occasionally make appearances to reference an old running gag.
  • Homestuck has a lot of these, mainly due to how quickly the narative evolves. Sylladices once played a major role in the story (the first third or so of Act One consisted entirely of John messing around with his sylladex), but are now rarely ever given much thought, the exception being the late-Act Five subplot with Liv Tyler and the Courtyard Droll handling John's Wallet Modus and its contents. A similar fate has befallen punch card alchemy; the process became significantly more streamlined when Dave figured out how to upgrade the equipment, so much of the messing-around John needed to do with it early on promptly became irrelevant. Act 6 seems to be bringing these things back into play, at least for a time.
  • In Least I Could Do, the character Jon originally served as Rayne's foil, being the Only Sane Man who reined in Rayne's zanier impulses. The character fell out of use as the author Ryan Sohmer found himself growing distant from Jon's inspiration, and a new character based on another friend of Sohmer's (Noel) took over the role of Rayne's wingman. Eventaully Sohmer acknowledged this by writing a story arc where Rayne and Jon patch up their friendship, and with Noel's marriage and child Jon has started coming back into the forefront.
    • Thankfully Noel hasn't really ever suffered from Replacement Scrappy Syndrome, in that he's notably different from Jon - Jon is the Only Sane Man who may or may not suffer ulcers from dealing with Rayne; Noel is a Deadpan Snarker who's more than happy to accompany Rayne on his adventures, and only stops Rayne before he's going to do something TOO stupid.
  • Nuzlocke Comics has undergone an unbelievable amount of Art Evolution from its early days, but Ruby, the main character, is still drawn in a fairly cartoony style. It's a bit jarring to look at the fairly realistic but stylized cast, then see Ruby's almost Gonk-like proportions; one comic even features a Fandom Nod cameo from Hale, who was also based on RSE's male character and gets a more in-line look. The comic largely skirts around this by playing up Ruby's Idiot Hero tendencies.
  • A constant fear for the creator of Dumbing of Age. Due to the sliding timescale that will keep the characters in their freshmen year forever but always in modern times, any specific reference to technology or pop culture has the ability to become this. Amber and Danny playing Mario Kart on DS/3DS/2DS will seem quaint in 10 years (although Mario Kart will most likely still exist in some form). An early strip had many students list their favorite movies (in the collection commentary, Willis points out that it will seem strange years from now that all these 18 years olds love classic movies), something he tries to avoid when at all possible (Amber's World of Warcraft-esque MMORPG is never named, conversations about Transformers are kept as generic as possible, citing names like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee).

    Web Original 
  • The "deadpan" in Deadpan Snarker on This Very Wiki. Due to Trope Decay, a deadpan delivery is no longer part of the trope.
  • Sofie Liv and the formerly-eponymous Red Suitcase of the Red Suitcase Adventures, so much so she re-branded the show as Movie Dorkness.
  • P. Monkey, the purple monkey puppet Companion Cube from lonelygirl15, appeared frequently in early episodes, but appeared less and less as the series became darker and more plot driven. By the last series, she appeared occasionally, probably because fans like her, but had no effect on the overall plot.
  • Pom Pom in Homestar Runner was meant to be Homestar's sidekick when the cartoon was still primarily sports-based, easily the number two character in early cartoons, behind Homestar himself. As the cartoon shifted away from sports and more toward Strong Bad and pop culture, Pom Pom became more and more superfluous, now being one of the rarest of the twelve central characters. Probably doesn't help that he's the straight man with few quirks or flaws in a cartoon where much quirkier characters Strong Bad, Strong Sad, Marzipan, Bubs, and occasionally even Homestar himself can all play the straight man role as necessary, nor that he can't talk in anything besides bubble sounds.
  • Initially, totheark's response videos from Marble Hornets mostly existed to creepily suggest that Jay might be in for more than just documenting an Apocalyptic Log, but since this was revealed in mid-to-late Season 1, the focus has completely shifted from the Apocalyptic Log from the student film to Jay's own Paranormal Investigation of all of the forces that are controlling his life and what is happening to everyone involved with The Operator, totheark's original purpose has been nullified. While totheark is still a very important character and his identity is still a driving plot point, his Once an Episode responses have little to no point other than to taunt Jay, besides the occasional Wham Episode which he usually hijacks the main Marble Hornets Youtube channel to deliver.
  • Since The Heroic Review is made up of cast members and creatures who work on the audio play, The Heroic Tale Of Heroically Heroic Heroes, the first few episodes had each cast member mentioning the role they play in their introduction. This was phased out pretty quickly in favor of just a general greeting from each panelist at the start of the episode.

Alternative Title(s):

Artifact